|So-Wide Space MARCH 2011|
|Visit of Venerable Dhammika to the OCBS|
|Adult Education at the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies|
|Trinity Term Lectures|
|Events by other organisations|
Richard Gombrich writes:
Things recently have been busy. On the morning of Tuesday 15 February, OCBS played host to Prof Liam Gieron, of the University’s Department of Education, who brought 20 trainee teachers of religious education to learn about our work. I had expected a visit of maybe 20 minutes, focussing on the OCBS itself, but it turned out that the party was eager to hear me give a wide-ranging talk about teaching Buddhism and happy to stay for 2 hours. Susan efficiently fuelled a coffee break, and after it we had a lively question and answer session, so all went smoothly.
The next day I was off to Bath Spa University, at the invitation of the Ven Dr Mahinda Deegalle, who teaches Buddhism there. I gave the first in what he hopes will be a series of guest lectures. Though the talk was primarily intended for his students, it was announced as open to the public, and attended by about 70 people. I spoke for an hour on “The Buddha’s teaching as the Middle Way”, and then there were many questions, some of them excellent.
I had tried to find a broad and varied subject for a mixed audience. So I talked of 5 ways in which the Buddha’s teaching could be characterised as a middle way – there are of course more. First, it advocates the middle way between self-indulgence and asceticism. Second, it claims to offer a middle way between the extremes eternalism and annihilationism. Third, it offers, or is said to offer, a middle way between being and non-being – whatever that may mean. Fourthly, the karma doctrine shows a middle way between determinism and random causality. Finally, the Buddha’s view of the connection between language and reality is a middle way between positing that a language can map reality with perfect accuracy (and that Sanskrit does that), and denying that language can capture reality at all (even if we leave open the question of whether there exists a world “out there”).
On Friday 18 February, back in Oxford, I had a slot in the seminar series of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies on mysticism and religious experience. I did what I was asked to do, which was to give a much shortened version of my paper “Religious Experience in Early Buddhism?” This began in 1997 as the Eighth Annual BASR lecture, and was then published in 1998 as the British Association for the Study of Religions Occasional Paper 17, printed by the University of Leeds Printing Service, Leeds.
On Sunday 27 February I am to represent Buddhism at an evening service in Christ Church Cathedral. The Sub Dean, Ed Newell, will ask me prepared questions intended to compare Jesus with the Buddha and Christianity more generally with Buddhism. The questions will be interspersed with music, readings and some prayers. The original list of proposed questions included “How does the Christian understanding of resurrection relate to the Buddhist understanding of reincarnation?”, but luckily we could discuss the proposals and I now feel confident that the dialogue will be more sensible.
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