June 21, 2020

Khyentse Foundation is pleased to announce the 2020 winners of the award for Outstanding PhD Dissertations in Buddhist Studies for Asia. Mingyuan Gao of the Buddha Dharma Center of Hong Kong and Su-an Lin of Chengchi University of Taiwan were unanimously selected by the KF Dissertation Award Committee as the winners of this year’s dissertation award.  

Mingyuan‘s PhD dissertation, The Buddhist Concept of Vāsanā: From Abhidharma to Early Yogācāra, meticulously presents an in-depth and critical exposition of the development of various connotations of the term vāsanā. 

“Since there has not been any monograph that studies comprehensively the issue of vāsanā, and only a very few studies have so far paid attention to this concept, Mingyuan’s dissertation is undoubtedly a significant contribution,“ said Venerable Professor Dhammajoti in his nomination letter. “The dissertation is well documented, based on solid primary Sanskrit, Tibetan, Classical Chinese, and Pāli sources. Some important passages in the dissertation are translated for the first time into English, with considerable annotation. It also critically examines a large number of secondary sources by modern scholars in English, Japanese, French, and Chinese.”

Su-an’s dissertation, Dependent-Arising, Two Truths and Logic in Bhāviveka’s Philosophy: Focusing on Chapter One of Prajñāpradīpa and Jewels in the Hand, uses the materials of the Chinese and Tibetan versions to explore Bhāviveka’s metaphysics (the theory of dependent arising and the theory of two truths). It also analyzes the method, which can be traced back to Dignāga’s logic system—of “adding the qualification from the ultimate point of view in the inference.”

Photo: Mingyuan Gao with his supervisor Venerable Professor Dhammajoti. 

Su-an’s supervisor, Professor Chen-Kuo Lin, said, “The dissertation is divided into two parts, research and translation. In the latter part, she discovered the differences between the Chinese and Tibetan versions of Prajñāpradīpa. Although work is still needed to make it fully complete, the dissertation shows that the applicant is skilled in literature interpretation and analysis. Her research on this issue is  significant since it involves not only whether Bhāviveka adopts a different position for the theory of pramāa from that of Nāgārjuna and Candrakīrti—which has been an issue of debate in Indo-Tibetan Madhyamaka for a long time—but also she discusses the problems of svalakaa and sāmānyalakaa from the context of ‘Debates regarding emptiness and existence’ between Bhāviveka and Dharmapāla.”

The Dissertation Award Committee deemed both dissertations excellent and decided to award both of them the prize. The US$8,000 award, to be shared by the two awardees in this year, is presented in alternative years in Asia and Europe to the most outstanding PhD dissertation in the field of Buddhist studies 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.

“Abhidharma studies have long been despised for belonging to the so-called ‘Hīnayāna’ in the Chinese Buddhist tradition. I wish that my dissertation could bring into focus the close relationship between Abhidharma and Mahāyāna, and thus call for a-nonsectarian attitude of all Buddhists,” said Mingyuan, who is also a KF PhD Scholarship recipient. “I must first express my most profound gratitude to my supervisor Venerable Professor Dhammajoti. He is an exemplar of being a great scholar and a devoted Buddhist at the same time. Venerable’s religious enthusiasm deeply touched me and always inspires me to seek the true meaning of the dharma.”





Photo: Mingyuan Gao attended the 8th International Buddhist Forum at Renmin University of China in Beijing in August 2018.

“I am also obliged to Khyentse Foundation for kindly offering me PhD scholarships in the last two years. It is very laudable that Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, as a wise religious leader, values academic research in Buddhist studies and all traditions of Buddhism. I wish that more outstanding Buddhist scholars would benefit from the Khyentse Foundation and contribute to the promotion of Buddhadharma.”

Su-an shared with us, “I am deeply honored and grateful to have been selected for this year’s Khyentse Foundation award. I would like to thank the committee for recognizing my work and express my gratitude to my supervisor Prof. Chen-kuo Lin for his advice and suggestions. I will continue to work hard in the field of Buddhist studies and hope to contribute more in the future. Although academic research is considered conventional, religion cannot be explained and understood without conventional means. I sincerely thank the Foundation for its generous support.”

Congratulations to Mingyuan and Su-an! We wish them the best in their future endeavours in Buddhist studies and research. 

The next round of nominations for the Khyentse Foundation Outstanding PhD Dissertation award will be open from October 1 through December 31, 2020. Accredited institutions that offer PhD programs in buddhist studies or religious studies in Europe, including the UK, are invited to nominate one dissertation that was completed during the academic years 2018-2020.  For full information, go to the KF awards page.

Photo: Su-an Lin