Buddhism is based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, a prince of the Sakya tribe of Nepal, who lived about 2,500 years ago.
At the age of 29, he left home to seek the meaning of the suffering he saw around him. After six years he achieved enlightenment and became the Buddha. He then wandered northeastern India for 45 years teaching the path of mental and moral self-purification.
How do the teachings of Buddhism fit into today’s world? Are they still relevant?
That’s the focus of research by Hung-Yok Ip, associate professor of history at OSU and a fellow at the university’s Center for the Humanities. Ip, who was raised in Hong Kong, came to the United States at the age of 24 to attend graduate school at the University of California-Davis. She has been at OSU since 1994.
In her research on Su Manshu, a monk who also was a revolutionary and writer during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, she focused on how Buddhism was integrated into an important dimension of Chinese modernity—the formation of the individual.
“By comparing Su Manshu with his contemporaries as well as writers who were active in the 1920s and 1930s, I expand on how Buddhism helped the individual in his or her pursuit of individuality,” she says. “But more important, I shall concentrate on how Buddhism is relevant to one fundamental problem of modernity—the problem that freedom does not guarantee gratification and happiness.”
Ip also is involved in a book-length research project on Engaged Buddhism in the contemporary world.
“I once again explore how Buddhism is relevant to the modern world—in this case to problems caused by capitalism in the age of transnational capital. I intend to argue that Buddhism represents a new mode of social activism vis-is the injustice created by capitalism,” she says. “To some extent, I compare Engaged Buddhism to secularist and Christian approaches to resistance.”