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A Great Opportunity to Expand Academic Buddhist Studies!
María Elvira Ríos
Postdoctoral Fellow, Pontifical Catholic University of Chile
Between August 4 and 25, I was able to participate in the Glorisun International Intensive Program on Buddhism organized every year by the Glorisun Global Network of Buddhist Studies, in collaboration with the FROGBEAR project. Glorisun has members from the most prominent universities in the world and its objective is to spread the studies in Buddhism worldwide. The FROGBEAR project, whose digital material and publicly-accessible repository are housed at the University of British Columbia (UBC), brings together international academic networks with which they carry out innovative research and training practices around Buddhism, Buddhist studies, and East Asian cultures.
Each year the Intensive Program is carried out with a university and this time it was hosted by Harvard FAS CAMLab, an arts and multimedia laboratory at Harvard University, which transforms humanistic research into a creative and sensory practice.
With seminars, talks, and meetings between students and teachers, the course allowed us to learn about various topics about Buddhist studies, such as the fascinating work of the Harvard FAS CAMLab director, Eugene Wang, and the Dunhuang caves; the history of transmission of meditation practices from India to China with Professor Eric Greene of Yale University; the transfer of Buddhism to Tibet and the traditional elaboration of the sutras with Professor Ulrike Roesler of the University of Oxford; the detailed work around the Dunhuang manuscripts and his writings in the Tangut, Tibetan or Khotan languages and their transfer to the Chinese language with Professor Imre Galambos of the University of Cambridge; the role of the monasteries and their libraries of Jinhua Chen of UBC and director of FROGBEAR; and the analysis and reflection on the study of religions in China, discussion of concepts and valuation of secular communities with Professor Barend Ter Haar of the University of Hamburg.
To this prestigious group of teachers were added the talks by Professor Paul Copp (University of Chicago) on the stamps in the Buddhist manuscripts of Dunhuang; Professor Lori Meeks (University of Southern California) on genres of Buddhist preachings; and Professor Jinhua Jia (University of Macau) on Chan Buddhism during the period of the five dynasties in China. Added to this variety of content was the Student Forum, where groups of students presenting their own research. The interaction, reflection and discussion that took place in the Forum and throughout the program was extremely enriching and above all, very collaborative when it came to transferring information and discussing the multiplicity of topics. But this was not all—the seminars, talks and forums were joined by the East Asian Buddhist Worldmaking conference, where researchers and students of the program participated as well as experts from other Asian, European, Canadian or American universities. This allowed us to learn and expand our knowledge even more about political, economic, social, linguistic, artistic and cultural aspects of Buddhist studies.
As a student of Buddhism, I find it extremely important to highlight this program and visualize the interdisciplinary and multicultural aspect of studying Buddhism in academia. Sharing classes with students and teachers with a high level of knowledge not only of Buddhism, but also of other disciplines that intersect with this Asian philosophy/religion, and of various Asian languages (Sanskrit, Pali, Tibetan, Chinese, and Japanese to name a few) is nearly impossible in Latin American academic spaces. In Chile, and I dare say that in almost all of Latin America, we have limited studies of other religions/philosophies of Asia as elective courses, seminars or diplomas, where some kind of Buddhism is taught. To understand these societies, especially the countries of East and Southeast Asia, it is essential to have knowledge of Buddhism as well as its trajectory and cultural influence, since it seems to me that it is a fundamental part of training in Asian studies.
Glorisun and FROGBEAR allowed the entry of Latin American students, which is a call to those who are dedicating themselves to Buddhist studies to not hesitate to participate in these programs. Get involved!!!!
Written by María Elvira Ríos, translated by Vicky Baker
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