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Presentations at “Three Decades and Eighteen PhDs: The Tibetan and Buddhist Studies Legacy of Jeffrey Hopkins at the University of Virginia”
The First Century of Tsong kha pa’s Legacy: Paṇ chen bsod nams grags pa’s History of the Old and New Bka’ gdams pa
Derek F. Maher, East Carolina University (UVa PhD 2003)
Little contemporary scholarly attention has been directed towards the religious history of the early Dge lugs school of Tibetan Buddhism. Most accounts of that period are derived from Tibetan sources dating from the post-1642 era of Dge lugs dominance, notably the histories and biographies written by the Fifth Dalai Lama Ngag dbang blo bzang rgya mtsho (1617-1682) and his regent Sde srid sangs rgyas rgya mtsho (1679-1703). I will discuss the preliminary results of research I am currently conducting into one of the key Tibetan historical accounts that predates this period, the History of the Old and New Bka’ gdams pa School by Paṇ chen bsod nams grags pa (1478-1554).
Steven Weinberger, University of Virginia (UVa PhD 2003)
The Indian master Padmasambhava is a luminous figure in Tibetan culture, a kind of national guru. His activities in Tibet during the eighth century and his supernatural abilities are well-chronicled in Tibetan literature. However, the earliest reference to this period, the Dba’ bzhed, presents a much different portrait of both Padmasambhava’s reception by the Tibetan court and his influence in Tibet. I will examine this leaner, more ambivalent portrayal in the context of Yoga Tantra and the attitude of the Tibetan court towards Tantric Buddhism and its practices involving sex and violence.
Bryan J.Cuevas, Florida State University (UVa PhD 2000)
In this presentation, I offer some personal and professional reflections on the field of Tibetan Studies and address a few questions and issues that have captivated me since my graduate years at Virginia and continue to inspire aspects of my research today.
William Magee, Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies (UVa PhD 1998)
The Hopkins Tibetan Research Multimedia Archive Project has its basis in a uniquely valuable tape-recorded archive donated to the Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies by Professor Jeffrey Hopkins of the University of Virginia. The Hopkins Tibetan Research Multimedia Archive begins with the year 1971 and consists of over three thousand hours of authentic oral transmission on many scholarly and cultural aspects of Tibetan Buddhism, including almost all traditional Buddhist philosophical topics, Tibetan history, Tibetan medicine, and so forth. The archive includes four hundred hours of teachings by the Dalai Lama and thousands of hours of teachings by numerous lamas of the last generation of lamas to be thoroughly trained in Tibet. The Hopkins Tibetan Research Multimedia Archive Project consists of five integrated aspects: (1) preservation of the archive through digitizing the analog tape recordings, (2) creating a master index of the archive forging links to metadata, (3) placing the archive online for scholarly use, (4) employing the archive in the creation of scholarly works and instructional materials, and (5) inviting scholars of Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan culture worldwide to contribute their multimedia recordings to the archive.
Jules Levinson, Berotsana (UVa PhD 1994)
For the past year I have been preparing a translation of lectures that Ken Rinbochay Tsültrim Gyatso gave at the Rocky Mountain Dharma Center in the summer of 1991. It was my privilege to serve as his oral translator for an extended exploration of Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Tayé’s (’Jam mgon kong sprul blo gros mtha’ yas, 1813-1899) study of the two truths, the selflessness of persons, and the Mind Only (sems tsam, cittamātra) and Middle Way Schools (<hi rend="weak" >dbu ma, madhyamaka). The topics will be familiar, but the interpretations may be less so, for they will introduce a stream of commentary and contemplative practice that were apparently revived and disseminated by Kenbo Tsültrim and a few other scholars. I will set the lectures in context and highlight a few of the more interesting elements of the course he taught in 1991.
Georges Dreyfus, Williams College (UVa PhD 1991)
In this essay, I study the nature and history of the educational model of the commentarial school or bshad grwa as it is found nowadays in the non-Geluk schools. I show that despite its claims to represent an old tradition, this model of education is a fairly recent creation, arising during the non-sectarian movement. I trace some of the steps of its rise during this period, focusing on Khenpo Zhenga, one of the most understudied figures of the non-sectarian movement. I trace the stages of his career and show the importance of his contribution to the development of a full blown non-Geluk model of scholastic education. I conclude by emphasizing the catholicity of Tibetan scholasticism, arguing that although Geluk and non-Geluk models of scholastic education seem nowadays to be quite different, they both arose as transformations of a single tradition.
A War of Words: The Struggle between Tibetan Exiles and the People’s Republic of China to Define Tibetan History
John Powers, Australian National University (UVa PhD 1991)
In the ongoing battle between Tibetan exiles and the PRC, one of the main battlegrounds is Tibetan history. Each side agrees on the main events of Tibetan history, but there are profound disagreements regarding why historical figures acted as they did. Were they devout Buddhists working to advance the dharma? Were they Chinese patriots devoted to the motherland, seeking closer ties with and instruction from their “Han big brothers”? My talk will focus on the main issues in the debate, the rhetorical strategies and literary tropes they employ in their attempts to persuade a worldwide audience of the validity of their respective constructions, and why this project is so important to each side.
Dan Cozort, Dickinson College (UVa PhD 1989)
For almost thirty years the UVa PhD program in Buddhist Studies has been preparing young scholars for research in Tibetan Buddhism using both Western academic and Tibetan monastic methods. The students of Jeffrey Hopkins have learned the Tibetan language, studied monastic textbooks covering the main philosophical topics, and even learned how to perform formal scholastic debate. At the same time, several leading Western Buddhist organizations have tried to develop similar kinds of training programs for interested Westerners, aiming to produce a new generation of Buddhist teachers for Western Dharma centres. The two largest, the New Kadampa Tradition and the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition, both of which were founded by monks of Sera Je Monastery, base their teacher training curricula on the Sera Je model. However, adapting this model to the needs of Westerners has resulted in significant omissions and additions both in content and method. It is interesting to reflect on why these programs differ from their Tibetan model and why they differ in turn from the approach of the UVa program.
Guy Newland, Central Michigan University (UVa PhD 1988)
If the suffering world is only a thought-construction, then stopping thought would seem to be the most liberating move. Thought is associated with a false appearance to the thinker of separateness or discontinuity. Everywhere humans seem to engage, spontaneously and otherwise, in activities that stop thought, allowing them to shed the burden of separation from the world as an outside observer. Where there is no thought, there can be no lie, no deception, and thus non-conceptual states often give access to insight. Yet as Tsong kha pa famously argues, getting beyond all of this, and seeing that not thinking is not enough, is at the very heart of what it means to be a Buddhist.
Elizabeth Napper, Tibetan Nuns Project (UVa PhD 1985)
For the past fourteen years I have been involved in a project to make the intellectual side of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition available to the nuns of that tradition. We have founded Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute of Buddhist Dialectics, a non-sectarian study facility for women, and have also taken on the support of Shugsep Nunnery in India, a nunnery of the Nyingma tradition from which the first class of nuns recently graduated with the degree of Lopon. Based on this long immersion in monastic culture, my paper will look at issues such as the role and function of education in Tibetan monasticism, differences between monastic and secular educational models, and cultural factors that impact upon efforts to effect change.
Dan Perdue, Virginia Commonwealth University (UVa PhD 1983)
Since joining the faculty in Religious Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University in 1999, I have been able to develop several new courses that are the fruit of my fortunate experiences with Jeffrey Hopkins at the University of Virginia between 1973, when Prof. Hopkins joined the faculty at UVa, and 1983, when I finished my PhD. In addition to teaching a survey of Asian religions every semester and a course on Tibetan Buddhism every Fall semester, I have developed two courses that are especially close to my heart and which will lead to publications. First, reflecting the topics of my masters thesis and dissertation, I have developed a course called “Buddhist Reasoning and Debate.” This course is the lab in which I labor as I try to figure out how to bring to American students something of the basic logic and epistemology as taught in <hi rend="weak" >bsdus grwa studies in the monastic universities. The course is geared toward developing verbal skills for rational discourse. The accompanying writing project has the working title of Critical Thinking: An Asian Approach. Second, following up on our 1980 course with Dr. Yeshi Dhonden when he visited UVa, I have developed a course called “Asian Religions and Asian Medical Systems.” The course is popular and fits in with VCU’s emphasis on the life sciences. The accompanying writing project is a book called Ultimate Wellness in Asian Medicine which references Hindu Ayurveda, Chinese Daoist medicine, and Tibetan Buddhist medicine against the backdrop of their underlying religious traditions and the possibility of an ultimate wellness gained through liberation, as indicated in the medical analogy of the four noble truths.
John Buescher, Voice of America, Tibetan Broadcast Service (UVa PhD 1982)
American interest in Asian religions, especially Buddhism, was widespread among Freethinkers in the last decades of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth. This presentation will examine the career of Levi Dowling, the author of the “Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ,” published in 1908, which described a journey by Jesus to Tibet and India, and which first established the syncretism of occultism, spiritualism, Theosophy, and New Thought, as the “Age of Aquarius.”
Donald Lopez, University of Michigan (UVa PHD 1982)
In Tibetan Buddhism, identity over time is often understood in terms of lineage, the transmission of words from teacher to student. This presentation will briefly survey the changes in the field of Tibetan Buddhism in America since 1973, when courses in Tibetan language were first offered at the University of Virginia, using the category of lineage to trace these changes.
Anne Carolyn Klein, Rice University (UVa PhD 1981)
My UVa dissertation examined an epistemology by which the intellect was understood to be a pathway to nonconceptual understanding. My forthcoming Unbounded Wholeness: Bon, Dzogchen and the Logic of the Nonconceptual (Oxford University Press, Winter, 2005, with Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche) is a mirror image of this project, a reflection on the intellect’s role when it is not part of the path. In this light I discuss an early Bon Dzogchen text, The Authenticity of Open Awareness (gtan tshig gal mdo rig pa’i tshad ma), and its unique views on the authentic or valid cognition (tshad ma, <hi rend="weak">pramāṇa) famously discussed in Indian Buddhism. Authenticity addresses those seeking to best their opponents verbally in debate, and also practitioners intent on moving beyond the inherent twoness of language. I read this as a text modeling a logic of the nonconceptual; a piece of literature whose mythic and poetic elements carry as much force as its philosophical arguments. Some of this material is also finding its way into my next project, an epistemology of the body.