Gerhard Oberhammer

Director 1991–1997

Gerhard Oberhammer (born 1929) studied theology and philosophy in Innsbruck before he turned his attention to Indology. In 1964 he succeeded Erich Frauwallner (1898–1974) as head of the Institute for Indology at the University of Vienna. He held this professorship until his retirement in 1997. His first co-operation with the ÖAW took place in 1970, when Oberhammer, with the support of Cardinal Franz König and the Academy, founded the De Nobili Resesarch Library, which is now located at the ISTB of the University of Vienna on permanent loan from the ÖAW. From 1983 Oberhammer oversaw the "Commission for Languages and Cultures of South and East Asia," founded by Frauwallner, as well as the "Research Unit for Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia" that had been formed in 1986. The two units merged into an institute (the IKGA) in 1991, with Oberhammer serving as its director until his retirement in 1997.

The most important projects conducted or initiated at the Institute under Oberhammer's directorship include:

Ernst Steinkellner

Director 1998–2006

Ernst Steinkellner (born 1937) studied Indian philosophy at the University of Vienna under Erich Frauwallner. After a research stay at the University of Pennsylvania (1971–1973), he founded the Department of South Asian, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies at the University of Vienna, which he headed until the year 2000. He has been involved in projects at the IKGA and its predecessor institutions since 1986. At the beginning of 1998 he succeeded Gerhard Oberhammer as the director of the IKGA, holding this position until 2006. In 2008 Ernst Steinkellner received the Ludwig Wittgenstein Prize of the Austrian Research Association.

Most of the projects at the IKGA that Steinkellner initiated and worked on are related to the logico-epistemological tradition of Buddhism. The documentation of this philosophical school dating from the 5th c. CE, especially the works of Dharmakīrti (6th–7th c. CE), represent Steinkellner's most important scholarly achievements. In this context, Steinkellner further developed the historico-philological methods of textual criticism as first introduced by Frauwallner. Steinkellner's interest in the logico-epistemological tradition later led him to doing work on Tibet, where the Buddhist schools of thought within his field of interest are still alive today.

Thanks to Steinkellner, in 2004 the IKGA began to have access to certain photocopies of manuscripts held by the China Tibetology Research Center (CTRC) in Beijing. This has made it possible to undertake critical editions of the most important Sanskrit texts in this collection, texts that until 2004 had only been accessible in their Tibetan or Chinese translations. The results of this co-operation are being published in a series founded specially for this purpose, the STTAR.

A large number of the projects currently underway at the Institute can be directly or indirectly traced back to Ernst Steinkellner. His most important research focal points are:

Helmut Krasser

Director 2007–2014

Helmut Krasser (1956–2014) studied Buddhist studies, Tibetology and philosophy at the University of Vienna under Ernst Steinkellner. From 1988 he worked as a research assistant at the later IKGA. He interrupted his work at the Institute for longer research stays in Kyoto, Japan (1992–1994 and 2006). Like Steinkellner, Krasser also focussed on the documentation of the logico-epistemological school of Indian Buddhism, though his main interest lay with Dharmottara (ca. 740–800) and Śaṅkaranandana (ca. 950–1020), as well as the works of Dharmakīrti. Krasser developed the hypothesis that many of the Indian philosophical works extant today originated in transcripts that the students of famous masters wrote during lectures, using this idea to explain the various inconsistencies in these texts. This hypothesis has caused an animated discussion in the field.

As Director, Krasser not only successfully continued the Institute's philosophic-philological research tradition, but was also able to attract a number of new projects and scholars to the Institute. In addition to his work on various projects, Krasser was also an active editor of several academic journals (including the Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies), as well as the two series of the Institute (BKGA, STTAR). The final two years of his life were overshadowed by a severe illness. Nonetheless, this did not keep him from performing his duties as Director and researcher until he passed away. (See also Obituary to Helmut Krasser.)

Some of the most important projects initiated by Krasser include:

Vincent Eltschinger

Director 2014–2015

Vincent Eltschinger studied Indology, Buddhist Studies and philosophy at the University of Lausanne. In 2014 he was awarded the qualification of professor (habilitation) at the University of Vienna. He worked at the Insitute from 2003, focusing primarily on the logico-epistemological tradition of Buddhism and the Kashmiri logician Śaṅkaranandana (950–1020). Moreover, he was particularly interested in ideological and historical aspects of the debate between Buddhists and Brahmanic orthodoxy in the second half of the first century CE. An important contribution involved his publishing of several articles elaborating on Indian philosophy for a broader readership. His highly productive time at the IKGA, where he published several important monographs and collected volumes, was interrupted by his appointment as professor at the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris.

Eltschinger took over the directorship of the Institute in April 2014 after the sudden passing of Helmut Krasser. Despite the difficult situation this caused, he was able to not only continue the projects that had been headed by Krasser, but also to attract several new projects and scholars to the IKGA. In particular, the contribution of the IKGA to the interdisciplinary project Visions of Community (VISCOM) was expanded significantly under Eltschinger. Like Krasser, Eltschinger was also an active editor of the two major series published by the Institute (BKGA, STTAR).