Grand challenges today in politics, economics, social justice, immigration, armed conflicts, and environment are creating an overlapping effect between the Asian and the global, making it necessary that the existing framework for Asian Studies be re-crafted. Intensifying flows of people, goods, ideas, and cultures within Asia and between Asia and the rest of the world are calling for a new approach to Asia from a transnational and transhistorical perspective. The Chao Center’s research initiative, the Transnational Asia Research Initiative (TARI), brings together scholars from a broad spectrum of disciplines and methodologies to address this complexity.
Abstract: Color is a basic aspect of visual perception, naturally tied to everything we see and affecting everything from our immediate mental states to long-term social and economic structures. In this sense, it is one of the more universal aspects of human experience. At the same time, colors are also highly subjective. Depending on a myriad of factors of materiality, biology, religion, aesthetics, and more, colors take on entirely disparate significance. How can a scholar bridge this gap, approaching colors in broadly human terms while also doing justice to many varied contexts? This presentation offers one possible approach from the realm of Buddhist studies, looking across borders of tradition and subjects of language, philosophy, science, art, and ritual to uncover several unique considerations of color in Buddhism. Topics of discussion include language in the Rg Veda, philosophy in Vasubandhu’s Treasury of Abhidharma, meditation in Buddhaghosa’s Path of Purification, Sri Lankan and Tibetan artistic manuals, the Pancaraksa goddesses in Nepal, mandalas, homa rituals, and modern technologies that create unique experiences of color in diasporic contexts.