Bentzen, ‘Origins of Religiousness: Natural Disasters’ (2013)

Nepal has earthquakes; Java has volcanoes; the United Kingdom has dreary weather. Is there a geographic correlation between religiosity and catastrophe?

Jeanet Sinding Bentzen. ‘Origins of Religiousness: The Role of Natural Disasters’. University of Copenhagen Department of Economics Discussion Paper 13-02, 2013. [official site / PDF]

From the Abstract

[…] Natural disasters are a source for adverse life events, and thus one way to interpret my findings is by way of religious coping. The results are robust to various measures of religiousness, and to inclusion of country fixed effects, income, education, demographics, religious denominations, and other climatic and geographic features. The results hold within Christianity, Islam and Buddhism, and across continents. […]

Szántó, Selected Chapters from the Catuṣpīṭhatantra (2012)

Required reading for tantric studies specialists:

Péter-Dániel Szántó. ‘Selected Chapters from the Catuṣpīṭhatantra’. Vol.1: Introductory study with the annotated translation of selected chapters. Vol. 2: Appendix volume with critical editions of selected chapters accompanied by Bhavabhaṭṭa’s commentary and a bibliography. D. Phil. diss., Oxford University, December 16 2012. Viewable at [v.1, 2].

Science: animals are sentient (7/7/2012)

Guess what, theists? Animals have feelings too. That’s what Cambridge scientists are now confident in saying in the wake of the recent Francis Crick Conference. Science and reason are important in a modern society, so it just became that much harder to inflict scripturally sanctioned harm on sentient beings.

This reminds me of a discussion I once had in Germany. Prof. Schmithausen, you were right to think that something was up with theistic contempt for animals. The priests you knew may have been accurate on the detail – animals don’t have souls – but they were wrong on the big picture: they don’t either. Both humans and animals have “homologous subcortical brain networks” and share “primal affective qualia”. Every body hurts; and that suppressed observation was obvious long before it became a hipster anthem.

‘Are you hungry, Buddha? Because I know how that feels.’ Ancient Buddhist story of animal sentience, illustrated in an 11th-century Newar manuscript now kept at Cambridge.

Li, ‘The 13th-century monk U rgyan pa Rin chen dpal’ (2011)

Brenda W. L. Li. ‘A critical study of the life of the 13th-century Tibetan monk U rgyan pa Rin chen dpal based on his biographies’. D.Phil dissertation, Oxford University. 2011. [official site]

From the Abstract

U rgyan pa Rin chen dpal (1230–1309) was a great adept of the bKa’ brgyud school of Tibetan Buddhism, particularly renowned for his knowledge of the Kālacakra tantra and the unique teaching known as the Approach and Attainment of the Three Vajras (rDo rje gsum gyi bsnyen sgrub), said to have been given to him in his vision by Vajrayoginī (rDo rje rnal ‘byor ma) in the Miraculous Land (sprul pa’i zhing) of U rgyan. He was the student of the 2nd Karma pa, who entrusted him with the Black Hat, which he passed to the 3rd Karma pa. He was also a great traveller who journeyed widely across and beyond Tibet. He met Qubilai Khan in the capital of Yuan China and visited sacred Buddhist sites in South India. He has been aptly described by van der Kuijp as “the great Tibetan yogi, thaumaturge, scholar, alchemist, and traveler”.

Thanks to the availability of a large amount of hitherto unknown materials from eleven biographies, the thesis has put considerable weight on the bibliographical comparison and analysis of the different works in an attempt to establish the possible relationship between them.

‘Cambridge to study ancient Sanskrit texts’ (2011/11/08)

Someone in England is studying the sources of the South Asian Buddhist mainstream?

“The project, which is led by Sanskrit-specialists Dr Vincenzo Vergiani and Dr Eivind Kahrs, will study and catalogue each of the manuscripts, placing them in their broader historical context, a university release said.

So far, so good.

“In the 1870s, Dr Daniel Wright, surgeon of the British Residency in Kathmandu, rescued the now-priceless cultural and historical artefacts from a disused temple, where they had survived largely by chance.”

Oh dear. Still, this sounds better:

“Most of the holdings will also be digitised by the library and made available through the library’s new online digital library (”

Let’s hope the cameras get to those masterpieces of Nepal and the Pāla Dynasty before the local twits [see final sentence], eh?

(‘Cambridge to study ancient Sanskrit texts.’ Deccan Herald, Nov 8, 2011.)

Madsen, Digitization in Tibetan and Himalayan studies (2010)

Christine McCarthy Madsen. ‘Communities, innovation, and critical mass: understanding the impact of digitization on scholarship in the humanities through the case of Tibetan and Himalayan studies’. D.Phil. diss., Oxford University, 2010. 345 pp. [official site / PDF]

From the Abstract

The author presents detailed evidence of how digitization is changing the inputs, practice, and outputs of scholarship in this field, as well as the characteristics of digitization that have led to these changes. Importantly, these findings separate out the success of individual projects from the success of digitization across the field as a whole.

Robert Beer

‘Visionary Realms: An Interview with Robert Beer’. 2011. [PDF at Wisdom books or online (more pictures).]

Nice to see these informed musings on twentieth- and twenty-first-century Newar art by Robert Beer, its most accomplished Western exponent, ranging from the influence of Botticelli’s Nascita di Venere upon it to thoughts on some of its current leading lights.

There is also a plug for Robert Beer’s joint venture with Wisdom books, the commercial site, offering stuff at the higher-quality end of the market.