"Buddhist Surrealists from Bengal"

Prof Per Kværne (Oslo Ülikool) peab loengu "Buddhist Surrealists from Bengal" 6. novembril kell 17.15 (Ülikooli 18-140).

Towards the end of the first milennium AD, Buddhism in Bengal was dominated by the Tantric movement, characterised by an external/ physical as well as internal/ meditational yoga, believed to lead to spiritual enlightenment and liberation from the round of birth and death.

This technique and its underlying philosophy was expressed in a collection of short songs, known as the Caryāgīti, 'Songs of (Spiritual) Practice', composed by a category of poets and practitioners of yoga, some of whom apparently had a peripatetic lifestyle.  As preserved in writing, the poems are in a language often referred to as 'Old Begali', the earliest form of a modern Indo-Aryan idiom. One of the peculiarities of Old Bengali is the presence of a large number of homonyms, permitting the play on ambiguous images. This, it is argued in the present paper, is the point of the many songs that are seemingly meaningless or nonsensical, or that could be superficially taken to be simply descriptions of everyday life in the countryside of Bengal.  By means of their very form, the songs convey the idea of the identity of the secular and the spiritual, of time and eternity, bondage and liberation and so on.

Using the Caryāgīti as a hermeneutic guide, an attempt is made to take a fresh look at the Surrealist Movement in Western art, in particular the work of Max Ernst and René Magritte.

Biographical sketch

Per Kværne (b. 1945) became MA in Sanskrit at the University of Oslo in 1970.  He was University Lecturer at the University of Bergen 1970-75, and was appointed Professor of History of Religions at the University of Oslo in 1975, a position he held until his retirement in 2012. He has also been a visiting professor at the University of Oxford and at École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris. Among his published works are An Anthology of Buddhist Tantric Songs. A Study of the Caryāgīti (1977, 1986, 2010); Tibet: Bon Religion – A Death Ritual of the Tibetan Bonpos (1985); The Bon Religion of Tibet, the Iconography of a Living Tradition (1995); Le vie del Sacro. L'avventura sprituale di uno storico delle religione fra Tibet e Sacri Monti (2010); Forty-five Years of Tibetan Studies. An Anthology of Articles by Per Kværne (2015). He also writes on Western art: 'Singing songs of the Scottish Heart' – William McTaggart 1835-1910 (2007).