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Home Newsletters OCBS News May 2012

OCBS News May 2012

Article Index
OCBS News May 2012
Report from Richard Gombrich
Visit of HH the Gyalwang Drukpa
Volume Two of the JOCBS
Ensuring Pali Scholarship
Centre for Applied Buddhism
OCBS Update
All Pages


Welcome to OCBS News.  You may have noticed the change in the name of this newsletter.  In November last year the Boards of both charities voted that they would now continue into the future as totally separate legal entities.  So-Wide’s initial brief was to ensure the setting up of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies and the Oxford Mindfulness Centre.  This has now been achieved.

Last year the OMC felt it was ready to move forward on its own.  In November it was decided that the OCBS was also now in a robust position administratively and could move forward on its own.  The OCBS will be concentrating on academic work in Buddhist Studies within the University of Oxford.  So-Wide will be concentrating on activities that explore the bridge between academia and the practice communities.  The charities still maintain a cordial relationship and So-Wide will be bringing any projects it thinks suitable to the OCBS for possible collaboration.  Both Boards expressed gratitude for the history of the charities' connection.

In this issue we have a report from Richard Gombrich on his recent visit to Taiwan. We also have a report on the recent visit of His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa to Wolfson College at Oxford, which the OCBS was involved in.

The main news of this newsletter is the publication of the next volume of our Journal – on the 21st May. We are including here an excerpt of the editorial from this volume highlighting some significant contributions to the Journal plus a link to abstracts of all the articles. If you have already subscribed then the new Volume will be available on the Journal Hosting page from 15th May. If you have yet to subscribe then this is a great way to support the Centre’s work in Buddhist Studies.

We also have details of the ever-popular Pali Summer School, some news from the Centre for Applied Buddhism – the new incarnation of the Institute of Oriental Philosophy, and we end with an update of recent activities at the OCBS.



Report from Richard Gombrich


I spent 3 weeks in Taiwan, arriving on 15 March and leaving on 6 April. I was there as Visiting Professor at Fo Guang University, specifically at the Buddhist College (which is also the Dept. of Buddhist Studies). I had been invited by the Dean, the Ven Prof Huei Kai, to give a whole graduate (MA) course, 36 hours of lectures, on early Buddhism.

Squeezing 36 hours into 3 weeks was quite strenuous for all concerned, but Fo Guang students seem to be used to that. Each lecture was for 2 hours, with a short break in the middle. (So far as I could tell, those lectures at FGU which are not for 2 hours are for 3 hours!) Mine were interpreted in Chinese, which at least made them a bit less strenuous for me. Their MA courses are in English, their undergraduate courses in Chinese. Nearly 20 MA students came; about half of them were from abroad. A few undergraduates and members of staff attended sporadically; but the Ven Prof Huei Kai came to almost every lecture.

On the third Friday I was taken down to the south of Taiwan to give ten hours of lectures over the weekend at Fo Guang Shan monastery, the HQ of the movement. Most of the MA students came too, as these lectures counted as part of the course. I was taken by express train, but the students travelled by road, a journey of over 6 hours each way. They seemed to accept these exertions cheerfully, and altogether I was impressed by their friendliness and good humour. I also managed to get them to ask a lot of questions, and we had a few good discussions. Taiwanese students can display a degree of deference to the teacher that we may find a bit disconcerting, but I think that the presence of foreigners (including ethnically Chinese students from English-speaking countries) helped to break the ice.

As I had made clear in advance, I was there to some extent as a suppliant, and also in the hope of forging longer-lasting links between FGU and the OCBS. Before I left, I received a signed agreement that FGU would make a donation to the OCBS of £10,000. After I returned home, I was sent word that this would soon be raised to £25,000. This money is for general purposes, to keep the OCBS in existence while we raise further funds from other sources. We are enormously grateful to FGU for this timely generosity, which gives us a future – which we shall do our best to make a bright one. I was told that FGU is planning shortly to open a Research Centre for Buddhist Studies, connected with the Buddhist College. It is intended that this centre and the OCBS collaborate in research projects; they will be sending us a draft Memorandum of Agreement to this end. Further details remain to be discussed. We look forward to a visit to Oxford by the Ven Prof Huei Kai next spring.



Visit of HH the Gyalwang Drukpa to Wolfson


On 15th March His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa visited Wolfson College as part of a visit to Oxford that had already taken in the Oxford Mindfulness Centre at the Warneford Hospital.

Wolfson hosted His Holiness’ party for the entire afternoon, which saw a mixed programme of talks, meetings and demonstrations. At 2pm His Holiness was welcomed on behalf of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies by Dr. Sarah Shaw. After a brief introduction His Holiness then met with academics working in Buddhist Studies at Oxford University to discuss their research activities and common areas of interest.

This was followed by two public activities hosted by Wolfson. Part of His Holiness’ interests is the empowerment of women. To this end he has opened training in his monastery to nuns. As part of their studies they carry out Kung-Fu training and there was a display of this within the grounds of Wolfson College. This was followed by a talk in which His Holiness spoke on a wide range of topics including the importance of environmental awareness and his core philosophy of Compassion in Action.

After a brief rest, during which the audience enjoyed cake and tea provided by Wolfson’s catering team, there followed a panel discussion (chaired by Diana Quick) between His Holiness and Mark Leonard of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre entitled Mindfulness: Combining Ancient Wisdom with Modern Science.

The day ended with a Reception held in the President’s Room, where Wolfson’s President, Professor Hermione Lee, gave an address thanking His Holiness for his visit.




Excerpt from the Editorial of Volume Two of JOCBS


"A remarkable feature of this volume, which I heartily welcome, is the variety of contributors – a fact which cannot but make for variety in the contributions. More remarkable still is that more than half the pages are written by people who do not hold academic posts. If we are thus enlarging the range of people who make serious contributions to Buddhist studies, I believe that at least we are doing one thing right. In many countries, I know, academics work under such pressure from their employers, with so much teaching and (often pointless) administration, that it is hard for them to produce any research, let alone research which is both original and accessible to non-specialists; I intend to write about this in the near future.

For the moment, however, let me celebrate the contributions made by those who for various reasons are not employed in academia. I cannot specify all of them here, but I must draw attention to a couple. Linda Blanchard has never worked in education; as a Buddhist scholar she has no formal training and is virtually self-taught. Yet she has sent me an exciting new interpretation of the Buddha’s teaching of dependent origination. She and I realise that so ambitious a theory is bound to be controversial, and that only time will tell what the world will make of it; but I am confident that at the very least it deserves to be taken seriously. Taking it seriously also meant that I had to break my rule of imposing a limit on articles of ten thousand words, because I could not weaken her presentation of her case by curtailing the amount of evidence that she could present.

Peter Roberts is a self-employed scholar, who mainly earns whatever he earns as a Tibetan translator and interpreter. He is incapable of blowing his own trumpet. Tucked away near the end of his article is an explanation of the origin of the name Avalokiteśvara. How much effort has been spent on this problem! Peter has found what seems to me must be the solution, but is so modest that he just mentions it in passing, so that it could easily go unnoticed."

You can view abstracts of all the articles in Volume Two here. Volume Two will contain nine articles and five book reviews and will published on 21st May. To subscribe please click here.



Ensuring Pali Scholarship for the future


The Pali Summer School is now in its 10th year. Originally started by Richard Gombrich as a way to combat decline in Pali scholarship in the West, this concentrated course is habitually fully booked from year to year.

Richard bases the twelve-day course on intensive use of the Pali dictionary, so that after leaving, participants find they are able to tackle Pali prose texts by themselves. Due to the nature of the teaching the course is limited to 14 participants.

Although the format of the course does not currently suit an online version we will, at some point, be looking into whether an online equivalent may be developed to ensure the continuance of this important resource.



The Centre for Applied Buddhism


On Saturday 31st March 2012 the Centre for Applied Buddhism was launched at Taplow Court. This is a centre for investigation into contemporary ideas and their relationship with Buddhist philosophy.

Jamie Cresswell, director of the Centre for Applied Buddhism (who can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ), explained that the new centre has been set up to continue, and expand on, the work of the Institute of Oriental Philosophy-UK, which closed last year.

“We will focus on Buddhism and its application to people’s lives in order to understand and develop our place in the modern world; looking at topics such as psychotherapy, war and peace, economics, science, the digital world, creativity, the environment, ethics, gender and sexuality,” he said.

A new website will be up and running by end-May (

The large library built up over the years will carry on its broad brief: collecting material on all aspects of Asian cultures, religions and philosophies, as well as western philosophies, where relevant. There is a lending library too, open to all who subscribe. Please contact Sarah Norman, their librarian, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .



Recent Events at the OCBS


We have two lectures this term in our Lecture Series - by Professor Nicola Tannenbaum and Dr. Shailendra Bhandare. Details can be found here.

We will also be having a visiting lecture from Professor Luis Gomez on the 6th June entitled "Buddhist Philosophy and Psychotherapy: Convergence or Divergence?". Full details can be found here.

We are grateful to Dr. Thet Thet Nwe for her generous sponsorship of the Lecture Series.

We have also recently received several articles from Dr. Alex Wynne who has kindly made them available for display on our site.  To read them please click here.

And, finally, we also have a new article from one of our fellows Dr. Rob Mayer in conjunction with Dr. Cathy Cantwell.  In order to read it please click here.



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