Guest Lecture: Taking Chan Gong’an (Public Cases) Seriously

[Photo by Robert on Wikimedia Commons]


Speaker: Robert Sharf (D.H. Chen Distinguished Professor of Buddhist Studies, University of California Berkeley)

When: Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Venue: Ghent University

This lecture is part of Ghent’s “Culture in Perspective: South and East Asia Lecture Series” (M.A. course)


The lecture deals with recent work on Gong’an, making the case that they are more philosophically sophisticated than are commonly presented. More specifically, this talk will spend some time on Indian Madhyamaka, and it aims to connect Chinese Chan thought with issues debated in India. It is also relevant to an understanding of Zen in Japan. (This is from a chapter in a forthcoming book Dr. Sharf wrote with Jay Garfield, Graham Priest, and Deguchi Yasuo.) Finally, the talk will introduce the students (very briefly) to Dialetheism—a branch of philosophy that takes paradox seriously.

About the Speaker:
Professor Robert SHARF received his B.A. (Religious Studies) and M.A. (Chinese Studies) from the University of Toronto and his Ph.D. (Buddhist Studies) from the University of Michigan. He taught at McMaster University (1989–95) and the University of Michigan (1995–2003) before joining the Berkeley faculty. He works primarily in the area of medieval Chinese Buddhism (especially Chan), but he also dabbles in Japanese Buddhism, Buddhist art, ritual studies, and methodological issues in the study of religion. He is author of Coming to Terms with Chinese Buddhism: A Reading of the Treasure Store Treatise (2002), co-editor of Living Images: Japanese Buddhist Icons in Context (2001), and is currently working on a book tentatively titled How to Read a Zen Koan. In addition to his appointment in EALC he serves as Director of the Group in Buddhist Studies, Director of Religious Studies, and Chair of the Center for Buddhist Studies.