Toni Huber, Humboldt University, Berlin
Recently discovered ancient Tibetan manuscripts and what they reveal about
old cultures of ritual and some Tibetan Buddhist innovations

2019 Khyentse lecture
Thursday, February 28, 2019

In recent years, two sets of unique 11th century Tibetan manuscripts have been discovered - a sensational development according to many scholars. Texts and paintings in these manuscripts allow new insights into the cultural outlook of the little-known transition period between the 9th century fall of the Tibetan empire, and the radical socio-religious project of forging a thoroughly Buddhist society across the Tibetan Plateau that begun in earnest during the 11th century. These obscure texts mostly record previously unknown types of non-Buddhist rites. They address a range of concerns, including culturally problematic deaths of pregnant and birthing mothers and their infants, and of accident victims, offer solutions to those afflicted by psychic torment, or ensure that new human lives safely enter the world following deaths. One manuscript is richly illustrated with coloured miniatures that count among the oldest paintings from the Tibetan Plateau not directly related to organized religions. This lecture introduces results of new research on these old manuscripts and rites, outlines the previously unknown worldview they represent, and investigates cases where this ancient ritual system influenced some later innovations in Tibetan Buddhism.

Toni Huber has been Professor of Tibetan Studies at the Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany, since 2003. His research interests and published oeuvre focus on ethnography and cultural history of Tibetan Plateau and eastern Himalayan highland societies, environment and society, ritual and religion, and nomadic pastoralism. His major monographs include Source of Life. Revitalisation Rites and Bon Shamans in Bhutan and the Eastern Himalayas (Vienna, In Press), The Holy Land Reborn. Pilgrimage and the Tibetan Reinvention of Buddhist India (Chicago, 2008), and The Cult of Pure Crystal Mountain. Popular Pilgrimage & Visionary Landscape in Southeast Tibet (New York & Oxford, 1999).

2018 Toshihide Numata Book Award Presentation and Symposium
‘Meaning in the World and in Texts’: Thoughts on Buddhist Philosophy of Language

Jodo Shinshu Center, Friday, November 9, 2018, 3 - 8 pm
2140 Durant Avenue, Berkeley

The Toshihide Numata Book Award in Buddhism is awarded on an annual basis to an outstanding book or books in the area of Buddhist studies. The selection is made by an external committee that is appointed annually. This year's winner is Professor Roy Tzohar (Tel Aviv University) for his book A Yogācāra Buddhist Theory of Metaphor (Oxford University Press).

3:10 pm: Introduction and Award Presentation
3:30 pm: Keynote by Award Winner Roy Tzohar
4:30-4:45: Coffee Break
4:45 pm: Symposium

  • Our Talk of the Merely Intentional:
    On Tzohar’s Analysis of Buddhist Upacāra

    Jonardon Ganeri, New York University
  • How to Bring Words to Life:
    Apoha as the Transition between Nonconceptual and Conceptual Language in Pratyabhijñā Śaivism
    Catherine Prueitt, George Mason University
  • Metaphors and Realities
    Evan Thompson, University of British Columbia
6:00 pm: Discussion

Event Contact: buddhiststudies@berkeley.edu, 510.643.5104

Jack Meng-tat Chia, UC Berkeley/National University of Singapore
Migrants, Monks, and Monasteries: Toward a History of South China Sea Buddhism
Thursday, March 8, 2018

Chinese migration since the nineteenth century have led to the spread of Buddhism to maritime Southeast Asia. Recently, scholars of Buddhism and historians of Chinese religions have begun to consider the connected history of Buddhism in China and Southeast Asia, using Buddhist records, epigraphic sources, as well as oral history interviews. In this talk, I explore the transregional Buddhist networks connecting Southeast China and the Chinese diaspora from the nineteenth century to 1949. I discuss how new patterns of Buddhist mobility contributed to the circulation of people, ideas, and resources across the South China Sea. I show that, on the one hand, Buddhist monks and religious knowledge moved along these networks from China to Southeast Asia, while money from wealthy overseas Chinese was channeled along the networks for temple building in China; on the other hand, Buddhist monks relied on the networks to support China's war effort and facilitate relocation to Southeast Asia during the Sino-Japanese War.

Jack Meng-Tat Chia is a Senior Tutor in the Department of History at the National University of Singapore and currently a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Center for Buddhist Studies, University of California, Berkeley. Born and raised in Singapore, he received his MA in East Asian Studies from Harvard University, and his PhD in History from Cornell University. He is currently working on his book manuscript, entitled Diaspora's Dharma: Buddhism and Modernity across the South China Sea. This book seeks to contribute to our understanding of the connected history of Buddhism in China and Southeast Asia.

Brandon Dotson, Georgetown University
Buddhism and Divination in Tibet
2018 Khyentse lecture
Thursday, February 8, 2018

In Tibet, various forms of divination persist both within and alongside the Buddhist and Bon religions. Excavated divination texts from Dunhuang and from other Silk Road sites furnish us with traces of the dynamic processes by which Buddhism absorbed various divination techniques practiced in 8th to 10th centuries. This lecture will introduce an early form of Tibetan dice divination involving intimate exchanges with gods and with goddesses (sman), and will consider how Buddhism variously transformed, absorbed, and transmitted such divination practices up to the present day.

Brandon Dotson is an associate professor of Buddhist Studies at Georgetown University. He did his graduate training at Oxford University (2007), and has worked and taught at Oxford, the School of Oriental and African Studies, and Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich. His most recent books are Kingship, Ritual, and Narrative in Tibet and the Surrounding Cultural Area (edited volume, 2015) and Codicology, Paleography, and Orthography of Early Tibetan Documents (co-authored with Agnieszka Helman-Wazny, 2016).

Buddhism, Mind, and Cognitive Science
Conference, April 25-26, 2014
Toll Room, Alumni House, University of California, Berkeley

This conference was made possible by a grant from The Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation.

This conference is dedicated to the exploration of the methodological underpinnings of the current encounter between Buddhism and cognitive science. Recently, this encounter has been criticized for failing to take account of the historical and cultural complexities of Buddhist thought and practice, failing to reflect the most recent developments in cognitive science, neglecting the hermeneutic issues that complicate attempts to relate traditional Buddhist psychology to contemporary scientific theories, and neglecting traditional Buddhist epistemologies that are incompatible with the "neurophysicalism" that motivates some of the scientific research. Given such critiques, how might one proceed? Is there some way to mitigate the methodological (historical, hermeneutic, philosophical) quandaries that threaten to unravel the Buddhism-cognitive science dialogue? Is there a way to bring these disparate traditions into conversation without sacrificing the intellectual depth and sophistication of each? Or is such an endeavor misguided in principle? Is it merely another in a long history of attempts to legitimize Buddhism by claiming its compatibility with science? Our interest lies not in rehearsing the critique, but instead in exploring how, if at all, the encounter might move forward.


  • Robert Sharf (Buddhist Studies), University of California, Berkeley
  • Evan Thompson (Philosophy), University of British Columbia
  • Clifford Saron (Neuroscience), University of California, Davis
  • John Dunne (Buddhist Studies), Emory University Antoine Lutz
  • Lawrence Barsalou (Psychology), Emory University
  • Antoine Lutz (Neuroscience), Neuroscience Research Center, Lyon
  • Rebecca Todd (Psychology), University of British Columbia
  • Laurence Kirmayer (Psychiatry), McGill University
  • Carol Worthman (Anthropology), Emory University
  • Christian Coseru (Philosophy), College of Charleston
  • Thomas Metzinger (Philosophy), Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz
  • Dan Arnold (Philosophy of Religion), University of Chicago
  • Georges Dreyfus (Buddhist Studies), Williams College
  • John Tresch (History and Sociology of Science), University of Pennsylvania

Matthew T. Kapstein, Numata Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies, The University of Chicago Divinity School
Tibet in the Age of Manuscripts: Reflections on Recent Textual Discoveries
2012 Khyentse lecture
Thursday, February 16, 2012, 5 pm

During the past few decades, the discovery, cataloguing, and partial publication of important Tibetan manuscript collections has substantially transformed our view of the intellectual and religious history of Tibet. Important developments about which we were almost entirely ignorant only a decade ago may now be studied in detail thanks to copious newly available documentation. The present talk will review aspects of the recent manuscript finds, considering their implications for our understanding of Tibetan cultural history more generally.

Matthew T. Kapstein specializes in the history of Buddhist philosophy in India and Tibet, as well as in the cultural history of Tibetan Buddhism more generally. Kapstein has published a dozen books and numerous articles, among the most recent of which are a general introduction to Tibetan cultural history, The Tibetans (Oxford 2006), an edited volume on Sino-Tibetan religious relations, Buddhism Between Tibet and China (Boston 2009), and a translation of an eleventh-century philosophical allegory in the acclaimed Clay Sanskrit Series, The Rise of Wisdom Moon (New York 2009). With Kurtis Schaeffer (University of Virginia) and Gray Tuttle (Columbia), he has completed "Sources of Tibetan Traditions," to be published in the Columbia University Press Sources of Asian Traditions series in early 2012. Kapstein is additionally Director of Tibetan Studies at the École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris.