November 18, 4-6pm

Munk Centre, room 208N

Professor Todd Lewis from the College of the Holy Cross

“Sources and Sentiments in Sugata Saurabha, a mid-20th Century Narrative on the Buddha’s Life from the Kathmandu Valley”

Every Buddhist community has transposed a local tradition of the life of Shakyamuni, the Buddha, into their own artistic expressions and vernacular narratives. The particular editorial and doctrinal choices made in this redaction from classical sources afford insight into the history of cultural adaptation characteristic of each of these communities. This paper presents an overview of this process in the case of “Sugata Saurabha”, a life of the Buddha from the Newar community. Written in the 1940-s by one of Nepal’s greatest modern poets, Chittadhar Hridaya, Sugata Saurabha has been a cultural landmark for modern Newar Buddhists, providing a learned narration of the great sage’s life and also a repository of details about Newar culture through the author’s casting the Buddha’s life details in his own Nepalese context. Professor Lewis’ paper will dicuss the text in its Newar context: as a product of the author’s contact with classical sources such as the Lalitavistara, as well as with modern Hindi translations of the Pali Canon published by Rahul Sankrityayana, publications of the Mahabodhi Society, and other sources. The paper will also trace connections with “Sugata Sauranha” and the author’s location in mid-century Nepal.

Todd Lewis has taught at the College of the Holy Cross since 1990. In 1996, he was promoted to Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies and in 2003 was promoted to the rank of Professor. his previous academic positions were at Montclair State University (1989-1990), Rutgers University (1988-89), Carleton College (1988), Columbia University (1983-1987), and the University of California, Berkeley (1983). he has also been a Research Associate in the Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies at Harvard University since 1999.