CONZE, Edward (Eberhard Julius Dietrich Conze). Forest Hill (London) 18.3.1904 — Yeovil, Somerset 24.9.1979. British (German-born) Indologist and Buddhist Scholar. Son of Ernst C. and Adelaide Louise Charlotte Köttgen. Born in England where his father was German Vice-Consul. Studies of philosophy under Jaspers, Cassirer, etc. at several German universities (Tübingen, Heidelberg, Kiel, Köln, Hamburg). Walleser at Heidelberg gave him the first impulse to Buddhist studies. Ph.D. 1928 Köln. As a Marxist philosopher left the Nazi Germany in 1933, came to London and taught philosophy and psychology at London University. The books of D. T. Suzuki and personal acquaintance with Har Dayal led him to Buddhist studies. Now he left communism, although always remained sort of socialist. For his living he gave tutorial classes (general teaching for adults) in London and in the 1940s and 1950s in Oxford and started a real academic career only as late as 1963.
Conze was a visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies at University of Wisconsin in Madison in 1963-64, then 1964-65 Research Fellow at Manchester College in Oxford, and in 1965 visiting Professor of Religious Studies at University of British Columbia in Vancouver. From Vancouver he went to Seattle, where he was the Professor of Indic Studies at University of Washington from 1965 to 1968. In the end he had to leave because of his political opinions, especially about the Vietnam war. In 1968-69 he was visiting Professor at University of Lancaster in England, 1969-70 visiting Professor at University of Bonn in Germany, after a while in England in 1971-72 visiting Professor at University of California (Dept. of Religious Studies) in Berkeley, in 1972-73 at University of California in Santa Barbara and in 1973 again in Berkeley. His last years Conze spent in England, often suffering of illness. Married with Dorothea Finkelstein, one daughter, then with Muriel Green.
Conze was the leading specialist of the Prajñāpāramitā literature. In the beginning he was influenced by Walleser, one of the few to know this field during the first half of the century. It was Conze’s great merit to open the Prajñāpāramitā for research and to survey this large and relatively little known branch of Buddhist literature. Of modern Buddhism he was not interested at all. He never visited Asia.
Publications: Diss. Der Begriff der Metaphysik bei Fr. Suarez S.J. Köln 1928; Der Satz vom Widerspruch. Hamburg 1932; Contradiction and Reality. L. 1939; political (Marxist) books and articles in the 1930s.
– Translated: “Prajñāpāramitāhṛdaya”, Middle Way 20, 1946; Abhisamayālaṅkāra. 223 p. S.O.R. 6. Rome 1954; Bya chos rin cheṅ, phreṅ-ba. Buddha’s Law among the Birds. 65 p. 12 ill. L. 1956.
– Buddhism: Its Essence and Development. 222 p. Oxford 1951 and many edd., French, German, Italian, Dutch, Japanese, and Spanish translations.
– Translated with others: Buddhist texts through the ages. 322 p. N.Y. 1954 (117-217 Prajñāpāramitā texts by Conze); German translation 1975.
– Select Sayings from the Perfection of Wisdom. 135 p. L. 1955; Buddhist Scriptures. Selected and translated. 250 p. Harmondsworth 1959 and many edd.
– Buddhist Meditation. 183 p. L. 1956 (from the Visuddhimagga); Italian transl.
– Edited and translated: The Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā. 118 p. S.O.R. 13. Rome 1957, 2nd ed. 1974.
– Translated: Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā. 5+225 p. Bibl. Ind. 284. Calcutta 1958, rev. ed. The Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines and its verse summary. 347 p. Bolinas 1973; The Large Sūtra on Perfect Wisdom with the divisions of the Abhisamayālaṅkāra. 1-3. L. 1961-63, new ed. 697 p. Berkeley 1975; Perfect Wisdom. The short Prajñāpāramitā Texts. 220 p. L. 1974.
– Buddhist wisdom books, containing the Diamond Sūtra and the Heart Sūtra. Translated and explained. L. 1958, rev. ed. 132 p. L. 1988.
– A short history of Buddhism. 137 p. 1960, originally publ. in Italian in Le civiltà dell’Oriente 3, 1958, 745-848, German transl. by F. Wilhelm, Eine kurze Geschichte des Buddhismus. 174 p. Frankfurt 1984.
– The Prajñāpāramitā Literature. 123 p. the Hague 1960; 2nd rev. and enl. ed. 138 p. Bibliographia Philologica Buddhica: Series maior 1. Tokyo 1978.
– Buddhist Thought in India. Three phases of Buddhist philosophy. 302 p. L. 1962.
– edited: The Gilgit Manuscript of the Aṣṭādaśasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā. 1-2. 25+390, 22+354 p. S.O.R. 26 & 46. Rome 1962-74
– Materials for a Dictionary of the Prajñāpāramitā Literature. 7+447 p. Tokyo 1967.
– Thirty Years of Buddhist Studies. Selected Essays. 286 p. L. 1967; Further Buddhist Studies. 252 p. Oxford 1975; both republ. together as Buddhist Studies 1934–1972. 512 p. San Francisco 1977.
– Buddhist Scriptures: a Bibliography. Edited and rev. by L. Lancaster. 175 p. Garland ref. library of the humanities 113. N. Y. 1982.
– Memoirs of a Modern Gnostic. 1-2. 165+168 p. Sherborne 1979 (vol. 3 remains unpublished, although manuscript copies are rumoured to exist).
Sources: E.B. Bastian, JIABS 2:2, 1979, 116; Franci 1985, 229-237; J. W. de Jong, IIJ 22, 1980, 143-146; Memoirs (see above, also review by R. Jackson, JIABS 4, 1981, 102-106); *Prajñāpāramitā and Related Systems. Studies in Honour of E. C. 468 p. Berkeley 1979; not in Who Was Who; Wikipedia with photo.