Khyentse Foundation is pleased to announce the winner of Outstanding PhD Dissertations in Buddhist Studies for Europe. Cécile Ducher of the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes – PSL in France, was selected by the KF Dissertation Award Committee for her dissertation, A Lineage in Time: The Vicissitudes of the rNgog pa bka’ brgyud from the 11th through 19th centuries

Ducher’s dissertation is a veritable tour de force of a record of a little-known and now defunct Tibetan lineage, the rediscovery of which sheds more light on the bKa’ brgyud (Kagyu) tradition as a whole and reveals the lineage’s numerous vestiges and influences within the larger Tibetan religious sphere.

Ducher and her advisor, Prof. Matthew Kapstein, during her dissertation defense.

The dissertation has a clear conceptual framework and offers an interesting assessment of a relatively under-researched area. The work makes a valuable and original contribution to the field, is critical, detailed and meticulous, and includes careful reflection on terminology. It also presents a richly diverse methodology, drawing from the fields of history, sociology, and historical anthropology, and situating itself within wider theoretical frameworks.

Ducher’s grasp of her materials is impressive, and although the scope of the project is vast, ranging from the origins of the bKa’ brgyud tradition in India in the tenth century up to the present situation in Tibet’s gZhung Valley, she manages to document the genesis, development, flourishing, and dissolution of the Mar rNgog lineage, as well as its influences on other traditions and later attempts to preserve and revive its practices. Her discussions on hagiography as a valid source of information about religious and social forces and on the concept of lineage are enlightening, and the excursion into Bourdieu’s theories about “capital” is stimulating.

The committee warmly congratulate the author on a very well-deserved prize. The prize will be presented to Ducher at the IATS conference in Paris, France this July.

Ducher at the ancient seat of the rNgog family lineage, in sPre’u zhing in the rNam rab valley (TAR, China) in June 2014.

The US$8,000 award is presented every two years to the most outstanding PhD dissertation in the field of Buddhist Studies written in Europe during the previous two academic years. The dissertation must be based on original research in the relevant primary language, and it should significantly advance understanding of the subject or Buddhist scriptures studied. 

“It is a great honor for me to have been awarded this year’s Award for Outstanding PhD Dissertation in Buddhist Studies by Khyentse Foundation. I feel much gratitude and joy that my work on the history of the Mar rNgog bKa’ brgyud lineage is recognized by such a distinguished foundation and can in this way contribute to shedding some light on this central yet relatively forgotten tradition that constitute the core of the bKa’ brgyud tantric wealth,” said Ducher, who currently lives in Dordogne, in the south-west of France.

She continued, “As a Dharma practitioner, I started Buddhist studies because I wanted to strengthen my traditional knowledge with a scientific approach, and this award, coming from a foundation that aims to support all traditions of Buddhist study and practice, is for me a sign that this was in some way successful.”

Khyentse Foundation sponsors a similar award for dissertations written in Asia. Accredited institutions that offer PhD programs in Buddhist Studies or Religious Studies in Asia, are invited to nominate one dissertation that was completed during the academic years 2017-2019. Nominations will be accepted from October 1 through December 31, 2019.