From the academic year 2023-2024, the Center for Buddhist Studies (CBS) at the University of Hong Kong will offer introductory courses to advanced level courses in the Pali, Sanskrit and Tibetan Buddhist languages for students. undergraduate and graduate programs. These courses are designed to delve into the world of Buddhist scriptures and explore the roots of Eastern philosophies, with immersion in the rich tapestry of history.
Each language course will consist of four levels. Levels I and III will be offered in the first semester, which runs from the beginning of September 2023 to the end of November 2023. In the second semester, levels II and IV will be offered from mid-January 2024 to the end of April 2024. The exams for the courses respective ones will take place at the end of each semester. Previously, CBS only offered Levels I and II for language courses. In all courses, students will learn about Indian culture, language, literature, and Buddhist philosophy.
All classes will be taught in person. Anyone interested is welcome to register, including current students, alumni and the public. According to the schedule established by CBS, classes are held every Saturday and Sunday on the HKU campus.
"The study of Buddhist languages can provide many benefits, from deepening our understanding of the teachings to opening up academic and professional opportunities," said Professor Georgios T. Halkias, director of CBS. “It allows us to engage with the original texts, rather than relying on translations. This allows for a more precise and nuanced understanding of the teachings.
According to Professor Halkias, “translations can sometimes be limited by the translator's understanding, cultural biases or the constraints of the target language. By learning the original languages, we can circumvent these limitations and access the teachings in their original form. It can also help us better understand the cultural context in which the teachings evolved. This, in turn, can enhance our appreciation of the richness and diversity of the Buddhist tradition.
There are no prerequisites to enroll in Level I. Even the ability to read and write Tibetan and Devanagari respectively for Tibetan and Sanskrit is not expected of students. For levels II, III and IV, students must have prerequisites and the course teacher will assess the candidate's proficiency in the relevant language.
According to the CBS email distribution, the language course package is a "comprehensive program designed to strengthen reading and writing skills, while exploring each language's literature, history and culture."
"Learning Buddhist languages can help us develop qualities such as patience, perseverance and humility, and facilitate a deeper understanding of key concepts, which can inspire reflection, introspection and spiritual growth. said Professor Halkias. “Lastly and most importantly, developing proficiency in Buddhist languages can open up a wide range of academic and professional opportunities. Whether we want to pursue a career in academia, translation or research, having a solid grounding in Buddhist languages is a valuable asset that can help us connect with scholars and practitioners around the world, fostering collaboration and the exchange of ideas.