Posts Tagged ‘IABS 2011’

Convened by Michael Sheehy and Jeff Wallman of TBRC, “Gene Smith: His Life and Work” was the first panel I attended at IABS 2011 Congress.

Michael Sheehy gave a formal presentation entitled “Banned Books, Sealed Printeries and Neglected Dkar chag” that described some fascinating research on the history of Takten Damchö Phuntsok Ling Monastery (where Tāranātha passed on) and its printery. He recounted three separate attempts to rescue the woodblocks of Jonang texts from the Phuntsok Ling printery by three different Tibetan lamas over several centuries following Tāranātha’s death. It is not until the efforts of Losal Tenkyong (blo gsal bstan skyong), a Zhwa lu Tulku who was close to Jamgon Kongtrul, that the printery doors were unlocked and a dkar chag of the texts found there was created.

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The 16th Congress of the International Association of Buddhist Studies is under way here at Dharma Drum Buddhist College in Jinshan, New Taipei, Taiwan.

Scherrer-Schaub and Huimin Bikshu at the Opening Session_IABS 2011

The opening session of the Congress included a truly fascinating address by Tom Tillemans. Professor Tillemans spoke about looking to Buddhist philosophy, specifically Dharmakīrti, for developing defenses against hard-line materialists who claim that there is no such thing as mind. This was probably one of the better delivered and more interesting talks I’ve heard at the several conferences I have attended this past year and a half (of course I’m partial to philosophical discussions). If there is time I will treat it to its own blog post here.

The opening day saw the nearly 600 scholars from around the world introduced to the bewilderingly large grounds of Dharma Drum Buddhist College and its amazingly dedicated support staff. The army of Taiwanese that greeted the delegates, and have been at every corner to guide us from floor to floor and room to room each day since, are embodying what I can only imagine is an amazing sense of the importance of service cultivated here in Taiwanese Buddhist culture. At times one feels as though herded by shepherds or kindly directed by an aunt who thinks you are her slightly disabled nephew, but the sincerity overpowers the oddity. Dharma Drum Buddhist College is situated on Dharma Drum Mountain, a massive estate with beautiful modern buildings designed to impress. The scale of the place is almost inhuman, and although spending time in each separate area is enjoyable, the architects seem to have forgotten that buildings at an institution should flow together in such a way as to make traversing from one meeting place to another somewhat less than an epic journey across space and time. But I digress… The Dharma Drum Mountain is an excellent place for a congress of the International Association of Buddhist Studies as it is a manifestation of modern Buddhism and plays a role in Buddhist studies. Thanks to the kindness of Dr. Bill Magee, one of the organizers of the conference, I am able to attend this gathering of scholars and it has been an honor and a privilege just to be among such amazingly dedicated and accomplished Buddhist scholars and scholars of Buddhism. The conference is very well organized but is so full of amazing panels that it is impossible to attend even half of what I would like. In the next series of blog posts I will endeavor to recount as much as I can about my experiences and the papers presented at this historic event.