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Stephan Kigensan Licha

Assistant Professor
Divinity School and the College

Stephan Kigensan Licha studies the intellectual history of Japanese Buddhism, particularly the interaction between the Tendai, Zen, and tantric traditions during the premodern period, and the globally entwined emergence of Buddhist modernism since the 19th century.

He is the author of Esoteric Zen: Zen and the Tantric Teachings in Premodern Japan (Brill, 2023), which builds on recently discovered manuscripts to show that Zen and tantric traditions, today often considered clearly distinguishable and even mutually exclusive, continued to negotiate their identities in dependence on each other into the early modern period. Licha is co-editor of Learning from the West, Learning from the East: The Emergence of the Study of Buddhism in Japan and Europe before 1900 (Brill, 2023), which seeks to recover the contributions of Asian actors to the academization of the study of Buddhism in the second half of the 19th century. Current projects include “Amida in the Colonies,” on the relations between Sri Lankan and Japanese Buddhist modernism, and a co-edited volume on the early medieval Japanese Zen master Enni and his lineage.

Licha received a BA in comparative religions, an MA in Japanese religions, and a PhD in religious studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Waseda University and Tokyo University, and a research student at the Center for Zen Studies at Komazawa University, all in Tokyo, and a research fellow at Heidelberg University in Germany.

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