Tung Lin Kok Yuen International Conference
Buddhist Canons: In Search of a Theoretical Foundation for a Wisdom-oriented Education
27 & 28 November, 2021 (HKT) | Online & On-site at HKU
Georgios T. Halkias
Centre of Buddhist Studies
The University of Hong Kong
Georgios T. Halkias is an expert on Indo-Tibetan religious history and doctrines and the development of contemplative cultures of Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna Buddhism in Tibet and across the Himalayas. An Associate Professor at the Centre of Buddhist Studies at the University of Hong Kong, Halkias pursued postgraduate studies in Comparative Philosophy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Film Studies at the University of Amsterdam, and completed his DPhil in Oriental Studies from the University of Oxford. He has published extensively on a variety of topics including, canonical Buddhist studies, Indo-Tibetan Pure Land Buddhism, Himalayan Studies, and Indo-Greek Buddhism. He has participated in several international research programs in the UK and Germany, and is currently the co-editor-in-chief of the Oxford Encyclopaedia of Buddhism and co-PI in a collaborative research project titled Infrastructures of Faith: Religious Mobilities on the Belt and Road at the University of Hong Kong.
Notes on the Translation and Transmission of Wisdom from the Earliest Canonical Collections of Tibetan Buddhism.
The ninth century marked the first large-scale transmission of Indian Buddhism to Tibet and witnessed the translation of nearly one thousand Buddhist scriptures imported from India and Central Asia. These state-sponsored translations aimed at propagating and preserving the teachings of Buddhism while being comprehensible to a local audience. The success of this enterprise relied on pairing Indian scholars (Skt. paṇḍita) with bilingual Tibetan translators (Tib. lo tsā ba; lotsāwa) who followed closely Sanskrit-Tibetan dictionaries and grouped together texts of similar philosophical content and orientation according to established doxographical categories. These Tibetan translations, mostly of Sanskrit Buddhist texts, formed the first proto-canonical collections of Tibetan Buddhism and are praised till this day for their consistency and precision.
The wisdom of the Buddha would not have been transmitted without knowledge of his teachings. Drawing from imperial Tibetan Buddhist catalogues (Tib. dkar chag; karchak) and authorised lexica like the Mahāvyutpatti, this presentation will highlight the hermeneutic project of translating knowledge into wisdom and wisdom into knowledge as an essential part of Buddhist education. The Tibetan notion of the “scholar-practitioner” (Tib. mkhas grub; kedrüp) may serve as an ideal model for an individual who is both genuinely knowledgeable of the philosophical and soteriological doctrines of Buddhism, but also possesses practical experience of the teachings and their skilful application in contemplation and introspective meditation. The lessons that present-day educators may derive from the earliest Tibetan Mahāyāna canons suggests that “wisdom-oriented education” ought to rely on an unprejudiced understanding and knowledge of the subject-matter that aims to be transmitted, as well as on a variety of methods for presenting it accurately to its intended audiences according to their background and abilities.