Buddhist spells, rituals and kings

Tibetan prayer flags
Tibetan prayer flags

The project’s seminar series resumed this September after the summer break. The speaker was project researcher Gergely Hidas, discussing his recent work on Buddhist ritual texts and practices. His research on this aspect of Buddhism focuses on dhāraṇī literature, a genre of text presenting spells and related ritual manuals composed in Sanskrit. These Buddhist practices can be traced back to at least the beginning of the Common Era with the earliest surviving example being one of the Gandhari manuscripts.

The main focus of these scriptures is protection and healing, with ritual practices that often include the making and use of magical items such as amulets, flags and coloured threads, forms of which are still seen in Buddhist cultures today. In the seminar, Hidas explored the ways that these practices are linked to royal power, where more grand-scale rituals like the defence of the state or magical weather control for agriculture are introduced.

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