|OCBS News July 2012|
|New Numata Chair|
|UN day of Vesak|
|Buddhism in southern Burma|
|Recent talk in London|
Welcome to the July 2012 Issue of OCBS News.
In this issue we have two exciting pieces of news: the appointment of a new Numata Chair for Buddhist Studies at Oxford University, and the agreement of Aung San Suu Kyi to be our patron. More details on both below.
We also have a report from our Fellow Dr. Sarah Shaw on the recent International Day of Vesak, as well as her impressions of Buddhism in Southern Burma.
We end with details of an address Richard Gombrich recently gave in London, and some good news on the fundraising side.
Appointment of New Numata Chair of Buddhist Studies
We are delighted to announce the appointment of Professor Stefano Zacchetti to the Numata Chair of Buddhist Studies at Oxford University.
Here is a short bio for Professor Zacchetti. 1994 degree in Chinese; 1999 PhD, Venice University; further studies at Sichuan University, China, and Leiden University. 2001 to 2005 associate professor at the International Research Institute for Advanced Buddhology, Tokyo. 2005 to 2012 tenured lecturer at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice.
His research focuses on early Chinese Buddhist literature (particularly translations and commentaries), and the history of the canon. His publications include the monograph In Praise of the Light (Tokyo 2005).
Professor Zachetti will be arriving in Oxford shortly and we are very much looking forward to his advice and collaboration in the future.
New patron for the OCBS
On her recent visit to Oxford, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi very kindly agreed to become one of our patrons. We would like to thank Daw Suu Kyi very much for her support of the Centre, and wish her all success in her groundbreaking work, an attempt to apply Buddhist principles to public life which is drawing universal admiration.
The ninth United Nations Day of Vesak and the second International Association of Buddhist Universities Conference, United Nations Building, Bangkok and Mahachulalongkorn University, Ayutthaya
by Sarah Shaw
This year the annual conference to celebrate Vesak, normally held at the United Nations building in Bangkok, was combined with the International Association of Buddhist Universities conference, postponed because of last year's floods. It was considered a special event, as the ‘celebration of 2600 years of the Buddha’s Enlightenment’, and so the panels of speakers were larger than usual.
From the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, guest speakers at the United Nations Day of Vesak were Venerable Dr Khammai Dhammasāmi and Dr Sarah Shaw. The IABU, a new organisation which is chaired by the Most Venerable Professor Doctor Phra Dharmakosajarn, rector of Mahachulalongkorn University held a meeting at the United Nations building led by Venerable Dhammasami who is the Executive Secretary. The academic conference for the International Association of Buddhist Universities was held at the Mahachulalongkorn site in Ayutthaya, and speakers from OCBS included Geoffrey Bamford and Sarah Shaw. There were four panels around the theme of ‘Buddhist Philosophy and Praxis’: Buddhist Philosophy and Meditation Practices, Buddhist Philosophical Views, teaching Buddhism in new lands, and Buddhist Psychotherapy.
There was an additional seminar on Buddhist texts and commentaries in traditional and contemporary contexts. Academics from around the world attended the vast conferences, held at the two sites, and the proceedings went on for four days. For a link to all the papers, see the ‘Buddhajayanti’ conference website:
Impressions of Buddhism in southern Burma
by Sarah Shaw
Before going to the conference in Thailand in May I visited Southern Burma. Here are some impressions of our trip from Rangoon, south to Moulmein, the farthest south tourists are permitted.
The Mon area was the first part of the region to attract Buddhism and for centuries acted as a kind of reception area for the various forms of Sanskrit and Pali Buddhism that came from Eastern India, until, in the thirteenth century, Mogul invasions of Bengal reinforced already ancient links with Sri Lanka and a stronger connection with the kind of Buddhism practised there. The region reveals a Buddhism and Buddhist culture that is less well-known. If you go to this region you will be very glad of this decision, as it means real contact with Burmese people, who are friendly to visitors, and a chance to see Buddhist practice ‘on the ground’ with few Western influences.
To read the full article by, complete with more beautiful pictures from Burma please click here
Recent talk in London
by Richard Gombrich
On Sunday 24 June I was invited to give the “Keynote Address” at the “Sambuddhatva JayantiVesak-Poson Celebrations” at Brent Town Hall in London. I spoke on “Responsibility”.
I explained that in Buddhism, as in Christianity, moral responsibility lies entirely with the individual. The idea which has grown up in some Buddhist traditions that there is also something called “collective karma” has no justification in the Buddha’s teaching. For the Buddha, karma lies in the intention of the individual, who always ultimately has the freedom to choose right or wrong, even if sometimes circumstances make the choice difficult.
The Buddha showed that absolutely everything in life is liable to change. This must include the practice of Buddhism itself. Were Buddhism now to be the same as it was in the days of the Buddha, this would falsify his teaching.
A curious feature of Buddhism today is the idea of “applied Buddhism”. This is curious simply because one has to ask what unapplied Buddhism is meant to be: would that truly be Buddhism? But maybe the term reflects a general timidity about applying Buddhist principles to the social and political issues that confront us.
I illustrated the Buddhist view of responsibility by talking of the current economic crisis in Greece, which I analysed in terms of human agency.
The response of the audience was gratifying.
Donations to the OCBS
We are very happy to announce two recent grants made to the Centre.
The Oxford Buddha Vihara and its devotees have offered 2000 pounds for two years to the Centre to assist in the Journal production. We are very grateful to Ven. Dhammasami and all devotees of the Oxford Buddha Vihara for this contribution, which we will be using to upgrade the hosting programme of the Journal to enhance its attractiveness to universities.
Fo Guang University have also added to their previous donation to help fund our core costs. The OCBS receives no money from the government or the University. We are grateful for all contributions that enable us to continue our work.
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