Khyentse Foundation currently partners with Buddhist Studies programs at ten universities on four continents to encourage excellence in Buddhist scholarship through the KF Award for Excellence in Buddhist Studies. The foundation provides US$1,000 per university per year, and the departments choose the award winner. In the grand scheme of academic expenses, $1,000 is not a huge sum, but it is our way of showing respect for the good intentions and hard work these students are investing in their studies. Many have expressed how this gesture of encouragement has been a positive influence.
“I am very fortunate to be a recipient of the award from Khyentse Foundation,” said Ma Shengnan, award winner from the University of Peking. “It will be a twofold help to me: Financially, it is a timely support, and mentally, it is a generous encouragement. I will be always grateful to the foundation and your sponsors. In my everyday life, I will turn my gratefulness to you into kindness to people I meet.”
Due to the success of these awards, plans are underway to extend the program to 15 universities. National Taiwan University is the first of these new partners to make a formal agreement.
Watch the video introducing this year’s winners here. And learn more about their areas of study below.
What Great Minds Contemplate: Areas of Study from Winners of 2015 KF Awards
University of Peking
Ma Shengnan is a student at the Research Institute of Sanskrit Manuscripts and Buddhist Literatures, where she has mastered Sanskrit and Tibetan. Based on her previous study of archaeology and her role as a museum curator, her interest is now in Sanskrit iconographical literature. Her master’s thesis is on Mañjuśhri images found in the Sādhanamālā.
Kathryn Boden is a senior majoring in physics who has also completed a number of course in Buddhist, Tibetan, and religious studies. She first came to the attention of the UCB Buddhist Studies program in 2011 when she audited a summer class taught by Professor Jake Dalton. She is now embarking on a senior thesis project under the supervision of Professor Dalton, a sociological study of the encounters between science and Buddhism in Tibetan monastic communities in India and Nepal. Over the past two decades, numerous groups of scientists have traveled to Asia at the invitation of high-level Tibetan teachers to discuss recent advances in science (and neuroscience in particular) and how those new insights might mesh with Buddhist philosophies of the mind. Although Buddhologists and philosophers have joined these conversations, no studies have been conducted of the monks involved. Ms. Boden proposes to do that, and to consider the larger religious and intercultural implications of these conversations within the Tibetan Buddhist community.
University of Pennsylvania
Leopold Eisenlohr is a PhD student in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations. He is working on the adaptation of Buddhist literary and philosophical forms to Islamic texts in Old Uyghur and Chinese, tracing the written interaction of Buddhism and Islam from the Yuan through Ming Dynasties as they shaped each other in China and Central Asia. An example of this material is a Chinese text from the late Ming that presents well-known koans from the Blue Cliff Record and Gateless Gate but tweaks them to reflect an Islamic sensibility, while still displaying a deep understanding of Buddhist tenets. Another text gives the reader Islamic prayers meant for chanting in Arabic, using Chinese characters, similar to the way in which Buddhist mantras are written in Chinese Sanskrit. By looking at a range of sources showing how the ideas of the two religions manifested in different social contexts, and what each had to say about the other, Mr. Eisenlohr hopes to shed light on the fluid nature of expressions of faith throughout the deeply interconnected history of Buddhism and Islam.
University of Hamburg
Jörg Heimbel earned his master’s degree in 2007 from the University of Hamburg, majoring in Tibetology and ethnology. His master’s thesis was on the life and works of the Fifth Dhongthog Rinpoche Tenpé Gyaltsen (1933-2015). He successfully defended his PhD thesis in 2014, passing the examinations with distinction. According to Professor Dorji Wangchuk, Mr. Heimbel’s PhD dissertation, “An Investigation into the Life and Times of the Founder of the Ngor Subschool of the Sakya Order” (1382–1456) is “an excellent work of enduring value.” In October 2014, Mr. Heimbel joined the Department of Indian and Tibetan Studies as the lektor for Tibetan.
University of British Columbia
Eiji Okawa, a PhD candidate in the Department of Asian Studies at UBC, is studying the relationships between the sacred landscape of a religious site and the social space that develops there. His focus is on Mount Kōya, a Buddhist monastery in Japan that was founded by the Buddhist saint Kōbō Daishi in the 9th century. The monastery has played important roles in the development of religion in Japan, with its unique synthesis of the doctrine and practice of the esoteric sect known as Shingon, devotion to Kōbō Daishi, and rituals for salvation in the afterlife. See Video Here.
University of Sydney
Chris Clark is earning his PhD in Buddhist Studies under the supervision of Dr. Mark Allon. The focus of his doctoral research is the Apadāna, a Theravada Buddhist text in Pali that contains a large collection of hagiographies of early monks and nuns. The Apadāna is under-researched, partly because very few of its poems have been translated into any European language. Chris hopes to continue to edit and translate the Apadāna, which contains some 600 pages, with the aim of eventually having his work published so that this collection of interesting narrative stories can be available to scholars, Buddhist practitioners, and the general public.
University of Hong Kong
Mr. Alan Wong Chiu Ming, a retired CFO and COO and now a Master of Buddhist Studies graduate, achieved the highest average score in the two foundation courses of the UHK programme, Early Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism.