Diving into Buddhahood: The Four Inversions at Shanyingshan and Baoshan

Ut sed metus nullam
March 21, 2017

We are excited to announce that Dr. Wendi Adamek, who is an Associate Professor in the Department of Classics and Religion at the University of Calgary and holder of the Numata Chair in Buddhist Studies, will give a Guest Lecture with the title “Diving into Buddhahood: The Four Inversions at Shanyingshan and Baoshan”.

This lecture is sponsored by the Glorisun Charity Foundation with support from the SSHRC funded project “From the Ground Up: Buddhism and East Asian Religions”.

September 28, 4:00 pm in Room 604 of the UBC Asian Center (1871 West Mall)


In this talk, I focus on two rock-cut tributes to the Nirvāṇa-sūtra’s characterization of nirvāṇa as permanence, joy, self, and purity (chang le wo jing 常樂我凈). In the first part I introduce these terms, known as the “four inversions.” Chinese interest in the Nirvāṇa-sūtra’s chang le wo jing rubric can be seen in various Northern Dynasties, Sui and Tang works, both textual and visual, that support tathāgatagarbha (buddha-matrix) soteriology. At the first site we will examine, the middle or central cave of Shanyingshan 善應山 (Henan), we find an illustration of the chang le wo jing rubric in the Brāhmana Jātaka from the Nirvāṇa-sūtra, as well as a passage on contemplation of the body from the same sūtra. Second, on a rock-face near Dazhusheng 大住勝 cave at Baoshan 寶山 (Henan), we find an undated inscription consisting of variations on the Brāhmana Jātaka verses. I discuss in turn the Nirvāṇa-sūtra and these two sites of inscription and image in order to highlight their illustrations of “inversion” as the key relation between no-self and the actualization of “self” promised in the sūtra, an alluring potential that we find courted by various names in the body of literature loosely designated as “tathāgatagarbha” texts.