Messages from the Direcor

Director

Messages from the Director

Welcome all of you to the website of NCBS, which is affiliated to the Foundation of His Holiness Somdet Phra Ñāṇasaṃvara Centennial Commemoration under the patronage of His Holiness the Supreme Patriarch. This Centre has been established  in order to promote advanced research on Buddhism and to disseminate the results of its research worldwide following the ideas of His Holiness Somdet Phra  Ñāṇasaṃvara, the late Supreme Patriarch of Thailand.

Before I received scholarships for my MA and DPhil degrees enabling me to go to the UK, I was called by Phra Maharajmongoldilok (Bunruen Puṇṇako), the then vice-abbot of Wat Bowornniwet Wiharn, to meet him. He said the Supreme Patriarch would grant me the scholarships to study Pali and Buddhism abroad and, upon graduation, he would like me to produce Buddhist books in English for the Mahamakuta Rajavidyalaya Foundation (MRF). He suggested that I consider publishing the Pali palm-leaf manuscripts which consists of 1,218 bundles or 14,657 palm-leafs kept at Wat Bowornniwet Wiharn too. These manuscripts were written in either Khom, ancient Lanna, ancient Isān, Mon or Burmese alphabet. Many of them were compiled from very ancient times while some were compiled by King Rama IV (King Mongkut) when he served as abbot of Wat Bowornniwet Wiharn during 1836-1851. 

Having graduated from the UK, I came to Mahidol University and found that Buddhist Studies in Thailand doesn’t have a strong foundation. There are many reasons for this. First, most Buddhist books were written by Westerners who hardly utilise the resources in South-East Asia. Second, there has been a tradition of editing Buddhist Pali texts throughout the very long history of Thailand but the edition produced is not a critical one as used in the Western countries. The edition of Pali texts simply means a Pali text is deciphered from an original alphabet and then is checked whether the deciphered text is in line with the original version or not. There is neither comparison with other manuscripts nor an attempt to check the historical connections among all the manuscripts available. If there are grammatical errors, the editors put some footnotes to explain the correct ones. So I proposed an international PhD Programme in Buddhist Studies, the first of its kind in South-East Asia, and chaired the committee to draft its contents in which 'textual criticism' is introduced as one of the core courses.

I have addressed the above problems when I was invited to present a paper on Buddhist Studies in Thailand  at a Conference for the 30th Anniversary of the Post Graduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies, Kelaniya University, Columbo, Sri Lanka, 10-11 December, 2005. In this paper, I emphasised that as long as Buddhists in Thailand have not been able to produce a critical edition of Pali texts or Palm-leaf manuscripts, Buddhist Studies  cannot be placed on a firm ground. But, unfortunately, not many students are interested in doing a critical edition of this type. So a Centre is definitely needed to keep promoting the critical edition and to make it become part of modern Buddhist Studies in Thailand, as widely as possible.

The Centre has been established for three main reasons. First, it is for digitising  all the Buddhist Palm-leaf manuscripts available in Southeast Asia and financially supporting quality scholars to do a critical edition, especially those kept at Wat Bowornniwet Wiharn. Second, it provides funding for scholars to conduct researches  in order to apply the Buddha's teachings to modern sciences and to benefit contemporary society. This includes Buddhism and science, Buddhism and medicines, Buddhism and economics, Buddhism and politics, Buddhism and psychology, etc. Third, it provides funding for doing research on the topics which are ambiguous and hypothetically heretical in origin, which are held by some monks who never study the Pali Canon properly. On any topic which confuses the general public, research will be conducted to  bring to light what the authentic teachings of the Buddha are.

The idea to produce more Buddhist texts in English initiated by His Holiness the Supreme Patriarch is actually for the happiness of a wider world, beyond the confines of Thailand. In order to preserve the ancient Buddhist texts and to promote Buddhism for the welfare of the many, we need collective support. Actually, it is the responsibility of all Buddhists. Donations are welcome to make sure that a sizable number of research projects can be carried out continuously. If you want to donate for the Centre, please visit: http://www.sangharajafoundation.com/th or contact its office via bodhinanda@gmail.com

I hope that friends of Buddhists around the world will support us one way or another.

Dr Pathompong Bodhiprasiddhinand
Director