SOAS University of London

Khyentse Foundation Award of Excellence in Buddhist Studies for the academic year 2015/16

25 July 2017

The SOAS Centre of Buddhist Studies is proud to announce that the Khyentse Foundation Award of Excellence in Buddhist Studies for the academic year 2015/16 was jointly presented to Mr. Aruna Gamage and Ms. Emanuela Sala. The award ceremony took place on the occasion of the Centre of Buddhist Studies’ Postgraduate workshop, on 18 May 2017. 

Aruna Gamage is a second year PhD Candidate in the Department of Religions and Philosophies. His dissertation title is “Buddhaghosa’s Critique of Divergent Buddhist Views: A Doctrinal Study Mainly Based on Pāli Commentarial Exegesis.” In this study, he critically analyses the divergent Buddhist views and dialogic debates that emerged on specific and subtle doctrinal points of the Pāli canon, along with Buddhaghosa’s assessment of these views as has been preserved in the Aṭṭhakathās. Although this study is confined to Buddhaghosa’s commentaries, other commentaries and sub-commentaries as well as canonical accounts preserved in Pāli, as well as Buddhist scriptures and commentaries preserved in the so-called Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit, in Gāndhārī, in Chinese and in Tibetan will also be taken into consideration. At the end of his first year, Aruna Gamage submitted a sample chapter dealing with the categories and citations of paracanonical and “apocryphal” scriptures in the Aṭṭhakathās corpus, uncovering most interesting evidence to understand Buddhaghosa’s attitude towards the margins of the Pāli canon. It is on the basis of this chapter of his future dissertation that he earned the present his award.  

Emanuela Sala has completed her MA degree in Buddhist Studies in September 2016, and will begin her MPhil in the Department of Religions and Philosophies next academic year. Her MA dissertation focused on a group of commentaries produced in Japan during the Kamakura period (1185-1333), which had the aim of finding the purportedly “original” Buddhist meaning of poetry collections of the Heian period (794-1185) such as the Kokinwakashū (Collection of Japanese Poems of Ancient and Modern Times, dated circa 905) and the Ise Monogatari (Tales of Ise). She investigated the hermeneutical strategies which allowed the commentaries to combine Buddhist and poetical concepts, and to endow them with new etymologies by means of a complex use of language games. Contemporary Tendai histories such as the Yōtenki (1223), compiled by scholar monks on Mt. Hiei, employed similar hermeneutical techniques to identify the deities of the main shrines at the foot of the mountain with the three Buddhas presiding over its temples. Ms Sala’s MPhil research will juxtapose these historiographical sources with the commentaries, in the hopes of opening up new perspectives on the study of medieval Japanese Buddhism.