Northwestern Events Calendar


KFBSLS Year 4, Lecture 1: Damchö Diana Finnegan, "Reading, Translating, Retelling Buddhist Narratives: What are our Ethical Obligations?"

When: Friday, September 29, 2023
10:00 AM - 12:00 PM CT

Where: Crowe Hall, 4-134, 1860 Campus Drive, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Joshua Shelton  

Group: The Khyentse Foundation Buddhist Studies Lecture Series

Category: Academic


In a very basic sense, relationships involve ethics. This talk suggests that in working with Buddhist narratives, we are moving within a tissue of ethical obligations that shape our practice as readers and translators of Buddhist texts, yet are often left invisible to us. We enter into relationships with the historical communities that produced those texts, as well as those that transmitted them. If a narrative is compelling, surely we will also be engaging with the characters. In this talk, Damchö will ask what ethical obligations arise through these relationships, and will expand the inquiry to include our relationship to Buddhist communities who are currently shaped by those texts. What do we owe those whose spiritual path is inspired and outlined for them in the narrative texts we translate or otherwise relate? Until we bring them into view, many of the strategies we deploy and choices we make in engaging with Buddhist texts are left unexamined, and ethical obligations may be trod upon unwittingly. 

To assess these suggestions, Damchö will question where, how, and why we draw the line between translating and retelling Buddhist narratives. 

Since her dissertation on gender and ethics in the life stories in the Mūlasarvāstivāda-Vinaya, Damchö Diana Finnegan has moved among modes of engagement with Buddhist narratives. She has translated life stories of nuns from Sanskrit and Tibetan, and has been retelling canonical narratives orally as a key component of her work with Spanish-speaking Buddhist communities over the past decade. Damchö is co-founder of Dharmadatta Community, based currently in Virginia, and is currently working on a book on the sevenfold practice for generating bodhicitta (rgyu 'bras man ngag bdun), asking how the practice changes when we reimagine it from within women's experience. 

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