Buddhism is now the world’s fourth largest religion by number of followers and demonstrates remarkable vitality by continually giving rise to new forms of worship, thought and practice. In order to understand the comprehensive and intricate nature of the Buddhist tradition, including its more recent forms, it is important to explore its historical, religious, philosophical and linguistic foundations; however, to date, there are no study programs dedicated to it in Italian universities.
For this reason, the Research Center seeks to contribute to the introduction and elevation of Buddhist Studies to the level of more established fields within Religious Studies in Italy, through promoting the creation of education programs, such as degree courses and advanced training courses, as well as research positions specifically dedicated to this tradition, understood as a living religion and as a rich heritage of practices and forms of contemplation.
The first step in this direction has been in funding research related to the textual heritage already present in Italy: the meticulous cataloging of texts preserved in the Tucci Archive, in the library of the Italian Institute of Oriental Studies.
Moreover, the Research Center has also co-funded four scholarships within the Doctoral School of Religious Studies (DREST) at the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, for research projects related to Buddhist Studies.
The intention is to encourage interdisciplinary and cross-cultural studies of Buddhist traditions; studies that recognize these traditions’ differences as well as their common ground, providing a more holistic and comprehensive representation. This approach can have broader implications beyond academia, offering an ecumenical framework for understanding contemporary Buddhism as a hybrid and cross-cultural phenomenon that transcends individual contexts and cultures.
The start of the Research Center’s activities coincided with the international conference “Dharma Today. Faces of contemporary Buddhism,” held in Venice in 2022.
The work ahead of us on the wealth of the tradition’s textual heritage is still considerable, considering that most of the texts included in the Buddhist canons have not yet been translated into European languages. Therefore, the Research Center’s priority in this sector is to support the training of scholars and translators with extensive and diverse skills, thereby working toward the creation of a linguistic hub entirely dedicated to Buddhadharma in collaboration with the universities and international institutions already active in the field.
With the promotion of the translation of the Buddhist canon as well as other traditional textual sources, alongside the promising developments in computational philology, and working in collaboration with other international projects already active in the field, the Research Center aims to provide comprehensive access to this entire literary corpus in the world’s major languages within a reasonable timeframe. The goal is to provide the necessary tools for correct and easy consultation of source materials, such as multilingual dictionaries, glossaries for Buddhist technical jargon, textual correspondence search systems, and so forth.