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Buddhism for chaplaincies and schools

12 September 2012

£ 12 000 funding for new project on "Understanding Buddhist Death"

£12,000 funding for new project on “Understanding Buddhist Death”

Previously completed research conducted by the department of Religion and Theology at the University of Bristol is now the focus of a new three-month university funded impact development project “Understanding Buddhist Death” led by Dr Rita Langer.

The project will make use of the findings of a three-year AHRC funded study ‘Buddhist Death Rituals of South East Asia and China’ led by Professor Paul Williams which was conducted between 2007 and 2011. It was the first academic comparative study of the death rituals found in the two Buddhist cultures. Fieldwork formed a key aspect of the study and it generated documentary films, recordings and photographs which supplemented the edited volume Buddhist Funeral Cultures of Southeast Asia and China (Cambridge University Press 2012). The findings of this earlier study will now be used to create a greater awareness of Buddhist rituals and teachings in the UK. Dr Langer, who was one of the researchers on the original project, says:

Only a very small part of the audio-visual material that was generated during the three fieldtrips to Laos, Thailand and China has so far been made accessible. This new project aims at creating a user-friendly open resource to make this fascinating material available beyond the academic community to a wider public. We are very grateful to the University of Bristol for recognizing the potential of the material and for funding this exciting project.

While the material is of interest to anyone who wants to learn more about Buddhism, the Bristol Buddhist Death Ritual Project has so far attracted the most interest from two groups: Buddhist hospital chaplains and schoolteachers.

The Research Associate Laura Frude, a postgraduate research student within the department of Religion and Theology, will in cooperation with NHS chaplaincies and healthcare professionals produce a downloadable booklet. It will outline pre and post death practices including a detailed order of service, chants and an explanation of ritual aspects. This will be further supplemented by podcasts and video interviews with Buddhist monks and chaplains which will be added to the existing website.

Working closely with school teachers and e-learning specialists Laura will also generate an e-learning pack and image bank that will be used to aid the study of Buddhism at secondary schools. Laura explains:

Many of the rituals and customs documented are not specific to the death context but are staples of Buddhist practice in South and Southeast Asia. Our material is therefore ideally suited to illustrate and bring to life aspects of the current GCSE and A Level curriculum, such as chanting, the transfer of merit and the role of monks within the community.

The e-learning pack will also contain audio recordings, edited film footage and photographs generated on the various the fieldtrips.

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