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Rupert Gethin: "On Death and Rebirth, and What Happens in Between: Two Buddhist Accounts of Why it Matters"

May 17, 2018 - 5:30pm to 7:00pm

Free and open to public


Ancient Indian Buddhist thinkers for the most part took it as given that death was followed by rebirth, but they disagreed on whether death was followed immediately by rebirth or by an in between state (antarābhava). The lecture will consider two accounts of death and rebirth, both from the fourth to fifth centuries CE but representing the traditions of two different schools: (1) the account found in Vasubandhu’s Abhidharmakośa, which presents the traditions of the Sarvāstivāda school and advocates an in between state, and (2) the account found in the Pali commentaries of the Theravāda school, which advocates immediate rebirth. Both accounts argue that the authority of Buddhist scriptures and reason are on their side. But what other considerations might inform their different positions?


Rupert Gethin is Professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of Bristol and President of the Pali Text Society. His books include Sayings of the Buddha: A Selection of Suttas from the Pali Nikāyas (2008), The Foundations of Buddhism (1998), and The Buddhist Path to Awakening (1992). He has a particular interest in early Indian Buddhist literature and Indian Buddhist systematic accounts of the mind and meditation. He is currently working on a book provisionally titled 'Mapping the Buddha’s Mind: a study of Indian Buddhist systematic thought in the Abhidharma of the Theravāda, Sarvāstivāda, and Yogācāra traditions’.

Evans-Wentz Lecture

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Ho Center for Buddhist Studies at Stanford, Department of Religious Studies
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