NSW: Buddhist Studies Seminar

The 2023 Master Sheng Yen Lecture in Chinese Buddhism will be given by Professor James Benn (McMaster University) on Tuesday 30 May, 6:00-7:30pm at New Law School Lecture Theatre (LT024), New Law Annexe F10A, University of Sydney. The lecture is presented by the University of Sydney School of Languages and Cultures.

An Important Late Mahāyāna Sutra in the Chinese Buddhist Tradition

In later Chinese Buddhism, one text above all others has been extolled for the profundity of its ideas, the beauty of its language, and its insight into the practice of meditation—this is the scripture popularly known as the Lengyan jing or Śūraṃgama sūtra. Because of conflicting evidence regarding its provenance, and because the text seems to owe so much to other sources, modern scholars have concluded that Lengyan jing is an apocryphal sūtra fabricated in China at the beginning of the eighth century. But perhaps this perspective on the Lengyan jing has impeded our understanding of its most important features? In this lecture, Professor Benn shall introduce and discuss the content and structure of the scripture and consider it as a Mahāyāna canon in miniature—a complete work that contains discrete elements of scripture, dharma analysis, and vinaya and provides a new and detailed map of Mahāyāna ontology and soteriology.

Professor James Benn received his PhD from UCLA in 2001 and is Professor of Buddhism and East Asian Religions at McMaster University. He studies Buddhism and Daoism in medieval China. To date, he has focused on three major areas of research: bodily practice in Chinese Religions; the ways in which people create and transmit new religious practices and doctrines; and the religious dimensions of commodity culture. He has published on self immolation, spontaneous human combustion, Buddhist apocryphal scriptures, and tea and alcohol in medieval China in journals such as History of Religions, T’oung Pao, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies and Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies. He is the author of Burning for the Buddha: Self-immolation in Chinese Buddhism (University of Hawai‘i Press, 2007) and Tea in China: A Religious and Cultural History (University of Hawai‘i Press, 2015). He is currently working on a translation and study of the Śūramgama sutra.


Gold leaf covered schist reliquary in the form of a stupa. Kusana period, North Western India. National Museum, Karachi, Pakistan. Copyright: Huntington, John C. and Susan L.Huntington Archive