Successfully supporting the Studies of Chinese Buddhism over the past 12 years: Officers from Columbia University visited

In collaboration with Columbia University, Sheng Yen Education Foundation has established the world’s first permanent Sheng Yen Professorship in Chinese Buddhist Studies in the U.S. in 2007. Ever since then, the worldwide visibility and public understanding of Chinese Buddhism has continued to develop, including other universities.

Looking back at the accomplishments made over the past 12 years, four senior officers from Columbia University were brought closer to Master Sheng Yen and Dharma Drum Mountain during their visit to Sheng Yen Foundation on Aug 14, 2018. They aspired to cooperation between the two sides to jointly propagate Chinese Buddhism studies and develop its global communications.

Led by Professor John H. Coatsworth, Provost of Columbia University in the city of New York, the delegation members, including Shih-Fu Chang (張世富), Senior Executive Vice Dean of Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science; Paul Keenan, Senior Vice President for University Development; and Edward Chan-Lizardo, Director of Global Development, had a vigorous exchange of ideas with Tsay, Ching-Yen (蔡清彥)and Yang-Pei (楊蓓), the former Executive Director and the latter CEO of Sheng Yen Education Foundation, and Venerable Guo-Guang (果光法師), Director-in-chief of DDM Monastics.

At its inception, as Professor Yang Pei recalled, Professor Paul Anderer, Vice President of Columbia University, came to Taiwan for the establishment of the Professorship Chair in Chinese Buddhist Studies, and resolved to the mainstay of its future development. New horizons of Chinese Buddhism has therefore been established through communication and cooperation with the international academic community.

“Sheng Yen permanent Professorship Chair in Chinese Buddhism studies, firstly established in Columbia University, was a significant breakthrough at an internationally recognized university; and moreover prompted other universities, such as Stanford University, to set up the same chair professorship providing more opportunities of similar doctoral programs for excelling students. “

In retrospect, the first Chair Professor Yu, Chun-Fang (于君方) shared that the professorship has fostered a lot of doctoral students who later became the faulty of University of Manchester, Oxford University in United Kingdom, and Fo Guang University in Taiwan. Their academic work has also been acknowledged by international religious scholars; meanwhile, the development of Chinese Buddhism Studies is receiving more and more global attention.

In 2016, upon his endeavors, Professor Yang Chao Hua (楊朝華), the successional Chair Professor, led to establish “Sheng Yen Education Foundation Post Doctoral Scholarship” for a term of 10 years. Five doctoral students therefore were able to join and engage in the preparation tasks of international conferences, courses, and workshops. Two of students thus gained the post-doc scholarship.

On the other hand, since 2008, the Foundation and the Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies (中華佛學研究所) jointly gave donations to Columbia University Press for promoting new scholars’ academia publications as well as acquiring efforts to translate ancient Buddhist texts. Heretofore, eight monographs have been successfully published, a truly fruitful achievement.

On this occasion of the visit, the officers from Columbia University not only expressed their sincere gratitude to Sheng Yen Foundation for its contribution of supporting academic works over the past 12 years. They also expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to personally get closer to Master Sheng Yen and Dharma Drum Mountain’s core spirits of: “Protecting the spiritual environment”.

Speaking lovingly, Professor Coatsworth asserted that “Columbia University has put in a lot of academic effort so as to be responsive to the rapid changes of the modern society; the approaches of DDM has facilitated the development of a peaceful body and mind, protecting the environment, promoting eco-friendly constructions and religious studies. The above are all good resources that Columbia University can learn from.

To further introduce Chinese Buddhism on campus, Columbia University plans to hold Chan activities, in concert with the Dharma Drum Retreat Center in New York in October; also in the hope that Sheng Yen Education Foundation could continue to work with Columbia University on international religious studies, fostering more new scholars and promoting further international, cross-disciplinary Buddhist Studies of East Asia.

Text: Melody Lin (林何臻), Dharma Drum Monthly (法鼓雜誌)
Photos: Lee Fan (李東陽)
Translation: Elenda Huang(頤嵐達)
Editing: DDM Australian Editorial Team

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