Scholarship on the Buddhist Path: A Trendy Legacy in an Historic Custom

Scholarship on the Buddhist Path: A Modern Legacy in an Ancient Tradition

Company and recipients of postgraduate scholarships in Buddhist research awarded by Tung Lin Kok Yuen obtain a heat welcome at TLKY in Hong Kong. Picture courtesy of TLKY

Earlier in March, Tung Lin Kok Yuen (東蓮覺苑, TLKY), an historic Buddhist nunnery and academic establishment positioned in Hong Kong’s leafy Completely happy Valley neighborhood, hosted a casual gathering of 18 guests from the esteemed Centre of Buddhist Research (CBS) at The College of Hong Kong (HKU). The friends included 15 recipients of postgraduate scholarships in Buddhist research awarded by Tung Lin Kok Yuen, who had been accompanied by Dr Tsui, Chung-hui, Tung Lin Lok Yuen Scholar in Buddhist Artwork and Tradition, and Honorary Assistant Professor, Centre of Buddhist Research, together with CBS workers Charlie Choi and Carol Li.

The friends had been honored with a presentation on the historical past and legacy of TLKY, from its founding within the early twentieth century and its subsequent flourishing into the current day, together with a guided tour of the hallowed temple premises, notable for his or her distinctive and putting marriage of Chinese language and Western architectural motifs. One in all Hong Kong’s most well-known Buddhist landmarks, TLKY has lengthy been a necessary cease for visiting Buddhist practitioners and college students, and is especially famend as the one seminary within the metropolis for Buddhist nuns, providing a complete eight-year program within the Mahayana custom.

Tung Lin Kok Yuen was established in 1935 by Girl Clara Ho Tung (1875–1938), who named this manifestation of her aspiration to share the Buddhist teachings with the world for her husband, Sir Robert Ho Tung (Tung), and her personal names (Lin Kok). Since its founding, the monastery has grown to turn into a revered heart of monastic training and a focus for Hong Kong’s Buddhist group.

Girl Clara’s grandson, Robert H. N. Ho, established the primary abroad department of TLKY in Vancouver in 1994, increasing the attain of the temple and its teachings internationally, and enabling Robert Ho to appreciate Girl Clara’s imaginative and prescient of selling the Buddhist teachings globally. In 2004, the Tung Lin Kok Yuen Basis was established with the aspiration of selling Buddhist training on the tertiary stage.

The extent of this dedication and largesse has been far-reaching, benefitting quite a few establishments and students working inside the specialised subject of Buddhist research. Outstanding amongst these is the Grasp in Buddhist Research (MBS) program at HKU’s celebrated Centre of Buddhist Research. 

This in-depth English-language program gives a complete and meticulous curriculum that explores Buddhist historical past, philosophy, texts, and rituals, in addition to Buddhism as a philosophy and Buddhist practices as an inclusive and systematic path for non secular improvement. Graduates of this system are thereby well-equipped to pursue additional educational examine on the analysis post-graduate stage (MPhil, PhD).

Amid the tranquil surrounds of TLKY and the echoes of an historic legacy, Buddhistdoor International sat down to speak with two current recipients of Tung Lin Kok Yuen’s postgraduate scholarship, students from HKU’s Centre of Buddhist Research Ms. Megan Lee and Mr. Pazu Kong, to seek out out extra.

Tung Ling Kok Yuen, Hong Kong. Picture by Chong Fats

Buddhistdoor International: Are you able to share with us what first drew you to the sphere of Buddhist research?

Pazu Kong: Though I’m a resident of Hong Kong, I’ve spent about 12 years in Tibet—not repeatedly, however normally spending about half of every yr in Lhasa—and I’ve grown to turn into very all for all facets of the tradition there. Nonetheless, I discovered finding out Buddhism to be very tough as a result of there are some ideas that truly appeared to me to be contradictory amongst totally different faculties of Buddhism. I discovered it very tough to check on my own, simply via private readings, in order that’s why I made a decision to affix this MBS program—to check in a extra systematic method. I don’t essentially count on to turn into a Buddhist scholar, however I do suppose that this course has given me a really stable overview, a chicken’s-eye view, of Buddhism. And this has enabled me to decide on which areas and what sort of subjects of examine and follow that I’m most all for.

Megan Lee: My very own curiosity in Buddhist research is rooted in my private meditation follow, which started 10 years in the past—though I used to be typically a very lazy meditator over these 10 years! At the moment, my faculty’s Goenka meditation heart was my solely supply of teachings by way of Buddhism and the Dharma.

With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, I discovered myself spending extra time at house, so I took a web based course provided by Harvard College on the Buddhists scriptures. This was really the primary time that I had correctly learn Buddhist texts, and it opened my thoughts utterly as a result of it helped to attach so many dots for me—what I had noticed and what I had discovered from my meditation follow was all written there, from 1000’s of years in the past, in numerous scriptures. I used to be so amazed that it gave me the concept really finding out Buddhism academically, in a scientific method, might assist me to deepen my understanding of the Buddha’s teachings.

My meditation follow is a lot better, since I’ve been taking this MBS program! Studying about totally different faculties of Buddhism and studying so many various texts has helped me in so some ways. These days, I discover it slightly straightforward to meditate 4–5 hours per week. Within the Goenka fashion of educating meditation, it’s important to discover your interior world by your self, however I’ve realized that with out the steerage of the sutras, I didn’t know what I used to be doing—till now: I really see vacancy, I really see the entire Dharma experientially, and this has been very profound.

BDG: Is there a cause you selected this specific MBS program? What do you think about to be its strengths?

ML: I really regarded world wide at a number of totally different Buddhist research applications, and I discovered that the HKU program has extra selection: there’s extra utilized Buddhism, there’s counseling, there’s meditation, and other forms of sensible content material. I believe it’s vital to do not forget that finding out Buddhism isn’t nearly mental understanding—though educational examine is essential—however learn how to apply the teachings in every day life, learn how to use them to assist folks, and even spreading the educating . . . that’s my private curiosity, and so I selected HKU. 

PK: For me, one of many issues I recognize about this program is that it offers an complete overview of the whole lot, and then you definately’re free to decide on which areas you need to deal with, alongside the obligatory topics corresponding to the varied faculties of Buddhism. For my dissertation, I centered on tummo (Tibetan inner-fire meditation) and carried out a scientific examine in collaboration with a scholar from the engineering division. We had been capable of us an EEG (electroencephalogram) and different parameters to measure the consequences of tummo meditation on brainwave exercise, which was fairly a novel alternative. I believe there are only a few locations on the planet, not to mention Hong Kong, the place it’s doable to do that. And I believe it was this openness at HKU to discover these sorts of avenues that helped to inspire and encourage me in my research right here.

A guided tour of the historic Buddhist landmark. Picture courtesy of TLKY

BDG: Are you able to communicate to your specific space or areas of curiosity inside the self-discipline?

ML: For me it’s understanding the Dharma from totally different views. I’m really not very all for “Tibetan” Buddhism or “Japanese” Buddhism or these sorts of categorization, I’m completely not (which is why I didn’t select any of these programs!). I’m extra eager to discover the pure Dharma than to limit myself to a single viewpoint, with a view to understanding that extra deeply—each for the sake of myself and from the attitude of benefitting all sentient beings.

After meditating for 10 years, I discovered that an awesome compassion arose inside me which was for all sentient beings. So my principal motivation is to study extra concerning the pure Dharma in order that ultimately I can liberate myself and be a part of the bodhisattvas!

At HKU, I discovered that totally different professors have their very own affiliations and lineages, after all, and that’s a good way to study. It doesn’t matter which lineage your from, we’re nonetheless finding out and practising the one Dharma, so I believe I’m studying a lot from all these totally different folks.

PK: In fact, totally different professors can have totally different concepts and views about Buddhism, however on the similar time they’ve a robust mutual respect. For instance, I keep in mind in a single class, a scholar spoke concerning the Mahayana perspective on incompatibilities with the Theravada custom. However I believe it’s crucial to acknowledge the existence of various traditions with a view of mutual respect. It’s very straightforward to level to variations between traditions as an alternative of recognizing the vital commonalities and similarities. 

I’m glad that almost all academics on this program emphasised the similarities and compatibilities widespread to all traditions. Most of our academics additionally talked about that the foundations of all Buddhist traditions are the identical—even among the many 4 main faculties of Tibetan Buddhism, the essential concepts are the identical, solely sure practices differ.

BDG speaks with Buddhist students Pazu Kong and Megan Lee. Picture courtesy of TLKY

BDG: What has been essentially the most difficult side of this program?

PK: I believe I’m joyful that I don’t must repeat the expertise! Particularly due to COVID-19 and Zoom courses and lectures. I hate Zoom! I keep in mind the primary time we used Zoom. On the time, we had been excited and thought, “Oh, perhaps that is the way forward for training, we will meet and speak with out having to be there in particular person.” However after one or two classes, I spotted that this manner was a bit boring, and I spotted that a very powerful side of going to highschool just isn’t merely to attend lectures, however to attach and construct relationships along with your fellow college students. Typically you won’t have a selected query at school, however you overhear a query or a dialogue between different college students or with the lecturers, which may feed your personal research. I believe this is essential. 

I keep in mind on the final day of the primary semester final yr, we might lastly all go for an actual dinner collectively. I used to be so excited that we might have a shared expertise like this. So lacking the human connection was undoubtedly essentially the most tough half for me.

ML: For me, I really don’t discover this program overly difficult—thus far! However of all of the totally different programs I’ve chosen, there’s one which I’m taking proper now that has been tougher than the others, and that’s on Chinese language Buddhist texts. Once I took the Harvard College on-line course, that was carried out in English, after all. I’ve come to appreciate that after I’ve tried to learn sure Buddhist scriptures in Chinese language, they’re very obscure as a result of written Chinese language is a really complicated language—particularly historical Chinese language. After which after I first learn English translations of the texts, my first response was: “Oh my god! So this is what it’s about?” It type of opened my thoughts. So now I’ve intentionally chosen a course on Chinese language Buddhist texts as a result of I actually need to perceive a few of them as a local Chinese language speaker. I believe that I would like to discover ways to correctly learn Chinese language scriptures due to my household: my mom and my grandparents they’re all Buddhists practitioners, however they don’t actually learn scriptures, though they generally ask me questions. So I believe it could be nice if I know learn how to reply them appropriately in Chinese language . . . but it surely’s actually tough! 

PK: Leaping on to Megan’s level, I’ve discovered that studying Buddhism in English is definitely a bit simpler, particularly as a result of I’m a local speaker of Cantonese. Once I learn a Chinese language textual content, I’ve some preconceived understanding or impressions of specific phrases already, and it creates numerous the “false buddies” that we will see in English and French—however much more so in fashionable Chinese language and historical Chinese language. If I examine Buddhism in English, there are some phrases which are tough to translate and they also reference the Sanskrit or the Pali phrases immediately. The Pali phrase sankara (Skt: samskara) is an apparent instance: if you learn the traditional Chinese language time period, you may suppose that maybe this refers to a type of conduct or strolling, or no matter, I don’t know! Someway I’ve all these preconceptions or prior understandings of this single phrase, and it interferes with my understanding of the actual Dharma. However then after I learn the identical textual content in English, they normally don’t translate it however use the unique Pali phrase and I instantly perceive that this can be a new idea that I’ve to analyze extra deeply. So it makes issues a lot simpler.

BDG: Are there any specific highlights or standout recollections from this system that you simply’d wish to share?

PK: For my dissertation, as a result of we had been nonetheless in the course of COVID restrictions, the college really organized a room for me to conduct these experiments for my scientific examine of tummo meditation. And so I used to be capable of spend nearly two months on this analysis. I might spend my daytimes in school, finding out, after which comply with up on my analysis at night time—typically till 2am! And I actually loved this sort of environment. And I believe very kindly of the college for organizing this chance for me, which appears very uncommon and particular.  

ML: For me, I believe it’s in all probability the sensation I’ve after I learn and study from the sutras. I at all times have this sense that I’m studying immediately from the Buddha himself. And likewise, after all, not solely the Buddha: I’ve learn, for instance, the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch and I really feel so grateful to those nice masters from 1000’s of years in the past till now—the Buddha rediscovered the Dharma after which these different nice academics helped to unfold the teachings. And that’s why, 2,600 years later, we will study from them immediately. And since they typically current these texts as dialogues, I really feel like I’m sitting in entrance of those masters and listening to the discourses. There’s a sense of being past time and house that’s really very particular; I really feel like I’ve all these masters from 1000’s of years in the past from whom I can study, and I’m actually grateful for that.

Picture courtesy of the Centre of Buddhist Research, HKU

BDG: Based mostly in your experiences, do you’ve gotten any recommendation to supply aspiring Buddhist research college students?

PK: I believe that, apart from this system itself, there are lots of technical sources that may assist scholar with their progress. I believe many college students are extra centered on their educational research, however I believe the college gives many extra sources than they may understand. The library is one instance, and the digital library is one other. And likewise there are a number of workshops organized by the HKU library, corresponding to learn how to use EndNote, a reference and quotation administration software, for instance. I believe that most individuals miss issues like this, which is unlucky because it’s such a great tool for making your dissertation citations excellent!

ML: For me, I believe I’d sturdy urge individuals who come to Buddhist research that additionally they check out meditation. I believe it’s a parallel path. Within the top notch on Early Buddhism, as an illustration, when the professor speak about vacancy (Skt. shunyata), I can sense the pondering means of the opposite college students and I can really feel that they’ve an mental understanding of the idea, however finally it’s not one thing to debate however one thing that one should expertise. And with out that have you’ll be able to’t really perceive vacancy. As I’ve heard from different college students who include no meditation expertise, they discover it actually onerous to grasp, even after one semester. I believe this parallel path actually is a should when you really need to perceive what the Buddha is educating. In fact, it may be tough: it’s important to discover a good instructor, it’s important to spend time studying the strategies and practising them—and never simply use apps corresponding to Calm or Headspace—it’s a very totally different expertise. 

PK: I believe Megan’s Vipassana expertise is an excellent doorway to enter the meditation follow. Not solely due to what it teaches you—the essential rules—however there are particular necessities: no smartphones for nine-and-a-half days, no speaking, no web. On the very starting it may possibly appear fairly daunting, however for me I believe that is in all probability a very powerful cause why I might expertise the essence of meditation.

ML: My ultimate piece of recommendation for brand new college students can be to let go of your earlier understanding of the whole lot you recognize or suppose you recognize about Buddhism. Simply be empty so you’ll be able to study, expertise, and soak up new issues!

See extra

Centre of Buddhist Research, The College of Hong Kong
Tung Lin Kok Yuen
Tung Lin Kok Yuen Canada Society
The Robert H. N. Ho Household Basis International

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