The XVIth Congress of the International Association of Buddhist Studies

June 20th - 25th, 2011

Dharma Drum Buddhist College, Taipei

After a long and exciting stay abroad, I have just arrived back in Mannheim. In Taiwan I presented at the XVIth Congress of the International Association of Buddhist Studies (IABS). This congress, which took place at the Dharma Drum Buddhist College in the mountains near Taipei from June 20th to 25th, offered a huge variety of contributions and many highly interesting lectures.

It had been in 2007 that the founder of the Zen Dharma Drum Order, Master Sheng Yen, uttered his wish that Dharma Drum Mountain could have the opportunity to host a Congress of the IABS. His proposal has now been turned into reality. Unfortunately, Master Sheng Yen had passed away in 2009. He must have been a very impressive personality. The organization and scientific preparation of the meeting had now been in the hands of the principal of the Dharma Drum College, Professor and Abbot Venerable Huimin Bhikshu.

More than 650 people from more than 32 countries assembled at the Dharma Drum College. The majority were University-Professors, scientists like Indologists and Buddhologists and monks and nuns from high rank. The largest percentage of visitors arrived from the USA. During the 5 days, 546 papers were presented despite the exhausting climatic conditions of extreme heat, which is typical of the Asian summer. In addition to the academic panels, a series of activities had also been arranged: various exhibitions (as e.g. an exhibition of Master Sheng Yen’s calligraphy), a choice of excursions, Chan meditation, a tea ceremony and a theatre performance.

With reference to my new book - Buddha’s Brush, Buddha’s Paste - I had myself prepared a paper, which I could present on Friday, 24th July. As a reaction to the presentation of my book, I earned a lot of positive acknowledgement. I had thoroughly prepared the English speech and I had also graphically arranged the contents of my presentation in Powerpoint. Thus, I can say that I distinguished myself in a positive way from most of the lectures of the scholars, which often seemed to be a bit on impulse and sometimes even a bit academically vague. Especially for the event, I had information sheets printed, which I distributed among the participants together with skillfully designed book marks in envelopes. In this way, my work has been introduced to this international assembly of experts.

My presentation immediately followed the lecture given by Professor Robert A. F. Thurman from Columbia University. His area of expertise is the Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies. Even more popular maybe is his daughter Uma Thurman, who as an actress and celebrity participated in many successful movies. He himself is a down-to-earth contemporary and the first westerner, who became an ordained Buddhist monk of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. He studied with Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, and became his close friend. When he then returned to New York, he met the model Nena von Schlebrügge, whom he married. Their four children, among them Uma, all received Tibetan firstnames and were brought up under the influence of Buddhism.

All in all, I received a lot of positive feedback with regard to the painting and to the book: from Prof. Thurman, people associated with the Dalai Lama, as well as from Dr. Y. Tomatsu, the president of the Buddhist Association of Japan, and many more. The congress has been a memorable and crucial experience for me and I am glad for having seized this valuable opportunity.