Summer Travel: Buddhist Contemplative Practices in Europe

One of the privileges or joys of academic life, especially for those working in the humanities, is the opportunity for international research and travel. This summer I returned to Hamburg, Germany, where I previously spent 18 months as a visiting professor during the 2013-2015 period. 

The topic of my main research project is the main patterns of adaptation of classical models of Buddhist contemplative practice, especially in premodern China and the contemporary West. My stay at the University of Hamburg is made possible again by the generous support of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. 

A view of Florence, Italy (PHOTO: Poceski)

In addition to reconnecting with old friends and colleagues, the visit to Germany affords valuable opportunities for academic exchanges and engagements. For instance, last week (June 20-22) I participated in a large international conference on Buddhism and modern society, held in Hamburg, where I gave a presentation on the topic of “Philosophical Positions, Identity Formations, and Responses to Religions Diversity in the East Asian Traditions of Mahayana Buddhism” and engaged in the general conference discussions. Tomorrow I travel to Berlin, for the annual meeting of the Humboldt Foundation, about to be held in Berlin. I also just gave a public lecture on June 25,  titled “The Mindfulness Movement and the Erasure of Buddhism,” at the University of Hamburg,  

In addition to formal research and related academic engagements in Germany, I also have opportunities for additional travel in Europe and Asia. In May I went to Romania, where I visited a number of Orthodox churches and monasteries. Soon after that, I will travel to Italy: visiting more churches, cathedrals, and historical sites in Pisa, Lucca, Florence, Prado, and Arezzo. 

Service at Orthodox church in Bucharest, Romania (PHOTO: Poceski)

I also had a valuable opportunity to do field research at a fascinating Chinese temple in Prado, where I had lengthy interviews with the abbot and the president, as well as interesting discussions with Italian scholars. I plan on going back to Italy for a bit longer stay next year, probably as a visiting scholar at the University of Perugia. 

Since summer is only half over, I have much more travel, teaching, and research ahead. That includes several weeks of lectures and travel in China, which I hope to address in a later post. 

**This is a guest post from Dr. Mario Poceski, a professor of Buddhist studies and Chinese religions at the Religion Department, University of Florida, received a Ph.D. in East Asian Languages and Cultures, with specialization in Buddhist studies, from the University of California, Los Angeles (2000). He has spent extended periods as a visiting researcher at Komazawa University (Japan), Stanford University, the National University of Singapore, and the University of Hamburg (Germany), and has received several prestigious fellowships, including an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship (for senior researchers). Poceski’s most recent books are The Records of Mazu and the Making of Classical Chan Literature (Oxford 2015), The Wiley Blackwell Companion to East and Inner Asian Buddhism (Blackwell 2014, ed.), Introducing Chinese Religions (Routledge 2009), and Ordinary Mind as the Way: The Hongzhou School and the Growth of Chan Buddhism (Oxford 2007). His publications also include two other books and numerous articles and chapters on various aspects of Buddhist studies.