Universiteit Leiden

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Jonathan Silk

Professor of Buddhist Studies

Prof.dr. J.A. Silk
+31 71 527 2510

Jonathan Silk is Professor of Buddhist Studies at the Leiden University Institute for Area Studies. He specializes in Buddhism in its Asian contexts, primarily from a historical point of view. He has a special interest in Buddhist scriptures.

More information about Jonathan Silk

Fields of interest

  • Buddhist studies
  • Indian studies
  • Tibetan studies
  • Chinese studies


Silk’s scientific orientation on Buddhism is very broad, in time as well as geographically: his interest covers the oldest primary sources and the rise of Buddhist communities all over Asia, but he is equally interested in the spread of Buddhism throughout Asia. Silk reads Sanskrit, Pāli, , Classic Tibetan, Classic Chinese, and Japanese. He primarily studies Indian Buddhist scriptures, and their translations in Tibetan and Chinese.

Teaching activities and supervision

Silk directs the research MA programs in Asia and the Middle east, and runs the ERC-funded Advanced Project called Open Philology.

Curriculum Vitae

Silk (1960) studied East Asian Studies at the Oberlin College in Ohio and subsequently Buddhist Studies at the University of Michigan. At the latter university he obtained his PhD in 1994 with the thesis: The Origins and Early History of the Mahāratnakūţa Tradition of Mahāyāna Buddhism, With a Study of the Ratnarāśisūtra and Related Materials.

During his studies, Silk spent several years in Japan. After his PhD, he became Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Grinnell College in Iowa and in 1995 at the Department of Comparative Religion of the Western Michigan University. From 1998 until 2002 he taught in the Department of Religious Studies at Yale University, and from 2002 in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Since 2007 he has been Professor in the study of Buddhism at Leiden. In 2010 he was awarded a VICI grant from the NWO (Dutch National Science Foundation) for project: “Buddhism and Social Justice.” In 2016 he was elected as a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen [KNAW]).

Grants and awards

ERC Advanced Grant. Member of the Netherlands Royal Academy.

Professor of Buddhist Studies

  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Leiden Institute for Area Studies
  • SAS India en Tibet



  • Brill Publishers Editor, Brills Encyclopedia of Buddhism
  • Brill Publishers English Check, japanese Association of Indian and Buddhist Studies
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