The Buddha's Middle Way: in defense of fine clothes, good food, and beautiful monasteries

Co-presented with the University Buddhist Education Foundation


Buddhist Image

11 October, 2011
Professor Karen Lang, University of Virginia

The Buddha advocated a middle path between the extremes of luxurious living and harsh asceticism. But critics of his disciples’ lifestyle accuse them of living too well: clothing themselves in fine robes, enjoying the pleasures of beautiful monasteries, and relishing the taste of meat.

In this talk, Professor Lang will examine certain narratives from Buddhist and Jain texts that compare the comfort of Buddhist monks with the austerity practiced by Jains and other ascetic groups, in the process raising some questions about the Buddhist defense of moderation and the institutional power politics that might have shaped the debate.

Professor Karen lang

Karen Lang is the 2011 University Buddhist Education Foundation Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of Sydney. She is a professor of Indian Religions in the Department of Religious Studies and two-time Director of the Center for South Asian Studies at the University of Virginia. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism and reading courses in Sanskrit, Pāli and Tibetan languages. Her publications include Four Illusions: Candrakīrti's Advice on the Bodhisattva Path and Āryadeva’s Catuḥśataka: On the Bodhisattva's Cultivation of Merit and Knowledge, as well as numerous articles on Buddhist philosophy and literature.

She has been a member of the translation team that produced the first English translation of Tsongkhapa’s The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment. Her primary research and translation interests focus on the work of the seventh-century Indian Buddhist philosopher, Candrakīrti. She is currently completing a book-length study and translation of chapters 5-8 of Candrakīrti’s Bodhisattvayogacāracatuḥśatakaṭīkā (commentary of Seeing Through Illusions: Candrakīrti’s Advice on the Bodhisattva's Practice of Yoga.