University of Sydney: $3.5m donation ensures the future of Tibetan Buddhist studies in Australia

A gift of $3.5 million from Khyentse Foundation guarantees the future of Tibetan Buddhist Studies at the University of Sydney for the next 20 years, building on the success of previous philanthropic support.

“This far-sighted and deeply generous gift allows the University to firmly establish Tibetan Buddhist Studies in Australia through specialist teaching, postgraduate research, language training, and community outreach,” said Dr Jim Rheingans, Khyentse Macready Senior Lecturer in Tibetan Buddhism in the School of Languages and Cultures.
“Tibetan Studies is a vast field of research and learning, where many textual sources, artefacts, and traditions remain unexplored. Understanding them is key to our knowledge of Buddhism and Asian and Himalayan histories. Language skills in Tibetan and in Sanskrit are a vital element, especially since many texts on late Indian Buddhism are only available in Classical Tibetan translation.
“Academic study of Tibetan Buddhism worldwide is not in its infancy anymore, but pioneering work still awaits the researcher, compared to other fields. Around 80 percent of available textual sources in Tibetan languages have not yet been translated or studied, while an increasing amount is available digitally or in libraries. Also, the Tibetan traditions are very much alive today. This trove of material could reconfigure our understanding of Buddhism and rewrite the history of central Asia. We could also accelerate our understanding of the sophisticated richness of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy, literature, meditation, and medicine, as just a few examples.”
Academic study of Tibetan Buddhism worldwide is not in its infancy anymore, but pioneering work still awaits the researcher, compared to other fields.

Dr Rheingans joined the University in 2017 as the lecturer for Tibetan Buddhist Studies, a position that has been co-funded by Khyentse Foundation, the University Buddhist Education Foundation, and the Aberbaldie Foundation for the past five years.

The $3.5 million donation from Khyentse Foundation (KF) provides the means to maintain academic staffing in Tibetan Buddhist Studies well into the future. Khyentse Foundation is a non-profit organization founded in 2001 by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche to support all traditions of Buddhist study and practice.
“Khyentse Foundation has invested heavily in endowing Buddhist chairs and professorships over the last 15 years in universities including the University of California at Berkeley (USA), the University of Michigan (USA), Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (Germany), and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel). And now the Khyentse Macready Initiative at the University of Sydney expands this investment in universities to the Southern Hemisphere,” said Cangioli Che, executive director of Khyentse Foundation.
“With these permanent faculty positions, KF hopes to strengthen the long-term position of Buddhist Studies in academia by building a long-lasting global infrastructure in these outstanding institutions. I am especially happy that we offered our Lynne Macready Education Fund to support this position in Lynne’s homeland. I think Lynne would be happy with the investment. “
Dr Mark Allon, chair and senior lecturer in South Asian Buddhist Studies, said “Buddhist Studies, especially of Indian Buddhism, which is my own expertise, already has a long and respected tradition at the university, while expertise in East Asian Buddhism, particularly Chinese Buddhism, is provided by our colleague Dr Chiew Hui Ho. Tibetan Buddhist Studies is crucial to building on that strength. This significant gift follows more than a decade of engagement, relationship building, and philanthropy from Khyentse Foundation, allowing us to become the most successful Buddhist Studies program in the southern hemisphere.”

According to Professor Yixu Lu, head of the School of Languages and Cultures, “Our school has a proud history of advancing the study of languages, literatures, and cultures. Thanks to Khyentse Foundation, we are now able to continue offering Tibetan language and culture, first introduced in 2017, to students at the University of Sydney for decades to come. I am confident that we will continue advancing the teaching and research in Asian Buddhism and its impact on societies, cultures, and philosophy.”
“This funding makes possible our ambition for Tibetan Buddhist Studies at the University to have international standing, to the benefit of the academic community, the Tibetan community, and the many people worldwide who are fascinated to learn more about both the origins and the lessons of Tibetan Buddhism.”