Did the Buddha invent Asia?
Buddhism, Buddhists, and the 'very idea' of Asia

Professor Peter Skilling
7 April, 2009

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Why you should listen

The Buddha was born in a small kingdom in the foothills of the Himalayas over two thousand years ago. Within five hundred years of his death, his teachings had spread far beyond the confines of India, and were beginning to find a foothold in China and the Far East. At its height Buddhism flourished across much of Asia. Buddhist monks and nuns established networks of intellectual exchange that for centuries linked Asian societies, inspiring literature and philosophy, art and architecture, and social and ritual practice and affecting conceptions of time, cosmology, and governance.

How did the teaching of one man influence Asia so profoundly? What was the role of Buddhism in the geography of ideas in the pre-modern period? What were the unifying principles or ideologies that brought distant cultures into close relation? The fascinating diversity of Buddhism and its dynamic cultural transformations lead us to examine the role played by Buddhism in the construction and imagination of an interactive trans-regionalism. Was Buddhism in Asia the vanguard of globalisation?

Peter Skilling is a Canadian citizen (born 1949). He has been a resident of Thailand for 30 years. He received a PhD with honours and a Habilitation in Paris (Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes). His main field of research is the archaeology, history, and literature of Buddhism in South and Southeast Asia. Other interests include the early history of Mahayana Buddhism, the Pali literature of Southeast Asia, and the history of the Buddhist order of nuns. He has travelled extensively in South and Southeast Asia, and been a visiting professor at Harvard University (2000), Oxford University (2002), and the University of California at Berkeley (2005). At present he is Maître de Conférences with the École française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO) and Head of the Buddhist Studies Group of the EFEO. He is also a special lecturer at Chulalongkorn University (Bangkok).