New courses "The Buddha’s Biography: Buddhist Pilgrimage in South Asia" & "From Monkey to Buddha: Jātaka Tales in South Asia and Beyond", Professor Jessie Pons

Dear Students,

we invite you to join our new short-term courses:

According to the Mahāparibbāṇa Sutta, an early Buddhist text which narrates the last days of the Buddha, the latter declared to Ananda that after his death, those who wish to honour him should visit the sites of his birth, his enlightenment, his first sermon, and passing away. He also predicts that those who die while making the pilgrimage to these sites with a devout heart will be reborn in one of the Buddhist heavens. 
Archaeological evidence from South Asia indicates that by the 3rd-2nd century BCE, inscriptions were engraved, and large stupas were erected to commemorate these sacred places. This early four-fold pilgrimage circuit was expended to include places associated with the Buddha’s performance of miracles. Within a few centuries following his parinivāṇa, the number of sites which claimed to keep one of his corporeal remains or personal items, or to be associated with an important moment in his life largely expended. Ultimately hundreds of places were sanctified by the presence of the Buddha and textual and visual sources such as inscriptions, Buddhist narratives, travel reports, illustrated reliefs and paintings document the pilgrimage made by Buddhist devotees and their related practices.
This seminar will give attention to Buddhist pilgrimage in South Asia and will mainly, but not only, focus on sites associated to events of the Buddha’s life. It will concentrate on a selection of case-studies on the Indian sub-continent and Sri Lanka. Students will analyse and compare sources in a variety of media to trace the early developments of this religious practice from Antiquity to the early Middle Ages. Discussions will cluster around three topics: the strategies implemented to sanctify and promote these places, the diversity and complexity of rituals at the sites and the political and social dimensions of Buddhist pilgrimage.  


7.10 (Mon), 17.00-20.00, room 118 (Grodzka 52, II floor)
8.10 (Tue), 17.00-20.00, room 114 (Grodzka 52, II floor)
9.10 (Wed), 17.00-20.00, room 106 (Grodzka 52, II floor)
10.10 (Thu), 17.00-20.00, room 114 (Grodzka 52, II floor)
11.10 (Fri), 12.15-15.15, room 106 (Grodzka 52, II floor)

A jātaka is a former birth of Siddhārtha Gautama, the Buddha. In these past existences, he was alternatingly an animal or a human, an ascetic or a prince, an outcast or a god. In the majority of these stories, the Bodhisattva perfects a virtue, that the tale, often humorous and entertaining, inculcates. The largest collection of jātakas and certainly the most famous, is that of the Pāli canon, which counts no less than 547 stories. Yet these stories are preserved in all branches of Buddhism in South Asia to the West and are extent in textual, visual and theatrical forms. This seminar will concentrate on a selection of representative legends which illustrate the progress of the Bodhisattva’s carrier and will give particular attention to the following themes:
- The formation processes of these stories and their parallels in non-Buddhist traditions such as the Pañcatantra (animal fables), the Hindu Mahābhārata and Purāṇas;
- The impact of the geographical contexts of production as well as of religious and socio-political dynamics on the various retellings of a same jātaka;
- The different levels of interplay between the textual, visual and performative media in the transmission of jātakas.​


14.10 (Mon), 17.00-20.00, room 118 (Grodzka 52, II floor)
15.10 (Tue), 17.00-20.00, room 114 (Grodzka 52, II floor)
16.10 (Wed), 17.00-20.00, room 106 (Grodzka 52, II floor)
17.10 (Thu), 17.00-20.00, room 114 (Grodzka 52, II floor)​
18.10 (Fri), 12.15-15.15, room 106 (Grodzka 52, II floor)

Profesor Jessie Pons studied history of art, archaeology, Indian studies and museum studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London), École du Louvre, and the University of Paris. In 2011, she earned her Ph.D. in art history from the university of Paris-Sorbonne with a thesis on the early Buddhist art from Gandhara. Between 2011 and 2016 she worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Religious Studies in Ruhr Universität Bochum where she is now Junior Professor for the history of South Asian religions. Trained as an art historian, she explores issues related to the history of Buddhism through the glance of material culture and visual representations. The historical region of Gandhara (present-day Pakistan/Afghanistan), located at the crossroads of Asia, is her favourite field for reflection. Central to her investigations is the role of encounters between Buddhists and non-Buddhists in the formation and transformation of imageries. In this respect, she is particularly interested in the modes of portrayal of Buddhist divinities and in the illustrations of the lives of the Buddha. How come the Buddha has a bump on his head? And why is he sometimes accompanied by Heracles? What are the sources for images of his birth? What did other Buddhists make of those stories as they travelled across Asia? It is in texts and images alike that she seeks the answers to those questions. 

You can register via USOSweb from 24.09 to 10.10.

If you have any trubles with your registration, please write an email to Mrs. Krystyna Mierzwa ( giving your name, last name, student number, the title of the chosen course at KPSC and the name of the host department at the JU. 

Data opublikowania: 21.09.2019
Osoba publikująca: Krystyna Mierzwa