An interview with
Michael Torsten Much
Position & Affiliation: Assistant Professor at the Department for Indian, Buddhist and Tibetan Studies, University of Vienna
Date: April 12, 2019 in Vienna, Austria
Interviewed by: Anna Sehnalova
Transcript by: Rachael Griffiths
Cite this archive
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Oral History of Tibetan Studies project.
List of Acronyms: MTM= Michael Torsten Much, IN= Interviewer
Background and education
IN: We are really pleased and honoured that we can interview you.
MTM: Thank you for asking me to participate. So, where to begin? My family background?
I was born and grew up in Vienna. I went to school in Vienna and studied in Vienna. My family background has two sides; on my mother’s side the family is from Moravia, from a small place in Moravia. In fact, it’s in the valley of the Morava, a place that’s called Bystřice pod Hostýnem. My grandparents were migrants who came to Vienna to look for jobs.
On my father’s side, the family lived in and near Vienna for a long time, for hundreds of years, in fact. I can trace back this family to the 30 years’ war. On this side, I’m only the fifth generation in Vienna. Notable (for a number of reasons) ancestors include the historian and archaeologist, Matthäus Much, and the University professor of German Studies, Rudolf Much.
So, I went to primary school in Vienna, and I went to gymnasium in Vienna. Then I came to the university in 1973. This was the year Erich Frauwallner died, so, regrettably, I just missed him. I started to study Philosophy and Musicology; these were my first studies. Then I changed from Western Philosophy to Indian Philosophy, so to say. I also did Slavistics but ended up in History of Art and did my final exams in History of Art with Hermann Fillitz.
During my studies of Philosophy, I discovered the department of Indology and the newly established department of Tibetan and Buddhist Studies. I remember very well the first time I came to the department of Indology and saw Helmut Tauscher. It is one of these moments that has remained in my memory very vividly. Helmut Tauscher, he had one of these Greek shoulder bags, which were very much in fashion at that time, a book was peeking out of his bag. It was Howl by Allen Ginsberg. And I thought, if people like Ginsberg here it is a good place. So, Helmut is partly responsible for me being hooked.
And then I met Ernst Steinkellner and somehow got interested in Buddhist Studies. My interests had several aspects; one was Buddhism, the history of Buddhism, and so on and so forth. The other thing was Sanskrit. Before I came to the university, I had no idea of Sanskrit. I had learnt Latin in school, but I was at a gymnasium which was science oriented. We had a lot of Math, Physics, Chemistry, and so on, but not so much Humanities. I loved Sanskrit from the start. And the other thing I had no idea about, I had not thought about before I came to the department of Indology and Tibetan and Buddhist Studies, is the problem of old texts; how is it that we have them? Where do they come from? How are they transmitted? and so on and so forth. And so, these [topics] somehow got me attracted.
And then I must say, I was impressed by Steinkellner. I found him very interesting, and I enjoyed studying with him very much. So, Steinkellner was a big influence. The second one, I must mention her, was Hertha Krick, who at that time was an assistant at the department of Indology. My first-year Sanskrit teacher was Roque Mesquita Then in my second year, it so happened, I was the only student of Hertha Krick, with whom I read the Kālidāsa at that time. First, I had no idea where to begin and where to end and what this was all about. But Hertha Krick, she was really a wonderful person and a very good teacher. Then of course there was Steinkellner. Hertha Krick and Steinkellner, they were my Sanskrit teachers.
This was in 1975. In 1975, I changed from Philosophy to Buddhist and Tibetan Studies. At the time, the institute was very, very small. There was Steinkellner, Geshe Lobsang Dargyay was assistant, and the second assistant was Genia Gazda, but she left, I think, in 1975. No, she still was there. And Tauscher, he got this job on a resarch project ordering and cataloguing the estate of Erich Frauwallner. It was in 1977 that Geshe Lobsang Dargyay left, and Helmut Tauscher got his assistant position, and I got onto the research project. This was in 1977. And in 1979 I got a contract with the university and as a so-called Studienassistent, a student assistant, an assistant that is still a student. So, I started here in 1979 at the university and I earned my PhD in 1983. That is, one or two years after Tauscher, if I remember correctly.
At that time, the department was in the Maria-Theresien-Straße, top floor. There were only three rooms and the kitchen; one room was for lectures, one room was Steinkellner’s room, and the third one was where Tauscher and I sat. And I don’t remember when, but at a certain point of time, there was an itinerant librarian who visited us from time to time to catalogue our library books. And later, I couldn’t say when it was, beginning of the 1980s I think, there was a secretary position, an administrative position. So, it was a very, very small place. There was no extra room for the library or a seminar room, all the rooms were at the same time library rooms.
In 1977, this was important, Steinkellner, accompanied by Tauscher and me, established the Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde. Since then, the series had a number of editors. First it was Steinkellner alone, then it was Steinkellner and Tauscher, later Helmut Krasser too was editor, and Birgit Kellner, and Klaus-Dieter Mathes, and now also myself. Now we’re planning volume 96. This is quite a successful thing. Yes, not so bad, almost 100 volumes now.
Early interests in Musicology and Philosophy
IN: What made you interested in Musicology and Philosophy?
MTM: These are two things I am interested in. Before I really focused on my PhD, I played a lot of music. In fact, at a certain point in time, I wanted to be a professional musician. As a child I had piano lessons for many years, and then changed to the flute. I did not make it to the Academy of Music, but for years I played flute, saxophone, and guitar in various obscure jazz and rock bands until the time I had to finish my PhD. And in addition to that, for a while I also studied Musicology.
And Philosophy, I don’t know, I don’t know what to say. I was always interested in literature and Philosophy, Religion, and so on. And one influence, maybe, I thought of, somehow in retrospective, was my religion teacher at gymnasium. His name was Edgar Roth, and he was an extremely nice person. He was the Protestant teacher in an otherwise Catholic School. And we had very interesting classes, during all of the eight years of my gymnasium because what we did most of the time was that six, seven, eight people sat around the table reading the Bible. In fact, this is exactly the thing that we still do. It is not the Christian Bible but it’s Buddhist texts. But still, we sit in a small group around the table and very slowly read these texts. In fact, this is what happened in gymnasium in Bible Studies. So, there was a bit of learning of the Catechism, Luther’s Catechism by heart. And there was church history. But the main bulk was reading the Bible; old testament, new testament with oral commentary from the teacher. It was interesting. Not that I made the connection when I started out in Buddhist Studies but with hindsight one can’t help to notice the similarity.
IN: What made you interested in Buddhism and Indian Philosophy?
MTM: Interesting question. I can’t remember, really. I would say it was just sheer, sheer curiosity. I think also, the feeling that, at that time, the churches in Europe or the churches in the West got very cosy, or too cosy, with people in power. So, it was just an attempt to look elsewhere, at how things were in other places. And there was a bit of a fashion for India at the time. The other thing, maybe it was interesting to think back to that time, what brought me there was the literature of the American Beat authors. Firstly Jack Kerouac. I read Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and The Dharma Bums, and I wanted to know more about this and then I read Alan Watts and the poetry of Gary Snyder. I didn’t like [Allen] Ginsberg so much but I liked, still like, Gary Snyder. So this also nudged me towards India and Buddhist Studies.
IN: Were there some teachers of Buddhism, I mean of Buddhism as a practice and religion, teachers from Asia, perhaps, present in Vienna at that time?
MTM: I don’t remember. For me, my teacher was Lobsang Dargyay. He was a lama, a guru in his own right. But I never became a Buddhist, I never converted to Buddhism. But my Buddhist teacher in this sense in the beginning was Lobsang Dargyay, of course. I must also mention Kalu Rinpoche, who came to Austria, to Scheibbs, and who was, for me, a very impressive person. Another important influence for me was Dooboom Tulku, who for some years was the director of the Tibet House and with him I had some interesting conversations. But this was it. I never went into this Buddhist scene; I never was a member of a Buddhist group.
I knew a lot of those people, of course. I always knew somebody like Geshe Lobsang Dargyay and later I would say it was the Japanese colleagues. Also from my early days it was Bhante Seelawansa who was a student at the university when I was a student. You know Bhante Seelawansa? He is now the head of the Theravada community in Austria. He got his PhD at the university in the 1970s, I think, or around the 1980s, something like that.
So, it was a mixed heritage. First it was Tibetan, then Japanese, and then Theravada.
Studying at the University of Vienna, memories of teachers including Lobsang Dargyay and Uray Géza
IN: How did you study at university? What did your classes look like? and who were your teachers?
MTM: So, my most important teacher was, of course, Steinkellner, who I can’t praise too much. Steinkellner, in that respect, he becomes more and more of a guru. Steinkellner was very, very nice. He was very, very clever and well read. It was incredible. Steinkellner somehow knew everything, I thought at the time. In many ways I still think so. His classes were extremely interesting.
Other teachers included Hertha Krick, whom I mentioned, and Bettina Bäumer. Of course, there was Geshe Lobsang Dargyay who taught spoken Tibetan, modern Tibetan, at the university. In Tibetan Studies, maybe my most important teacher was Uray Géza who came here as a guest teacher and was teaching us about Tibetan History. He really concentrated on History, he was a historian. I remember his classes very well.
I would like to mention that there was a very nice group of students. There was Helmut Tauscher and Gudrun Bühnemann, who was the first student who got their PhD with Steinkellner, she was a bit better off because she had a German stipend, whereas Tauscher and I always worked. Tauscher, I think, he drove cars. I was a janitor, a housekeeper, and I had various odd jobs before I got a job at the University of Vienna. Ja, so there was Gudrun Bühnemann and Helmut Tauscher, Andrea Leick and Michael Egger who later pursued other interests. In the Indology department there was Ernst Prets and Syvia Stark. This was a very nice group and we studied together, wrote papers together. And, of course, Krasser came a bit later, he was also part of the group.
I as well took a lot of seminars with Gerhard Oberhammer, but I could not really warm up to his approach. I preferred the philology and epistemology of Ernst Steinkellner.
IN: How do you remember Lobsang Dargyay and Uray Géza as people? and as teachers?
MTM: Lobsang Dargyay, he was an extremely gentle person. Very discreet, very nice, very, very patient. Ja, so he would teach us spoken Tibetan and he also wrote a manuscript with words and phrases for his classes. It was used for years. There should also be some recordings where he reads his book. I don’t know, maybe I still have a copy of his manuscript. It was a book, almost. It was photocopied at that time, of course. There were, I don’t know, 20, 25 lessons, something like that. That is, a programme for a whole year. He was a very, very nice man. He used to make Tibetan tea in the kitchen of the institute with an electric hand mixer and Austrian dairy butter.
Uray Géza was a completely different person. When he came here, he was a chain smoker.
When he gave lessons, he smoked one cigarette after the other. He was very knowledgeable in his field, in History. I think it was difficult for him in Vienna because in Hungary he used to work at the Academy of Science and started to teach only in Vienna, so I think he didn’t have any experience of teaching. The other thing was, maybe for him there was a little culture shock, coming from Communist Budapest to Vienna; to some long-haired, unruly students. But, in fact, we got along very well. We liked him and his wife, and we got along very well. He was an interesting man; he could talk and talk and talk for hours on end about history. To all our regret, he met with a premature death. He was not so old. We just in time managed to produce a festschrift for him. In fact, this was a very sad occasion. He was already bed-ridden. We went to visit him to present him with his festschrift, he was lying in bed. David Jackson was there [too] and he was reading out the table of contents to Géza. I think Géza was very pleased, but this was just a short time before he died.
After him, after Géza, his wife, Katalin Uray-Kőhalmi taught at the department. Her field was a different field to Géza’s but she also taught for many years at the department here. So, there was Uray Géza, as a guest professor, and a number of others like Andras Róna-Tas from Hungary and Wang Yao from China (we are still talking here of the earlier days of the department).
IN: What did you do in classes? Read texts?
MTM: Most of the time we read texts, lectures were rare. Steinkellner gave lectures on “Buddhism, it’s essence and development”, things like that, and also lectures on Tibetan history. But most of the classes were reading classes. Language classes and reading classes. The same in the department of Indology. Almost all classes were reading classes and lectures were rare. Uray Géza lectured on Tibetan history but also read the Old Tibetan Annals in class.
IN: What was the general atmosphere at the university at that time? How do you remember academia in the 1970s?
MTM: I remember there were the last years of leftish academia, leftish activity in Vienna. There still were a lot of various Communist groups; Marxists, Leninists, Trotskyists. When I was a student, you could not enter the university without being handed some flyers for this and that. Yes, I remember that. At some point, they vanished completely.
There was a lively atmosphere. It was good to study, it was good fun, it was nice. University was free, that is, free of charge, you just had to pay a small fee to the student’s union. We had this very nice group of friends. Nobody had money but somehow there was always money to meet for a glass of wine or two, somehow this was always possible. It was good times. I would say I had a very, very nice time as a student. I was lucky with my teachers, friends, and colleagues.
IN: What did you like about Buddhist Philosophy?
MTM: I thought it was interesting to develop a system of thought without an ego. These theories that there is no essence nowhere, that the only essence is essence-less, I found these fascinating. I think this was somehow the main point. The other was the sheer strangeness of it. The Madhyamaka which, I think, was too strange for me early on. This is why, I looked more at the epistemological and logical side. I thought this was something that was a bit more concrete. And this also interested me, I must say. These logical theories interested me for some time. So, this whole Buddhist epistemology and later one, when I learnt more about it, these theories about language that belonged to the Buddhist tradition, I found this very interesting. In fact, I stayed always more on the Buddhist side and the Sanskrit side, and not so much in Tibetan Studies. I would say my main interest was Indian Buddhism and Sanskrit, but I always ended up with the Tibetologists. I also taught a lot of Tibetan in Vienna, later also in Prague.
IN: Could you say something about your PhD? How did you decide the topic?
MTM: This was a special interest that developed studying under Steinkellner, when the philosopher Dharmakīrti for me, somehow, came into focus. As one proceeds from one interesting thing to another. I thought how vast this literature is and how little of it has been edited and translated. So, if you just think of two big names in Buddhist epistemology — Dignāga and Dharmakīrti, still after 40 years now, a lot of studies have appeared and a lot of research has been done, but still there are no complete editions, complete translations of the works of these two philosophers. So, reading and learning about Dharmakīrti with Steinkellner got me interested and then it was Steinkellner’s proposition, asking me if I wanted to take up the Vādanyāyanā and I found the topic interesting, a book on debate and the rules of debate. This was my first major undertaking.
Teaching at the University of Vienna
IN: And after your PhD? How was it starting to work at the university?
MTM: The difference was not so big for me because I’d already worked at the university as a studying assistant for many years, when we were just a small group. So Steinkellner, he was boss, Tauscher took care of the administration and the finances, and I took care of the library. I ordered and catalogued the books.
Then, when I had my PhD, I started to teach. This was a big change, of course. I was very afraid of teaching. To my surprise, I found that it went quite well. I never thought that I would have to teach if I stayed on at the university, but of course you have to. I found that I quite liked it, it was not a big difficulty. But when I started, I was very excited. I remember the first time I stood in front of a small class; I was very nervous.
IN: How old were you at that time?
MTM: When I got my PhD, I was 28. Then I started to teach.
IN: What did you teach? and how did you teach?
MTM: My first classes were Tibetan classes. The first class I taught was Tibetan language. I taught Classical Tibetan — my spoken Tibetan was always very poor — on the basis of Hahns’ book. This was my first teaching duty, an introduction to Classical Tibetan.
Throughout my teaching career I taught Tibetan classes and Sanskrit classes, but I haven’t given many courses of lectures. More and more I concentrated on reading texts in class, of which we have a Sanskrit version and a Tibetan version. So, for example, if it was in the curriculum of a Tibetan class, I would read a Tibetan text from the Tengyur, for which we also have the Sanskrit original. We would read the Tibetan but also go back to the Sanskrit and I’d point out how the Tibetans had translated the Sanskrit, or the other way around if it was a Sanskrit class.
This semester, for example, we read the Abhidharmakośa. We read the Sanskrit text, but also the Tibetan translation with it. Then I had classes on Buddhist Philosophy and classes on the pramāṇa-tradition of the Dignāga-Dharmakīrti tradition. Quite often I read Atiśa in class, Bodhipathapradīpa in Tibetan, Abhidharmakośa, pieces of Dharmakīrti, things like that. Dharmakīrti is difficult. For me, Dharmakīrti was an exceptional figure, in his thought and also in his writing. His Sanskrit is just plain crazy. You know that some people say that his Sanskrit was so bad that he couldn’t do better. I think it’s the other way round. I think he had some kind of literary agenda, he wanted to write highbrow and interesting Sanskrit, not the plain Sanskrit. It makes it very difficult reading.
IN: What else do you like about Dharmakīrti?
MTM: His theories on language and what he wrote about language, this I find extremely interesting. That he took this topic developed by Dignāga, that words refer by exclusion, and tried to describe concepts and functions of the human brain, this is a very interesting attempt. Buddhist Philosophers were the forerunners, to have discovered that language functions only by distinction, making distinctions is the main function of language. To keep to this idea and develop it in detail, this is very interesting.
IN: Who are your favourite Philosophers?
MTM: Let’s stay with the studies as this is very clear for me. Apart from Steinkellner, my favourite scholars are [Louis de] La Vallée-Poussin and Étienne Lamotte. When I was a student, when I discovered this kind of literature, it was La Vallée-Poussin and Étienne Lamotte. Their translations and their works for example, Vasubandhu’s Abhidharmakośa and Lamotte’s Vimalakīrtinirdeśa sutra book. These were the people I admired. As for Asian Philosophers, Dharmakīrti is a fascinating figure, Kumārila e.g. And I like the Madhyamakas, I like Nāgārjuna.
University education in the 1970s
IN: What was the study programme called when you were a student? and when you were teaching? Who were your students? How was it focused?
MTM: When I was a student in the 1970s, the system was different from the system today. You had a major and you had a minor. There was no bachelor’s degree, no master’s degree, there was only a PhD programme.
IN: That is interesting. From the beginning to the end, for eight years or more?
MTM: Yes, it took me eight years, including what I read before going for Tibetan and Buddhist Studies almost 10 years. All in all, it took me 13 or 14 semesters, something like that. It would take something like four or five years of studies and three or four years of PhD work. So, in total it could take seven, eight, or 10 years.
And interestingly, when I entered university there was no study programme in that sense. I think at that time it just said that you had to be a registered student at the university for some years, I think it was four years, and your PhD work had to be approved. This was it. There were no more rules and regulations apart from that. When your PhD thesis was accepted, you were admitted to take the final exams. At that time there were five; two from your major, one from your minor, and two from Philosophy.
IN: And that was obligatory for everyone in Humanities?
MTM: Yes, exactly. You had to take these exams in the course of 48 hours, which was the most difficult part because you had to get five people to meet you over the course of two days. So, I took my examination with Steinkellner, my second examiner was Oberhammer. In History of Art it was Fillitz, and in Philosophy it was Hans-Dieter Klein and another professor of philosophy. It was very stressful.
I know that some other departments, at that time, had their own internal rule; you have to take this class, these lectures etc. but the general rule was just that you had to be a student for such a such a time, and you had to write a thesis. This was it.
IN: And there were no exams in between?
MTM: Yes. Normally you would take classes and you would pass an exam for every class. So, if you took a class with Uray Géza, at the end of the semester you would take an examination. At that time, you would still get a certificate, a report, for every single exam you took. When I started, it still had to be stamped. You had to buy stamps. It was an A4 sheet, every exam has one sheet, and it had to be stamped. It was not very expensive, it cost two shilling or five shilling, I don’t remember. I don’t remember where you bought the stamps, but you had to buy them in advance and then stick one on each of the report sheets. It was good fun, I liked it. And then you had a whole package of your Scheine, of your reports, and this you could show…. or loose. It was also registered, there was already at that time a computer programme. And you counted hours, of course. For an extraordinary stipend you had to have, I think, 20 hours and better than 1.5 on average.
IN: So, it was a marking system?
MTM: Yes, 1–5; 1 the best and 5 failed.
So you just collected this single examination reports. And at one time the rubber stamps were abolished, but this was pre-pre-pre-Bologna programme.
IN: And that was special stamps for the university?
MTM: No, these were in general use, not extra. There were special stamps to pay these fees, Stempelmarken. So, if you got a certificate you had to put one to show you paid your fees. This was then stamped. This was even before diploma studies and MA studies were introduced. So, I must have been among the last generations who studied in the old seminar PhD system. In Tibetan and Buddhist Studies, the rule was that you had to hand in two, at that time it was called, seminar papers, and two successful seminar papers would qualify you to apply for PhD studies. This was the internal regulations.
IN: So, the students had to prove somehow that they are capable of doing the PhD. If they weren’t capable, they would just leave the university without any certificate?
MTM: Yes, that’s right, exactly. So, somehow it was harder because if you left, you left with empty hands. Now after three years you get your BA, at least. It was not possible back then. In this respect, the new system is better.
IN: And you could choose which classes you wanted to take?
MTM: Yes, in fact this was very, very free.
IN: And you did not write what is now equivalent to a Bachelor’s or Master’s thesis?
MTM: Our equivalent would be these seminar papers, but not in a formal way, no. I wrote two. In my first, I talked about Sanskrit and Tibetan versions of texts. There was someone in India, I forgot his name, who published a so-called reconstruction of Vinītadeva texts. This was my first task, to write a critique of this so-called reconstruction. And the second one was some Dharmakīrti translations.
Development of research interests
IN: How have your interests developed over the course of your studies and research?
MTM: I must say my topics of interest did not develop. They did not develop in this respect as I was already interested in philosophical topics in general, but I never understood them well. I kept somehow within these kinds of things, but the situation did not change. In fact, in some ways it even got worse. It’s all relative. When I was 18, I read philosophical books and thought, “ah, interesting but I can’t understand it, let’s try something else.” I do the same thing today.
Teaching at the University of Vienna (part II)
IN: So, you started teaching when you were young, how did it develop? What were your responsibilities?
MTM: I had various responsibilities. At the old department, I was at the library. First, I was also cataloguing, doing much of the cataloguing, and later I was supervising the cataloguing. For a long time we would work together — Steinkellner would read the catalogues, I would read the catalogues, and according to our means we would order the books, concentrating on Philosophy, Religion, History, and sungbums (gsung ‘bums, collected works). We tried to buy as many sungbums as we could. I also catalogued the books. So, I have a smattering of Japanese and Chinese because I catalogued all those books. This I did for a long time, really.
Later, but this is in the later phase, I became a so-called study program director. This is now my second stint and I’m already in my fifth year. But this is now in the new system in the Bologna world. Organising a curriculum, organising who teaches what, and supervising the progress of the students, and see that exams are registered in the right place. And advise the student, that is also an important part, I think. I have done this for a few years now. Then, of course, publishing the Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde. I was always involved in that. Then I was involved in organising the various conferences; the Csoma de Kőrös conferences, we organised one in Velm, and then the second big Tibetan conference in Seggau [Castle].
Establishing the Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde
IN: Could you tell us more about the publication series and the conferences?
MTM: So, the Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde were established in 1977 as a not-for-profit organisation called Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien (ATBS). It developed into an internationally well-regarded series, and we published a lot of different books from colleagues from all over the world. The first book was the Verse-Index of Dharmakīrti’s Works. The first volumes were written with a typewriter and then printed offset. The first was written by Helmut Tauscher on a typewriter. The second was the thesis of Lobsang Dargyay, his Munich PhD thesis, then we got [Piotr] Klafkowski’s book, I don’t know why really, Gudrun Bühnemann’s book was again her thesis here, and number five was Tauscher’s thesis. Then we had this very interesting book published by Lobsang Dargyay, applying philological methods to Tibetan texts, and written in Tibetan. We still have a Tibetan typewriter somewhere. This is a museum piece by now.
IN: It must have been revolutionary at the time, to publish a Western book in Tibetan?
MTM: Well, I don’t know, this was in 1981. We have some interesting artefacts; the first is a Tibetan typewriter and we have two sets, complete sets, of Tibetan fonts. We have the led types. We got them from the publishing house of Holzhausen. Why they had them in the first place, I don’t know. At some point, they called us and told us that they are throwing out all their old led types. We said you can’t throw them away. They said they can’t transport them, they weigh tons. I do not remember how they finally were transported to the department. Lobsang Dargyay’s book it was written on a Tibetan typewriter. Then this Jitāri (by Gudrun Bühnemann), it was written already on an IBM Ball Head machine. There was Michael Egger, who also worked for the library a lot, in fact in cataloguing, and he was able to do justification on an electric typewriter by counting the steps and half-steps for every line.
Then there were the proceedings of the symposium and the Michael Aris book on Bhutan (Sources for the History of Bhutan). That is also interesting, the book was published in 1986 and today we are coming back to Bhutan; Mathes is going tomorrow to Bhutan, and we have a colleague in the Faculty of Law who is involved in reorganising the law education in Bhutan. All these first publications were typed on a typewriter and then printed by using the offset process. There was also that extra piece of a Mongolian book by [András] Róna-Tas, published in Uyghur Mongolian script.
IN: And your book.
MTM: Yes. This was just an attempt to catalogue the Sanskrit collection of epistemological texts. Yes, at that time, it was important to get an impression of what’s really there. It’s not a complete catalogue, it concerns only the epistemological texts in this collection. I don’t know when the change occurred to manuscripts that were produced using word processing programs and personal computers, but the series still publishes manuscripts that are handed in by the authors. We currently publish two or three volumes a year. With the introduction of computers, publishing got a lot easier. So, this is a type of publishing where the authors bring the finished manuscript. For a long time the books were printed with a printer in Vienna now it’s a printer in lower Austria. So, this is the series.
The first eight volumes, I still remember, were supported by the Ministry, I can’t remember what the name of the ministry was at that time, the Ministry of Science and Education. So we had money from them, but only for the first eight volumes. Since then, we have so many subscriptions that from selling one edition, we can finance the next one. Theoretically, anyway. In theory, the standing orders finances the next publication. And in between, we got some, not very much, money. Some authors brought money for the publication. The future is, again, a different topic. This was in general the model and with some extra money brought by some of the authors. This worked quite well, I must say. Of course, there is no publishing house and there are no employees. After Steinkellner the series through the years had various editors, Tauscher, Krasser, Kellner, Mathes, and also me.
The Csoma de Kőrös symposium
IN: So, the Csoma de Kőrös symposium?
MTM: Yes, the Csoma de Kőrös symposium were an important institution for connecting East and West. At that time, again the Austrian connection was important. Of course, there were historical connections and friendships. Austria still is nominally a neutral country, and the Hungarians were the merriest barrack of the camp, die glücklichste Baracke im Lager. So, there were channels between Budapest and Vienna. This was an occasion to bring Hungarian scholars and the scholars from Czechoslovakia, at that time, Eastern Germany, Russia, and so on together. The first symposiums were very, very small. There were 40, maybe 50 people. All of them were held in Hungary except for one that was in held Velm, near Vienna in Austria; this was the forerunner of the IATS conferences.
The other thing at that time, the Hungarians had a much more prominent position because, of course, Csoma de Kőrös is the founder of modern Tibetan Studies. At that time, [Lajos] Ligeti was still around. Ligeti, I think was a kind of Stalinist. He was a party member, at least, and also the head of the academy, a Mongolian scholar. He could support Tibetan and Mongolian because he had an important place in Hungarian academia. And then, as I remember, in supplementation of the Csoma de Kőrös meetings, the Young Tibetologists conference was established. They first met in Zürich in 1977 and some years later the two conferences merged into one world conference. The Csoma de Kőrös conferences were very good fun. It was still a small group meeting in nice places in Hungary; Mátrafüred and Csopak, and somewhere near the Danube, I don’t remember the name. I didn’t go to the first one, to Mátrafüred, but I went to Csopak, and I was one of the organisers for the Velm conference.
Thinking back, I’m sorry that I didn’t keep a diary. With so many interesting people like [Turrell] Wiley and Roy Andrew Miller. Miller was later a guest professor in Vienna. Miller and Wiley, the two together were so funny, they had a kind of double act. They were incredibly funny. They were very, very funny and very, very nice. Wiley was an extremely nice person.
IN: What was the atmosphere like at these meetings?
MTM: The atmosphere was generally friendly. I remember a lot of drinking was going on. So even coming from a wine growing country, Austria, I was astonished in the neighbouring country by how much one could drink at one meeting. No, it was very good fun. All the meetings were very intense, lots of lectures, all day long. A lot of conversations, interesting conversations, but also a lot of partying.
Also, people I had forgotten about; [Walther] Heissig, the Mongolian scholar, he was not young anymore when he came to Csoma de Kőrös symposiums.
IN: What was the concept behind the Csoma de Kőrös symposiums? Who did they invite?
MTM: In the beginning, they invited the established scholars, I would say. This was also one of the reasons why the Young Tibetan conference was founded. In the beginning, the Csoma de Kőrös symposium was a bit old boys club. This changed rather quickly, but in the beginning it was like that.
The Tibetological scene then was much, much smaller than it is today. The focus [of the symposiums] was on Tibet but also Mongolian and a bit of Central Asia, but the main focus was on Tibet, I would say.
The development of Tibetan Studies in Vienna
IN: Could you tell me a bit about the International Association for Tibetan Studies (IATS) in Vienna? and perhaps more about Tibetan Studies in Vienna? It seems to be a successful field.
MTM: A very successful field. Indian Studies [at Vienna] goes back a long time, but the fact that Tibetan Studies could be established was the luck of the hour, one has to say. There was some interesting combination because there was the Social Democratic Minister for Science, Hertha Firnberg, and there was a very open-minded Cardinal of the Catholic Church, this was Cardinal [Franz] König. And there was Steinkellner. I don’t know, there was some chemical reaction that led to the establishment of this little department and this kind of studies. Then, of course, I have to say that in the context of university this was a tiny department. It was even tinier than Indology; Indology was small, and Tibetology was tiny. Later it grew a little bit with the fusion around the turn of the millennium. Tibetan and Buddhist Studies were always successful in publications, and also in acquiring research projects. Even today the department is not big but there’s a lot of publication activity and there’s a lot of research projects going on.
We didn’t talk about this so far, it’s the other success of Steinkellner, Oberhammer was also involved with it, the establishment of the research department at the academy. This is also the initiative of Steinkellner and Oberhammer, the Institut für Kultur- und Geistesgeschichte Asiens, the Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia. It has since become very, very big. In the 1970s it didn’t exist at all. There were only these two smallish university departments but now you have, again, Indian Studies and Tibetan Studies merged in 1999. I don’t remember what year the Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia was founded, but this was very, very important because now the number of scholars and people working in Vienna has become much, much bigger. Steinkellner was the first president. Then [Helmut] Krasser, who unfortunately died very, very young. Now Birgit Kellner is head of that department — perhaps you should talk to her?
This is a generation I didn’t mention before. I mentioned the first old group but the next group after us, so to say, were Birgit Kellner, Horst Lasic, Christian Schicklgruber, and Hildegard Diemberger. Christian Schicklgruber is now Director of the Weltmuseum in Vienna. And Hildegard Diemberger professor at the Department of Social Anthropology in Cambridge.
There may be one person of interest in your research, there’s this one Austrian hero of Tibetan Studies, who is [René de] Nebesky-Wojkowitz. He was a pioneer. As I understand, he was quite a charismatic figure. For Tibetan Studies, this was before the department was founded [in Vienna], there were two people; Robert Bleichsteiner, an anthropologist who wrote the famous book called Die gelbe Kirche (Mysterien der buddhistischen Klöster in Indien), which became a classic, and Nebesky-Wojkowitz, who wrote this big book on Tibetan oracles and demons (Oracles and Demons of Tibet). He also died very, very young. He combined his field research with literary textual studies, I think that’s a big achievement in his book. It really is a classic. There’re these little loops in history — I wrote a small piece on Nebesky-Wojkowitz for the Deutsche Biographie that was published in 1980s. And now there’s a project managed by [Martin] Gaenszle on René de Nebesky-Wojkowitz’s achievements, work, and collections.
So, besides this University department here, there is this big department at the Academy of Science. It’s two departments, you could say, where people work on Buddhism, Tibet, Japan, and so on.
IN: Why would you say that people working on Tibet have mostly focused mostly on Philosophy?
MTM: They haven’t, not in Vienna. Diemberger, Schicklgruber, they are not Philosophers. I think, my impression is that most Tibetologists concentrate on History. I’m not sure, but that’s my impression. Those who are working on the more philosophical side are the minority. Anthropology is also big [here], bigger than Religious Studies and Philosophical Studies.
The International Association for Tibetan Studies (IATS)
IN: Could you please say something on the IATS meeting in Austria? You must have been there?
MTM: Of course, I was one of the organisers. That was partly because I was driving the little bus, picking up the people from the train station and driving them back to the train station.
This was after the Velm conference, which was not such a big conference. The IATS was a bit bigger. Steinkellner, Tauscher, and me, we hunted for a location, this was good fun. The three of us drove around in a car looking at locations. This we did for Velm too. I don’t know how we found Seggau, but it was ideal because it was a secluded place but not too far from the little town. I don’t know what else I can tell you; it was a successful conference. It was a lot of work to get everything organised. People had to stay together, they had to share rooms, who do you put with whom…this was quite an effort. But it was very successful, and we also published the proceedings in, I think, seven volumes, something like that. Quite a big publication came from this conference.
Memories of Rolf Stein
IN: How do you remember Rolf Stein when you met him?
MTM: Oh, yes. I remember him very vividly. I was very, very impressed by him. I was very, very shy because I was a student, and he was such a big man. He was also one, I must say, whose work I had read and admired. Then I met him, and he was very normal, so to say, and very nice. For some reason, I don’t know why this happened, I was his guide for one day. We walked around in Vienna, I took him to the city, to the first district. We went to the Stephansdom, the Albertina [Museum], and we had lunch and just chatted. This was Stein. I remember him as a nice person, and he impressed me. So, I met him just the once in Vienna.
IN: Did you meet [David] Snellgrove?
MTM: No, I never met him. I met [Tadeusz] Skorupski. In fact, I was standing in him for when he had his sabbatical at SOAS, but I never met Snellgrove.
Teaching at Charles University, Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE), and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)
IN: You have taught abroad [as well as Vienna], could you tell us something about it? For example, I think you have been very influential in Prague.
MTM: Prague was interesting, it was good fun. I wondered why [Josef] Kolmaš would not teach, but he wouldn’t teach at the university. I had the impression there was a kind of opposition between the academy and the university, something I had also seen in Budapest. I started to travel every second week to Prague. I got on the train Monday morning, I had a class Monday afternoon and stayed overnight, I had another class Tuesday morning, and Tuesday evening I would be back in Vienna. There were not so many books going around. I wrote to Michal Hahn and asked him whether he had a few spare copies. He found some and sent them, I think eight or 10 books. These books were given to the library in Prague.
There was a small group. From the people who finished the class, there was Zuzana Vokurková and Jiří Holba. There was a third one, another young woman but I don’t remember her name. But Jiří and Zuzana were the main students. We [all] went out and we talked a lot. I also visited Kolmaš, and he showed me his collection, the publications of the academy, and the books he brought from Tibet. It was good fun. I liked to be in Prague, and I tried to speak a little Czech. I don’t remember much anymore. I got one good laugh, I remember that because I wanted to start my class and the students were still going in and out and I said, Ukončete výstup a nástup, dveře se zavírají” (“Please finish exiting and boarding, the doors are closing”, Prague metro warning before the departure of each train) and everybody laughed.
Yes, it was nice. Prague was also difficult because so many tourists came in. I went in the 1970s and it was really nice and quiet, maybe too quiet. But when I taught [there], there were so many tourists and then everything that goes with tourism, not so nice taxi drivers, strange prices in restaurants, and so on. This got out of hand a little bit in Prague. Yes, so I’m happy and the Prague connection somehow held with Daniel [Berounský] coming regularly to Vienna and Tauscher going to Prague. Jiří was also here two or three years ago. On the other hand, you could say, one doesn’t meet too often though it’s so close.
So, there was Prague, and I was quite active in the Erasmus network and the CEEPUS network. I taught in Warsaw, Kraków, Prague, Bratislava, Budapest, Szeged, and also in Göttingen and Heidelberg. And Rome, I forgot Rome. The CEEPUS network is in fact a network of Religious Studies but had this Buddhist and Tibetan Studies aspect. Over the years, I think it was very fruitful, these regular visits and the contacts. So, last year, Daniel was here, and Tauscher was in Prague. I think this was very good, and everywhere [I went] I had interested students and interesting meetings with colleagues. So, I think this is a very good programme. It’s also very interesting for students; people from outside come and they bring different approaches and other topics.
Then I had other teaching stints because, for private reasons, I lived for some years in Budapest and then some years in London. In Budapest I was teaching at the Central Asian Institute. I lectured on Buddhist Philosophy and I had Tibetan classes. There were small groups of students. It was nice for me because at that time, I mean it was just for two years, I was teaching Buddhist stuff at the department. Yes, I was a guest teacher, and I was quite independent, that was nice.
Then I was in London. This was very different. For me, [it was] a bit of a culture shock because it was the first time I got to know an Anglo-Saxon university and the system is quite different. I grew up and worked in the Central European system, so to say. So, this was difficult and much more regulated than here. But on the other hand, it prepared me a little bit for the Bologna programme. At first, I was standing in for Skorupski who was on a sabbatical. [Ulrich] Pagel was there, he was my main person in London and [someone] I already knew because he had visited Vienna earlier.
All in all, I must say, I prefer the old seminar system. I understand the Bologna programme for big fields of study, but for the small departments I think the old seminar system just worked fine. The difficulty for small departments is that, somehow, the Bologna system presupposes a quite fixed rigid curriculum, for maybe quite a small number of students. The old system was much more concentrated and much more flexible. Now all the years are separated, the BAs are separated from the MAs, and again the PhDs are completely separated. And in the old system, the entry qualification was about Sanskrit and/or Tibetan, and this was all you needed in terms of entrance examination because nobody would learn Sanskrit or Classical Tibetan just for credits because it’s too difficult. And now we have another system and I’m not in favour because, at the moment the entrance lectures are not the language classes but general lectures, general introductory lectures you have to pass to be allowed into the studies. This does not really show the qualification for this field of study. I would much prefer to have the Tibetan or Sanskrit classes as the primary important courses. One semester as an initial test to be accepted into the studies.
IN: What kind of exam is it between the different years?
MTM: You have to pass the first semester. You have to accomplish some basic exams at the beginning of your studies. If you don’t do that you can’t go on. At the moment, in our department here, there are three examinations: one on Buddhism, one on Indology, and one on Modern South Asian Studies. So, you should, ideally, listen to a string of lectures and pass these examinations. If you pass these, you can go on. That’s the system.
IN: Who do you consider to be your most important students? Perhaps students who have continued you in your work?
MTM: There were those people who just came after me, like Birgit Kellner and Horst Lasic, but I wouldn’t say they were my students. They took classes with me. In Prague, Zuzana and Jiří studied with me. I would have to think, I can’t remember at the moment. Schicklgruber also took classes with me. At the moment I can’t think of more. There were many people who sat in my courses or took classes with me, but I didn’t have pupils in that sense because I went away and took a long time leave from university. So, I did not get into this phase where I had students of my own. I didn’t do that.
Changes and developments in the fields of Tibetan and Buddhist studies
IN: How do you think the field of Tibetan and Buddhist Studies has developed throughout your career? or approaches to the topic?
MTM: That’s very difficult to say in a few words. It got much bigger. In my field of Dharmakīrti and related studies it exploded, I must say. I couldn’t explain in a few words.
The Humanities changed a lot in the 1970s in many respects. I would say it became more modern. When I was a student, everything was more old-fashioned. That’s a very general statement. What changed the field completely was the introduction of computers and the internet. This really was a big revolution. In terms of philological studies, this changed the game completely. I was just in between, I never really went into these new methods of research, but it had changed completely from the things I learned as a student. So, this was a big change.
The other big change, I think, is that it became more open. More people are working in the field who are more aware of what’s going on in philosophy, in anthropology, in gender studies, and so on. This is a development now. Also, that interdisciplinary studies also got much stronger. That also can be a bit of a fashion, but it also got much stronger.
You could also add, I don’t have statistics, but there are more women now in our field. If I look at my department there’s the successor of Oberhammer is Karin Preisendanz, the head of the academy department is Birgit Kellner, and there are many researchers, like Barbara Gerke e.g. I remember people saying, You get your degree and then you marry, or I can give you something to type here. I also remember one of the professors of the older generation explaining the crisis of modern architecture, it is one of my favourite stories. Do you know how the crisis of modern architecture comes about? Because women are working, they go out and have jobs. Otherwise, if women stayed at home, they would tell their husbands how ugly their homes really are, and nicer houses would be built. So, the crisis of modern architecture is because women don’t stay at home. So, this changed. As we know, the situation is far from perfect but on the other hand a lot has changed.
Research and travel in Asia
IN: Were you ever able to travel to Asia and to Tibetan communities?
MTM: Yes, I would be able to travel but I was not so interested. I could have gone to China, for example we had invitations from Wang Yao, but then I preferred to go to Hamburg to study with Schmitthausen while I was on a stipend. I travelled to India to do some research. As I mentioned, I was always more interested in the Sanskrit and the Indian side, and not so much in Tibet and Tibetan Studies per se. So, I never had a strong urge to go to Tibet. I never did, in fact. I went to India a few times. I’ve been to Ladakh, Nepal, and Darjeeling, for example. Not too often, however, as I’m really a bookish type of person. I was already very happy with the invention of the photocopying machine because I like to sit at home and read the books, or the photocopies, or now the PDFs on the computer. But I could’ve travelled much more if I’d wanted to.
IN: How do you remember India when you went there?
MTM: I first went to India in 1978. This was an extremely interesting journey; it was one of the most interesting journeys of my life. At that time, and how it was usual at that time, I travelled over land. I went by train to Istanbul, through Turkey, crossed the Van Lake by ship, went by train to Tehran, by bus to Mashad, by bus to Herat, by bus to Kabul, and by bus to Peshawar. I then crossed Pakistan by train and walked on foot into India. It was very interesting, this transition from Europe, one country after the other, down to India.
India was an overwhelming experience in many respects. I liked it; I liked the food, I liked the people, all in all. I was completely shocked by poverty. I had known about it, but I had never seen a real slum in my life. I had seen poor quarters in Istanbul, but nothing compared to what I saw in India. My first experience was a very mixed experience. I met wonderful people, for example the Sikhs in Amritsar. I remember my visit to the Golden Temple very vividly. But then most of the people living in the street in Bombay, it was not so funny. It was terrible. All in all, I liked the place and I liked the food. I still find it an interesting but difficult place.
The first time I travelled there I just went from Delhi to Amritsar to Ladakh. I went to Leh and Hemis, not many people were there. In Iran it was just the year before the revolution. In Afghanistan it was very easy to travel, no problem at all. And in India, I went to Varanasi, Bombay, and Sarnath.
Reflections on career, biggest challenges, and contributions
IN: What has your career given to you personally? How has it influenced or changed your life?
MTM: I would say that the most interesting part of my career was that I met so many interesting people; among my colleagues and students. And this, interestingly, is not really because of the subject. I would say that I still find the subject interesting. In this respect, I was very lucky. As I mentioned, we were this nice group of students, I had nice teachers, and somehow I could carry this on throughout my life. I got to meet interesting people, make friends here and there, and know people all over the world. And it was really a high point of my work, to work with John Taber, Vincent Eltschinger, and Isabelle Ratié on this Pramāṇavārttikasvavṛtti project as a team of four, which I find extremely nice.
Personally, it gave me a chance to read books. This is what I wanted, and still want to, do.
IN: What did you find the most challenging in your work?
MTM: Perhaps the middle years of my student life, getting my act together to be able to finish the studies, was the most challenging thing. To concentrate and write the PhD thesis. I think that was the most difficult.
IN: What do you think are your biggest academic contributions, and why?
MTM: My academic contributions are insignificant. They are very, very slight. Maybe one contribution that somehow is still interesting is this survey of Buddhist literature that I compiled with Steinkellner, which became a handbook. I think this will stand for some more years. Not for the more recent entries of translations of studies, but for a short overview of the literature of this period.
Other than that, it’s hard to say. I taught a lot of students in Vienna and other places, maybe this. Also, I must say, I worked for the department here a lot. Maybe this is what I have done. All in all, I would say, I have done very little with my life.
A message for future generations of students and researchers
IN: As we are conducting this project for current and future researchers, those who are interested in Tibet, do you have a message for them?
MTM: For students, my message is to read as much as possible and finish your studies as soon as possible, time passes too fast. Also, as one of the deputies of the so-called Directors of Studies this is what I tell my students generally.
Dharmakīrti’s Definition of “Points of Defeat” (nigrahasthāna). In: B. K. Matilal und R. D. Evans (eds.): Buddhist Logic and Epistemology. Dordrecht: Reidel 1986 (Studies of Classical India 7), p. 133–142.
A Visit to Rāhula Sāṅkṛtyāyana’s Collection of Negatives at the Bihar Research Society: Texts from the Buddhist Epistemological School. Wien: Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien 1988 (WSTB 18), 34 p.
3a. Dharmakīrtis Vādanyāyaḥ. Teil I, Sanskrit-Text. Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 1991 (SÖAW 581, VKSKSO 25), XXX, 75 p.
3b. Dharmakīrtis Vādanyāyaḥ. Teil II, Übersetzung und Anmerkungen. Wien: Verlag der ÖAW 1991 (SÖAW 581, VKSKSO 25), XXI, 135 p.
- Fragments from Dignāga? Traces of a Pre-Dharmakīrti Buddhist Polemic Against the Nyāya-nigrahasthāna. In: Studies in the Buddhist Epistemological Tradition. Proceedings of the Second International Dharmakīrti Conference, Vienna, June 11–16, 1989. Ed. by E. Steinkellner. Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 1991 (ÖAW, phil.-hist. Kl., Denkschriften, 222. Bd., Beiträge zur Kultur- und Geistesgeschichte Asiens 8), p. 211–225.
- Indian Buddhist Semantics in the 7th Century A. D. Dharmakīrti’s Theory of “Exclusion” (apoha). Semiotische Berichte Jg. 17, 3/4, 1993 (Zeichen / Kultur, Akten des 3. Österreichisch-Ungarischen Semiotik-Kolloquiums Szombathely / Velem 1992), p. 323–330.
- Uddyotakaras Kritik der apoha-Lehre (Nyāyavārttika ad NS 2.2.66). Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde Südasiens 38, 1994 (Orbis Indicus, Gerhardo Oberhammer lustrum XIII. exigenti ab amicis discipulisque oblatus), p. 351–366.
- Together with E. Steinkellner: Die Texte der erkenntnistheoretischen Schule des Buddhismus. Systematische Übersicht über die buddhistische Sanskrit-Literatur II. Mit einem Vorwort von Heinz Bechert. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 1995 (Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen, phil.-hist. Kl., dritte Folge, Nr. 214), XX, 137 p.
- sāmānādhikāraṇya in Dignāga, Uddyotakara and Dharmakīrti. Studia Indologiczne 4 (Aspects of Buddhism, Proceedings of the International Seminar on Buddhist Studies, Lwiw, 25 June 1994), 1997, p. 163–176.
- Ed. together with H. Krasser, E. Steinkellner, H. Tauscher: Tibetan Studies. Vol. 1–2. Proceedings of the 7th Seminar of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, Graz 1995, 1, 2. Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 1997 (ÖAW phil.-hist. Kl., Denkschriften 256), 1120 p.
- René Nebesky-Wojkowitz. Neue Deutsche Biographie, Band 19. München 1998.
- Ed. together with B. Kellner, H. Krasser, H. Lasic, H. Tauscher: Pramāṇakīrti. Papers dedicated to Ernst Steinkellner on the occasion of his 70th birthday. Wien: Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien 2007 (WSTB 70), 1103 p.
- Together with V. Eltschinger, J. Taber, I. Ratié: Dharmakīrti’s Theory of Exclusion (apoha). Part I, On Concealing. An annotated translation of Pramāṇavarttikasvavṛtti 24,16–45,20 (Pramāṇavarttika 1.40–91. Tokyo: The International Institute for Buddhist Studies 2018 (Studia Philologica Buddhica, Monograph Series XXXVI), XI, 211 p.
Résumé (August 2021)
Michael Torsten MUCH (alias Wieser-Much)
born Vienna 1955, Austria; Austrian citizenship; married to Katharina Wieser
Academic activities (University of Vienna, “Institute of Tibetan and Buddhist Studies,” since 2000 “Institute of South Asian, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies”):
1994–2020 Ass. Prof. (retired 2020)
1983–1994 University assistant
1979–1983 Studies assistant
1977–1979 Research assistant for ordering and cataloguing the estate of Erich Frauwallner.
Academic activities (outside Vienna University):
2001–2003 Lecturer (part time) at SOAS (Dept. for the Study of Religion), London
1998–2000 guest teacher ELTE, Budapest (Belső-ázsiai Tanszék)
1996–1997 guest teacher Charles University (Ústav Dalneho Vychodu), Prague
1997–2017 Guest lecturer – mostly in the framework of the ERASMUS and CEEPUS programs – at the universities in Warsaw, Budapest, Krakow, Bratislava, Rome, Prague, Szeged, Göttingen, Heidelberg.
2015–2020 chair „Arbeitskreis für tibetische und buddhistische Studien, Univ. of Vienna“, co-editor Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde
2008–2009 and 2014–2020 Deputy Study Program Director, Faculty of Philological and Cultural Studies, Univ. of Vienna
1992–1999 Contributing editor European Bulletin of Himalayan Research
1977 Founding member of the „Arbeitskreis für tibetische und buddhistische Studien“
1985–1986 Humboldt-scholarship, Institut für Indologie (Lambert Schmithausen), Universität Hamburg.
1983 Dr. phil., University of Vienna
1975–1983 Tibetan and Buddhist Studies, Institute of Tibetan and Buddhist Studies (Ernst Steinkellner); Indology, Institute of Indology (Gerhard Oberhammer); History of Arts (Hermann Fillitz) – all at the University of Vienna
1973–1975 Philosophy and Slavistics (Polish), University of Vienna.