Dr. Draszczyk is a prolific and dynamic scholar of Tibetan and Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. After earning her M.A. in Tibetology from the University of Hamburg in 1985, she spent many years becoming fluent in Classical Tibetan and modern spoken Tibetan. She worked for years as an interpreter for Tibetan teachers in both South Asia and in Europe. Between 1992-2005, she studied in India according to the traditional Tibetan scholastic curriculum. She earned an Acharya degree in Buddhist Studies in 2005. In 2012, she also earned a Ph.D. from the University of Vienna in the field of Buddhist Studies and Tibetology.
While at the School of Religious Studies for the Fall 2022 term, Dr. Draszszyk will offer a course - RELG 556, “Issues in Buddhist Studies: Mindfulness in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism.” Mindfulness lies at the core of Buddhism in that its practice depends on a differentiating and reflective type of introspection. By its means, moral conduct, philosophical views, and training in meditation are woven together. The seminar is designed to facilitate an in-depth study of mindfulness in the context of Buddhist meditation.
In addition to a large number of scholarly articles, that have appeared in some of the most influentual international journals in the field, she has published three monographs: Die Anwendung der tathāgathagarbha-Lehre in Kong spruls Anleitung zur gzhan stong-Sichtweise (2015); Mahāmudrā and the middle Way: Post-classical Kagyü Discourses on Mind, Emptiness and Buddha-Nature (2016, with David Higgins); and Buddha Nature Reconsidered: Mi bskyod rdo rje’s Middle Path (2019, with David Higgins). We are grateful for her contributions to the life of the School of Religious Studies this semester, and for her willingness to record the following, brief introductory interview.
Welcome to McGill! You are the 2022-2023 Numata Visiting Scholar. Can you explain in more detail what this role entails, and what you will be doing while at McGill?
For the Numata Visiting Scholar position we are indebted to the late Rev. Dr. Yehan Numata. It was upon his most generous initiative that the BDK foundation in Japan was established, the “Society for the Promotion of Buddhism.” The foundation’s aim was and is to contribute to the improvement of human welfare and world peace in particular through the cultural transfer of values such as wisdom and compassion as emphasized in Buddhism. The foundation carries out various activities, one of them being the support of Buddhist scholars at a number of universities worldwide so that in-depth studies of Buddhism can continue.
I’m very grateful that the School of Religious Studies at McGill has invited me to take on this role of the Numata Visiting Scholar during this fall semester. During my stay here, I have the opportunity to teach one course mainly for postgraduate students on my current field of research: Mindfulness in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. As well I will give a public lecture on “Mindfulness: Its Role in Buddhism and in Today’s World.” Along with these teaching activities this position offers me the time and the conducive conditions to go through material I have been working on during the last two years, a number of hitherto unpublished translations in the field of mindfulness as taught and practiced in Northern Buddhism. My intention is to prepare another monograph based on these materials.
What inspired you to concentrate as a scholar in Buddhist Studies and Tibetology?
Already at school, I developed an interest in Buddhism. This is why I chose to start studying Indology and Tibetology at Hamburg University with a focus on Buddhist studies. The associated languages, the deep philosophy, the worldview, the practical guidelines for meditation—all of these aspects have continued to offer me a rich field for ongoing academic studies ever since.
You earned an Acharya degree before a doctoral degree. How has your formation contributed to the character of your scholarship?
Having finished my MA in Hamburg, I wanted to continue studying directly with Tibetan teachers, which I did for many years. Naturally, this provided me with perspectives in addition to the purely academic ones that I had been trained in at Hamburg University. I had the great fortune to study and learn the interplay of Buddhist philosophy and meditative practices while spending time in environments in which Buddhism was and is a living tradition. Thus, my familiarity with, and understanding of, Buddhist views deepened. With all this as a basis, I continued with my doctoral thesis at the Department of South Asian, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies at University of Vienna. I also continued work toward the publication of my first monograph. Its main issue was the integration of Buddhist philosophy in meditation. Years of intensive research in a cooperative and enriching community of scholars such as Prof. Dr. Klaus-Dieter Mathes, Dr. David Higgins and Khenpo Konchog Tamphel at the University of Vienna followed. This resulted in the publication of two further monographs.
Where will you direct your next research projects?
I’m usually based in Vienna, and have certain family obligations. I thus hope that another research project at University of Vienna will be possible. My current field or research—as mentioned above “mindfulness in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism”—is not only intriguing, but also vast. Therefore, I will need additional time for publishing the results. As usual, there is the question of funding; so, let’s hope for the best!
Please join us in welcoming Dr. Draszczyk to the School of Religious Studies!