David Chappell, 64; Scholar Applied Buddhism to Peace Efforts, Dies
LA Times Staff Writer / 12-8-2004


David Wellington Chappell, an author, scholar and educator on the history of Buddhism, a peace advocate and the principal founder of the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies, has died. He was 64.

Chappell died Thursday of heart failure in Laguna Hills.

A professor of religion at the University of Hawaii for three decades, Chappell moved to Southern California in 2000 to become professor of comparative studies at Soka University of America in Aliso Viejo.

He helped create the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies in the 1980s and served as founding editor of its journal, Buddhist-Christian Studies.

Chappell, who earned several grants from peace organizations, worked throughout his life to apply religious teachings to achieving peace in troubled areas of the world. His books often embraced that effort.

In 2001, he published "Buddhist Peacework: Creating Cultures of Peace," after soliciting essays from religious and lay leaders. The concept for the book sprang from a 1994 UNESCO conference on how religion could help promote peace.

In reviewing the book, the International Journal on World Peace said that Chappell "has very skillfully drawn together essays from some of the leading figures of contemporary Buddhist thinking…. This is a useful book both for those who are familiar with Buddhist thought but are interested in its social applications, especially in peacemaking, and for those who know less of the philosophy."

Chappell's other books include "Buddhist and Taoist Practice in Medieval Chinese Society," "Tien-Tai Buddhism: An Outline of the Four-Fold Teachings" and "Unity in Diversity: Hawaii's Buddhist Communities."

A Canadian native, Chappell earned his bachelor's degree from Mount Allison University, his bachelor's of divinity from McGill University and a doctorate in the history of religions from Yale.

He is survived by his wife, Stella; a son, Mark; daughters Cindy Rice, Laura Demitria, Gwen Demitria and Jeanne Barnes; a brother, Gordon; and five grandchildren.

A celebration of his life is planned for June during the international conference of the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies at Los Angeles' Loyola Marymount University.


David W. Chappell

David W. Chappell was Professor of Comparative Religion at Soka University of America and Professor Emeritus of the University of Hawaii. His publications include: Buddhist and Taoist Studies (1977); T'ien-t'ai Buddhism: An Outline of the Fourfold Teachings (1983); Buddhist and Taoist Practice in Medieval Chinese Society (1987); Unity in Diversity: Hawaii's Buddhist Communities (1997); and Buddhist Peacework: Creating Cultures of Peace (1999). After initiating a series of Buddhist-Christian conferences in the 1980s, he became founding editor (1981-1995) of the academic journal Buddhist-Christian Studies, founding Director of the Buddhist Studies Progarm, UH (1987-1991), a co-founder of the Society of Buddhist-Christian Studies (1988), and later its President (1993-95). He was exploring the changing relationships between religion, business, and government in our global society.


Is Tendai Buddhism Relevant to the Modern World?

David W. Chappell / 1987 / Japanese Journal of Religious Studies
(20 Pages - 370 KB)

Is Tendai Buddhism Relevant to the Modern World? -- David W. Chappell

Since this year marks the 1200th anniversary of the establishment of Tendai in Japan from China, there is no question that Tendai is old. However, its long history naturally prompts the question about Tendai's present and future. Is it frozen in outdated forms from the past, or is it still changing and growing? Having taken root in Japan, can it take root in the West? Has it made its major contributions, or does it have anything new to offer to the world? That is to say, what is the modern relevance of Tendai Buddhism?


"The Buddhadharma is not far off. It's as close as your mind. Reality is not somewhere outside. How can you find it, if you turn away from yourself. Whether you're deluded or awake depends upon you. Make up your mind, and you will be there. Whether you're in the light or in the dark doesn't depend on others. Have faith and practice, and you will soon know the truth. If you don't take the medicine of the Great Physician, when will you see the light of the sun?" -- Ming-K'uang -- Disciple of the Tien-tai patriarch Chang-an.