|OCBS News May 2012|
|Report from Richard Gombrich|
|Visit of HH the Gyalwang Drukpa|
|Volume Two of the JOCBS|
|Ensuring Pali Scholarship|
|Centre for Applied Buddhism|
Report from Richard Gombrich
I spent 3 weeks in Taiwan, arriving on 15 March and leaving on 6 April. I was there as Visiting Professor at Fo Guang University, specifically at the Buddhist College (which is also the Dept. of Buddhist Studies). I had been invited by the Dean, the Ven Prof Huei Kai, to give a whole graduate (MA) course, 36 hours of lectures, on early Buddhism.
Squeezing 36 hours into 3 weeks was quite strenuous for all concerned, but Fo Guang students seem to be used to that. Each lecture was for 2 hours, with a short break in the middle. (So far as I could tell, those lectures at FGU which are not for 2 hours are for 3 hours!) Mine were interpreted in Chinese, which at least made them a bit less strenuous for me. Their MA courses are in English, their undergraduate courses in Chinese. Nearly 20 MA students came; about half of them were from abroad. A few undergraduates and members of staff attended sporadically; but the Ven Prof Huei Kai came to almost every lecture.
On the third Friday I was taken down to the south of Taiwan to give ten hours of lectures over the weekend at Fo Guang Shan monastery, the HQ of the movement. Most of the MA students came too, as these lectures counted as part of the course. I was taken by express train, but the students travelled by road, a journey of over 6 hours each way. They seemed to accept these exertions cheerfully, and altogether I was impressed by their friendliness and good humour. I also managed to get them to ask a lot of questions, and we had a few good discussions. Taiwanese students can display a degree of deference to the teacher that we may find a bit disconcerting, but I think that the presence of foreigners (including ethnically Chinese students from English-speaking countries) helped to break the ice.
As I had made clear in advance, I was there to some extent as a suppliant, and also in the hope of forging longer-lasting links between FGU and the OCBS. Before I left, I received a signed agreement that FGU would make a donation to the OCBS of £10,000. After I returned home, I was sent word that this would soon be raised to £25,000. This money is for general purposes, to keep the OCBS in existence while we raise further funds from other sources. We are enormously grateful to FGU for this timely generosity, which gives us a future – which we shall do our best to make a bright one. I was told that FGU is planning shortly to open a Research Centre for Buddhist Studies, connected with the Buddhist College. It is intended that this centre and the OCBS collaborate in research projects; they will be sending us a draft Memorandum of Agreement to this end. Further details remain to be discussed. We look forward to a visit to Oxford by the Ven Prof Huei Kai next spring.
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