SYMPOSIUM: The Tulku Institution in Tibetan Buddhism: Past, Present, and Future Prospects of the Reincarnation System

February 15-16, 2013, Fromm Hall

One of the most distinctive characteristics of Tibetan Buddhism is the tulku institution, a system for identifying and legitimating incarnate lamas that serves a wide range of social, religious, and political functions in Tibet. These individuals range from a few politically and religiously powerful figures, such as the Dalai Lamas, the Panchen Lamas, and the Karmapas, to hundreds of regionally-famed lamas. The symposium brings together leading scholars representing diverse academic disciplines to investigate the history of this centuries-old religious system and its evolution in an age of digital communication and transculturality. We intend to initiate an important new conversation about the past, present, and future of the tulku system by using interdisciplinary methodologies to examine the multi-dimensionality of the institution.

For more information, see the symposium website:

Keynote Speakers:

Professor Jeffrey Hopkins (UMA Institute for Tibetan Buddhist Studies and University of Virginia)

Title: Reflections on Tulku Institution: Technical and Personal

Jeffrey Hopkins is Professor Emeritus of Tibetan Buddhist Studies at the University of Virginia where he taught Tibetan Buddhist Studies and Tibetan language for thirty-two years from 1973. He received a B.A. magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1963 and received a Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies from the University of Wisconsin in 1973. He served as the Dalai Lama's chief interpreter into English on lecture tours for ten years, 1979-1989. At the University of Virginia he founded programs in Buddhist Studies and Tibetan Studies and served as Director of the Center for South Asian Studies for twelve years. He has published thirty-nine books in a total of twenty-two languages, as well as twenty-three articles.

Professor Donald Lopez (University of Michigan)

Title: Four Possibilities

Donald Lopez is the Arthur E. Link Distinguished University Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies at the University of Michigan. He has written widely on Indian Mahayana Buddhism and on Tibetan Buddhism. He has also explored the European encounter with Buddhism and the formation of the category of Modern Buddhism, including claims for the compatibility of Buddhism and Science. His current projects include the translation of a refutation of the Buddhist doctrines of emptiness and rebirth by the Jesuit missionary to Tibet, Ippolito Desideri (1684-1733); a study of the influence of the Lotus Sutra; and a translation of an eighteenth-century Tibetan compendium of Buddhist philosophy. He advises graduate students working in a range of traditions and periods in the history of Tibetan Buddhism.