Khyentse Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in Tibetan Buddhist Studies
UBC Himalaya Program Steering Committee Member and Buddhist Communities Liaison
Dr. Dagmar Schwerk studied Tibetology, classical Indology, and political science at the University of Hamburg’s Department of Indian and Tibetan Studies and Department of Social Sciences (Germany). Focusing on Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, in particular, Madhyamaka philosophy, she obtained her M.A. in 2012. In 2017 she completed her Ph.D. in Tibetan Studies (University of Hamburg) and joined UBC in 2018.
At UBC, she turned her dissertation into a monograph (title: A Timely Message from the Cave: The Mahāmudrā and Intellectual Agenda of dGe-bshes Brag-phug-pa dGe-’dun-rin-chen (1926–1997), the Sixty-Ninth rJe-mkhan-po of Bhutan) Her monograph addresses the long-lasting debate about the Mahāmudrā doctrine and meditative system that was first elicited through Sakya Paṇḍita (1182–1252)’s systematic critique in the thirteenth century and includes the positions of eminent Bhutanese Drukpa Kagyü masters between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries from the Drukpa Kagyü school. In particular, she analyzed the Mahāmudrā interpretation by a renowned master from this school, the Sixty-ninth Chief Abbot of Bhutan Geshe Drapukpa Gendün Rinchen (1926–97). Furthermore, she analyzed and made accessible his life and vast literary and scholastic heritage to a broader academic audience based on classical Tibetan biographical and autobiographical accounts and his collected works in ten volumes.
In 2021, she has started a new research project about the Drukpa Kagyü school in Bhutan, in particular, on religious and doctrinal identity-building and nation-building processes in eighteenth-century Bhutan, a remarkable period in Bhutanese history and Tibetan-Bhutanese trans-regional relations. In the focus of her work stands the Ninth Chief Abbot of Bhutan, Shākya Rinchen (1710-1759).
Dr. Dagmar Schwerk was the recipient of an M.A. and Ph.D. scholarship from the German Academic Scholarship Foundation (Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes) and the Khyentse Foundation Award for Excellence in Buddhist Studies in 2012 as well as a 2016 Dissertation Fellow of The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Program in Buddhist Studies.
Before coming to UBC, she worked as a Senior Research Fellow on a research project titled “Bhutan in Transition. Metamorphosis and Institutionalization of Buddhist Concepts” in an international and interdisciplinary research group at the University of Leipzig (Humanities Centre for Advanced Studies “Multiple Secularities: Beyond the West, Beyond Modernities,” http://www.multiple-secularities.de/team/dagmar-schwerk/) and is currently an Associate Member.
Dr. Dagmar Schwerk’s research focuses on Tibetan and Bhutanese Buddhism as well as Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. She specifically addresses the formation of doctrinal agendas covering subjects such as the Madhyamaka philosophy and the Mahāmudrā doctrine and meditative system. Currently, she works on Bhutan’s intellectual, political, and social history between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries with a particular interest in the relationship between religion and politics, Buddhist ethics, and the environment.
Her teaching at UBC covers subjects such as Tibetan and Himalayan Buddhism, history, and society as well as Tibetan Buddhist literature and book culture and includes community-engaged and experiential learning components.
Schwerk, Dagmar. A Timely Message from the Cave: The Mahāmudrā and Intellectual Agenda of dGe-bshes Brag-phug-pa dGe-’dun-rin-chen (1926–1997), the Sixty-Ninth rJe-mkhan-po of Bhutan. Indian and Tibetan Studies 11. Hamburg: Department of Indian and Tibetan Studies, Universität Hamburg, 2020. ISBN: 978-3-945151-10-5. (Distributor, Media Kit)
Schwerk, Dagmar. “Drawing Lines in a Mandala: A Sketch of Boundaries Between Religion and Politics in Bhutan.” Working Paper Series of the HCAS “Multiple Secularities – Beyond the West, Beyond Modernities” 12. Leipzig University, 2019. Leipzig University HCAS “Multiple Secularities – Beyond the West, Beyond Modernities.“ https://www.multiple-secularities.de/media/wps_schwerk_drawinglines.pdf?fbclid=IwAR1T-eL4ek_zzb3iN2erqbXeEIe4Bld2jL35vsIt_5q2kECtCTFHpLCuvM0.
Schwerk, Dagmar. “Buddhism and Politics in the Tibetan Cultural Area.” In Companion to the Study of Secularity. Edited by HCAS “Multiple Secularities – Beyond the West, Beyond Modernities.” Leipzig University, 2019. www.multiple-secularities.de/publications/companion/css_schwerk_tibetanculturalarea.pdf.
Schwerk, Dagmar. “The Pointed Spear of a Siddha and its Commentaries: The ’Brug pa bka’ brgyud School in Defence of the Mahāmudrā Doctrine.” Revue d’Etudes Tibétaines 37, December (2016): 352–373 (peer-reviewed) http://himalaya.socanth.cam.ac.uk/collections/journals/ret/pdf/ret_37_20.pdf