Khyentse Foundation currently partners with Buddhist Studies programs at thirteen universities on four continents to encourage excellence in Buddhist scholarship. Rinpoche has often said that academics and scholars are the “guardians of the Dharma” because they ensure that rigorous examination of the authentic Dharma will be available far into the future. Meet the winners of the 2016 KF Award for Excellence in Buddhist Studies.
University of British Columbia, Vancouver
Zeng Yang is a PhD candidate in the Department of Asian Studies. He was selected by his department for the KF
award for his dissertation research on medieval esoteric Buddhism in East Asia, with a special focus on a Buddhist monk who was active at the court in medieval China. (Zeng Yang also received the award in 2011.)
University of Pennsylvania
Paul McBain is a second-year PhD student in the Department of Religious Studies, focusing on comparative Buddhist poetry in Japan and Thailand. He speaks Japanese and Thai and studies Sanskrit and Pali. He is also a student of religion and literary theory. His BA is from Oxford University and his MA is from the University of Chicago. His latest project is on the life and work of Thailand’s most famous poet, Sunthorn Phu.
University of Sydney
Elizabeth McDougal (Ani Chozom) is a Canadian national and a Tibetan nun. Her MA thesis, “Coming Down the Mountain: Transformations of Contemplative Culture in Eastern Tibet,” addresses how the practice lineages of Eastern Tibet have increased degree-oriented scholasticism in their communities as a response to Chinese modernization since the 1980s.
Yixiu Jiang’s master’s thesis focuses on newly unearthed Kharoṣṭhī documents and includes transcription, translation, and analysis of these documents. She has participated in the Pali-Chinese Buddhist Canon Translation Project and has translated several vaggas (verses) of the Majjhima Nikāya. “Yixiu is one of the rare students who choose Sanskrit and Indian religion as a major,” said Prof Dr. Duan Qing of Peking University. “As the best student in her class, she proved very talented in mastering Sanskrit and Pali languages.”
National Cheng Chi University, Taiwan
National Cheng Chi University divided their award among three students.
Man-Ching Yao is studying ritual practice in Tibetan Buddhism, the relationship between Tibetan Buddhism and China, Tibetan Buddhism in the 21st century worldwide, and the interweaving of Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism. Her PhD thesis is titled “Enlightenment through Violence: The Transformation of the Practice of Vajrakilaya in Tibetan Buddhism.”
For his PhD, Chun-Ying Wang is researching the philosophy of Kant, Indian/Chinese Buddhist epistemology (and logic), philosophy of mind, aesthetics, and computer science. His dissertation is titled “Transcendental Logic and Spiritual Development: Following Dignaga’s and Kant’s Critical Epistemology.”
Sing Song Liu’s PhD dissertation is titled “What Is the Dual Practice of Chan and Pure Land?” He said, “A lifelong journey of research as a career not only fulfills a plan of Buddhist studies, enhancing my skills, both critical and creative, but also allows me to follow a path that is ongoing to enrich my knowledge and life in working with people.”
University of Hong Kong
Chow Lee Tat is earning his masters degree in Buddhist Studies (MBS) at the University of Hong Kong, where he is studying the fundamentals of Buddhist thought from its historical origins, as a “philosophy qua practice.” He is also learning Pali. “It is a great delight, and with my deepest gratitude, to receive the Khyentse Foundation Award for Excellence in Buddhist Studies from your organization. This gesture of kindness goes a long way for an aspiring scholar, particularly in this day and age; I am humbled by your generosity, and also wholeheartedly encouraged to continue devoting my efforts towards the flourishing of Buddhism as a significant interlocutor within the nexus of intellectual conversations, as well as— and no less importantly—an inspiring spiritual voice in the world.”
University of Hamburg
Eric Werner is pursuing his doctoral research on general tantric topics, as presented mainly by the 11th-century Tibetan scholar Rongzom Chokyi Zangpo, under the supervision of Prof. Dorji Wangchuk. “I want to express my wholehearted thankfulness to Khyentse Foundation for graciously supporting and honoring the efforts of those who sincerely study Buddhism on a scholarly level worldwide. Being committed to an in-depth study of Tibetan Buddhism for many years at the University of Hamburg, I am deeply honored to receive such a renowned award. I hope that the Khyentse Foundation will continue to support its various efforts to foster the study of Buddhism on all levels.”
Fudan University, Shanghai
Fudan University divided their award between two students:
Jinwen Chen is an undergraduate student of Sanskrit, Pali, Tibetan, and other classical languages related to Indology and Buddhism. He has read many canons and secondary texts and has translated some Buddhist texts from Sanskrit, Pali, and Tibetan. He was recently admitted to the National Institute for Advanced Humanistic Studies of Fudan University to study for a master’s degree in Indology and Buddhist philology. “It is a significant honor for students occupied in Buddhist Studies who receive a scholarship from Khyentse Foundation,” he said. “So I cherish this chance very well and regard it as a kind of stimulation and driving force for my further study.”
Lan Fang has completed courses in Sanskrit, Pāli, and Tibetan with top marks. “These trainings, together with her knowledge of the Chinese tradition, has laid a solid foundation for her future study in Buddhist logic and epistemology in general, especially for her study of Dignāga’s works in Sanskrit and Tibetan,” said Weihong Zheng of Fudan University. “Miss Fang is about to finish her doctoral thesis on Dignāga’s doctrine of Apoha, including an annotated translation of the chapter of Apoha from Sanskrit text with the help of its Tibetan translation.”
University of California at Berkeley
Jolisa Wilfong is working toward a degree with a double major in Religious Studies and South and Southeast Asian studies. “Jolisa is a very bright student, who has taken a large number of courses in Buddhist Studies and is completing the second year of our Sanskrit program, quite an achievement considering how intense these first two years are. We are hoping this award will both help and encourage her to attend graduate school,” said Professor Jake Dalton.
Assanee Poolrak’s work focuses on the relationship between Buddhist teachings and Thai literature at Chulalongkorn University. “I taught Assanee and he proved to be a great student,” said Assistant Professor Dr. Suradech Chotiudompant. “He is definitely worthy of the KF scholarship. Once again, let me express my heartfelt gratefulness for the Khyentse Foundation on behalf of our students who have received the KF scholarship over the years. Your contributions have been very significant in boosting the interest in Buddhist studies among our students.” Professor Peter Skilling and Associate Professor Kingkarn Thepkanjana, PhD, the Dean of the Faculty of Arts, were present at the award ceremony.
School of Oriental and African Studies, London
Emanuela Sala recently completed with distinction her MA in Buddhist Studies. She was selected for for her dissertation “How Do You Fit Five Buddhas Into a Car? Word Games and Metaphors in the Kamakura Poetic Commentaries.”
Aruna Keerthi is currently in his second year of his Ph.D. He was selected for his MPhil upgrade thesis (a sample chapter of the future dissertation), titled “Buddhaghosa’s Critique of Divergent Buddhist Views: A Doctrinal Study Mainly Based on Pāli Commentarial Exegesis.” Dr. Vincent Tournier, Chair, Centre of Buddhist Studies said, “Both works, stemming from different stages in the postgraduate training, are outstanding in their own way, and in our opinion both achievements deserve to be celebrated.”