Alexander von Rospatt

  • B.A. School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London), 1985
  • M.A., Ph.D and Habilitation, all University of Hamburg, 1988, 1993 and 2001 respectively
(510) 642-1610
Address & Office Hours: 

347B Dwinelle Hall, Fall 2013: M 4-5pm, F 2-3pm and by appointment)

Curriculum Vitae: 

Alexander von Rospatt is Professor for Buddhist and South Asian Studies, and director of the Group in Buddhist Studies. He specializes in the doctrinal history of Indian Buddhism, and in Newar Buddhism, the only Indic Mahayana tradition that continues to persist in its original South Asian setting (in the Kathmandu Valley) right to the present. His first book (which won the prestigious Waldschmidt Prize and is forthcoming as a US reprint in 2013) sets forth the development and early history of the Buddhist doctrine of momentariness. His new book "The Svayambhu Caitya and its Renovations" deals with the historical renovations of the Svayambhū Stupa of Kathmandu. Based on Newar manuscripts and several years of fieldwork in Nepal, he reconstructs the ritual history of these renovations and their social contexts. Prof. von Rospatt is a leading authority on Newar Buddhism, and this book complements numerous essays he authored on various aspects of this tradition, including its narrative literature, and its rituals and their origins and evolution. He currently has two related monographs under preparation, one dealing with the mural paintings and other visual depictions of the Svayambhupurana, the other with the life-cycle rituals of old age as observed among Newars and other South Asian communities. In addition he is directing a research project dedicated to the historical study of colophons and other paratexts found in Medieval Nepalese Buddhist Manuscripts.

Von Rospatt has a distinguished university career. In addition to Berkeley and his tenure as assistant professor at the University of Leipzig, he taught as visiting professor at the Universities of Oxford, Vienna and Munich, and recently has been appointed for 2014 as visiting professor at the International College for Postgraduate Buddhist Studies at Tokyo. He was offered the chair of Indology at Leipzig University in 2003, but declined in favor of accepting his appointment at UC Berkeley in summer 2003. In 2006 he was offered the chair of Indology and Buddhist Studies at Hamburg University, which he likewise declined.

Before his appointment as director of the Group in Buddhist Studies, Professor von Rospatt chaired the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies. Together with his colleague Prof. Robert Sharf, he was also instrumental in rebuilding  the graduate program in Buddhist Studies, which had been dormant for several years when he joined Berkeley. This included the successful fundraising for a position in Tibetan Buddhism, now occupied by Prof. Jacob Dalton.