October 22, 2023 ALL

Today: TRS Faculty Colloquium: “Beyond the Historical Buddha” by Soorakkulame Pemaratana (Peema)

Buddhist monk Soorakkulame Pemaratana, who is a part-time faculty member in the Theology and Religious Studies department, will give a talk “Beyond the Historical Buddha” to discuss his ongoing book project with interested faculty and students. Come and join us for this informal gathering and discussion on Monday, October 23, at 3:30pm in the TRS Conference Room.
Tea, coffee and light snacks will be served.
Sponsored by the Tuohy Center for Interreligious Understanding.
For questions, contact stopal@jcu.edu

Faculty bio and book summary:
Soorakkulame Pemaratana is a part-time faculty at the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at John Carroll University. Born in Sri Lanka, he completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka and master’s degree in Philosophy at the National University of Singapore. After moving to the US in 2008, he pursued doctoral studies at the University of Pittsburgh and completed his PhD in Religious Studies in 2017. He was a Robert Ho Family Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania from 2020 to 2022. He is also a Buddhist monk since the age of 10. Currently he serves as the chief monk of Pittsburgh Buddhist Center where he teaches meditation and provides spiritual counseling.
In this informal colloquium, he will discuss his book project, which he describes as follows:

My book project titled, “Caring Buddha: New Modes of Refuge in Sri Lanka” explores who the Buddha has become for Buddhists in contemporary Sri Lanka in the face of modernity and globalization. The current scholarship focuses only on one trend of modernizing the Buddha as a historical person and a rational thinker. This historical and rational Buddha was first constructed by orientalist scholars of the West and later promoted by Asian Buddhist reformers. This limited focus misconstrues the lived religion of contemporary Sri Lankan Buddhists while portraying Buddhist communities in Asia as unreflective and passive receivers of Western concepts. My book argues that more prominent modern manifestations of the Buddha in Sri Lanka exemplify not a rational thinker of the past or the transcendent Buddha of pre-modern period but a lively and caring Buddha who is thoroughly involved with the present-day issues of ordinary Buddhists. The book reveals that the mass production of unconsecrated Buddha images using inexpensive materials paved the way for various novel utilizations of the Buddha. These utilizations assigned multiple roles to the Buddha that are related to the concerns of raising children, achieving psychological wellbeing, enhancing religious commitment of lay Buddhists and facing perceived external threats and internal disputes.