Posts written by Bill M. Mak

Public lecture: “Siddham and Siddham Studies”

Lecture at the Temple of the Hong Kong Mantra School for Lay Buddhists

Lecture at the Temple of the Hong Kong Mantra School for Lay Buddhists

2023-08-13 12.37.58

On August 13th, I was invited by the Hong Kong Mantra School for Lay Buddhists to deliver a public lecture, titled “Siddham and Siddham Studies”. Back in 2003, soon after I enrolled in Master of  Buddhist Studies at HKU, I found out that Prof. Wang Bangwei was coming to Hong Kong from Peking University. Prof. Wang was the student of the eminent Chinese Indologist Ji Xianlin. I took the opportunity to take a class offered by Prof. Wang who was then a guest lecturer. He eventually supervised my M.A. dissertation on Siddham Studies, as well as later my PhD thesis at Peking University. In 2008, thanks to a scholarship from the Japanese Ministry of Education, I was able to pursue a second doctoral program in Kyoto University. While in Japan I studied Siddham calligraphy in my spare time under the masterful guidance of Prof. Giryu Kodama from Shuchiin University. Fast forward twenty years, and I am glad to return to Hong Kong and share my experiences in Sanskrit learning and Buddhist Sanskrit calligraphy in a lay Buddhist temple that has a fascinating history.

My first public class of Sanskrit calligraphy offered in Hong Kong

My first public class of Sanskrit calligraphy offered in Hong Kong

2023年8月10—11日。香港大學「佛教、科學與技術:數碼世界對宗教的挑戰」國際會議的首屆論壇 —「人類的競爭與互鑑互補」

香港大學舉辦的一個大型佛教論壇,出席的香港佛教學者異常的少。。。

香港大學舉辦的一個大型佛教論壇,出席的香港佛教學者異常的少。。。

八月剛開學,又碰上另一個大型學術活動。2023年8月10日至11日,一個題為「佛教、科學與技術:數碼世界對宗教的挑戰」的國際會議在香港大學舉行。會議為首屆論壇 —「人類的競爭與互鑑互補」的一部分,由旭日全球佛教研究網絡主辦,其香港的創始人,楊釗博士,出席了論壇。論壇邀請了來自中國和世界各地的近兩百名學者,我應邀在 「佛教與科技 」的專題討論會上發言,選題為「須彌山與平地: 東亞佛教宇宙論與現代科學能否協調?」。一般佛教論壇發言的學者,傾向強調佛教的理性與科學行,我似乎在唱反調,對這種先入為主的想法提出了質疑,並探討如何在不損害宗教價值作為前提,以科學、理性的概念演繹佛教思想和概念。令我頗為驚訝的是,應邀者和講者當中幾乎沒有香港人。幾年前,我曾嘗試召集本地的佛教學者。粗略估計,本地從事佛教相關領的,擔任全職研究員或大學教授的學者,不少於50人,但眾人之間至今沒有交流的平台,有時候在同一所大學也沒有接觸,其他大學的學者一般在國外碰面或發現!香港的佛教學者,相比國內學者,在國際學界中並不活躍,而他們與內地學者的合作也不算緊密。香港學者是否在被邊緣化呢?

不太討好的題目,可能才是比較有意思的題目。

不太討好的題目,可能才是比較有意思的題目。

University of Hong Kong. “Buddhism, Science and Technology: Challenges to Religions from a Digitalized World” at the Inaugural Forum “Beyond Civilizational Clash: The Coalescence of Human Civilizations”

A major Buddhist conference in Hong Kong with very few Hong Kong scholars...

A major Buddhist conference in Hong Kong with very few Hong Kong scholars…

Another major academic event coincided with the start of the school year in August. An international conference titled “Buddhism, Science and Technology: Challenges to Religions from a Digitalized World” took place as part of the Inaugural Forum “Beyond Civilizational Clash: The Coalescence of Human Civilizations”, held in the University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, August 10–11, 2023. It was sponsored by the Glorisun Global Network, whose founder, Hong Kong philanthropist, Dr. Charles Yeung, was also present. Nearly two hundred scholars from China and around the world were invited. I was invited to deliver a talk in the “Buddhism and technology” panel and I read a paper titled “Flat Earth and Mount Sumeru: Can East Asian Buddhist cosmology be accommodated in modern science?” Unlike others who took the opportunity to praise the scientific insight of the Buddha, I challenged this idea and questioned how we should handle scientifically outdated concepts without undermining the value of the religion. As usual, some eminent scholars, usually with science background, but with no academic training in Buddhism, would make some fantastic claims about Buddhism, to the embarrassment of many. A curious observation I may make —— there were hardly any Hong Kong scholars — I was invited because of the international and mainland networks I belong to. This appears to be a wider phenomenon that applies to academics in Hong Kong in general. Some years ago, I tried to bring together the local Buddhist scholars, to create some platform for communication and collaboration. We reckoned that there are no less than 50 local scholars working as full-time researchers or university professors in fields connected to Buddhism. Somehow Buddhist scholars in Hong Kong are not so active internationally and many of them are not so well connected with their Mainland Chinese counterparts either. I suppose Hong Kong universities tend to hire international scholars who often have transient presence here in Hong Kong and the local Hong Kong scholars may risk being marginalised.

My presentation — not the most popular one!

My presentation — not the most popular one!