Columbia University "Sheng Yen Professorship" in Chinese Buddhism

The world's first professorship in Chinese Buddhism endowed by Sheng Yen Education Foundation.

Through the collaboration between Columbia University and the Sheng Yen Education Foundation, an agreement was signed on December 2006 to establish a professorship in Chinese Buddhism. This endowed Chair will bring about a new progress of academic research into the history of Chinese Buddhism.

According to sources, Columbia University launched a US$37.5 million matching program in September 2006 to support and setup new professorships in research. In order to express the highest reverence to Venerable Master Sheng Yen and the Sheng Yen Education Foundation for their generous grant, the university has named this chair 'Sheng Yen Professorship' in Chinese Buddhism.

Buddhist studies are available in most parts of the world, yet the establishment of a permanent professorship Chair at an internationally recognized university to train scholars in Chinese Buddhism is a significant breakthrough.

A co-operation agreement was signed between the Sheng Yen Education Foundation and Columbia University in the United States for the establishment of Sheng Yen Chinese Buddhism Professorial Lectureship. Through the endeavors contributed by both institutions, the world's newly formed professorship will bring about a new trend of academic research into for the past, present and future of Chinese Buddhism.

This proposal was conceived during the "First International Conference on Sheng Yen's Thoughts and Contemporary Society" held on 18 October, 2006. One of the presenters, Professor Chunfan Yu from Columbia University's Department of Religion put forth a proposal about this professorship chair in a meeting with Venerable Master Sheng Yen on October 20, 2006.

On 3 December 2006, Professor Paul J. Anderer, Vice Provost of the University of Columbia, Professor Robert Hymes, Department Chair of the East Asian Languages and Culture Department and Professor Chunfan Yu visited Venerable Master Sheng Yen at the Chan Meditation Center in New York to conduct an in-depth discussion about this program.

In their insightful discussion, there is a consensus about the lack of research into post 12th century and contemporary Chinese Buddhism by the international academia and they agreed that the focus of study should also include the development of Humanistic Buddhism in Taiwan that has a profound impact on the transformation of Buddhism in Taiwan and Mainland China societies.

Venerable Master Sheng Yen said that the scope of academic research on Chinese Buddhism should not only be limited to Mainland China and Taiwan, or just on Chinese societies, but to include countries that have also been influenced by Chinese Buddhism such as Japan, Korea and Vietnam.

Venerable Master Sheng Yen proposed three major directions for this program: the recent development of Buddhism across the Chinese Straits; Tradition versus modernization of Buddhism; the development of Contemporary Chinese Buddhism, especially in the area of the development of Humanistic Buddhism in Taiwan at the later half of the century and its influence on Chinese societies.

Vice Provost Paul J. Anderer, came to Taiwan on 5 November this year, to meet with the Board members of the Sheng Yen Education Foundation and become familiar with Dharma Drum Mountain's educational affairs. In response to Venerable Master Sheng Yen's recommendations, he observed that Dharma Drum Mountain's promotion of Humanistic Buddhism not only benefited Taiwan and Mainland China, it could also benefit the world. In addition, with the onslaught of instability worldwide, he pointed out that research in religion and religious culture is even more important because spirituality is undoubtedly a human need.

Vice Provost Paul Anderer expressed deep honor and gratitude that Columbia University could collaborate with the Sheng Yen Education Foundation to establish a Professorship chair in Chinese Buddhism.

Columbia University is one of the most prominent Universities in the United States. Founded in 1754, it is situated in New York City. Buddhist Studies in the University began with a focus on Japanese Buddhism. More than ten years ago, a professorship chair was established for Tibetan Buddhism. Now, with the imminent establishment of the "Sheng Yen Professorship" in Chinese Buddhism, the world's first endowed chair in Chinese Buddhism, it is anticipated that it would bring forth development in the research of Chinese Buddhism.

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