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Interview with Dr. Duncan Williams

Posted by on Jun 18, 2009 in Spotlight | Comments Off on Interview with Dr. Duncan Williams

Interview with Dr. Duncan Williams

Dr. Duncan Williams, Chair of the Center for Japanese Studies, UC Berkeley Duncan Williams, Associate Professor of Japanese Buddhism, received his B.A. in Religious Studies at Reed College (1991), his M.T.S. at Harvard Divinity School (1993), and Ph.D. in Religion at Harvard University (2000). He works primarily on Japanese Buddhist history, Buddhism and environmentalism, and American Buddhism. He is the author of The Other Side of Zen: A Social History of Soto Zen Buddhism in Tokugawa Japan (Princeton, 2005), translator of four Japanese books, and editor of three volumes including American Buddhism (Curzon, 1999) and Buddhism and Ecology (Harvard, 1997). He is currently completing a manuscript entitled Camp Dharma: Japanese-American Buddhism and the World War Two Incarceration Experience (forthcoming, UC Press) and an edited volume, Issei Buddhism in the Americas: The Pioneers of the Japanese-American Buddhist Diaspora. His next project focuses on Buddhism and bathing practices in Japan through the themes of healing and purification. The Shinnyo-en Foundation recently talked with Dr. Willams about the mission with the Center for Japanese Studies, and the collaboration with the Shinnyo-en Foundation. Would you please tell us a little about your background? Also, how long have you been at UC Berkeley? Dr. Williams:  I have been at Berkeley for three years. There had been a national search to find someone in the field of Japanese Buddhism and I was fortunate enough to land the position as a tenured professor. At the time, UC Berkeley already had professors in Indian, Tibetan and Chinese Buddhism, but they needed someone for Japanese Buddhism. I received my undergraduate degree in Religious Studies at Reed College in Portland, Oregon as well as my Ph.D. from Harvard. In addition to working in the Buddhist Studies program at Berkeley, I also direct the Center for Japanese Studies with 30 or so affiliate faculty from different departments. What is your Mission Statement for the Center of Japanese Studies? Dr. Williams:  Our mission is to deepen the understanding of Japan. There are five major Japan Centers in U.S. Universities.  They are located at Harvard, Columbia, Michigan, UCLA and Berkeley. There are smaller programs, but those are the big five. Currently UC Berkeley is at the forefront. We have the largest faculty involvement as well as the highest number of students in our first year language classes. We also have the largest library collection in the nation. Along with all this comes the heavy responsibility for sharing information about Japan. In addition, we often have members of the San Francisco Bay Area community taking part at our events. How does the Shinnyo-en Foundation connect with your mission as Chair for the Center of Japanese Studies? Dr. Williams:  The Center and the Shinnyo-en Foundation have some basic, shared values.  Both institutions focus on the great traditions that come out of Japan. First and foremost this includes the study of Buddhism and its values.  In addition we are also exploring the ways in which Buddhism can be translated into a more universal language allowing people around the world and across various kinds of boundaries, both national and religious, to create a more peaceful world.  UC Berkeley, as a public university, also has a mission to ensure that our students are well prepared to contribute to society and make public service a deep part of...

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Interview with Carl Bielefeldt

Posted by on Jun 19, 2008 in Spotlight | Comments Off on Interview with Carl Bielefeldt

Interview with Carl Bielefeldt

A graduate of UC Berkeley, Professor Carl Bielefeldt specializes in East Asian Buddhism, with particular emphasis on the intellectual history of the Zen tradition. He is the author of Dôgen’s Manuals of Zen Meditation and other works on early Japanese Zen, and serves as editor of the Soto Zen Text Project. He is also the Director of Stanford’s Asian Religions & Cultures (ARC) Initiative and Stanford Center of Buddhist Studies.  Recently, the Shinnyo-en Foundation provided Stanford University with the Shinnyo-en Visiting Professorship Fund.  Mariko Terazaki, Communications Manager, recently visited the center and sat down with Dr. Bielefeldt to talk about his work and the growing relationship between the Foundation and the Stanford Center for Buddhist Studies. So Carl, thank you for agreeing to talk with us today.  To begin with, would you tell us some background information about yourself and how you came to be working at the Center for Buddhist Studies at Stanford? I became interested in Buddhism as an undergraduate at San Francisco State, where I began practicing Zen meditation and studying Japanese language.  I then studied at Waseda University for a year and went into a Soto Zen Monastery for a year.  And after that I really knew I wanted to study Buddhism in graduate school.  So I came back, got married, enrolled at UC Berkeley, and, after going to and from Japan a lot and writing my dissertation with a professor at Kyoto University, I graduated in 1980.  Afterwards I was offered a job here at Stanford and, since my wife and I enjoy the Bay Area so much, I said yes and have been here ever since. Could you give us some information about the Stanford Center for Buddhist Studies and your work here? When I first came to Stanford there was almost no graduate education in Buddhism.  One of my dreams was to recreate the kind of program here at Stanford that I had been in at Berkeley, because it was so much fun and so interesting that I thought it would be great to do the same thing here.  In the 1990’s, a private foundation approached us and said they would be interested in helping us start a center.  At that time there were no centers of Buddhist Studies in American universities, but Stanford accepted the idea.  We began in 1997; so we celebrated our tenth anniversary just last year. What are the goals and objectives of the Center for Buddhist Studies? The center has basically three different types of activities.  The first is research support.  We hope to foster research in Buddhism and the communication of that research.  We do this by supporting visiting fellows, and by sponsoring conferences and workshops of scholars so they can come together and collaborate on common themes.  One example of such a workshop will take place this summer around the Parinirvana Sutra. The second type of activity is education.  We support the curriculum by providing funds for extra courses, education in Buddhist languages that might not otherwise be taught (like Pali or Tibetan), and support for the graduate students in Buddhist Studies here at Stanford in the form of research or travel money, money for books, and other incidental grants. The third type of activity is outreach to the public.  We run a very rich...

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