The Khyentse Foundation has donated US$2.5 million to the University of Michigan for the creation of the Khyentse Gendun Chopel Professorship of Tibetan Buddhist Studies. According to the offical announcement, the donation is the largest financial contribution to the study of Tibetan Buddhism in North America to date, and was made possible by the generosity of Khyentse Foundation donors.
The Khyentse Foundation supports universities with Buddhist studies programs across the globe, funding faculty positions, visiting professorships, research faculties, and centers of Buddhist studies, such as the Khyentse Center for Buddhist Textual Scholarship at Hamburg University, which opened in 2010. The chair at the University of Michigan is the second and largest Khyentse chair to be established. The first was created at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2006.
Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, the founder of Khyentse Foundation, visited the University of Michigan in November 2016 to discuss a potential partnership with the Buddhist studies program at the university. The Michigan Buddhist studies program is one of the oldest—established more than 40 years ago—and largest Buddhist programs in North America, as attested by Jacob Dalton, holder of the Khyentse chair at Berkeley, who received his PhD from the University of Michigan: “Michigan has produced many of the professors who now teach around the country, and its program is strong and diverse, with specialists in all the major Buddhist regions.” (Khyentse Foundation)
Commenting on the creation of the new chair, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche stated, “For centuries, Buddhist study and practice have proved to bring stability and harmony to both individuals and society. So in this day and age, it is more crucial than ever that such wisdom be preserved and kept alive in important institutions of learning like the University of Michigan.” He added that “Buddhist studies have such sophisticated tools for sharpening our critical thinking that they even lead us to critique the critical mind itself. . . . In this world and era of short attention spans, where we are so influenced by headlines, images, and sound bites, and swayed by emotion, it is ever more important to support and cultivate genuine traditions of critical thinking.” (Khyentse Foundation)
The Khyentse Gendun Chopel Professorship is named after the radical Tibetan poet, philosopher, and painter Gendun Chopel (1903–51), who is regarded by many as one of the leading Tibetan thinkers of the 20th century. Gendun Chopel, according to Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, “symbolizes some of the most advanced avant-garde thinking in the Tibetan Buddhist scholastic tradition. [He] is one eminent sage Tibetans simply cannot afford to forget, and I am so happy he will be remembered here [at the University of Michigan].” (Khyentse Foundation)
The chair will be part of the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. The department announced that it will conduct an international search for a faculty member to fill the new professorship in the fall of 2019. He or she will conduct research and teach courses to advance the knowledge of Tibetan Buddhism.
“Michigan has a long and distinguished tradition of excellence in the field of Buddhist studies,” commented Donald Lopez, chair of Asian Languages and Cultures and Arthur E. Link Distinguished Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies. “This historic gift will allow us to expand both our undergraduate and our graduate programs in new directions. We are deeply grateful to Khyentse Foundation.” (Khyentse Foundation)
Founded in 2001, Khyentse Foundation is an international nonprofit organization established by Rinpoche with the aim of promoting the Buddha’s teaching and supporting all traditions of Buddhist study and practice. The foundation’s activities include major text preservation and translation projects, support for monastic colleges in Asia, a worldwide scholarship and awards program, development of Buddhist studies at major universities, training and development for Buddhist teachers, and Buddhist education for children.
Remarks from Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche on University of Michigan Chair (Khyentse Foundation)
New Chair in Tibetan Buddhist Studies Established at University of Michigan (Khyentse Foundation)