Buddhism Symposium Starts Friday

Peter Gregory, retiring Jill Ker Conway Professor of Religion and East Asian Studies

Faculty from the Five College Consortium and beyond will participate in a symposium April 4–5 honoring the work of Smith professor Peter Gregory, retiring Jill Ker Conway Professor of Religion and East Asian Studies.

The symposium, A Bright Mirror Illuminating the Mind: A Celebration of Peter Gregory’s Contributions to Buddhist Studies, will explore the current state of the field of Buddhist studies, and the changes that have occurred in that field during the past 50 years, according to Jamie Hubbard, Smith’s Yehan Numata Lecturer in Buddhist Studies and professor of religion.

Free and open to the public, the symposium begins Friday, April 4, at 6 p.m. with a lecture titled “Is Mindfulness Buddhist, and Does It Matter?” by Robert Sharf, a professor of East Asian languages and cultures at the University of California, Berkeley.

Scholars participating in panel discussions on Saturday, April 5, include Maria Heim of Amherst College, James Robson of Harvard University and Jan Nattier of Stanford University. Marylin Rhie, Jesse Wells Post Professor of Art and Professor of East Asian Studies at Smith, Hubbard and Smith lecturer Connie Kassor will also participate.

“The purpose of the conference is to celebrate Peter’s many contributions to the field of Buddhist studies in the West,” Hubbard says. “Many of the attendees are the foremost scholars in their field, internationally recognized for their accomplishments. In particular, considering Peter’s expertise in Ch’an/Zen Buddhism, many of the scholars are also experts in that field.” Click here to view the complete schedule.

Gregory joined the Smith faculty in 1999, after receiving his doctorate in East Asian languages and civilizations from Harvard University in 1981 and teaching at the University of Illinois for 15 years. He has served as the president and executive director of the Kuroda Institute for the Study of Buddhism and Human Values since 1984. His research has focused on medieval Chinese Buddhism, especially the Chan and Huayan traditions during the Tang and Song dynasties, and on Buddhism in America, on which he produced a film, The Gate of Sweet Nectar: Feeding Hungry Spirits in an American Zen Community (2004).

“Peter Gregory is one of the titans of Buddhist studies,” says Jay Garfield, Doris Silbert Professor of philosophy at Smith. “He is regarded around the world as the leading scholar of Chinese Buddhist doctrinal studies, and his work on [the Tang dynasty Buddhist scholar-monk] Zongmi is simply without parallel.  He has been central to the development of Buddhist studies at  Smith for the past 15 years, helping to develop curriculum, to conceive and to implement the concentration and the Five College certificate program, and bringing dozens of visitors to campus to enrich our collective scholarly life.”