The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Research Fellowships in Buddhist Studies

The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Program in Buddhist Studies offers an articulated set of fellowship and grant competitions that will expand the understanding and interpretation of Buddhist thought in scholarship and society, strengthen international networks of Buddhist studies, and increase the visibility of innovative currents in those studies.

The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Research Fellowships in Buddhist Studies offer support for research and writing in Buddhist studies for scholars who hold a PhD degree, with no restrictions on time from the PhD. These fellowships provide scholars time free from teaching and other responsibilities to devote full-time to research and writing on the project proposed.

This program is made possible by a generous grant from The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation.

Read more about this program.

Please note: affiliations shown are as of time of award. Please click on fellows' names for current information.

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Watch "Emerging Themes and Methods of Research: A Discussion with ACLS Fellows," an annual meeting session featuring recent ACLS fellows. 

Benjamin H. Brose
Benjamin H. Brose  |  Abstract
This project examines the process of sanctification and deification in the context of Buddhist traditions in East Asia. It centers on one of the most famous Buddhist monks in the history of Asia, the Chinese cleric, pilgrim, and scholar Xuanzang (600/602–664). Rather than reexamine Xuanzang’s own life and times, this study aims to document and interpret instances where Xuanzang has been re-embodied—by means of spirit mediums, relics, rituals, and icons—since his death. This exploration of the post-mortem history of a renowned Buddhist cleric is intended to broaden our understanding of the evolution and malleability of historical and hagiographical narratives, the reception and adaptation of Chinese Buddhist traditions in other parts of Asia, and the development of popular cults.

Assistant Professor, Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor  -  Embodying Xuanzang: A Medieval Monk in the Modern Imagination

Lei Kuan Rongdao Lai
Lei Kuan Rongdao Lai  |  Abstract
This project is a study of the transnational forms of circulation and identity formation of the Tiantai lineage network in Chinese Buddhism between the 1920s and 1990s. By focusing on groups outside of the well-documented reformist organizations, it is an attempt to broaden and renew our current understanding of modern Chinese Buddhist globalism. Through a careful study of newspapers and periodicals, archival materials, and interviews, This project identifies the social and historical processes by which ethnic and religious identities are produced and transmitted in the Chinese worlds. Ultimately, it provides an alternative analytical framework for the trajectory of transnational growth in Chinese Buddhism in the twentieth century.

Assistant Professor, School of Religion, University of Southern California  -  Transnational Lineage Networks in Modern Chinese Buddhism

Erik W Davis
Erik W Davis  |  Abstract
Past-life memory is famously associated with the Buddha, who recalled all his past lives on the night of his enlightenment, thus discovering the laws of karma and achieving enlightenment. However, contemporary past-life memory claims are quite frequent in Cambodia today, and are rarely experienced as positive signs of moral accomplishment. This book will examine case studies of contemporary Cambodia past-life memory claims - same-line rebirth (in which a person remembers being a now-deceased person in the same family), alternate-line rebirth (in which a person remembers being a now-deceased person from a separate family), and pseudo-traditional claims to religious and spiritual authority on the basis of past-life memory. These will help a reevaluation of what is meant by the 'self.'

Associate Professor, Religious Studies, Macalester College  -  Past Lives Present, Tense: Past-Life Memories in Contemporary Cambodian Society

Samuel René Thévoz
Samuel René Thévoz  |  Abstract
My project contributes to the field work of studies on the wake of modern Buddhism via the examination of previously unidentified source material: theater plays and musical dramas that stage the life of the Buddha, composed from 1890 to 1920 by playwrights, poets and philosophers from Europe and the United States. These authors attempted to give shape to a modern Buddha and designed their plays in the scope of the coeval crisis of modern art. I argue that these “Buddha-dramas” offer a new insight on the making of modern Buddhism, as their authors weave together spiritual and artistic issues to make sense of an unsettling and changing world. The expected results are a series of articles and a book project.

Fellow, Humanities, Swiss National Science Foundation  -  The Modern Lives of the Buddha Theater and Global Buddhism

Rupert Gethin
Rupert Gethin  |  Abstract
Buddhist systematic thought as formulated in the Abhidharma literature of different Buddhist schools schools constitutes one of the most sustained attempts in the history of human thought to analyse the workings of the mind, yet it remains relatively unexplored in the modern scholarly literature. While there are specialist studies of various aspects, there is no published study that considers the development of Abhidharma more generally. Using sources in Sanskrit, Pali and Chinese (many of which have never been translated into a European language), my study will for the first time consider the development of the Abhidharma of the Theravada, Sarvastivada, and Yogacara schools from a comparative perspective.

Professor, Religion and Theology, University of Bristol  -  Mapping the Buddha's Mind: a Study of Buddhist Systematic Thought in the Abhidharma of the Theravada, Sarvastivada, and Yogacara Schools

Stuart H. Young
Stuart H. Young  |  Abstract
Sericulture has always been a central defining feature of Chinese civilization, and silk a cornerstone of Chinese Buddhist material culture. This project investigates how Buddhism in premodern China shaped and was shaped by the ubiquitous Chinese silk industry. In many ways silk was the fabric of monasticism in premodern China–infused within the material and ideal worlds of Chinese Buddhists. Against the backdrop of normative Indian Buddhist pronouncements concerning material production, commercial engagement, attachment to luxuries, and especially killing living beings, the topic of Chinese Buddhist silk culture offers novel insights into monastic identity as a negotiation between avowedly foreign religious paradigms and widespread, culturally embedded, traditions of material production.

Assistant Professor, Religious Studies, Bucknell University  -  The Fabric of Monasticism: Buddhism and Silk Culture in Premodern China

Jowita Kramer
Jowita Kramer  |  Abstract
The proposed project aims to expand and deepen the examination of the scriptural corpus of the 6th century Yogacara scholar Sthiramati. Compared to other Yogacara authors like Asanga or Vasubandhu, academia has so far neglected Sthiramati, possibly because of the erroneous perception that as a commentator he has not been an original author in his own right. However, commentators like Sthiramati have shaped the doctrinal development of Yogacara thought by introducing new concepts and reorganizing previous teachings to a similar extent as “independent” authors. Among the seventeen works attributed to Sthiramati most are commentaries on Yogacara sastras. The proposed project focuses on two works commenting non-Yogacara Mahayana sutras: the Aksayamatinirdesa- and the Kasyapaparivartatika.

Senior Fellow, Institute for Indology and Tibetology, Ludwig Maximilians Universität München, Germany  -  Sthiramati as a Commentator of Mahayana Sutras: A Comparative Investigation of the Aksayamatinirdesatika and the Kasyapaparivartatika