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The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Program in Buddhism and Contemporary Society, University of British Columbia, will host the fifth annual Tung Lin Kok Yuen Canada Foundation Conference at UBC’s Point Grey campus.

“Buddhism and Wellbeing: Therapeutic Approaches to Human Flourishing”

We are pleased to welcome Professor Pierce Salguero as this year’s keynote speaker. Dr. Salguero teaches Asian history, religion, and culture at Penn State University’s Abington College and studies the intersection of religion and medicine. His recent book, Translating Buddhist Medicine in Medieval China (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014), analyzes the ways Chinese Buddhist writers adapted Indian medical knowledge and healing practices for local audiences.

Abstract submission deadline: February 1, 2015
Conference dates: May 28-30, 2015

Throughout its history, Buddhism has been a resource for practices, ideas, and worldviews that relate to wellbeing–whether this is understood as flourishing in the physical, mental, or soteriological sense. Beginning with the physical, Buddhism has served as a repository for therapeutic and pharmaceutical knowledge, and its clerics, have served as doctors, healers, and nurses. Buddhist stories tell of the exploits of the famous Doctor Jivaka. The Buddha was often given the epithet, “Great Physician,” as one who liberates all beings from disease. And, the four noble truths were often given a medical spin: (1) symptom; (2) etiology; (3) cure; and, (4) course of treatment. Buddhism has produced institutions that engaged with local medical traditions. This was true in ancient India, medieval China, early modern Japan, and in contemporary Thailand, among many other places and historical periods.

Continuing with the mental, the sheer wealth of contemplative techniques believed to have therapeutic value is staggering. Today, there is excitement over the potential of Buddhist-derived meditation practices to contribute to cognitive therapeutic outcomes such as stress reduction, impulse control, and mood regulation, and a growing literature on Buddhism and mental health. The field of Buddhism and psychology is burgeoning and, according to Roger Walsh and Shauna Shapiro, “Meditation is now one of the most enduring, widespread, and researched of all psychotherapeutic methods” (American Psychologist 61 (2006): 227).

Medicine, however, is only one kind of therapeutic approach to the human person. If our current embodied existence is itself a kind of disease, then do enlightenment and salvation constitute a cure? If so, in what way? Can these notions of sickness and health extend to Buddhist communities, societies, and the world as a whole? For example, what interventions, ascetic or dietary, are necessary to prepare for death? And how do ideas of wellbeing and health relate to more extreme practices, such as religious self-willed death? Broad visions of what constitutes willbeing and health might inform a wide range of practices, from daily maintenance to undertakings that a human body can experience only once.

How to submit a proposal:
We invite the submission of paper abstracts (150 words) and a brief CV (no more than 1 page) to by February 1, 2015. All presenters will receive up to 3 nights of free accommodation at UBC, plus a travel stipend depending on distance traveled. We encourage papers that explore therapeutical flourishing in any historical period and in any region. Papers may explore, for example:

  • Buddhism and medicine
  • connections between Buddhism and medicine in local context
  • philosophical and ethical issues involved in Buddhism and healing
  • Buddhist texts, rituals, or material culture related to pharmacy, therapeutic regimens, surgery, etc.
  • Buddhism, psychology, and mental health, including the use of meditation as a therapy for addictions, mental disorders
  • Therapeutic dimensions of Buddhist shamanic and ritual practice, such as exorcism, ritual prayer, or merit-making
  • general ideas of flourishing and wellbeing, whether of the Buddhist individual or the Buddhist group
  • Buddhism and everyday maintenance of health, including thinking on diet, exercise, and daily therapeutic practice
  • ideas of “good health” and “disease” in terms of the constituent or aggregate being, with its physical and mental components
  • narratives or stories of healing
  • historical or contemporary Buddhist groups devoted to medicine, mental health, or other type of care provision

***Please note that due to the very small size of our organizing committee, however, we can only assist international attendees who require visa letters and other documents if their papers are selected for presentation at the conference. We appreciate your understanding in this matter.