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Understanding Buddhism through its Classic Texts

Summer Seminars and Institutes for College and University Teachers

Postmark Deadline: March 4, 2013

A four-week seminar for sixteen college and university faculty to study classical Buddhist texts in the context of their translation and transmission.

Luis Gómez (religious studies and Asian languages, University of Michigan, and academic director, Mangalam Research Center) and Parimal Patil (religion and Indian philosophy, Harvard University) direct a new seminar on the translation and transmission of classic Buddhist texts. Using a cross-section of texts and translations, the seminar investigates ways that a classic text reveals both the unity and the diversity of a tradition. The seminar is organized around guiding questions: "Who translated the text being studied? When? Why? For whom? What tools and textual strategies were available to the translator and the interpreter? When key terms are translated in so many different ways, how confident can we be that we understand their historical usage and application?" Through close reading, directors and seminar participants bring indigenous technical terms into interpretive context and reflect on the ways that systems of religious thought and practice cross over from one culture to another. Texts to be read in their entirety include the Sutta Nipāta, the Diamond Sutra (Vajracchedikā), the Heart Sutra (Bhadracar), and the Lotus Sutra. Guest speakers Jeffrey Durham (curator, Asian Art Museum) and Erika Rosenberg (psychology, University of California, Davis) discuss Himalayan art and the emerging dialogue between Buddhism and the natural sciences. Field trips take participants to the C.V. Starr Asian Library, the Doe Library, and the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. The Mangalam Research Center in Berkeley, host for the seminar, boasts an impressive collection of Buddhist texts, including the complete Pali Canon (in both Pali and English) and the world's most complete collection of Nyingma Tibetan Buddhism.


Dates: July 8—August 2 (4 weeks)
Director(s): Luis O. Gómez, El Colegio de México, and Parimal G. Patil, Harvard University
Grantee Institutions: Mangalam Research Center for Buddhist Languages
Location: Berkeley, CA

About NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes for College and University Teachers

Each year the NEH’s Division of Education Programs offers teachers opportunities to study a variety of humanities topics in Summer Seminars and Institutes. Each NEH Summer Seminar includes sixteen participants working in collaboration with one or two leading scholars. Participants have access to a major research collection, with time reserved to pursue individual projects.

Amount of Award

NEH Summer Scholars are awarded fixed stipends to help cover travel costs, books and other research expenses, and living expenses. Stipend amounts are based on the length of the NEH Summer Seminar or Institute: $2,100 (2 weeks), $2,700 (3 weeks), $3,300 (4 weeks), $3,900 (5 weeks), or $4,500 (6 weeks).


NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes are designed primarily for teachers of American undergraduate students. Qualified independent scholars and those employed by museums, libraries, historical societies, and other organizations may be eligible to compete provided they can effectively advance the teaching and research goals of the project.

You may request information about as many projects as you like, but you may apply to no more than two NEH Summer Programs (seminars, institutes, or Landmarks workshops) and you may attend only one.

Please note:

Adjunct faculty, community college faculty and first-time participants are encouraged to apply.

Up to two seminar spaces and three institute spaces are reserved for current full-time graduate students in the humanities.

How to Apply

For more information and application instructions, please visit the program website listed above.