TIBET AWARENESS – THE NATURE OF TIBETAN GOVERNANCE
Professor Donald S. Lopez, the Arthur E. Link Distinguished University Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan studies at the University of Michigan published several books on Buddhism and teaches it as religion and as a philosophical doctrine.
I would like to ask Professor Lopez and all other teachers of Tibetan studies to emphasize the nature of Tibetan governance and as to how Tibetan Buddhism evolved into a political system giving Tibetans a cultural tool to choose the Head of State, Supreme Ruler of Tibet and the political institution called Ganden Phodrang Government of Tibet. Tibetan Buddhism is Political Science, a System of Governance that existed for nearly four centuries until Communist China’s military occupation of Tibet in 1950.
Ann Arbor, MI 48104-4162 USA
SPECIAL FRONTIER FORCE
Religion department hosts Buddhist scholar for lecture series
Aryanna Duhl, Staff Writer 9:31 a.m. EDT March 30, 2016
Professor Donald S. Lopez of the University of Michigan gave two lectures as part of the Department of Religion’s 15th annual Tessa J. Bartholomuesz Lecture Series and the department’s 50th Annviersary Celebration. (Photo: James Papastavros/FSView)
“He’s like the Stephen King of Buddhist studies,” said Dr. Bryan J. Cuevas as he presented the featured speaker of the Department of Religion’s 15th annual Tessa J. Bartholomuesz Lecture Series. Professor Donald S. Lopez, the Arthur E. Link Distinguished University Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies at the University of Michigan, gave two lectures, which were also a part of the Department of Religion’s 50th Anniversary celebration.
In his first presentation, “Dispatches from Nirvana: 45 Years of Buddhist Studies,” Lopez spoke first about how he came to study Buddhism. He explained that during the Vietnam War, he became disenchanted with Western thought, turning to “Eastern mysticism.”
Before his position at the University of Michigan, Lopez taught at Middlebury College in Vermont, where he was one of four religion professors, and the only one studying Eastern religions. He taught a variety of subjects, including Daoism, Confucianism and Buddhism. He then moved to Michigan, where he is one of three Buddhism scholars.
Professor Lopez has written many books on Buddhism, but spoke the most on authoring anthologies, where he attempts to question the “classics” of Buddhist literature. He estimated that only 10% of available Tibetan works have actually been studied, and attributed this to the previous lack of scholars who spoke the language. “Language foundation is crucial” to the study of religions, Lopez stressed. He clarified that when scholars don’t understand the language and culture of a religious people, they must rely only on the texts that the people have always deemed the “classics” and are therefore unable to explore others.
In his second lecture, “Christian vs. Buddhist: The Battle for the Soul of Tibet,” Lopez described the missions of Ippoito Desideri, an Italian Jesuit missionary in Tibet in the 1700s who was the first European to have studied and understood the Tibetan language and culture.
With this understanding, Desideri used the same rhetoric of the Tibetan texts to try to convince the Buddhist monks to convert to Catholicism. According to Lopez, as Desideri learned about Tibetan religion, he found that “what the Buddhists were studying was philosophy.”
This idea of Buddhism as philosophy is something that Lopez also discussed in his first lecture, sharing his hope that Buddhist studies would find its way into the Philosophy department of universities. Lopez claimed that, “when we consider a religious text to be the work of the divine,” we diminish what scholars can think about it.
He accredits the slow development of scholarship in Buddhist studies to the “delayed reaction moving away from the idea that these [Buddhist] texts were only religious doctrine,” and that once “liberated from the sacrality of the text,” scholars can study it as creative poetry.
There is still a lot of examination to be done of Buddhist thought, in attempting to fully understanding the culture as well as answering some of the most difficult philosophical questions. Though there will likely be many generations of scholars searching for answers to questions such as, “When was the Buddha born, and when did he die?” or even, “Does God exist?” Professor Lopez is proud of how far the issues of Buddhism have come.
“We are now in the golden age of Buddhist studies,” he said.