Erik Hammerstrom - Assistant Professor, Department of Religion, Pacific Lutheran University
This talk examines the ways in which Buddhist thought was used to discuss science in China from the end of the Qing Dynasty to the Second Sino-Japanese War (World War II). Although the focus is primarily on how committed Buddhists sought to define the relationship between their tradition and science, it will be shown that viewing the ideas discussed here as just another example of “science versus religion” are misguided, and ignore the complexity of the intellectual and historical circumstances in which these thinkers found themselves. Buddhists, and those of unclear affiliation who used Buddhist thought, developed a few common discourses for relating Buddhist thought to the changing fields of science. This talk will trace the development of those discourses in four historical periods: the late Qing, the early years of the Republic, the 1920s, and the Nanjing Decade. In articulating these discourses, thinkers displayed an awareness of both the complexities of Buddhist thought and recent developments in the sciences. This topic tells us much about both the direction of modern Chinese Buddhism and the process by which modern science was translated in China. Erik Hammerstrom earned a Master’s Degree in Asian Religion at the University of Hawai‘i, Mānoa, and his Ph.D. in Religious Studies with departmental honors at Indiana University. He specializes in the intellectual and institutional history of Chinese Buddhism during the early 20th century, concentrating on Buddhist responses to discourses of modernity, such as the discourses surrounding both modern science and comparative religion (what F. Max Müller labeled the “Science of Religion”). As an extension of his work on Chinese Buddhism, he co-founded the Database of Modern Chinese Buddhism, which he continues to co-edit. He currently teaches about religion in China and East Asia, with a focus on Buddhism, at Pacific Lutheran University in his native Pacific Northwest. The Stanley Weinstein Dissertation Prize was established in 2008 to honor Professor Weinstein’s many contributions to the study of East Asian Buddhism in North America. The prize is awarded once every two years to the best Ph.D. dissertation on East Asian Buddhism written in North America during the two previous years. The dissertation must be based on original research in the primary languages and should significantly advance our understanding of East Asian Buddhism. East Asian Buddhism is understood for this competition to refer to those traditions in East Asia that take Chinese translations of the Buddhist scriptures as their basis (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese).