Scholars talk Buddhism’s value in modern society

posted on July 6, 2015

By Chuck Chiang, Vancouver Sun | Link to Article

By Chuck Chiang, Vancouver Sun | Link to Article

An elite group of Buddhism academics have gathered in Vancouver to advance the study of the religion’s philosophies and applications in the modern world, a gathering that organizers say shows the city’s potential as a conduit for global cultures in North America.

The Buddhist Studies Today symposium, which kicked off Sunday and runs through Tuesday at the University of B.C.’s main campus, is not open to the public. But the small gathering of 14 recent PhD-level fellowship recipients, along with a number of high-profile Buddhist scholars, is expected to discuss new ideas of applying Buddhism in contemporary issues, organizers say.

The symposium follows the launch last year of a Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation Buddhist philosophy grant for scholars, including those working on their PhD dissertations. The founder of the Hong Kong-based foundation — famed philanthropist Robert H.N. Ho — lives in the Vancouver area.

Ted Lipman, CEO of the foundation and a former high-ranking Canadian diplomat, said the choice of UBC for the group’s first meeting is significant.

In addition to UBC’s Buddhist studies program (also supported by — and named after — the foundation) and pleasant natural surroundings that make it easier to attract scholars to attend, Lipman said the city’s demographics make it a logical choice.

“I would think that the percentage of Buddhists here, versus what’s there in other North American cities, would probably be quite high,” he said, noting Buddhist philosophies heavily influenced many Asian cultures including Chinese, Japanese, Korean Thai, Burmese and Sri Lankan.

“I think the people here would be interested in something that’s very important to the development of the study of Buddhism, and that Vancouver has a part to play in that process.”

The Robert Ho Foundation fellowship’s recipient-selection process is handled by New York-based non-profit American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), a private federation of several scholarly organizations mostly based in the United States.

The group, which focuses on scholarships for studies in the humanities and social sciences, said 68 scholars applied for the Buddhist fellowship during the inaugural round last year, and 15 were selected.

Read more