UCLA currently houses one of the top three programs in Buddhist Studies in the United States, both in terms of faculty quality and size and in breadth of coverage.
The Buddhist Studies program at UCLA has a long and distinguished history. Ensho Ashikaga, one of the cofounders of Asian Studies at UCLA in 1948, was a specialist in Japanese and Tibetan Buddhism. Kenneth Ch'en, the preeminent scholar of Chinese Buddhism of the last generation (and author of the classic Buddhism in China: A Historical Survey), taught at UCLA in the 1960s and '70s.
Today, UCLA has more faculty dedicated to Buddhist Studies than any other university in the Western world, including four specialists in Buddhist Studies in the Department of Asian Languages & Cultures (ALC), as well as affiliated faculty with research interests in Buddhist Studies in the ALC, Art History, Anthropology, History, and Psychiatry departments.
The UCLA Center for Buddhist Studies was jointly founded by the Humanities and International Institute divisions of the UCLA College in 2000. As ties between America and Asia become increasingly important economically, culturally and socially, and as immigrants from East, South and Southeast Asia, many of whom are practicing Buddhists, come to rival other minorities in size and influence in California in particular, the need has grown for specialists with a deep understanding of all facets of Buddhism--its beliefs, its history, and its importance in the contemporary world. The Center for Buddhist Studies was established to contribute to that understanding. The Center's mission is to educate American academe and the broader Buddhist community about Buddhist religion and culture in all its diversity. The Center is primarily research-oriented and sponsors regular colloquia, symposia, workshops, and conferences in Buddhist studies. Such events provide a means to present new and innovative research in Buddhist Studies to our faculty and students. These meetings enhance the scholarly life of the Buddhist specialists, students and other interested persons here on campus and in the community at large.
One of the Center's major research achievements to date has been the compilation of the comprehensive Encyclopedia of Buddhism, a two-volume work with 450 entries written by 250 contributors from around the world, which was published by Macmillan Reference in 2004. The first truly comprehensive encyclopedia of Buddhism to be published in a Western language, the book has received wide recognition, including being named a 2004 Choice Outstanding Academic Title and listed as an Outstanding Reference Source for 2005 by the Reference and User Services Association of the American Library Association. All of the faculty in Buddhist Studies, and many of our graduate students and past graduates, contributed to the project. These various activities foster the intellectual vitality of Buddhist Studies as a field and promote national and international visibility for UCLA's programs.
UCLA has extensive library collections relevant to the study of Buddhism. The University's Richard C. Rudolph East Asian Library holds a collection of scholarly materials on Japanese Buddhism that is ranked second in the country, behind only the massive collection of the Library of Congress, as well as substantial collections in Chinese and Korean. The University's Young Research Library also maintains extensive holdings of scholarly books on Indian and Tibetan Buddhism. Moreover, as a campus of the University of California, UCLA also offers immediate access to the entire library holdings of the entire UC system, effectively making available to UCLA students and faculty one of the best academic libraries anywhere in the world.