Numata Lecture, McMaster U, 2.14.13

Buddhism around the World Buddhist Studies Dance Education Events Hamilton Tibet


Geoffrey Samuel (Cardiff University)
The Multiple Meanings and Uses of Tibetan Sacred Dance: ‘Cham in Context
THURSDAY, February 14, 2013, 4-6 pm, McMaster University, University Hall 122

In some ways ‘cham or Tibetan sacred dance is one of the best known aspects of Tibetan Buddhism. Much of it takes place in public in the context of state and monastic ceremonies, and Western descriptions of ‘cham go back for more than a century. However, serious studies of ‘cham are few in number, and there is still much to understand about how and where ‘cham is performed and the role it plays within Tibetan religion. While ‘cham has origins in Indian Tantric ritual dance, and possible connections to pre-Buddhist ritual forms in Tibet, its modern versions appear to go back to the creation of a new Tibetan state ceremonial cycle at the time of the 5th Dalai Lama (late 16th century), a development which was soon replicated in Bhutan and elsewhere. The lecture, illustrated by photographic and video material of ‘cham performances in India, Ladakh and Bhutan, gives a preliminary sketch of the semiotics of ‘cham, explores some of the many contexts of ‘cham performance today, and asks why it has proved such a useful and versatile ritual form within Tibetan religion.

Geoffrey Samuel, Tung Lin Kok Yuen Distinguished Visiting Professor in Buddhist Studies 2012-13, is Professor at the Department of History, Archaeology and Religion at Cardiff University where he is also Director of the Research Group on the Body, Health and Religion. His fields of research and teaching are religion in Tibetan societies, Tibetan and Indian medical practices, Asian technologies of consciousness, religion and modernity, the anthropology of dance and music as well as shamanism and ?nature religions?. His research interests extend from Tibet to Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Among his most influential works are The Origins of Yoga and Tantra: Indic Religions to the Thirteenth Century (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and New York, 2008) and Civilized Shamans: Buddhism in Tibetan Societies (Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. 1993; Paperback edition 1995; also Asian edition, Mandala Book Point, Kathmandu, 1995). At the University of Toronto Geoffrey Samuel has given several talks, is teaching two undergraduate courses and will be holding a conference.

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