Bart Dessein


Contact details

Faculty of Arts and Philosophy
Ghent University
Blandijnberg 2
5th floor, office 150.014
B - 9000 Gent

Tel. +32-9-264 41 56
Fax +32-9-264 41 94

Biographical data

Having studied Classical and Modern Chinese, Japanese, and Sanskrit at Ghent University, I obtained my MA from Ghent University in 1987 with a dissertation entitled “Nāgārjuna’s Traktaat van de Twaalf Poorten (Dvādaśamukhaśāstra, T.Vol.30, Nr.1568)” (Nāgārjuna’s Twelve Gates Treatise (Dvādaśamukhaśāstra, T.Vol.30, Nr.1568). After two years of study at Liaoning University, Shenyang, People’s Republic of China, funded by a scholarship of the Flemish Community (1987-1989), I returned to Ghent University where, in 1990, I obtained the Qualification Degree for Teaching in Oriental Philology. In 1991, I became researcher with the Belgian National Funds for Scientific Research (FWO). As a researcher, I obtained my Ph.D. in Oriental Languages and Cultures with a dissertation entitled “Allerlei betreffende de Kern der Scholastiek (Sayuktābhidharmahṛdayaśāstra – T.Vol.28, Nr.1552)” (1994). The English version of this dissertation was published in 1999 with Motilal Banarsidass in Delhi. Equally in 1994, I became assistent at the Department of Languages and Cultures of South and East-Asia at Ghent University. In 1999, I was appointed associate professor at the same department.

Prof. dr. Bart Dessein is also a member of the Belgian Association for the Study of Religions (Babel)

Research area

Buddhist philosophy (mainly Sarvāstivāda) and the history of Buddhism in China

Ongoing research: Sarvāstivāda Abhidharma: research of philosophical developments, based on analysis of Chinese versions (Taishō edition) of Sarvāstivāda texts.

At present, the publication of the following edited volumes is in process:

Bart Dessein and Weijen Teng, Text, History, and Philosophy: Abhidharma across Buddhist scholastic Traditions, Leiden: Brill, 2016

The Chinese edition of a series of articles on Abhidharma studies is in the press with Zhejiang University Press

The Chinese version of B. Dessein (ed.) (1999) The Notion of ‘Self’ in Buddhism, originally published in the series Communication and Cognition 32, 1/2, 1999, will be published by Zhejiang University Press.


Major Publications

- B. Dessein (1999) Saṃyuktābhidharmahṛdaya – Heart of Scholasticism with Miscellaneous Additions. Buddhist Tradition Series, Vols.33-35. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

 This is the English translation and text study of the Chinese version (T.1552) of Dharmatrāta’s Saṃyuktābhidharmahṛdaya (Za apitan xin lun), the text that was the fundament for Vasubandhu’s Abhidharmakośa. The publication also discusses the position of the Saṃyuktābhidharmahṛdaya in the philosophical development of Sarvāstivāda thought.

- B. Dessein (2007) “The first Turning of the Wheel of the Doctrine. Sarvāstivāda and Mahāsāṃghika Controversy”, in A. Heirman en S. P. Bumbacher (uitgs.). The Spread of Buddhism, Leiden: E.J. Brill, pp.15-48.

This is a study of the Sarvāstivāda and Mahāsāṃghika Controversy on which event should be considered as the ‘first turning of the wheel of the doctrine’. The discussion is related to the question whether all words spoken by the Tathāgata have to be considered as ‘wheel of the doctrine’, or only the sermon in Benares. As such, this question is also related to the question of the supramundaneity of the Buddha and the origin of the Mahayana.

- B. Dessein (2008) “Of tempted Arhats and Supermundane Buddhas: Abhidharma in the Kṛṣṇā Region”, in Sree Padma and Antony W. Barber (uitgs.), Buddhism in the Krishna River Valley of Andhra. Albany NY: State University of New York Press, pp.40-81.

This is a study on the subdivision of the Mahāsāṃghika monastic community into different sub-schools, and the concomitant development of Mahāsāṃghika philosophy. It is shown how a difference developed between the Northern Mahāsāṃghika subgroups and the Southern Mahāsāṃghikasubgroups.

- B. Dessein (2009), “The Mahāsāṃghikas and the Origin of Mahāyāna Buddhism: Evidence Provided in the *Abhidharmamahāvibhāṣāśāstra”, The Eastern Buddhist 40 (1-2), pp.25-61.

Building on the results of the previous publication, this is an analysis of the references to the Mahāsāṃghikas in the Sarvāstivādin *Abhidharmamahāvibhāṣāśāstra. It is shown that the references in the *Abhidharmamahāvibhāṣāśāstra are to the Northern, that is, the earlier, Mahāsāṃghika subgroups.

- B. Dessein (2012). “‘Thus Have I Heard’ and other claims to authenticity: Development of Rhetorical Devices in the Sarvāstivāda Ṣaṭpādābhidharma Texts”, in Ch. Anderl (uitg.), Zen Buddhist Rhetoric in China, Korea, and Japan. Leiden: E.J. Brill, pp.121-162.

This is a study of the development of the textual format and of the use of rhetoric elements in the Sarvāstivāda ṣaṭpādābhidharma texts. This analysis shows the textual format and the rhetoric elements developed along with the development of Sarvāstivāda philosophy.



For a selection of monographs, click here

For a complete bibliography, click here