I am really looking forward to the resumed Sinclair Thompson Lectures at Payap University here in Chiang Mai on February 20-22. These will be the fifteenth lectures in the fifty year history of the lectureship.
The Rev. Sinclair Thompson was a Presbyterian missionary here for 15 years until his death in 1961 in a railroad accident. One of his passions was Buddhist-Christian studies. As a memorial, family and friends established this lectureship to further Buddhist-Christian dialog.
The first Sinclair Thompson lecturer was the esteemed Dr. Pui, one of the most honest and honorable men ever to enter public service in Thailand. The second (without checking the archives) was the Rev. Dr. Malcolm Stewart of Illinois College in 1964. He was my major professor as well as that of Dr. Amnuay Tapingkae. Dr. Amnuay was the reason Dr. Stewart came to Thailand on a sabbatical and delivered the lectures while he was here. Dr. Amnuay became the president of Payap University after that, and the university became care-taker of the lectureship.
The most famous lecturer and most memorable lectures in the series so far were by the Venerable Buddhadasa Bhikkhu in 1967. Those lectures broke through walls of hostility in ways considered impossible at the time. It was scandalous, amazing and thrilling to hear Thai Buddhism’s most revered figure and most esteemed scholar assert there are wide areas of common ground between Buddhism and Christianity. In fact, the relationship between the two religions has not been the same in Thailand since those three nights.
This year there are two women in dialog.
The Rev. Marjorie Thompson is Sinclair Thompson’s daughter. She has written several books and is well known in the United States through her work with Upper Room Ministries. She will speak on “Christian Spiritual Practices”.
Her colleague at the podium will be the Venerable Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, abbot of Wat Songdhammakalyani in Nakhon Pathom. She is the first fully-ordained female Theravada Thai monk in recorded history. She is leading a movement to revive orders of Bhikkhuni (women monks). Her topic is “Buddhist Spiritual Practices.” No one in Thai Buddhism at this time is breaking down gender barriers as effectively as is she.
On the third night both women will speak about the role of women in Buddhism and Christianity.
Anyone in Chiang Mai is welcome to attend these free lectures in the Sirindorn Learning Resource Center on Payap University’s main campus at 7 p.m. each evening.
It is on rare occasions like this that those of us with bi-religious convictions get together.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.