Guiding Concepts and Responsibilities
The University of Hamburg's Center for Buddhist Studies promotes the development and coordination of academic resources on Buddhism in three focus areas: teaching, research, and academic exchange/public outreach.
Promotion of Teaching
The thorough and promising education in Buddhist Studies offered at the University of Hamburg is based on the reading and comprehension of Asian primary sources and historical-philological methods. The Center strengthens the curriculum of Buddhist Studies at the University by offering additional, specialized courses and seminars, as well as its Summer School in Buddhist Studies. Although the Center itself does not offer academic courses that are obligatory for the students' curriculum, it consolidates the B.A. and M.A. programs of the Asia-Africa-Institute and all other university institutions related to Buddhism and supports the annual Numata Visiting Professorship in Buddhist Studies. Plans are underway to establish an M.A. program in Buddhist Studies and a new full professorship in Southeast or East Asian Buddhism at Hamburg to complement the existing positions in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism.
Promotion of Research
The Center enables research fellows and visiting fellows to pursue their own individual research projects by providing local support and access to its library's exceptional collections. Specifically, the Center promotes research in five ways:
Offering an ambitious research environment that encourages close collaboration, the Center provides academics from Germany and abroad with the opportunity to work on their own research projects and encourages their continued engagement with teaching. At present, research fellows from a number of countries are taking advantage of this research opportunity, which includes participation in all Center activities.
The Center promotes young academics by offering fellowships for graduate studies.
The Center offers digital publication of academic contributions regarding Buddhist Studies
The Center's continual fundraising efforts are crucial to increasing the holdings of its library, which ranks among the most outstanding specialized European academic libraries in the field of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism.
The continual expansion of its network of scholars, students and other institutions, enables the Center to encourage and intensify academic exchange. Relationships with many universities and individuals all over the world have already been established.
Forum for Interdisciplinary Academic Exchange and Public Outreach
The Center is instrumental in communicating to the public the University of Hamburg's important role as an interdisciplinary locus for expertise in Buddhist Studies. The Center supports and organizes events that link various disciplinary fields and promotes dialogue between Buddhist traditions and the public. Since 2007, the Center's multifaceted programs have included a summer school, two international symposia, a workshop, an exhibition, as well as more than five interdisciplinary lecture series and panel discussions comprising more than twenty-eight lectures linking diverse disciplines.
No other city in Germany offers a broader spectrum of living Buddhist traditions than Hamburg. Joint projects such as the “First International Congress on Buddhist Women's Role in the Sangha” held at the University of Hamburg in 2007, featuring sixty-five speakers including the 14th Dalai Lama, is one example of the promising connections that events can foster between academia and Buddhism in practice.
In order to firmly establish the Center for Buddhist Studies at the University of Hamburg as a leading institution in Europe and to further expand its program, one important goal is the development of an international M.A. program in Buddhist Studies. In order to strengthen the Center's academic foundation, the Center also plans to establish a third professorship in Southeast or East Asian Buddhism (for instance Chinese Buddhism) in addition to the two pillars of Indian and Tibetan Buddhism.
The Center relies on financial support from sponsors who are interested in the successful development and enhancement of the Center and who support its goals, the expansion of its fellowship programs, and its international profile.
The Center for Buddhist Studies is embedded in the University of Hamburg’s scholarly and logistical infrastructure. Particularly relevant for the study of Buddhism are:
- Professorships, posts as lecturers and junior positions in classical Indology, Indian Buddhism, Chinese Studies, Tibetan Studies, Japanese Studies, Korean, Thai, and Vietnam Studies.
- The Numata Professorship for the Study of Buddhism.
- The library of the Asia-Africa Institute, with its primary focus on Indo-Tibetan Buddhism.
- The newly established Centre for Tantric Studies.
- The Khyentse Center for Tibetan Buddhist Textual Scholarship
- The University of Hamburg provides the Center for Buddhist Studies with office space, equipment and facilities for events.
A Specialized Academic Library for Buddhism
The holdings of the Asia-Africa Institute’s Buddhism library (primary sources, editions, translations, secondary literature, general studies, off prints, journals, and microfiches) have grown steadily since the library’s first acquisition on December 19, 1914.The library has the reputation of housing an exquisite collection of works relevant to Buddhism (Theravada Buddhism, the schools of the Abhidharma and Indian Mahayana Buddhism, collections of philosophical religious literature of the great Buddhist traditions relevant for Tibetan Studies, and a collection of works on Tantric Studies and Chinese Buddhism). This fine resource is one of the reasons Buddhist scholars choose to come to Hamburg to conduct their scholarly work. [ Catalogue ]
Besides a great number of Buddhist-related publications, any Buddhist scholar also will profit from the manuscript titles catalogued by the Nepal-German Manuscript Preservation Project (NGMPP, 1970-2002) and Nepalese-German Manuscript Cataloguing Project (NGMCP, since 2002).
The History of Buddhist Studies at the University of Hamburg
Buddhist Studies – the academic study of Buddhist traditions, ethics and philosophies – has only lately become a distinct science at the University of Hamburg. The establishment of a Chair in Indian culture and history in 1914-15 laid the groundwork for this development. The field of research itself was established through the work on Buddhism by the scholar Frank-Richard Hamm (1954-1964) and was consolidated in June 1966 with the appointment of Franz Bernhard from the Göttingen School to a newly created second Chair in Indology focused specifically on Buddhist Studies. This secured the place of Hamburg as a unique German institution for the study of Buddhism.
The “Hamburg School” of Buddhist Studies
After the passing away of Franz Bernhard in September 1971, Lambert Schmithausen shaped Buddhist Studies at Hamburg from 1973 to 2005 and developed its international reputation through his fundamental works on Yogacara, the history of ideas and the early spiritual practices of Buddhism, and Buddhist ethics of nature and animals. Many graduates of the “Hamburg School” of Buddhist Studies now hold key faculty positions in academic institutions all over the world, including UC Berkeley, Harvard University, Koyasan University near Osaka, Stanford University, and the International College for Advanced Buddhist Studies in Tokyo.
Buddhist Studies as an area of concentration in Tibetan Studies
Naturally there are close connections between Buddhist Studies and Tibetan Studies. Hence, research on Buddhist schools and their history of ideas has become an important area of concentration in Tibetan Studies at Hamburg, first through David Seyfort Ruegg’s work on the traditions of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism and Madhyamaka (1983-1990) and then through David Jackson’s research on Sa-skya Pandita’s reading of Indian and Tibetan traditions of logic and epistemology, the history of Tibetan Buddhist schools, and Tibetan painting (1992-2007).
Today Buddhist Studies is represented at Hamburg in both Indology and Tibetan Studies by three professors whose combined work covers a broad spectrum of traditions and issues: Michael Zimmermann (Indian Buddhism); Dorji Wangchuk (Tibetan Studies with a focus on Buddhism); and Harunaga Isaacson (Indian Tantric Studies, Manuscript Studies).
Buddhist Studies in other academic disciplines at the University of Hamburg
The University of Hamburg is the only place in Northern Germany where scholars of various Asian regions are working intensely in the field of Buddhism. The focus on Buddhism in Japanese Studies has, for instance, a history that dates back to 1936, when Wilhelm Gundert joined the faculty. The scholarship of Gundert, whose main interest was Chan/Zen Buddhism, and his disciple Oscar Benl contributed significantly to Buddhist Studies at the University of Hamburg. The appointment of Roland Schneider, who worked on literary forms of the Middle Ages that were strongly influenced by Buddhism, also led to the development of a Buddhist focus in Japanese Studies. Today Jörg B. Quenzer continues this cultural and intellectual tradition with his research on, among other things, biographical material of dream reports and the role of literary language in the transfer of Buddhist content.
When the Australian Ronald Eric Emmerick joined the faculty (1971-2001), a new Buddhist focus was introduced to Iranian Studies at Hamburg. With his work on Khotanese culture, which was greatly influenced by Buddhism, and the role of Khotan in the transmission of Buddhist literature, Professor Emmerick opened up the area of Buddhist research to Central Asia as well.
Additionally, the appointment of Michael Friedrich, a professor of Chinese Studies who specialized in the early reception of Buddhism in China, greatly expanded the regional scope of Buddhist Studies at Hamburg. He also examines the long-term impact of Buddhism on Chinese philosophy and descriptions of Chinese Buddhism in Confucian and modern historiography. The scholarship of Thai specialist/anthropologist Jan Terwiel (1992-2007) contributed to the Hamburg program's breadth as well.
Alumni of Hamburg’s Buddhist Studies Program
Since 1978 fourty-one doctoral dissertations, eight habilitations, and sixty M.A. theses were submitted in the field of Buddhist Studies. Specifically, Chinese Studies accounted for eleven M.A. theses and four doctoral dissertations; two doctoral dissertations were in Thai Studies; and Japanese Studies granted one dissertation, one habilitation, and four M.A. theses. In the field of Indian and Tibetan Studies alone, 49 M.A. theses, thirty-three doctoral dissertations and seven habilitations were written, mostly under the supervision of Lambert Schmithausen. [More]
Numata Visiting Professorship in Buddhist Studies
In Würdigung der unter Lambert Schmithausen zu international höchster Anerkennung gelangten Hamburger Buddhismuskunde, richtete die japanische Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai, eine Stiftung zur Förderung buddhistischer und buddhismuskundlicher Aktivitäten, im Jahre 1999 an der Universität Hamburg eine Numata-Stiftungsprofessur für Buddhismuskunde ein. Sie ermöglicht es, halb- bzw. jährlich wechselnde Buddhismuskunde-Experten aus aller Welt nach Hamburg an das Asien-Afrika-Institut einzuladen, um in Lehre und Forschung mitzuwirken.
In 1999, Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai, a Japanese foundation that supports Buddhist activities and Buddhist Studies, honored Hamburg Buddhist Studies by establishing an annual Numata Visiting Professorship in Buddhist Studies. This endowment enables the University of Hamburg to invite experts in the field of Buddhist Studies from all over the world to teach and conduct research at the Asia-Africa Institute.
The Foundation of the Center for Buddhist Studies
In the fall of 2007 a Center for Buddhist Studies was established at the University of Hamburg. By that time, the number of disciplines in which individual scholars and/or research groups (such as the Manuscript Cultures of Asia and Africa project) concerned with Buddhist Studies has significantly expanded to include Indian and Tibetan Studies, Japanese Studies, Chinese Studies, Thai Studies, Korean Studies, Cultural Anthropology, and Science of Religion. It was therefore a natural next step to establish an interdisciplinary Center for Buddhist Studies at the University. The perspectives represented in the Center's programs is now firmly grounded in the cultural contexts of South, Southeast, Central and East Asia.
New Name for the Center for Buddhist Studies
On July 11, 2013, the Center for Buddhist Studies was officially renamed the Numata Center for Buddhist Studies. The Center will now bear the name of Rev. Toshihide Numata, President of the Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai (仏教伝道協会) in Tokyo, Japan. The Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai (BDK) aims at promoting Buddhism and encouraging research and teaching in the field of Buddhist Studies worldwide. It already supports numerous visiting chairs for Buddhist Studies in Europe and North America. With the BDK’s support of the new Numata Center for Buddhist Studies, the Center will be able to strengthen its programs in terms of promoting research on Buddhism in the past and present; fostering dialogue among scholars, practitioners and representatives of Buddhist organizations; and presenting research on Buddhism to a wider audience.