AABS Seminar - Chiasmic Structure in the Prajñāpāramitā

University of Sydney, Room N208 – John Woolley Building (walk down the flight of stairs directly inside the main entrance of the John Wooley Building

On Tuesday 6th August 2013, Ven. Dr. Huifeng presented a 1.5 hour overview of his PhD thesis from the University of Hong Kong. The talk was entitled Chiasmus in the early Prajñāpāramitā and was part of the regular series of evening talks from the Australasian Association of Buddhist Studies (AABS) http://www.buddhiststudies.org.au/ The talk was held in the Woolley Building at the University of Sydney from 17:30-19:00 and was well attended by a diverse crowd of academics, students and members of the general public (around 12-18 people with serious interest in this topic). The full text of Ven. Huifeng's  thesis is available for download here: http://hub.hku.hk/handle/10722/181019

This study examines the early Prajñāpāramitā sūtras through the theory of “chiasmus”. Chiasmic methodology analyses a text into two parallel halves, identifying a complementary “prologue” and “conclusion”, and highlighting the critical “central point”. In this paper, it is argued that the Prajñāpāramitā was initially composed as a complete chiasmic whole, rather than from accumulated fragmentary parts. Hermeneutically, the core message may be understood more systematically than earlier methods. It proposes “suchness” (tathatā) as the central theme, rather than “emptiness” (śūnyatā). Finally, this study offers direction for uncovering other cases of chiasmus in early Mahāyāna and Buddhist literature in general, with examples by Venerable Dr Huifeng.

Venerable Dr Huifeng

Venerable Dr Huifeng is originally from New Zealand. Having been introduced to Buddhism at a young age, he committed himself to full time Buddhist practice in the late 1990s, studying at several of Fo Guang Shan Monastery’s Buddhist Colleges and Universities, receiving full ordination in 2004. From 2006 to 2011 he studied first a Masters and then a PhD degree at the University of Hong Kong, with his PhD dissertation entitled “Chiasmus in the Early Prajñāpāramitā: Literary Parallelism Connecting Criticism & Hermeneutics in an Early Mahāyāna Sūtra”. Presently he is an Assistant Professor at Fo Guang University, Ilan, Taiwan, teaching at the Department of Buddhist Studies. His areas of academic focus include Indian Buddhism, in particular early Mahāyāna sūtra and śāstra, translation and hermeneutics, and practices of contemporary Taiwanese Buddhism.

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