Paul Harrison and Christian Luczanits: "The Riddle of the Mohammad Nari Stele"

Thursday March 4th 2010, 6:00PM
Mohammad Nari Stele


One of the great masterpieces of Gandhāran sculpture, the Mohammad Nari stele has been the subject of scholarly disagreement ever since it was first discovered over a hundred years ago, in what is now Pakistan. Despite its wealth of detail, including multiple depictions of Buddhas and bodhisattvas, there is still no consensus over what it represents, and who the large Buddha enthroned at its center is. Is the stele a depiction of the Miracle of Śrāvastī, of Amitābha's paradise Sukhāvatī, of Akṣobhya's paradise Abhirati, of the preaching of the Lotus Sūtra, or none of these?

In this talk, an art historian and a philologist will join forces to guide the audience in an exploration of the stele's intricate surfaces and talk about the texts and ideas which could have inspired the superb artist who produced this enigmatic piece.


Paul Harrison, George Edwin Burnell Chair of Religious Studies, is a specialist on the literature of early Mahayana Buddhism, with additional research interests in the history of the Tibetan canon and the study of Buddhist manuscripts. His publications include a number of editions, translations and studies of Buddhist texts, such as The Samadhi of Direct Encounter with the Buddhas of the Present, and he is co-editor of the series Buddhist Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection. A graduate of Australian National University, he taught at Canterbury before joining the Stanford faculty. Professor Harrison serves as co-director of HCBSS.

Christian Luczanits, Visiting Professor of Religious Studies during winter 2010, is a specialist in Buddhist art, with a research focus on India and Tibet. He is the author of Buddhist Sculpture in Clay: Early Western Himalayan Art, Late 10th to Early 13th Centuries (2004) and other works on the western Himalaya, as well as numerous contributions to the literature on Buddhist art in both Indian and Tibetan cultural contexts. A graduate of the University of Vienna, has taught at Vienna, Freie Universität, and U.C. Berkeley. Professor Luczanits is an HCBSS research fellow during his time at Stanford.