Bringing Buddhist Studies into the modern world is the subject of an interview – published today in the New York Times – with Robert Y. C. Ho, chairman of a charity funding such efforts.
In the West, the Times reports, the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation “has given endowments for Buddhist programs at Harvard University, Stanford University and the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. In May, it gave a $1.9 million grant to the American Council of Learned Societies for the research and teaching of Buddhist studies.” The purpose of such largesse? Robert Ho explains:
“Generally speaking, Buddhist studies in higher institutions have been archaic and old-fashioned, in the sense that it’s mostly text-based, where we have scholars who are experts in Pali, Sanskrit, classical Chinese, Japanese, old languages. They read these texts and they talk about them. A lot of time, it’s not really related to what happens in the real world.
“But a lot of younger scholars are pushing into new areas, like studying about Buddhism and politics, Buddhism and the environment, conflict resolution, Buddhism and psychology, things like that, and how they manifest in the world. Most of our grants are geared toward the area which is Buddhism in the contemporary world. This is the area we want to push, to advance the field, to make it relevant to the contemporary audiences.”