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31 Jan 2012
9 min 13 sec
Video Overview

David Germano introduces the presentations given at a symposium in honor of the legacy of Jeffrey Hopkins at the University of Virginia

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  • Uh, thank you for that introduction Dan, who--it should be remarked upon--is essentially the funder of the conference. I was simply the one who executed the, uh, plan, but Dan's the one who provided the funds to make it all happen and bring everyone here.
  • So, we owe a special debt of gratitude to Dan for working for us on that behalf.
  • In Buddhism, many people assume that in the beginning, there is not a book but a buddha--Since you need a buddha to first produce the book.
  • In fact, it has become more and more clear that in many cases in Buddhism, books precede buddha...precede buddhas. And in fact, for me at the beginning of my own career in Tibetology, um, back whenever, there was a big book.
  • A very big book.
  • In fact, I brought the big book. [laughter] And, um, I'll have to bring it up.
  • Ok. Got my big book now.
  • So, I began my graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin--a time long ago, in a place far away--and was immediately confronted by a big book.
  • This big book.
  • And this big book was called Meditation on Emptiness, and it was in the form of this imposing, huge book that I first encountered Jeffrey Hopkins.
  • Thus, for me, it was the not flesh-and-blood Hopkins that mattered, but it was the graphic Hopkins. The Hopkins as a big, Buddhist book that was the primary reality, um, in the way in which I first encountered Jeffrey.
  • Not the flesh-and-blood Jeffrey, who was rumored to still be living in Virginia, [laughter] but we weren't entirely sure about that.
  • At that point, I believe now in retrospect, he was in his mid-forties, but in our imagination, he was already an elusive figure, in the mist-shrouded pantheons were buddhas, sorcerers, past reincarnat- reincarnate lamas, and other such figures who produced big Buddhist books in the Tibetan world resided.
  • In fact, when I now look back at it, I-, it seems a little smaller than in my imagination. [laughter]
  • When I counted the pages, there's one thousand and seventeen pages here. But, uh, when I was immersed within its encyclopedic range over the first few years of my graduate studies, it seemed, uh, quite a bit heavier in more ways than one.
  • So, this situation, this situation where I primarily had the Hopkins-as-a-book, uh, persisted until 1992.
  • Do you know when we first met?
  • Jeffrey Hopkins
  • David Germano
    Exactly. [laughter] We actually met before 1992, but I knew he'd never remember that, so I never mentioned it.
  • We met very briefly at a conference, and I was like,"Oh!" I was kind of startled to find this, you know, Hopkins-as-a-person was quite a bit younger than I had in my imagination.
  • So, abruptly in '92, when I was hired at the University of Virginia, the book became a man, a flesh-and-blood man, who is sitting here before us today.
  • And before alluding to the significance of his work at UVa, and, in fact, in the world over the last three decades, I'd like to pay personal tribute to him for all the support, help, and guidance he gave me from that time onwards.
  • Uh, when I came to UVa at the age of thirty, I had was a sum total on my resume of zero classes taught, zero public lectures given, zero teaching assistant jobs, zero standing in front of anybody and saying anything, and zero experience administering anything beyond this week's grocery list.
  • I had little understanding of the university as a community, as an institution, of politics--understood as the art of community formation and support. And, indeed, little experience in anything beyond Tibetan language and Tibetan Buddhism.
  • I pulled into Charlottesville twelve hours before my first class, indeed, my first lecture of my little life.
  • And with regards to Jeffrey, I thought maybe we would talk about a hundred and one flavors of emptiness or something like that. [laughter] Beyond that, I really had no expectations.
  • And over the last, um, decade and a half, the one person who has provided me unfailingly with support and guidance in small ways and large ways in my professional life has indeed been Jeffrey Hopkins.
  • Uh, he's helped me understand how to survive in academics and more importantly, he's helped me understand what it means to work within a broader set of communities that intersect for someone who's teaching in the field of Tibetan Buddhism at the University of Virginia.
  • And for this, I owe him a great debt of gratitude.
  • And, in fact, we never did talk about the hundred and one flavors of emptiness. It was the one thing he seemingly didn't want to talk about with me. So...
  • Um, for the past three decades since 1973, Jeffrey Hopkins has been one of the most brilliant lights in UVa's scholarly pantheon.
  • He founded our Buddhist Studies program and Tibetan Studies program, in which he has personally directed eighteen completed doctorates and thrity-one masters.
  • Outside of the University, uh, Jeffrey has been one of the most famous scholars of Buddhist Studies and Tibetan Studies in the world, His scholarly output is nothing short of astonishing: 34 books--including research monographs, language textbooks, translations, popular books--translated into twenty-one languages, twenty-two languages, world wide. Czech, Swedish, Japanese, Croatian, Greek, and so forth.
  • And, I think the most important thing is through his publications and through his teching activity reflected here over the next two days, Jeffrey has arguably been the most important scholar in effecting the sea change in Tibetan Studies, a relatively young field, to a focus on in-depth language mastery, to a focus on Tibetan cultural achievements in their own right--rather than ancillary to India, or other studies--and on the need for careful and systematic study of Tibetan intellectual systems in their own terms.
  • Namely, Tibet for Tibet's sake, Tibetans, and their own perspectives.
  • And his work and his teaching, I think more than any other single individual, really spawned this sea change in the study of Tibetan Buddhism over the last three decades.
  • Um, Jeffrey's doctoral students have gone on to become leaders in academics and affiliated professions, including new graduate programs in Buddhist Studies--the University of Michigan and Rice University--um, directing the Tibetan service of the Voice of America, the Tibetan Nuns Project, and many, um, bodies of scholarship and translations.
  • So, before I introduce the first speaker and the symosium overall, I also want to pay tribute to Cindy Benton-Groner, who like Avalokiteshvara, whose many arms have made the Center for South Asian Studies so vital over the years. And some of these arms we saw, and others we did not see.
  • Um, but, I only realized myself very slowly over the years the tremendous contribution she has made over the past several decades to making South Asia, the Center for South Asia, what it really is, as I began to understand the tremendous complexities and value and importance of administration and community building.
  • And especially since she left over the last year and suddenly all the unseen arms became very visible, since no one was actually doing them.
  • So, um, there were many magical things that's happened over the last several decades with regards to South Asia because of Cindy's work: FLAS fellowships, the summer Tibetan program, large overwhelming conferences like this one, Friday afternoon lectures, outreach programs, audio-video resources, music events, and other, the other one hundred and one events Cindy has handled with calm patience, efficiency, intelligence, and great humor over the years.
  • She's been the one source of continuity in the Center, up until last year, and so we all owe her a great debt of gratitude, those of us who work in Tibetan Studies, Indian Studies, and other parts of South Asia.
  • If Jeffrey gave me the big picture of what it meant to be a human being in an academic community, Cindy often filled out the very small details. So, thank you.
  • So, today's events [applause]
  • The order of presentation is structured in reverse chronological order--we will be going from the most recent PhD granted from Jeffrey's students to the original PhD, uh, among Jeffrey students.
  • And we're asking each one of the students to introduce the next student, to give you some sense of the, kind of, community or social community which has been spawned out of Jeffrey's teaching over the years.
  • So, each person will speak for approximately twenty minutes. Then they'll be a short break at the mid-point, and then they'll be introductory and concluding comments. At 5 PM or so, we'll have a reception out in the central space of Clark Hall.
  • So, um, I think I won't go through all the names, but I'll just mention the ones, um, who are missing. Than Garson was supposed to open the event, but due to a family emergency, he had to abruptly leave and he won't be here today. So, we'll be starting with Derek Maher, who I will introduce, and uh, Thee Zeller, who we all know, um, unfortunately, is deceased and passed away, and therefore is not able to join us today.
  • Um, Cathy Rogers is attending the events, but not giving a presentation. John Powers is coming in from Austrailia, at least we hope so. John? No? Ok.
  • Um, by the end of the day, Joe Wilson, 1984, was unable to attend as well, So...