Young Researchers: The Need of Our Times

By Ramani D.Wickramaratne, Lanka Web, Aug 3, 2007

Colombo, Sri Lanka -- Gone are the days when erudite Buddhist scholars( both from Buddhist clergy and the laity) spent long hours doing research into The Buddha Dhamma and imparting their scholarship for others with lesser experience, to study and understand the deep philosophy of The Buddha Word.

It is with the objective of training and fostering such scholarship, that the National Conference on Buddhist Studies has been organized during the last 3 years. This year, a third such conference which was held at The All Ceylon Buddhist Congress from 12th-13th July 2007.

The conference was organized by The Buddhist and Pali University of Sri Lanka (2007 also marks the 25th Anniversary of The University) under the guidance of Venerable (Professor) Wegama Piyaratana (Vice Chancellor)in association with The Buddhist Times Trust and "Bodhu Sahana Aramudala" with the coordination work including logistics being handled by Dr. Hema Goonatilake. The Inaugural Address was delivered by Former Head Dept. of Archeology, University of Peradeniya and Founder President Sri Lanka Council of Archeology Professor Leelananda Prematilleke on "Contribution of Archeology to Buddhist Studies."

Information regarding the National Conference on Buddhist Studies was circulated through the email networks as well as the internet. Although it was supposed to be a "national conference", there were many foreign researchers who showed a keen interest to participate and some even submitted research papers for consideration. Over 40 research papers were received from national/local and foreign scholars from which 30 were selected for presentation at the conference. Of the 30 selected papers presented, around 50% were submitted by young researchers from Sri Lanka and were considered to be of a high standard by the Selection Panel.

From the number of topics that were covered at the 3rd National Conference on Buddhist Studies, it is evident that there was ample provision for the presentation as well as discussion on a wide and diverse area which involve Buddhist research. It might be an added incentive to the researchers who submitted papers for this conference, if The Buddhist and Pali University would consider publishing the best papers that were accepted for presentation, in the "Sri Lanka Journal of The Buddhist and Pali University.

"In Sri Lanka, it is sad that adequate opportunities are not offered to research students and scholars, to engage in serious studies due to various reasons one of which is financial support. Therefore, it is all the more creditable that there was such a high level of keenness on the part of young researchers, to submit their papers and become participants in a process which would hopefully open the doors for more opportunities in the future. In order to research and preserve research papers of depth and value for posterity, it is essential that more and more scholars come out and commit themselves to do research work in Buddhist studies.

Since Sri Lanka is considered to be a centre of Buddhism in Asia, it is all the more important that adequate importance is placed on Buddhist research work. Such conferences also offer opportunities for scholars from various countries with diverse cultural and religious backgrounds to meet, discuss and understand the differences.

At a time when Buddhism and Buddhist Studies is gaining ground in the western academic circles, it would certainly be prudent to appeal to the Government of Sri Lanka and Ministry of Higher Education, to place adequate importance on higher levels of research at University-both undergraduate and post-graduate levels which will no doubt train upcoming future scholars and academics, to be proud of their achievements and continue to look for more and more opportunities to enhance their knowledge.