Sheng-Yen Lu Foundation and True Buddha Foundation co-sponsored the 2010 Lotus Scholarship, a special project, to support Buddhist Studies. We are featuring each scholarship recipient here and in True Buddha News. We begin by introducing Matthew William King. Matthew is pursuing a doctorate in Buddhist Studies at the University of Toronto, concentrating on Mongolian and Tibetan Religious History and specializing in translating and publishing Buddhist histories produced in Mongolia. He has been a practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism since he was 16 years old and plans to work as a professor of Buddhist Studies, teaching Buddhist tradition and publishing on Mongolian and Tibetan Buddhist culture.
1. Question: What inspired your decision to study Buddhism?
Matthew’s answer: I encountered Buddhism when I was in my early teens, and began reading obsessively. I quickly focused in on the Tibetan tradition, and began to spend a lot of time at various Tibetan Buddhist temples in Toronto and eventually Europe, New Zealand and then Asia. Once I encountered senior sangha and various Lamas, I really became determined to study Buddhadharma my whole life- it was infectious I guess!
2. Question: Describe your greatest accomplishment so far while in pursuit of your degree in Buddhist Studies.
Matthew’s answer: I think that while theory and method are more familiar to me because of a background in anthropology, the language requirements to do Buddhist Studies has been my greatest challenge. The progress I have made with the various source languages I work with has been my greatest success (though one that is far from over, unfortunately!).
3. Question: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Matthew’s answer: I think an ordinary person like me has a hard time imagining anything “perfect!” When the mirror is dirty I guess whatever is reflected looks dirty too!
4. Question: In your next life, who or what would you like to be?
Matthew’s answer: Anything other than a worm or an ant- that is where I am headed right now, I’m sure.
5. Question: What impacts have the study of Buddhism had on your life?
Matthew’s answer: Intellectually it has challenged me to think critically about my own cultural categories, especially religious ones, in order to really try and understand where the various scholars and practitioners whose life and works I study were coming from on their own terms (as much as that is possible, of course). Outside of scholarship, I have been very fortunate to spend a lot of time with very realized Lamas and Tulkus, who if nothing else have me convinced that we have a lot of potential to transform our minds and our experience.
6. Question: How has the Lotus Scholarship helped your study of Buddhism?
Matthew’s answer: Currently, I am truly embarking on dissertation writing, which will occupy me for the next two years at least. During this period I will be spending a lot more time in Mongolia, Tibet and China. I will also need to access various library collections in North America and Europe, as well as continue working with fellow graduate students and Professors at other institutions. Primarily, the Lotus Scholarship will make it possible for me to finance these research and collaborative trips. This is indispensable for me at this point in my education, so that I can acquire the perspective and critical feedback necessary to make a contribution with my dissertation, as well as produce some articles etc. that will help in the job market down the line. Beyond these academic reasons, the Lotus Scholarship has also allowed me the financial stability to complete my dissertation which I hope in some small way helps Mongolians in their efforts to recover and revive their Buddhist tradition – something for which they are working very hard at the moment. Also, I hope that it joins a chorus of other scholarship which helps the world understand the depth, variety and profundity of the uncountable religious and intellectual systems which we so clumsily lump together and gloss so simply and deceptively as “Buddhism!”