CONFERENCE> A Celebration of Buddhist Philology, October 14-16, 2022

Robert H Sharf's picture

A Celebration of Buddhist Philology: A Conference in Honor of the Legacy of Yehan Numata and BDK’s Contributions to the Study of Buddhist Texts: Friday – Sunday, October 14-16, 2022

Location:  Jodo Shinshu Center, 2140 Durant Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94704 (This is an in-person event)
Sponsors:  Center for Buddhist Studies, Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai
RSVP Info: RSVP Online Required Please note: Masks are required for entry at the Jodo Shinshu Center, and all attendees will be asked to sign in at the door.

Rev. Dr. Yehan Numata (1897-1994), founder of Bukkyō Dendō Kyōkai (Society for the Promotion of Buddhism), is renowned for his efforts to advance the study and understanding of Buddhism around the world. To this end, he established the BDK English Tripitaka Project, with the goal of translating the massive East Asian Buddhist canon into English. He also began a program of endowed Visiting Professorships at universities throughout North America and Europe, the first of which was established at his alma mater, UC Berkeley. This program was originally designed to bring senior Japanese scholars—the undisputed authorities in the study of the East Asian canon—to offer training to Western students of Buddhism. There are now some seventeen Numata Professorships, and while the program has evolved over the years, the focus remains on imparting the philological skills necessary to engage the Buddhist textual tradition.

The field of Buddhist Studies has expanded since the founding of the Numata Professorships and the BDK Tripitaka Project back in the 1980s. Scholars are increasingly drawn to visual, architectural, and ethnographic data to supplement their textual studies. But much work remains to be done on the textual side, and for this philology remains a critical instrument in the scholars’ toolkit. This conference will celebrate the ongoing delights, challenges, conceptual rewards, and frustrations of working with Buddhist texts. Participants are invited to present from their own ongoing work, but also to take this as an opportunity to reflect on the role of philology in the study of Buddhist traditions.

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 14 2:10-2:45 Welcome and introductory remarks

3:00-5:30 Session 1, Panel Chair: Robert Sharf

Birgit Kellner (Austrian Academy of Sciences) - “Bracketing Buddhist Philosophy? On Translating Buddhist Philosophical Texts, Past and Present”

Jonathan Silk (Leiden University) - “What, Why, How and for Whom Do We Translate?”

Collett Cox (University of Washington) - “What is a Text? Encounters with Gāndhārī Manuscripts”

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 15 9:30-12:00 Session 2, Panel Chair: Mark Blum

Nobuyoshi Yamabe (Numata Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies, UC Berkeley) - “The Textual Relationship between the ‘Five Gates’ and the ‘Abridged Essentials’ Reexamined”

Amanda Goodman (University of Toronto) - “Making Modern Editions of Medieval Buddhist Miscellanies: A Case Study in Material Philology”

Tim Barrett (SOAS) - “Translating Chinese Buddhist Texts in the United Kingdom: History and Prospects”

12:00-2:00 Lunch break

2:00-4:30 Session 3, Panel Chair Alexander von Rospatt

Isabelle Ratié (Sorbonne Nouvelle University) - “Dharmakīrti’s Santānāntarasiddhi: New Sources and Perspectives”

Vincent Tournier (LMU Munich) - “A Re-emerging Canon: Interpreting Recently Identified Fragments of the Saṃmitīya Scriptures”

Charles Hallisey - TBD

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 16 10:00-12:30 Session 4, Panel Chair: Jacob Dalton

Shen Weirong (Tsinghua University) - (Via Zoom) “Decoding the Tantra Yoga within the Chinese and Tibetan Texts and Contexts of the Mongol-Yuan Period: A Multi-Dimensional Philological Attempt”

James Gentry (Stanford University) - “Why did the Cannibal King Fly? Tantric Transformations of an Indian Narrative in Tibet”

Lucia Dolce (SOAS) - “Making Sense of Ritual Texts”

Event Contact:, 510-643-5104


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