Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche with the Department of Pali team. Photograph by Pawo Choyning Dorji. From khyentsefoundation.org
Khyentse Foundation (KF) and Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) in India have jointly announced the establishment of a new professorship at the latter’s Department of Pali, Buddhist Literature, and Culture. According to a statement issued by KF on 8 February, KF will sponsor the Visiting Professorship program to teach and conduct research on various areas of Buddhist Studies under the three major Buddhist traditions: Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. With this initiative, both KF and SPPU hope to provide comprehensive Buddhist teachings to the several hundred local and foreign students studying under the department.
The announcement was made during a visit to the university by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, the current chairman of KF’s Board of Directors, to give teachings on Shantideva’s classic text, the Bodhicharyavatara (The way of the bodhisattva). According to KF’s statement, Rinpoche was impressed with the scholarship, sincerity, and enthusiasm of Professor Mahesh Deokar, the head of the department, during their first meeting in 2011. Rinpoche pledged to strengthen the university’s Buddhist Studies program, and the proposed Visiting Professorship to invite experts in Buddhist Studies from various universities, including from the West, is said to be a result of that pledge, as well as Rinpoche’s more general concern to reignite an interest in Buddhism in India.
Commenting on the announcement, KF Executive Director Cangioli Che said, “It has taken us three years of working together to finalize the agreement between Pune University and KF-India.” She added, “This is a very significant collaboration with a major Indian university and certainly marks the beginning of our effort to promote the academic study of Buddhism in India.” Following the announcement, Prof. Deokar stated that while the department offers degree programs, including a PhD, in various areas of Buddhist Studies, under Indian law the university is unable to recruit foreign academics as professors. However, with the KF fund they can now invite scholars from abroad on a temporary basis: “Now with this KF fellowship we are able to invite international scholars who have expertise in different areas of Buddhism . . . They will remain for one year, teach the courses of their choice, and carry out research projects here to expose our students and faculty members to international scholarship,” he stated. Already, during the exploratory period of the collaboration, Professor Kenneth Zysk from Denmark was invited to teach on Buddhist medical traditions.
According to the KF statement, KF-India Director Dr. Badrinarayanan Srinivasan signed the agreement on behalf of KF-India, with Rinpoche as the witness signatory. Several representatives from the university and KF, including KF board member Raji Ramanan, KF-Hong Kong representative Jun Xie, junior executive Pawo Choyning Dorji, and communications director Noa Jones, were also in attendance. KF India Advisor Prashant Varma stated, “I think with so much collective ripening and blessings of Rinpoche’s aspirations, there is now much ripening of dharma in Western India.”
KF is an international nonprofit organization whose aim is to foster Buddhist study, practice, and scholarship. Some of its current programs are: academic development, monastic support, translations of Buddhist texts, and leadership and teacher training. The organization is a collaborative effort of students, friends, volunteers, and sponsors around the world.
The Department of Pali at Savitribai Phule Pune University was established in 2006 during the 2550th celebration of the Buddha’s Birth, Enlightenment, and Mahaparinirvana, and the 50th anniversary of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar’s revival of Buddhism in India.
KF Visiting Professorship established at Pune University, India
Department of Pali, Savitribai Phule Pune University, India