Reconfiguration and Revival: Newar Buddhist Traditions in the Kathmandu Valley (And Beyond)

When and Where

Friday, November 03, 2023 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm
in-person, Room 208N
North House
1 Devonshire Place, Toronto ON M5S 3K7


Todd Lewis (College of the Holy Cross)


The Newars and their Neighbours Annual Lecture Series event, chaired by the Department for the Study of Religion's Christoph Emmrich.

Beginning with Sylvain Lévi, most scholars for the past century who have assessed the state of Newar Buddhism in the Kathmandu Valley have described the tradition as "decadent, "corrupted by Hinduism," and so in serious decline. What has emerged over the last decade, however, is a hitherto unimagined revival among traditional Newar Buddhists and their venerable tradition centered on Mahayana-Vajrayana teachings and practices. Led by younger Buddhist vajracaryas and scholars, leaders have introduced a welter of new spiritual initiatives, institutional innovations, along with gender and caste reforms. The talk will sketch this confluence of reconfigurations and revivals, with special focus on how these factors converged in the nearly-completed construction of a Newar Vajrayana monastery in Lumbini.

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About the speaker

Todd Lewis is a Distinguished Professor of Arts and Humanities and Professor of Religion at the College of the Holy Cross. His primary research since 1979 has been on Newar Buddhism in the Kathmandu Valley and the social history of Buddhism. Lewis has authored many articles on the Buddhist traditions of Nepal and a book titled Popular Buddhist Texts from Nepal: Narratives and Rituals of Newar Buddhism (SUNY Press, 2000). His translation, Sugata Saurabha: A Poem on the Life of the Buddha by Chittadhar Hridaya of Nepal (Oxford 2010), received awards from the Khyentse Foundation and the Numata Foundation as the best book on Buddhism in 2011. He is currently engaged in his next project, a edited volume, Buddhism through Objects.


Centre for South Asian Studies, Asian Institute, Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy


1 Devonshire Place, Toronto ON M5S 3K7