Episode 10 – Constructing Buddhist Theories of the Body from Ancient Texts with Luther Obrock


Dr. Luther Obrock from the University of Toronto shares about teaching an undergraduate course on bodies and embodiment in early Indian Buddhist texts. He wants to use his course, a seminar, to help students understand how theories are not just modern constructions, but instead can also emerge from ancient religious texts. He leads his students through ways to mine data and information about how the writers of ancient Indian texts, themselves embodied, understood and spoke about their (gendered) bodies. From analyzing the representation of the “hyper-masculine” Buddha’s body, or the status of the female body as attested in literature by or about nuns, a theory, or an “imaginary relationship to a real problem” of the body, can emerge. 


“Let’s imagine these texts as coming from embodied people.” Luther Obrock 

“We can use the Buddhist texts as theory to think about our own positionality.” Luther Obrock

Links and References 

Dr. Luther Obrock’s profile page 

The Therigatha, on the Access to Insight website 

John Powers’ book, A Bull of a Man: Images of Masculinity, Sex, and the Boyd in Indian Buddhism 

Charles Hallisey’s translation, Therigatha: Selected Poems of the First Buddhist Women 

I.B. (Isaline Blew) Horner’s Wikipedia page