The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Dissertation 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 Dissertation Fellowships provide one-year stipends for PhD candidates to devote full time to preparing dissertations. The fellowship period may be used for fieldwork, archival research, analysis of findings, or for writing after research is complete.

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

Read more about this fellowship 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. 

Kris L. Anderson
Kris L. Anderson  |  Abstract
This dissertation examines the Buddhist funerary traditions of the Sarvadurgatiparisodhana tantra. The project maps the iterations of the text between the eighth and thirteenth centuries using the tantra, its Tibetan translations, and related ritual manuals from Dunhuang, contributing to scholarship on death in Buddhist traditions and on the development of the tantras. Its second portion examines later ritual literature preserved in Nepal, particularly samadhi and sadhana texts in a hybrid of Sanskrit and Newari, to trace how the text was deployed in later periods. The third portion of the project situates more recent texts and practices in the broader Sarvadurgatiparisodhana tantra tradition, looking at the contemporary Newar community of Patan, and the Tibetan community of Boudhanath, Nepal.

Doctoral Candidate, University of California, Berkeley  -  The Sarvadurgatiparisodhana tantra and the Roots of Tantric Buddhist Funerary Ritual

Kamilla Eva Mojzes
Kamilla Eva Mojzes  |  Abstract
The fourth Zhwa-dmar-pa incarnate Chos-grags ye-shes dpal bzang-po (1453 - 1524), the second highest eminence of the Tibetan Buddhist Karma bka-brgyud lineage, was an influential scholar and meditation master, who played a central role in the historical events of 15th- to 16th-century Tibet. Although he was a charismatic leader and a prolific writer at the focal point of a rich and remarkably sectarian-unbiased environment, arguably, his main sponsor, Don-yod rdo-rje (1463-1512), the most powerful Rin-spungs-pa prince dominated and restricted his religious activity. This PhD thesis examines how the fourth Zhwa-dmar-pa’s political involvement influenced and eventually came to the detriment of his religious role.

Doctoral Candidate, Rheinische Friedrich Wilhelms Universität Bonn, Germany  -  The Fourth Zhwa-dmar-pa Incarnate: A Comprehensive Study of the Life and Works of Chos-grags ye-shes dpal bzang-po (1453 to 1524)

Linda Chhath
Linda Chhath  |  Abstract
This dissertation examines the ways in which Khmer intellectuals, artists, and modernizers used Buddhist ethics as a medium for expressing and shaping a new internationalism, which entered into Buddhist and popular moral discourses during the 1950s and 1960s. It argues that international efforts at building transnational and pan-Buddhist solidarities in the post-World War II reality of the Cold War, decolonization, and nation building shaped local Khmer concepts of social responsibility. Thus, the ethical ideas being transmitted through material culture and religious literature in this period were conscious of global factors, mirroring what I see as the broader Buddhist cosmopolitanism of this era. “Ethics” in this project concerns values, ideas, and practices of morality within social contexts.

Doctoral Candidate, University of Wisconsin-Madison  -  Ethics of Independence: Buddhist Cosmopolitanism in Cambodia, 1953 to 1970

Renqingduojie  |  Abstract
This dissertation project explores the success of Rongwo Monastery (f. 1630) in a three-tiered competitive environment: the internal network of Geluk monasteries, the inter-school context, and the secular political arena. Placing Rongwo Monastery as a center in the multi-layered grid of power helps us rethink and go beyond the narrow focus of earlier scholarship on singular relationships between large Buddhist monasteries and the Qing court. This study argues that local relationships and contestation between allied monasteries, rival traditions, and between religious and secular governing institutions are more important for the growth of mass monasticism in Tibet.

Doctoral Candidate, University of Virginia  -  Buddhist Monasticism in Northeastern Tibet

Jack Meng-Tat Chia
Jack Meng-Tat Chia  |  Abstract
This dissertation examines Chinese Buddhism in maritime Southeast Asia and inquires into the dynamics of transnational religious circulations in the modernization and globalization of Chinese Buddhism in the twentieth century. It investigates the transnational religious careers of three eminent monks—Chuk Mor (1913-2002), Yen Pei (1917-1996), and Ashin Jinarakkhita (1923-2002)—who were instrumental in the movement, exchanges, and innovation of Buddhist knowledge and institutions in the Chinese diaspora. The research reveals that overseas Chinese monks not only contributed to the creation of a hybrid Buddhist modernism, but also in making Southeast Asia into a new center for Chinese Buddhism.

Doctoral Candidate, Cornell University  -  Diasporic Dharma: Buddhism and Modernity across the South China Sea

Javier Schnake
Javier Schnake  |  Abstract
This research is a philological investigation of a Buddhist text in Pali, the Vajirasaratthasangaha written in North Thailand (15-16th), which has never been the object of a full-fledged study. It aims to establish a critical edition of this text and its commentary, to translate this corpus, and to understand its place within the Buddhism of South-East Asia. This compendium is unique in the Pali literary landscape, in its mode of presentation as well as in its contents: each of its chapters is coded on the basis of linguistics mechanisms and games. It is an original synthesis of scholarly elements (hua jai, ekakkhara…) throwing new light on regional specificities in their practical and esoterical dimensions, and opening new ways for understanding the status of Pali as a sacred language.

Doctoral Candidate, École Pratique des Hautes Études, France  -  Dhamma through Letters: The Vajirasaratthasangaha, a Sixteenth Century Pali Text from Northern Thailand.

Anthony Lovenheim Irwin
Anthony Lovenheim Irwin  |  Abstract
This project argues that building temples is building Buddhism. Focusing on Buddhist construction in Chiang Rai, Thailand, since its repopulation in 1844, the research uses archival, ethnographic, and visual studies methodologies to track the importance of Buddhist aesthetics in the making of Buddhism itself. Buddhist construction projects are studied in relation to the development of Chiang Rai city as an emerging population center and regional hub for trade, religion, and culture. Foregrounding sima space consecration as an indigenous form of Theravadin religious construction, this dissertation asserts that religious building projects are at the forefront of the Yuan Buddhist imaginaire, and are some of the main ways that Yuan Buddhists organize ritual activity, unify community, and create meaning.

Doctoral Candidate, University of Wisconsin-Madison  -  Building Buddhism in Chiang Rai, Thailand: Construction as Religion

Lina Verchery
Lina Verchery  |  Abstract
This dissertation explores modern Chinese Buddhist monasticism and the cultivation of moral personhood through the first ethnographic study of Master Xuan Hua's (1918-1995) transnational Buddhist monastic organization, the Fajie Fojiao Zonghui (Dharma Realm Buddhist Association, DRBA). Using the DRBA as a case study, this study situates the phenomenon of religious conservativism within a larger program of self-cultivation that promotes a particular vision of moral personhood. I show that this vision is inextricably modern, and has much to contribute to current discussions of personhood, agency, and ethics in the broader field of Buddhist Studies.

Doctoral Candidate, Harvard University  -  The Fajie Fojiao Zonghui: Rethinking Monasticism, Moral Selfhood, and Modernity

Shanshan Jia
Shanshan Jia  |  Abstract
This disseration contains a critical edition of the tenth chapter of the Lankavatarasutra together with the canonical Tibetan commentary composed by Jñanasribhadra, an annotated English translation, and a comprehensive and meticulous study of the Lankavatarasutra from the aspects of its textual transmission (including manuscripts, different recensions, and canonical translations), structure, textual diachronic development, doctrines, peculiarities of language and metrical features, commentaries, quotations, parallels, influence on other scriptures, presumed date, and the background of its composition.

Doctoral Candidate, Universität Hamburg, Germany  -  A Critical Edition of the Last Chapter of the Lankavatarasutra with an Annotated Translation and a Study of the Lankavatarasutra

Wei Wu
Wei Wu  |  Abstract
This dissertation explores the intellectual and social history of Chinese Religion with particular focus on the transmission of Tibetan Buddhism to China Proper from the 1920s to the present. With the weakening of imperial centralized power in the early twentieth century, many ethnically Han followers of traditional Chinese Buddhism looked to Tibet and other non-Han ethnic traditions as sources for reviving Chinese Buddhism. By examining historical trajectory of the key events, organizations, and individuals, the dissertation investigates how these cross-cultural endeavors brought great changes to Buddhist thoughts and practice, and significantly altered the shape of the great Chinese Buddhist community.

Doctoral Candidate, Princeton University  -  Seeking Dharma from Tibet: Indigenization of Tibetan Buddhism in Twentieth Century China

Matthew Don McMullen
Matthew Don McMullen  |  Abstract
This dissertation examines the development of esoteric Buddhist doctrine in early medieval Japan. Esoteric Buddhist texts and rites had been introduced in subsequent centuries. However, not until this period did scholiasts began to articulate a system of doctrine originating with the works of Kukai, the revered founder of the Shingon school. By focusing on the writings of the scholar-priest Saisen, the dissertation illustrates how this system developed to distinguish Kukai's views on esoteric doctrine from those of the Tendai exegete Annen. It argues that Annen's view of esoteric Buddhism unifying the esoteric teachings with the Tendai perfect teachings was the dominant interpretation until the late Heian period, when Saisen first advanced a system of doctrine based on the works of Kukai.

Doctoral Candidate, University of California, Berkeley  -  The Development of Esoteric Buddhist Scholasticism in Early Medieval Japan