Buddhist Asia: Traditions, Transmissions and Transformations

  An NEH Summer Institute ~ May 25 to June 26, 2015 ~ Honolulu, Hawai'i ~ Hosted by the Asian Studies Development Program

Presenting Faculty for the Institute: Anne Blackburn, David Germano, Rupert Gethin, Kazuko Kameda-Madar, Thomas Kasulis, John Kieschnick, Keller Kimbrough, Paul Lavy, Kate Lingley, Fabio Rambelli, Juliane Schober, Tansen Sen, James M. Shields and Paola Zamperini.

Institute Director:

Peter D. Hershock is Director of the Asian Studies Development Program at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawai’i. In this capacity, he designs and implements multi-disciplinary faculty development programs aimed at enhancing undergraduate teaching and learning about Asian cultures and societies. His research explores the contemporary relevance of Buddhist and other Asian conceptual resources, reflecting on such issues as technology and development, human rights, and social justice in several books, including: Reinventing the Wheel: A Buddhist Response to the Information Age (1999); Buddhism in the Public Sphere: Reorienting Global Interdependence (2006); and Valuing Diversity: Buddhist Reflection on Realizing a More Equitable Global Future (2012). He also has written about the philosophical and historical dimensions of Buddhist practice in Liberating Intimacy: Enlightenment and Social Virtuosity in Ch’an Buddhism (1996); Chan Buddhism (2005); and, most recently, Public Zen, Personal Zen: A Buddhist Introduction (2014). In relation to his work on education, he has edited Changing Education: Leadership, Innovation and Development in a Globalizing Asia Pacific and Educations and their Purposes: A Conversation among Cultures.

Institute Presenters:


Anne M. Blackburn is Professor of South Asia Studies and Buddhist Studies in the Department of Asian Studies at Cornell University, and Director of the Cornell University South Asia Program. She taught at the University of South Carolina before joining Cornell's faculty. She received her BA from Swarthmore College, and MA and PhD degrees from the University of Chicago. Dr. Blackburn studies Buddhism in South and Southeast Asia, with a special interest in Buddhist monastic culture and Buddhist participation in networks linking Sri Lanka and mainland Southeast Asia before and during colonial presence in the region. Her publications include Buddhist Learning and Textual Practice in Eighteenth-Century Lankan Monastic Culture (Princeton, 2001), Approaching the Dhamma: Buddhist Texts and Practices in South and Southeast Asia, co-edited with A/Prof Jeffrey Samuels (BPS Pariyatti Editions, 2003), and Locations of Buddhism: Colonialism and Modernity in Sri Lanka (Chicago, 2010). She is working on a new project, Monks, Texts, and Relics: Towards a Connected History of 2nd-Millennium Buddhisms in Southern Asia. 

David Germano teaches and researches Tibetan and Buddhist Studies at the University of Virginia, where he directs the Tibet Center, the Contemplative Sciences Center, the Tibetan and Himalayan Library, and the Tibet Participatory Culture Initiative. His personal scholarship focuses on the history of Tibetan culture and Buddhism from the ninth to fourteenth century with a special focus on esoteric religious movements. He is currently returning to work on a fourfold set of works that constitute a comprehensive analysis of the Great Perfection Seminal Heart (rdzogs chen snying thig) tradition from its formation to its full expression in the fourteenth century with the corpus of Longchenpa, one of the greatest of all Tibetan Buddhist authors. This includes a translation of his major work, The Treasury of Words and Meanings (tshig don mdzod), a historical study, a philosophical study, and a literary study of the tradition.


Rupert Gethin is Professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of Bristol and President of the Pali Text Society (since 2003). He was educated at the University of Manchester, completing a BA in Comparative Religion (1980), an MA in Buddhist Studies (1982), and a PhD focused on the theory of meditation in the Pali Nikayas and Abhidhamma (1987). He has taught Indian religions at the University of Bristol since 1987. He has also been Numata Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies at UC Berkeley (2008) and Visiting Professor at the International College for Postgraduate Buddhist Studies, Tokyo (2013). In 2009 he also took part in Mind and Life XVIII in Dharamsala, a dialogue with the 14th Dalai Lama on the theme of "Attention, Memory and the Mind: A Synergy of Psychological, Neuroscientific, and Contemplative Perspectives". His books include Sayings of the Buddha: A Selection of Suttas from the Pali Nikāyas (Oxford: OUP, 2008), The Foundations of Buddhism (Oxford: OUP, 1998), and The Buddhist Path to Awakening (Leiden: Brill, 1992). He has a particular interest in early Indian Buddhist literature and Indian Buddhist systematic accounts of the mind and meditation. He is currently working on a book provisionally titled Mapping the Buddha’s Mind: A Study of Indian Buddhist Systematic Thought in the Abhidharma of the Theravāda, Sarvāstivāda, and Yogācāra Traditions.

Kazuko Kameda-Madar is Lecturer of Art History at Hawaii Pacific University in Honolulu and also Visiting Researcher at the Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto. She completed her PhD in Japanese Art History at University of British Columbia in 2011. She is co-editor of Utsushi no chikara: Sōzō to keizoku no matorikkusu [Power of Utsushi: Matrix of Creation and Continuity] Kyoto: Shibunkaku Press, 2014, and her other publications include: “Theorizing Imitation in a Global Context,” Art History, (London: September 2014); “A Sixteenth-century Korean Landscape Painting with Seal Reading ‘Bunsei’” Kaikodo Journal XXX (Spring, 2014); “Sugimoto Hiroshi’s Japanese Art History: Spirituality and Cold War Japonisme” R Issue 5 (Kanazawa: March 2013); “A Set of Four Guardian Hanging Scrolls and the Transformation of the Twelve Devas Pictorial Tradition in Medieval Japan” Kaikodo Journal XXVIII (Spring, 2012); “Transmission of Meanings: A Study of Shen Wai Shen (Body Outside Body) by Xu Bing” in Xu Bing and Contemporary Chinese Art: Cultural and Philosophical Reflections (New York: SUNY Press, 2011); and  ”Ideology and Transformation of the ‘Kyokusui-en’ Theme in Genre Painting: Study of Tsukioka Sessai and Kubo Shunman” Fūzoku kaiga no bunkagaku [Cultural Studies of Genre Painting] (Kyoto: Shibunkaku Press, 2009).

Thomas Kasulis is Professor of Comparative Studies and past Chair of the Department of Comparative Studies and also of the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures. He was also the founding director of OSU's Institute for Collaborative Research and Public Humanities. He has written numerous books and scholarly articles on Japanese religious thought and Western philosophy, including Zen Action/Zen Person (University of Hawaii Press, 1989) and Shinto: The Way Home (University of Hawaii Press, 2004). He has co-edited for SUNY Press a three-volume series comparing Asian and Western ideas of self in different cultural arenas: Self as Body in Asian Theory and Practice (1993), Self as Person in Asian Theory and Practice (1994), and Self as Image in Asian Theory and Practice (1998), as well as The Recovery of Philosophy in America: Essays in Honor of John Edwin Smith (1997). He is the author of Intimacy or Integrity: Philosophy and Cultural Difference (University of Hawaii Press, 2002), a comparative cultural philosophy of relationship based on his Gilbert Ryle Lectures of 1998. He is currently working on a short history of Japanese philosophy and has co-editd an accompanying sourcebook of readings from Japanese philosophy, Japanese Philosophy: A Sourcebook (University of Hawaii Press, 2011). He teaches courses listed in Comparative Studies, Philosophy, and East Asian Languages and Literatures focusing on religion and philosophies of Asia, comparative religion, and philosophy of religion.

John Kieschnick is the Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation Professor of Buddhist Studies at Stanford University and the co-director of the Ho Center for Buddhist Studies at Stanford. His primary field of interest is the cultural history of Chinese Buddhism. His publications include The Eminent Monk. Buddhist Ideals in Chinese Hagiography (1997) and The Impact of Buddhism on Chinese Material Culture (2003). Forthcoming is a edited volume on India in the Chinese Imagination (2014). He is currently working on a monograph on the interpretation of the past in Chinese Buddhism. As part of a three-year project funded by the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, his is also working together with scholars and technicians in Taiwan to create a new Chinese edition of the Song gaoseng zhuan 宋高僧傳, a tenth-century collection of biographies of monks. This project will create a heavily annotated digital version of the text with links to biographical and textual databases as well as links from place names mentioned in the text to both historical maps and Googlemaps. It is hoped that this text will serve as a model for how to design future digital editions of pre-modern Chinese historical works.


Keller Kimbrough is an associate professor of Japanese Literature at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He is a native of Colorado and Tennessee. He earned his BA in English Literature at Colorado College (1990), and his MA and PhD degrees in Japanese Literature from Columbia University (1994) and Yale (1999). His research interests include medieval Japanese fiction, Japanese Buddhist literature, Heian and medieval poetry and poetics, seventeenth-century puppet theater, and Japanese narrative painting. He has taught at the University of Michigan, the University of Virginia, Colby College, and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Kimbrough’s major publications include: Wondrous Brutal Fictions: Eight Buddhist Tales from the Early Japanese Puppet Theater (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013); Publishing the Stage: Print and Performance in Early Modern Japan, co-edited with Satoko Shimazaki (Boulder: University of Colorado Center for Asian Studies, 2011); Vernacular Buddhism and Medieval Japanese Literature, co-edited with Hank Glassman. Special issue of the Japanese Journal of Religious Studies (vol. 36, no. 2 [fall 2009]); Preachers, Poets, Women, and the Way: Izumi Shikibu and the Buddhist Literature of Medieval Japan (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies, 2008).


Paul Lavy is assistant professor of South and Southeast Asian art history at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.  He received his B.A. in cultural anthropology from Mary Washington College, Fredericksburg, VA, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in South and Southeast Asian art history from the University of California, Los Angeles. He subsequently taught ancient art history at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, and Asian and Islamic art history at Pennsylvania State University, University Park.  Dr. Lavy has conducted research in India and throughout Southeast Asia, particularly in Cambodia and Thailand, as well as in Vietnam, where he lived and worked as an independent lecturer and researcher prior to coming to Hawaii.  His ongoing research, which has been funded by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Asian Cultural Council, and the National Security Education Program, investigates the links between art/architecture and politics in early historic Southeast Asia.  His primary interests are the Hindu-Buddhist artistic traditions associated with Mekong Delta and Preangkorian Khmer civilizations and their relationships with the art of South Asia (ca. 5th – 9th cent. CE).  He is currently researching and writing a book on early sculpture from Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, entitled The Crowned Gods of Early Southeast Asia.


Kate Lingley is Associate Professor of Chinese Art History at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.  She was educated at Harvard University, Peking University, and the University of Chicago, where she received her Ph.D. in 2004.  Professor Lingley's research focuses on Buddhist votive sculpture of the Northern and Southern Dynasties period, with a particular interest in the social history of religious art. Her dissertation was a study of donor figures as representations of the self-image of Buddhist art patrons in the sixth century.  She is interested in the social significance of representation, religious practice, and identity, particularly ethnic identity, in a period in which non-Chinese peoples ruled much of North China.  This has led to a further interest in Chinese identity in a range of historical periods.  Her most recent public project was an exhibition of Chinese painting and calligraphy from Honolulu collections, that focused on the work of reformers of the 19th and 20th centuries. She is currently working on a book manuscript that explores the representation of identity in Northern Dynasties China by examining the relationship between tomb portraits and Buddhist donor portraits from the same period.


Fabio Rambelli obtained his Ph.D. in Italy in 1992. He studied in Japan under cultural anthropologist and semiotician Yamaguchi Masao. Presently, he is professor of Japanese religions and intellectual history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he holds the International Shinto Foundation Chair in Shinto Studies. His publications include: Buddhas and Kami in Japan (with Mark Teeuwen, 2000), Vegetal Buddhas (2001), Buddhist Materiality (2007), Buddhism and Iconoclasm in East Asia: A History (with Eric Reinders, 2012), A Buddhist Theory of Semiotics (2013), and Zen Anarchism (2013). His research interests span several cultural dimensions of religious discourses in Japan, such as theories and practices of representation, materiality and the cultural meanings of objects, political thought, economics, and geopolitical components of constructs about cultural identity. He is currently working on Buddhist political thought in Japan, on representations of India in premodern Japan, and on the history of the development of Shinto as related to global intellectual networks and their impact on Japanese culture.


Juliane Schober (Ph.D., Anthropology, Illinois) is an anthropologist of religion who works on Theravada Buddhist practice in Southeast Asia, especially Burma/Myanmar. Her current research focuses on regional exchange networks and the role sacred icons play within them. Her thematic interests include material culture, ritual, modernity, postcolonial theory, sacred biography, sacred space, and religion and politics. Her publications include Buddhist Manuscript Cultures; Modern Buddhist Conjectures in Myanmar: Cultural Narratives, Colonial Legacies and Civil Society; and Sacred Biography in the Buddhist Traditions of South and Southeast Asia. She is Director of the Center for Asian Research and Professor of Religious Studies at Arizona State University where she also directed the graduate program in Religious Studies (2009 -2012) and developed a doctoral track in the Anthropology of Religion. In addition, she has held leadership positions in the Association for Asian Studies, the American Academy of Religion, in the American Anthropological Association and serves on various editorial boards. In 2013, she founded the Theravada Studies Group, an academic organization affiliated with the Association for Asian Studies. The group promotes comparative and scholarly exchanges among social scientists and humanists who work on aspects of Theravada Buddhism in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Southwest China and globally though pilgrimage and diaspora networks.

Tansen Sen is Associate Professor of Asian history and religions at Baruch College, City University of New York, USA. He received his MA from Peking University and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. He has done extensive research in India, China, Japan, and Singapore with grants from the American Institute of Indian Studies, the Japan Foundation, the American Philosophical Society, the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (Singapore). He headed the Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre in Singapore and was most recently a visiting fellow at Fudan University. Currently, he serves on the Governing Board of the Nalanda University, India. He is the author of Buddhism, Diplomacy, and Trade: The Realignment of Sino-Indian Relations, 600-1400 (University of Hawai'i Press, 2003) and co-author (with Victor H. Mair) of Traditional China in Asian and World History (Association for Asian Studies, 2012). He has edited Buddhism Across Asia: Networks of Material, Cultural and Intellectual Exchange (2014) and guest-edited special issues of China Report ("Kolkata and China," December 2007; and "Studies on India-China Interactions Dedicated to Ji Xianlin," 2012). With Wang Bangwei he has co-edited India and China: Interactions through Buddhism and Diplomacy: A Collection of Essays by Professor Prabodh Chandra Bagchi (Anthem Press, 2011). He is currently working on two book projects, one examines cross-cultural trade in Asia during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and the second is titled India, China, and the World: Networks of Exchange and Interactions.


James Mark Shields is Associate Professor of Comparative Humanities and Asian Thought at Bucknell University (Lewisburg, PA), and Japan Foundation Research Fellow at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies (Kyoto, Japan, 2013–14). He was educated at McGill University (Canada), the University of Cambridge (UK), and Kyoto University (Japan). He conducts research on modern Buddhist thought, Japanese philosophy, comparative ethics and philosophy of religion. In addition to five chapters in edited collections, has published articles and translations in Asian Philosophy, The Eastern Buddhist, the Journal of Buddhist Ethics, Japan Review, the Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, Studies in Religion / Sciences religieuses, Journal of Religion and Society, Silvia Iaponicarum, Kultura i Politkya and Philosophy, Culture and Traditions. He is author of Critical Buddhism: Engaging with Modern Japanese Buddhist Thought (Ashgate, 2011), and co-editor of Teaching Buddhism in the West: From the Wheel to the Web (Routledge, 2003). He is currently completing a book manuscript on progressive and radical Buddhism in Japan.


Paola Zamperini has a Ph.D. in Chinese Literature and Women and Gender Studies from the University of California at Berkeley, and is currently Associate Professor of Chinese Literature and Chair of the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at Northwestern University. Her research and teaching interests span traditional and contemporary Chinese literature, popular culture, the body, romance, sexuality and gender, Buddhism in China, Tibet, and East Asia, fashion practices, film studies and cinema. She is particularly intrigued by how in the universe of Chinese culture, both past and present, performance, text, and gender merge and collide to create both individual and collective subjectivities. In particular, she has been studying and writing about the ways in which women and men in fiction deal with desire and love in late imperial novels, as reflected by her most recent book, Lost Bodies: Prostitution and Masculinity in Late Qing Fiction (Brill University Press, 2010). To date, she has written and published extensively about women, sensuality and spiritual resonance in pre-modern Chinese literature. She has recently focused on early twentieth century Chinese women’s magazines and journals, as well as on the ways in which fashion is represented in pre-modern and contemporary Chinese Fiction and Visual Culture.

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