Dr Helmut Krasser

1956 – 2014

University lecturer (Universitätsdozent) Dr. Helmut Krasser, member of the board of the International Association of Buddhist Studies since 2008 and co-editor of its journal since 2011, passed away in the night of March 30, 2014. He was seriously ill for nearly two years, yet neither lost his courage nor his humour throughout his long fight. He was a helpful colleague and a good friend to many, had a sharp and critical mind always sweetened by a touch of wittiness, and working together with him was a pleasure for everyone.

Dr Helmut KrasserHelmut Krasser (1956-2014)Krasser was born on April 27, 1956 in Lustenau, Vorarlberg (Austria). He studied Indian Buddhism, Tibetology and Indology at Vienna University, completed his PhD in 1989 with an edition and translation of Dharmottara’s Laghuprāmāyaparīkā (published in two volumes in 1991), and received the venia legendi (“habilitation”) at Vienna University in 2002 with an edition of Śaṅkaranandana’s Īśvarāpākaraasakepa together with a study on the development of the Buddhist dispute with the Naiyāyikas about the existence of a creator god (published in two volumes in 2002).

A university assistant from 1983 to 1986, and lecturer since 1994 at the Institute of Tibetan and Buddhist Studies of Vienna University, he had been research fellow since 1988 at the Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, and director of this institute since 2007. At Kyoto University he was a visiting research fellow (from 1991 to 1993 and in 2003) and visiting professor (2006), and in 2010 he was elected corresponding member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

Since 2004 Krasser had directed research projects of the Austrian Science Funds as well as co-organized four congresses and several workshops and panels in Austria, Japan and China. He was co-editor of five substantial collective volumes, since 2006 he co-edited the Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde and since 2011 the Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies as well as the series Sanskrit Texts from the Tibetan Autonomous Region.

His scholarly work focused on the philosophical traditions in Indian Buddhism, in particular on the tradition of epistemology and logic, and of Madhyamaka.  Situating his chosen themes in the context of competing, mainly brahmanical traditions such as Nyāya and Mīmāṃsā, interpreting theories and theorems with a view to their practical and didactic purpose, and giving didactic education for better survival in public disputations a more explicit role in the composition of scholastic texts were some main characteristics of his approach to interpretation.

From the beginning he participated in regaining philosophically important original Sanskrit texts from the Tibetan Autonomous Region, which became accessible to some extent through an agreement of the Austrian Academy with the China Tibetology Research Center, Beijing, and which now constitute a major focal point of the institute’s activities. He worked on these texts mostly within various editorial teams and directed these activities since 2008.  And, not a task, the whole series owes to Krasser the efforts of instantiating and supervising the electronic editorial management.

While he still saw the publication of the Pramāasamuccayaīkā’s chapter 1 (2005) and chapter 2 (2012), the work on its chapter 5 and that on the first four chapters of the Madhyamakāvatārabhāya as well as on Dharmakīrti’s Hetubindu that he committed himself to alone he had to abandon before their conclusion.

Our narrower and wider circles of colleagues and friends have lost much too early an exceptionally talented and charming human being. The signatory was fortunate to have met a highly gifted student and, for decades, to have accompanied the successful and happy development of a passionate scholar.

A bibliography of Helmut Krasser will appear in the next issue of the Almanach of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

Ernst Steinkellner