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Buddhist studies initiative to receive a $4-million gift from Tung Lin Kok Yuen, Hong Kong

Largest UTSC gift to establish endowed visiting professorship, conference series

The number of Buddhists in Canada increased by nearly 84 per cent from 1991 to 2001, according to Statistics Canada. Reaching out to this community is part of the aim of a $4-million gift to the University of Toronto Scarborough from Tung Lin Kok Yuen ( Tung Lin Kok Yuen), a Hong Kong-based non-profit Buddhist organization focused on inspiring public interest in Buddhism. The gift, the largest in the history of U of T Scarborough, will raise the profile of Buddhist studies in Canada by establishing an endowed visiting professorship and creating a series of ongoing conferences and public lectures.

“Their generosity is putting Canada on the map internationally, in terms of Buddhist studies,” says U of T president David Naylor. “They have made an extraordinary investment in Canada’s understanding of Buddhism and are committed to raising the profile of Buddhism in the western world.”

“The visiting professorship gives us the flexibility to bring in experts and scholars from around the world,” says Professor William Bowen, chair of the humanities department at U of T Scarborough, which will be home to the new Buddhist studies initiatives. “One year we’ll have someone who is a specialist in Buddhist art, another year in Buddhist philosophy. We can bring in these experts to enrich the program and to expose our students to leading scholars in Buddhist studies.”

The visiting lectureship will contribute breadth to the interdisciplinary initiative (which includes studies in visual and performing arts, religion, philosophy and other disciplines) and keep U of T current by forging connections to other universities, Bowen adds. Some of these have also been beneficiaries of Tung Lin Kok Yuen, such as the University of Hong Kong. “We can now start to be part of an international network.”

The University of Toronto has already developed a solid infrastructure in Buddhism and is home to an undergraduate program in Buddhism and Asian Religions offered by the departments of East Asian studies, South Asian studies and study of religion.

“This gift will create the momentum needed to propel the University of Toronto into the ranks of leading institutions in the study of Buddhism,” says Professor Kwong-loi Shun, principal of the University of Toronto Scarborough. “We have prominent faculty in related areas of study, one of the most extensive library collections in North America and support from the local community.”

At U of T Scarborough we are building up a diversity-informed curriculum, reflecting the diversity of our student population,” says Shun, who notes that the campus’s first-year world religions class routinely fills to capacity in the largest lecture hall available.

In addition to supporting Buddhist studies as a scholarly field, the gift will make research findings accessible to the wider community through an annual conference and public lecture series. “Creating opportunities for interdisciplinary consideration of Buddhist themes and impact will be really enhanced by public lectures,” says Bowen. “This is also one of the opportunities we have to connect the university to the community itself.” Public lectures can also be attached to conferences, he adds, providing “a nice interaction between the public and scholars.” The gift will also forge ties on a larger scale, linking national and international Buddhist communities.

“In recent years, Tung Lin Kok Yuen has endeavoured to promote Buddhism to the wider public through its active involvement in the community throughout Hong Kong and Vancouver,” says Robert Ho, chairman of Tung Lin Kok Yuen, which has also funded Buddhist studies initiatives in Thailand as well as Hong Kong. The Tung Lin Kok Yuen Canada Foundation, which was founded by Ho, donated $4 million to the University of British Columbia recently to establish the Buddhism and Contemporary Society Program.

“Toronto is the largest city in Canada and is known as the most culturally and ethnically diverse city in the world. U of T Scarborough provides the perfect setting to nurture Buddhist teachings through further development and enhancement of its academic programs. The impact of this gift will be to bring together eastern and western thought in Buddhist studies at the University of Toronto Scarborough for years to come.”

CONTACT

Jenny Hall

416-978-4289

jenny.hall@utoronto.ca

U of T Public Affairs

Elizabeth Raymer

U of T Public Affairs

416-978-7714

elizabeth.raymer@utoronto.ca




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