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Interview with Carl Bielefeldt

Posted by on Jun 19, 2008 in spotthecat | 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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