Associate Professor of Religious Studies Abhishek S. Amar was recently awarded The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Research Fellowship in Buddhist Studies. Amar’s selection was through an open, international competition.
Administered by the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), the fellowship will provide a stipend of $70,000, which Amar will use to complete his book manuscript, Material Buddhism: Archaeology, Context, and Religious Change in Bodhgaya.
The book focuses on the site of Bodhgaya and investigates the relationships between the Buddhist monastic institutions and the surrounding settlements, polities, and other religions to study the expansion and transformation of Buddhism.
Through newly documented archaeological remains in Bodhgaya and the Gaya district, the book provides an understanding of the spatio-temporal matrix that supported Bodhgaya’s development and demonstrates how the sphere of influence of religious institutions extended beyond the spiritual and soteriological to socio-economic and political realms.
Amar said the book “provides a significant, new way to think about the role of Buddhist institutions in the development of Magadha region in the first millennium CE. This is a radical departure from previous studies of the Magadha region, which have overwhelmingly relied on religious texts. This departure is reflected in the way in which this book rethinks the dynamics of the past through an extensive study of material culture.
“The material presented and discussed, both in terms of sites surveyed (mounds, settlements, and monastic remains) and discussion of ceramic and sculptural analysis, indicates the direction in which methodology can create a spatial dimension in which we may begin to consider the facets of Buddhist practice,” Amar added.
Established in 2005 by Robert H. N. Ho, The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation is a private philanthropic organization based in Hong Kong. According to its website, “the Foundation’s dual mission is to foster appreciation of Chinese arts and culture to advance global learning and to cultivate deeper understanding of Buddhism in the context of contemporary life.”