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People : Writers & Researchers Last Updated: Mar 28th, 2008 - 16:56:23

Matthew Kapstein
By Nyingma.com and others
Feb 11, 2007, 22:27

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Prof. Matthew Kapstein
Professor Kapstein is probably best known for his collaboration with Gyurme Dorje for the translation into English of HH Kyabje Jigdral Yeshe Dorje, Dudjom Rinpoche’s The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism: Its Fundamentals and History. Matthew is a leading academic conducting and participating in original research in the fields of Indian philosophy and the Buddhist traditions of Tibet. Through his involvement with the Tibetan & Himalayan Digital Library of which he is an executive board member and co-founder, he is actively involved in the coordination of research projects and dissemination of their output.  He is a prolific writer of books and articles for students, academics and practitioners.

Matthew is currently Numata Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies at Chicago University, where he was
also based from1986 to 1989. He served  as Associate Professor of the Philosophy of Religion with the Department of Religion at Columbia University in the City of New York from 1989 until he returned to Chicago in1996.  In addition he has been Director of Tibetan Religious Studies at the École Pratique des Hautes Études at the Sorbonne in Paris since 2002.

He was awarded degrees in Sanskrit by the University of California at Berkeley and in Philosophy by Brown University both in the USA.


Matthew Kapstein’s current projects include:


The Tibetans: A General Introduction to Tibetan Studies, to be published by Blackwell.
Buddhism Between Tibet and China, a collaborative work exploring the history of Sino-Tibetan religious relations from the Tang dynasty to the present day.

Tibetan & Himalayan Digital Library

Co-director of The Historical Sites of Central Tibet documenting major historical sites in Central Tibet through the integration of textual scholarship, historical literature, oral commentaries, site lectures, images, and maps.
Member of Advisory Board, Tibetan Buddhist Canon: The Kangyur (bka’ ’gyur) and Tengyur (bstan ’gyur) a collaborative project to create electronic resources for accessing editions, texts, and scholarship of the Kangyur and Tengyur. The principal initiatives of the project are the creation of comprehensive electronic catalogs of several editions of the Kangyur and Tengyur, and the publication of a complete electronic edition of the Kangyur.


List of Publications



Soundings in Tibetan Civilization. Edited by Barbara N. Aziz and Matthew Kapstein. New Delhi: Manohar, 1985.

Dudjom Rinpoche, Jikdrel Yeshe Dorje, The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism: Its Fundamentals and History. Annotated translation by Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein. 2 vols. London: Wisdom Publications, 1991. 2nd edition 2002.

Buddhism in Contemporary Tibet: Religious Revival and Cultural Identity. Edited by Melvyn C. Goldstein and Matthew T. Kapstein. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

The Tibetan Assimilation of Buddhism: Conversion, Contestation and Memory. Oxford University Press, 2000.

Reason’s Traces: Identity and Interpretation in Indian and Tibetan Buddhist Thought. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2001.

The Presence of Light: Divine Radiance and Religious Experience. University of Chicago Press 2004.


Tibetan Text Editions

The 'Dzam-thang Edition of the Collected Works of Kun-mkhyen Dol-po-pa Shes-rab-rgyal-mtshan. Collected and presented by Matthew Kapstein. 10 vols. in Tibetan + 1 vol. introduction and descriptive catalogue in English. New Delhi: Shedrup Books and Konchhog Lhadrepa, 1992/3.

Selected Historical and Doctrinal Writings of 'Dzam-thang Mkhan-po Blo-gros-grags-pa. Collected and presented by Matthew Kapstein. 2 vols. in Tibetan with English introductions. Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1993.

Collected Writings of Glag-bla Bsod-nams-chos-’grub, 5 vols. in Tibetan with English introductions. Collected and presented by Matthew Kapstein. Delhi: Konchhog Lhadrepa, 1997.


Articles and Book Chapters

1980    “The Shangs-pa bKa'-brgyud: an unknown school of Tibetan Buddhism”. In Studies in Honor of Hugh Richardson, ed. Michael Aris and Aung San Suu Kyi. Warminster: Aris and Phillips, pp. 138-144.

1985    “Religious Syncretism in 13th Century Tibet: The Limitless Ocean Cycle”. In Soundings in Tibetan Civilization, ed. Barbara N. Aziz and M. Kapstein, op. cit., pp. 358‑ 371.

1986a  “Collins, Parfit and the Problem of Personal Identity in Two Traditions”. In Philosophy East and West, tome XXXVI, 3, pp. 289-298.

1986b  “A Bibliography of George Berkeley 1980-1985”. In Essays on the Philosophy of George Berkeley, ed. Ernest Sosa. Dordrecht: Reidel, pp. 243-259.

1988a  “Mereological Considerations in Vasubandhu's ‘Proof of Idealism’”. In Idealistic Studies tome XVIII, 1, pp. 32-54.

1988b  “Mi-pham's Theory of Interpretation”. In Buddhist Hermeneutics, ed. Donald Lopez.  Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, pp. 149-174.

1989a  “The Purificatory Gem and its Cleansing: A Late Tibetan Polemical Discussion of Apocryphal Texts”. In History of Religions, tome 28, 3, pp. 217-244.

1989b  “Indra’s Search for the Self and the Beginnings of Philosophical Perplexity in India”. In Religious Studies, tome 24, pp. 239-256.

1989c  “Śāntarakṣita on the Fallacies of Personalistic Vitalism”. In Journal of Indian Philosophy, tome 17, pp. 43-59.

1992a  “Remarks on the Maṇi-bka'-'bum and the Cult of Avalokiteśvara in Tibet”. In Tibetan Buddhism: Reason and Revelation, ed. Ronald Davidson and Steven Goodman. Albany: State University of New York Press, pp. 79-93.

1992b  “The Illusion of Spiritual Progress”. In Paths to Liberation, ed. Robert Buswell and Robert Gimello. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, pp. 193-224.

1992c  “The Amnesic Monarch and the Five Mnemic Men”. In In the Mirror of Memory, ed. Janet Gyatso. Albany: State University of New York Press, pp. 239-269.

1992d  “Samantabhadra and Rudra: Innate Enlightenment and Radical Evil in Tibetan Rnying-ma-pa Buddhism”. In Discourse and Practice, ed. Frank E. Reynolds and David Tracy.  Albany: State University of New York Press, pp. 51-82.

1992e  “The Trouble with Truth: Heidegger on Aletheia, Buddhist Thinkers on Satya”. In Journal of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research, tome IX, 2, pp. 69-85.

1994    “Schopenhauer’s Shakti”. In Heinrich Zimmer: Coming into his own, ed. Margaret Case. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 105-118.

1995a  “gDams-ngag: Tibetan Technologies of the Self”. In Tibetan Literature: Studies in Genre, ed. Roger Jackson and José Cabezón. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications.

1995b “Weaving the World: The Ritual Art of the Paṭa in Pāla Buddhism and Its Legacy in Tibet”. In History of Religions, tome 34, 3, pp. 241-262.

1995c  “Three Questions about the Concept of Universal Responsibility”. Universal Responsibility: A Collection of Essays to Honour Tenzin Gyatso, the XIVth Dalai Lama, ed. Ramesh Chandra Tiwari and Krishna Nath. New Delhi.

1995d  “The Prayer of the Primordial Buddha”. In Buddhism in Practice, ed. Donald Lopez.  Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 80-87

1997a  “The Royal Way of Supreme Compassion”. In Tibetan Religions in Practice, ed. Donald Lopez. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 69-76.

1997b  “The Guide to the Crystal Peak: A Pilgrim’s Handbook”. In Tibetan Religions in Practice, ed. Donald Lopez. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 103-119.

1997c  “The Journey to the Golden Mountain”. In Tibetan Religions in Practice, ed. Donald Lopez. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 178-187.

1997d  “The Sermon of an Itinerant Saint”. In Tibetan Religions in Practice, ed. Donald Lopez. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 355-368.

1997e  “Turning Back Gossip: A Village Ritual of Exorcism”. In Tibetan Religions in Practice, ed. Donald Lopez. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 527-537.

1997f   “From Dol-po-pa to ’Ba’-mda’ Dge-legs: Three Jo-nang-pa Masters on the Interpretation of Prajñāpāramitā”. In Tibetan Studies: Proceedings of the Seventh Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, ed. Ernst Steinkellner et al. Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences, vol. 1,  pp. 457-475.

1997g  “Buddhist Perspectives on Ontological Truth”. In A Companion to World Philosophies, ed. Eliot Deutsch and Ron Bontekoe. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, pp. 420-433.

1998a  “A Tibetan Festival of Rebirth Reborn: The 1992 Revival of the Drigung Powa Chenmo”. In Buddhism in Contemporary Tibet: Religious Revival and Cultural Identity, ed. Melvyn C. Goldstein and Matthew T. Kapstein. Berkeley: University of California Press, pp.

1998b  “Concluding Essay”. In Buddhism in Contemporary Tibet: Religious Revival and Cultural Identity, ed. Melvyn C. Goldstein and Matthew T. Kapstein. Berkeley: University of California Press.

1999    “Don-grub-rgyal: The Making of a Modern Hero,” in Lungta, vol. 12. Amnye Machen Research Institute, Dharamsala.

2000a  “King Kuñji’s Banquet”. In Tantric Religions in Practice, ed. David White. Princeton University Press.

2000b  “We Are All Gzhan stong pas”. In Journal of Buddhist Ethics, vol. 7, pp. 105-125.

2001    “A Dunhuang Tibetan Summary of the Transformation Text on Mulian Saving His Mother from Hell,” in Hao Chunwen and Zhu Bian, eds., Dunhuang wenxian lunji (Shenyang: Liaoning Renmin Chubanshe), pp. 235-247.

2002    “The Sprul-sku’s Miserable Lot: Critical Voices from Eastern Tibet”. In Proceedings of the Ninth Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies: Amdo Studies, ed. Toni Huber. Brill, pp. 99-111.

2003    “The Indian Literary Identity in Tibet”. In Literary Cultures in History: Perspectives from South Asia, ed. Sheldon Pollock. Berkeley: University of California Press, pp. 747-802.

2004a  “Pure Land Buddhism in Tibet?” In Approaching the Land of Bliss: Religious Praxis in the Cult of Amitabha (Studies in East Asian Buddhism, 17), ed. Richard Payne and Kenneth Tanaka. University of Hawai’i Press, pp. 16-41.

2004b  “A Thorn in the Dragon’s Side: Tibetan Buddhist Culture in China”. In Governing China’s Multi-ethnic Frontier, ed. Morris Rossabi. University of Washington Press, pp. 230-269.

2004c  “The Strange Death of Pema the Demon-Tamer”. In The Presence of Light, ed. Matthew T. Kapstein.

2004d  “The Experience of Light and the Construction of Religious Experience”. In The Presence of Light, ed. Matthew T. Kapstein.

2004e  “Le refus bouddhiste du théisme”. In Diogène 205 (janvier-mars 2004): 69-75. English version: “The Buddhist Refusal of Theism.”

2004f  “Chronological Conundrums” In JIATS.

2004g  “The Treaty Temple of De ga g.Yu tshal: Iconography and Identification.” In Essays on the International Conference on Tibetan Archeology and Art, ed. Huo Wei. Chengdu: Sichuan Renmin Chubanshe, 2004, pp. 98-127.


Reference and Popular Articles

“Two Songs by Tulshig Rinpoche” in H.R. Downs, Rhythms of a Himalayan Village (New York: Harper and Row, 1979), pp. 21 & 169‑ 70.

“Sherpas: Religion and the Printed Word,” in Cultural Survival Quarterly, vol. 7/3 (Autumn 1983): 42-44. 

“A Bibliography of George Berkeley 1980-1985.” In Ernest Sosa, ed., Essays on the Philosophy of George Berkeley (Dordrecht: Reidel, 1986), pp. 243-259.

(In collaboration with Alexander Berzin and Sherpa Tulku:) “The Four-Themed Precious Garland of Longchen Rabjampa,” in Stephen Batchelor, ed., The Jewel in the Lotus: A Guide to the Buddhist Traditions of Tibet (London: Wisdom, 1987), pp. 137-69.

In Who's Who in Religion (London: Macmillan, 1991): “Abhayâkaragupta,” “Bdud-'joms Rinpoche,” “Jenghiz Khan,” “Karmapa I-XVI,” “Khyung-po Rnal-'byor,” “Klong-chen Rab-'byams-pa,” “Kong-sprul Rin-po-che,” “Padmasambhava,” “Pan-chen Bla-ma I-VII,” “Saraha.”

“Tibetan Studies in the People's Republic of China.” China Exchange News, vol. 19, nos. 3-4 (1991): 15-19.

In The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, ed., Alex Preminger and T. V. F. Brogan (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993): “Tibetan Poetry” in collaboration with Tulku Thondup Rinpoche).

“Tibetan Buddhism,” Encyclopedia Britannica.

“Translations from the Tibetan,” in Longman's Anthology of World Literature in Six Volumes. Edited by David Damrosch et al. New York: Longman. 2002.

The Prayer of Great Power. Thimphu, Bhutan: The Center for Bhutan Studies, 2003. 18 pp.

“Qu’est-ce que la philosophie bouddhique?” In Le Nouvelle Observateur, hors-série 50, avril-juin 2003, pp. 4-7.

“Introduction” to The Buddhism Omnibus. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2003.

In the Encyclopedia of Religion, 2nd edition (Macmillan 2004): “Buddhism: Buddhism in Tibet,” “Buddhism, Schools of: Tantric Ritual Schools [further considerations],” “Buddhism, Schools of: Tibetan and Mongolian Buddhism,”  “Padmasambhava,” “Rnying-ma-pa School,” “Sakya Pandita.”



Reviews Include:

Of The Rain of Wisdom, in Journal of the Tibet Society 4 (1984): 78-82.

Of J. Hopkins, Meditation on Emptiness, in Philosophy East and West XXXVI/1 (1986): 68-71.

Of R. Thurman, Tsong Kha-pa's Speech of Gold, in Philosophy East and West XXXVI/2 (1986): 184-87.

Of The Collected Works of A. Csoma de Körös, in Journal of Oriental Studies, vol. 23/1 (1988): 137-39.

Of Paul Griffiths, On Being Mindless, in Journal of Religion (April 1988).

Of L. Lhalungpa, trans., Mahâmudrâ: The Quintessence of Mind and Meditation, in The Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, 13/1 (1990): 101-14.

“Three Recent Publications on Artwork from the Tibetan Collections of Europe,” in Himalayan Research Bulletin X(1) 1990: 33-36.

Of Andrew Tuck, Comparative Philosophy and the Philosophy of Scholarship, in Journal of Religion (1992).

Of Reginald Ray, Buddhist Saints in India, in The Journal of Religion (1996).

Of Stephen Batchelor, The Awakening of the West, in Asian Culture.

Of Donald Lopez, Prisoners of Shangri-la, in Journal of Asian Studies.

Of Toni Huber, The Cult of Pure Crystal Mountain, in Journal of Asian Studies.

Of Ben-Ami Scharfstein, A Comparative History of World Philosophy, in Journal of Religion.

Of Peter Harvey, An Introduction to Buddhist Ethics, in Ethics 113/1 (Oct. 2002): 161-163.

Of Gyurme Dorje, Tibetan Elemental Divination Paintings: Illuminated Manuscripts from The White Beryl of Sangs-rgyas-rgya-mtsho. In Journal of Asian Studies.

Of Tadeusz Skorupski, The Buddhist Forum, Volume VI.  In Bulletin of the London School of Oriental and African Studies.

Of Elizabeth English, Vajrayoginī: Her Visualizations, Rituals, and Forms.  In Journal of Religion.


Publications of the SUNY Buddhist Studies Series under MTK’s editorship, 1990-2000

1992a. Kenneth Kraft, ed. Inner Peace, World Peace: Essays on Buddhism and Nonviolence.

1992b. Stephen Beyer, The Classical Tibetan Language.

1992c. S.D. Goodman and R.M. Davidson, eds. Tibetan Buddhism: Reason and Revelation.

1992d. Janet Gyatso, ed. In the Mirror of Memory.

1993a. John Ross Carter, On Understanding Buddhists.

1993b. Gareth Sparham, trans., Ocean of Eloquence.

1994a. Matthieu Ricard, et al., trans. The Life of Shabkar: The Autobiography of a Tibetan Yogin.

1994b. Herbert V. Guenther. Wholeness Lost and Wholeness Regained: Forgotten Tales of Individuation from Ancient Tibet.

1994c. Anne Klein, Path to the Middle.

1994d. John P. Keenan, How Master Mou Removes Our Doubts.

1995a. Julian Pas, Visions of Sukhavati.

1995b. Phra Prayudh Payutto, Buddhadhamma: Natural Laws and Values for Life.

1996. Taigen Daniel Leighton, Dogen's Pure Standards for the Zen Community.

1997a. John J. Makransky, Buddhahood Embodied: Sources of Controversy in India and Tibet.

1997b. Georges Dreyfus, Recognizing Reality.

1997c. Galen Amstutz, Interpreting Amida: History and Orientalism in the Study of Pure Land Buddhism.

1998. D. K. Swearer and S. Premchit, The Legend of Queen Cāma.

1999a. Cyrus Stearns, Buddha from Dolpo.

1999b. Joseph D. Parker, Zen Buddhist Landscape Arts of Early Muromachi Japan.

2000a. Dennis Hirota, ed., Toward a Contemporary Understanding of Pure Land Buddhism.

2000b. Todd Lewis, Popular Buddhist Texts from Nepal.

2001a. Richard Kohn, Lord of the Dance: The Mani Rimdu Festival in Nepal and Tibet.

2001b. Ranjini Obeyesekere, Portraits of Buddhist Women.

2002a. Jared Rhoton, Sakya Pandita’s Three Codes.

2002b. Glenn Wallis, A Study of the Mañjuśrīmūlakalpa.

2002c. John Holt, Jacob Kinnard, and Jonathan Walters, eds. Constituting Communities: Theravadin Buddhism and the Religious Cultures of South and Southeast Asia.


THDL Online Material
A Reader of Classical Tibetan, an integrated program for second to fourth year study of classical Tibetan.


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