Helmut Krasser (born 27 April 1956), our excellent friend, colleague, and director passed away during the night of Saturday to Sunday (29-30 March 2014) at the Saint-Elizabeth Hospital in Vienna surrounded 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, the institute where he had been active since 1987. He died after a two-year struggle against his illness during which he exemplarily never gave up hope and never ceased to be optimistic and cheerful.
Helmut Krasser studied Buddhist Studies, 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 in the learned and friendly vicinity 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 has resulted in the publication of numerous works the Sanskrit original of which had been hitherto considered lost. Besides his participation in numerous edited collections and his publication of 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 und 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 (together with Horst Lasic and Ernst Steinkellner), and an annotated translation of the final part of Dharmakīrti’s Pramāṇavārttikasvavṛtti (Vienna 2012, together with Vincent Eltschinger and John Taber). In his activity 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. In the last few years, Krasser’s research work led him to hypothesize that most of the extant Buddhist philosophical literature actually consisted in 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 a 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 in 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 was not only one of the most talented scholars of his generation, he also — and maybe above all — was one the most generous, humorous and lucid representatives of our field(s). We all owe you, we all miss you, Helmut.
See also CV Helmut Krasser and former directors.