School of Historical. Philosophical and Religious Studies PhD Candidate Mu-Lung Hsu (Chit Minn) has been awarded a 2020 Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation Dissertation Fellowship in Buddhist Studies to support his dissertation project.
In the 2020-2021 academic year, Mu-Lung will return to Myanmar continuing his field research with Free Funeral Service Societies. Mu-Lung has noted, "I appreciate the support. I would like to thank SHPRS and Center for Asian Research for giving us a vibrant intellectual environment and for helping me develop this dissertation project."
Mu-Lung's research looks at contemporary Buddhist humanitarianism, focusing in particular on Free Funeral Service Societies. These charitable organizations emerged in the late 1990s in response to rising funeral costs and have transformed free funeral services from a defiling activity into a popular merit-making practice. They have since grown into a nation-wide grassroots network dedicated to a variety of social services, emergency aid, and disaster relief for the welfare of others (Pali: parahita) "without discrimination of race and religion". Amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic, Free Funeral Service Societies have been active in promoting public awareness of COVID-19, facilitating donations of medical supplies to local clinics and hospitals, and cleaning and disinfection for public spaces.