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Buddhist scholar draws crowd to campus for lecture on time and space

BUDDHIST SCHOLAR: Professor Yakupitiyage Karunadasa was a visiting professor at UTSC for six weeks this past term. (Photo by Johnny Wu.)

by Eleni Kanavas

More than 100 people attended a free public lecture delivered recently by Professor Yakupitiyage Karunadasa, the 2009 Tung Lin Kok Yuen  Chinese Characters Visiting Professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC). The leading international scholar presented Time and Space: A Buddhist Perspective, a discussion based on the concepts of time and space as seen through the lens of Buddhism. The event was held on June 19 in a lecture hall in the Arts and Administrative building on campus.

Organizers said they were pleased with the turnout and the quality of the event overall. Members of the local Buddhist community, students and other interested parties attended the event from across the Greater Toronto Area. A free shuttle bus was also available from U of T’s St. George campus in downtown Toronto to UTSC.

“Our campus community has been privileged to have Professor Karunadasa with us,” said Professor William Bowen, Chair of the Humanities Department at the University of Toronto Scarborough. “This professorship is an important part of our response to the growing interest worldwide in Buddhist thought and culture. It also enhances our innovative new program in Global Asia Studies, which places Asia within a dynamic, global context.”

According to Karunadasa, “most early Indian philosophical systems recognize the objective reality of both time and space. However, in this regard, Buddhism takes an entirely different position: Time and space are not two absolute realities, but two conceptual constructs with no corresponding objective counterparts. Time is always determined by events. Space is defined as the absence of matter.”

Karunadasa is the first to hold the position of Tung Lin Kok Yuen  Chinese Characters Visiting Professor at UTSC. Prior to the lecture, he was on campus for six weeks teaching a senior undergraduate religion course on Theraveda Buddhism, one of two major branches of Buddhism. This form of Buddhism has many adherents in Southeast Asia, along with an estimated 100 million followers worldwide.

Karunadasa is visiting from the University of Kelaniya in Sri Lanka and the University of Hong Kong. He has served as Director of the International Buddhist University in Thailand and as a visiting professor or guest lecturer at universities worldwide. They include: Otani University in Kyoto, Japan, the University of London in the U.K., Penang College of the Buddhist in Malaysia, and the Universities of Colombo and Pali in Sri Lanka. He has worked as Assistant Editor of the Encyclopedia of Buddhism, Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Kelaniya and as a member of the Editorial Board of the Sri Lankan Journal of Buddhist Studies, as well as contributing to many publications.

He is a recipient of the Commonwealth Academic Staff Fellowship. He earned his PhD in Indian Philosophy from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

According to Statistics Canada, there has been a growing number of Buddhists in the country from 1991 to 2001. A gift of $4 million was made to the University of Toronto Scarborough from Tung Lin Kok Yuen  Chinese Characters ,  a Hong Kong-based non-profit Buddhist organization focused on raising awareness and inspiring public interest in Buddhism.

As the largest donation in the history of U of T Scarborough, the gift, which was announced in 2006, supports visiting professorships, lectures, conferences, films, and other activities related to the study of Buddhism.

For more information on TLKY, visit

© University of Toronto Scarborough