“Indian and Chinese Religions Compared” sessions at AAR

The Indian and Chinese Religions Compared unit is sponsoring three sessions at the American Academy of Religion this year: 

  • Mind and Consciousness: Indian and Chinese Approaches
  • Indigenous Theories of Ritual in India and China (co-sponsored with the Ritual Studies unit; note that the papers for this session are being pre-circulated)
  • Yogācāra and Vedānta in Modern Chinese and Indian Thought (co-sponsored with the Hinduism unit and the Yogācāra unit)  

For details, please see below. Abstracts for individual papers can be viewed online: 



Hinduism Unit and Indian and Chinese Religions Compared and Yogācāra Studies Unit

Theme: Yogācāra and Vedānta in Modern Chinese and Indian Thought

Eyal Aviv, George Washington University, Presiding

Saturday – 3:30 PM-5:00 PM

Convention Center-2 (Upper Level West)

When the global colonial modernity brought new challenges to traditional cultures around world, India and China each rose to this challenge. Their respective engagements with European modernity were dissimilar in many respects. Nonetheless, there is one surprising homology. In each case, a significant part of the response was to argue that their own culture was already modern. In each case, the evidence for that modernity, and so the intellectual movement that was deployed as modern, was a form of idealism: Yogācāra in China and Vedānta in India. In the context of the ascendancy of European materialism, the modern rise of idealism is prima facie surprising.

However, this deployment was not as adversarial as it sounds. As demonstrated by each panelist, the originally idealist arguments were repurposed to support a new understanding of materialism, and to demonstrate a distinctively Asian way to understand and to pursue science and material development.

Jingjing Li, Leiden University

From the Yogācāra Concept of Consciousness to the Modern Confucian Doctrine of Volition

Jessica Zu, Princeton University

The Global Flow of Darwinism and A New Yogācāra in Modern China

Unregistered Participant

Sri Aurobindo and Neo-Vedānta

Nalini Bhushan, Smith College

Modern Philosophy of Science from a Vedanta Perspective: A Case Study




Indian and Chinese Religions Compared Unit

Theme: Mind and Consciousness: Indian and Chinese Approaches

Maria Heim, Amherst College, Presiding

Sunday – 3:30 PM-5:00 PM

Hilton Bayfront-Aqua 305 (Third Level)

Intangible yet ubiquitous, the locus of thought, emotion, and spiritual insight: what exactly are the mind and consciousness? Are they the same or different? What terms are used to express them? How are states of consciousness analyzed and classified? Can the intangible become tangible, and if so, how? What access or insight do Indian and Chinese traditions offer? Four papers address such questions, looking at the terms used in Indian and Chinese traditions to analyze and describe mind and consciousness, aspects of cognition, meditative insights, and mental cultivation. Among the systems and texts examined are Sāṃkhya-Yoga, Yogācārabhūmi, Abhidharmakośa-bhāṣya*, and Tiantai Zhiyi on the Four Dhyānas.

Karen O’Brien-Kop, SOAS University of London

Mind, Meditation, and the Metaphor of Cultivation: Bhāvanā and the Case of Rice Cultivation

Fei Zhao, University of Washington

Consciousness as a Pincer or a Pond: Different Interpretations of the Term Akāra and Their Cognitive Models

Xiaoming Hou, École Pratique des Hautes Études

Same yet Different? The Superior and Inferior Four Dhyāna in the Works of Zhiyi (538-597)

Business Meeting:

Dan Lusthaus, Harvard University

Michael Allen, University of Virginia



Indian and Chinese Religions Compared Unit and Ritual Studies Unit

Theme: Indigenous Theories of Ritual in India and China

Ronald M. Davidson, Fairfield University, Presiding

Monday – 1:00 PM-3:00 PM

Hilton Bayfront-Sapphire 410B (Fourth Level)

Scholars apply theories of ritual to Asian traditions. But are there indigenous theories of ritual that traditional Indian and Chinese thinkers developed and expounded? Four papers address this. The first discusses the early Confucian Xunzi’s theories on the moral significance of ritual. The next examines how apocryphal Chinese practices refashioned Indian rituals. In the following paper the theoretical basis for the necessity of ritual and precepts applied to Repentance rituals as formulated by the foundational Vinaya theorist, Daoxuan, is explained. Finally, an effort to discern the Indian roots of Chinese Homa rituals is attempted. Papers will be pre-circulated to facilitate a more in depth discussion.

Peng Yin, Harvard University

Xunzi and the Moral Significance of Ritual

Esther-Maria Guggenmos, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg

Ritual Dynamics between India and China: On Individual Ritual Performance in a Chinese Buddhist Apocryph

Xingyi Wang, Harvard University

Vessel to the Other Shore: On Daoxuan’s Theory of Repentance Ritual

Geoffrey Goble, University of Oklahoma

Homa-Siddhi in Chinese Sources

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