Anton Zigmund-Cerbu

Portrait of Anton   Zigmund-Cerbu

Prof. Anton Zigmund-Cerbu (19 Oct. 1923, Bucharest, Romania - 10 March 1964, New York City, USA) was assistant professor of religion at Columbia University, NYC, USA, specializing on Buddhism and Indochinese studies. Among his students at Columbia were Thích Nhất Hạnh "Thầy" (b. 11 Oct. 1926, Hue, Vietnam), a renowned writer, teacher, poet, and peace activist, and Fr. Stephen Cavanna Headley (b. 5 Aug. 1943, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania), a social anthropologist and a priest in the Orthodox Church.

After graduating from University of Bucharest in 1946, he was part of the first generation of Romanian Indianists and Asianists who had to leave their country due to antisemitic persecution, such as Arion Roșu (1924-2007), ==Sergiu Al-George (1922-1981), or Marcel Leibovici (1924-2005). In Paris, he studied at Ecole Nationale des Langues Orientales Vivantes (ENLOV, to become INALCO in 1971), and joined CNRS in 1960 before moving to New York with his wife Eliza, also an Orientalist specialized in Syriac philosophy. There, he became an associate of Mircea Eliade, a fellow Rumanian expatriate who was then professor of the history of religion at the University of Chicago.

Zigmund-Cerbu spent one year in Tibet and Vietnam in 1959, traveling back to Asia for a briefer period in 1962, researching meditation and yoga techniques.

Only a few of his numerous essays have been published before his premature death from illness, notably:

  • La vie intellectuelle XI, Vitalité des religions non-chrétiennes; hindouisme, bouddhisme, judaisme, islam, (with Swami Abhishikteswananda, M.J. Stassny, Vincent Monteil), Editions du Cerf, Paris, 1956.
  • "Travaux de M. George Cœdès. Essai de Bibliographie" (with Jean Boisselier), Artibus Asiae, Vol. 24, No. 3/4 (1961), pp. 155-186.
  • "A propos d’un vajra khmer”, Artibus Asiae 24, 1961, pp 425-31, 2 pl.
  • ”The Ṣadaṅgayoga”, History of Religion 3, 1963, pp 128-134.

Photo: Obituary in the New York Times, 11 March 1964.