UC Berkeley News


 Khyentse Rinpoche examined Tibetan texts in the East Asian Library during his recent visit to the Berkeley campus.(Peg Skorpinski photo)

Distinguished professorship in Tibetan Buddhism established

| 24 August 2006

The campus will establish a distinguished professorship in Tibetan Buddhism, thanks to a $1 million endowment from the Khyentse Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports institutions and individuals engaged in the study and practice of the Buddha's vision of wisdom and compassion.

The newly funded position will be jointly held by the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures and the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies. A search will begin in fall 2007, and the newly appointed professor is expected to begin teaching in fall 2008.

The addition of a faculty member specializing in Tibetan Buddhism is not only important for the newly reconstituted Buddhist Studies program at Berkeley, but it will strengthen Asian Studies on campus more generally, enriching such related disciplines as religious studies, art history, and linguistics. It will also improve scholarly understanding of the significance of Tibet in the history of Asia, and of Tibetan Buddhism in the history of Buddhism generally, say officials with the Center for Buddhist Studies.

"Universities are known for rigorous objective study," said Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, who founded the Khyentse Foundation in 2001. "If Buddhism undergoes such a thorough examination, it can benefit not only the students, but Buddhism itself. From what I see, Berkeley has the strongest history of Buddhist study in Western academia..I feel with this one contribution we've started the equivalent of 100 monasteries."

The Buddhist Studies program at Berkeley has rapidly expanded in recent years, with three new tenured faculty hires since 2003. The new professors have joined a distinguished group of scholars in various departments across the campus. With the addition of the new professorship in Tibetan Buddhism, Berkeley will indeed have one of the strongest faculties in Buddhist Studies outside of Asia.

Khyentse Rinpoche, who visited the campus Aug. 9 to meet with faculty and students, was born in Bhutan in 1961. Recognized as the main incarnation of the Khyentse lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, he has studied with some of the greatest contemporary masters, particularly H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

From a young age he has been active in the preservation of Buddhist teaching, establishing centers of learning, supporting practitioners, publishing books, and teaching all over the world. He also served as an adviser to filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci on his Little Buddha and directed the films The Cup and Travelers & Magicians. He also is the author of a new book, What Makes You Not a Buddhist, to be published by Random House early next year.