Helmut Krasser 1956-2014


Dear friends and colleagues,

As most of you have just learned, our excellent friend and colleague Helmut Krasser (born April 27, 1956) passed away during the night of Saturday to Sunday (March 29-30, 2014) at the Saint-Elizabeth Hospital in Vienna, attended by his daughter Sarah, his ex-wife Sabine, and his beloved mother. A leading scholar in the field of Buddhist philosophy and epistemology, Helmut Krasser had been the director of the Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna) since 2007, an institute in which he had been active since 1987. Our friend died after a two-year struggle against illness during which he exemplarily never gave up hope and never abandoned his optimism or his good mood.

Helmut Krasser had studied Indian Buddhism, Tibetology and philosophy at the University of Vienna from 1981 to 1989 under the guidance of his teacher Prof. Ernst Steinkellner, whom he succeeded as the head of the Vienna institute. After his PhD (an edition and German translation of Dharmottara’s Laghuprāmāṇyaparīkṣā, Vienna 1991), he spent two years in Kyoto under the learned and friendly supervision of Prof. Katsumi Mimaki. Back in Vienna, he developed further the philological and historical acumen that made his work such an irreplaceable standard in the field of late Indian Buddhist philosophy. During the last ten years, Krasser had been increasingly involved in the Viennese institute’s groundbreaking cooperation with the China Tibetology Research Center (Beijing), a cooperation that resulted in the sensational publication of numerous works of which the Sanskrit originals had been hitherto considered lost. Besides his participation in numerous collective works and a long list of articles (e.g., Pramāṇakīrtiḥ, Festschrift Steinkellner, Vienna 2007, together with Birgit Kellner, Horst Lasic, Michael Torsten Much, Helmut Tauscher; Religion and Logic in Buddhist Philosophical Analysis, Vienna 2011, together with Horst Lasic, Eli Franco and Birgit Kellner; Scriptural Authority, Reason and Action, Vienna 2013, together with Vincent Eltschinger), Krasser’s most significant works include the monumental edition, translation and study of Śaṅkaranandana’s Īśvarāpākaraṇasaṅkṣepa (Vienna 2002, Krasser’s habilitation thesis), the edition of the first two chapters of Jinendrabuddhi’s Viśālāmalavatī commentary on Dignāga’s Pramāṇasamuccaya (Vienna, 2005 and 2012, together with Horst Lasic and Ernst Steinkellner), and an annotated translation of the final section of Dharmakīrti’s Pramāṇavārttikasvavṛtti (Vienna 2012, together with Vincent Eltschinger and John Taber). In his capacity as a lecturer at the University of Vienna, Krasser supervised the PhD theses of several promising young scholars, among whom mention may be made of Masamichi Sakai, Hisataka Ishida, and Patrick McAllister. It should also be mentioned that in the last few years, Krasser’s research work led him to hypothesize that most of the extant Buddhist philosophical literature actually consisted of more or less carefully edited notes taken by monastic students during “philosophy” classes. The (hypo)thesis, which certainly needs further substantiation and an edition of Krasser’s research notes, will not fail to be the source of scholarly debate and inspiration.

All those who had the privilege to meet Helmut Krasser were instantly charmed by his wit, the warm and vibrant expression of his eyes, his exceptional understanding of things human and social, and the unique manner in which he managed not to take himself or his research (too) seriously. Krasser did not only belong to the most talented scholars of his generation. He was also—and maybe above all—one of the most generous, humorous and lucid representatives of our field(s). We all owe you, we all miss you, Helmut.

Vincent Eltschinger