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Buddhismusstudien

Subsequent to its formation in India in the late 5th or early 4th century BCE, Buddhism has fundamentally shaped a large number and great variety of Asian cultures that extend geographically across today’s India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Burma, China, Korea, and Japan, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet and Mongolia, as well as parts of Central and Southeast Asia. With its more recent export to the West, Buddhism has become a truly global phenomenon.

What we metaphorically refer to as the “spread” of Buddhism subsumes complex forms of circulation of beliefs, practices and institutions, involving multilayered processes of cultural interaction. Buddhism thus provides us with a particularly rich and in many ways unexplored archive for the study of transcultural dynamics in the longue durée, and across a variety of historical and social settings. Owing to the transcultural characteristics of Buddhism, its academic study strives to transcend the boundaries of regionally focussed disciplines such as Classical Indology, Chinese and Japanese Studies, while remaining rooted in them to ensure the cultural literacy that is essential for a substantial understanding of Buddhism within and across its diverse contexts.

To the profile of the Cluster, the Chair of Buddhist Studies contributes the study of inner-Asian cultural flows in historical perspective, which acts as a methodological safeguard against the risks of overemphasizing European or Western influence on dynamics within Asia. A special research focus of the core members of the Buddhist Studies team at the Cluster is philosophy in South Asian and Tibetan Buddhism, in its multiple and shifting relationships to normative religious discourse.

Together with the establishment of the Chair of Buddhist Studies in 2010, instruction in Classical and Colloquial Tibetan was introduced at Heidelberg University. The addition of one of the key languages of Central Asia to the already broad spectrum of South and East Asian languages that are being taught at the university offers new and exciting possibilities for students as well as research.