Richard Gombrich

Professor Richard Gombrich speaks with us about Buddhism in the modern world.

The term living tradition may seem as much an oxymoron as, well, Secular Buddhism. And yet this organic vitality is a hallmark of Buddhism, even and perhaps especially today. There have been growing pains as Buddhism rubs up against, and eventually becomes part of each different cultural context it encountered, but eventually Buddhism settled in. It’s been an evolutionary tale, as new forms arise from the selective pressures of the environment, while older varieties may still flourish… or at least soldier on. Today is perhaps the greatest assault, as new ideas and cultures are pushing and pulling the tradition with unprecedented rapidity and variety.

Richard Gombrich is the Emeritus Professor of Sanskrit at Oxford University and a member of the Oriental Institute and Balliol College. He is the Founder and Director of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, and the General Editor of the Clay Sanskrit Library. Before his retirement in 2004, he held the Boden Chair of Sanskrit at Oxford University and a Professorial Fellowship at Balliol College for 28 years. He supervised nearly 50 theses on Buddhist topics, and is the author of 200 publications.

So, sit back, relax, and have a nice Oxfordshire Afternoon Tea.


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Music for This Episode Courtesy of Rodrigo Rodriguez

The music heard in the middle of this podcast is from Rodrigo Rodriguez. You can visit his website to hear more of his music, get the full discography, and view his upcoming tour dates.

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  1. Doug Smith on January 16, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    Wonderful interview, Ted. Thanks to you both. Contrary to his supposition at the end of the podcast, I sincerely hope Prof. Gombrich is around for us a long time yet and will be back on for more of his thoughts. They are a light in what seems a darkening time.

  2. steve mareno on January 18, 2017 at 6:40 am

    Gombrich’s comments about our current Newspeak situation, which has become a fact and no longer a concept in a book of fiction, are something to pay attention to. As he so wisely points out, the willingness to swallows lies starts w/ the modern educational system, primarily at the university level. No longer do people go to college to actually learn to broaden their world view, they go w/ a very specific, narrow goal of making a good living and the truth be damned.

    The modern society glorifies money at the expense of morality, and can be best seen in American universities where they teach Business Ethics, which is not ethics at all, but rather instructions on how to legally violate laws and morals w/o getting caught w/ the goal of using this philosophy to make more money, no matter how it is made.

    This is indeed a darkening time, or more accurately, a very dark time. The moral compass of today is so skewed w/ lies and untruths that it seems absolutely hopeless to imagine it ever turning around, but life is full of surprises. For sure, if we simply continue to do what we are currently doing, we will continue to get what we always got.

  3. Michael Finley on March 7, 2017 at 3:38 pm

    Interesting that Prof. Gombrich mentioned E. A. Burtt’s The Teachings of the Compassionate Buddha as something that influenced him early on. It was also the book that persuaded me (about 25 years later)to take Buddhism seriously. I wonder how many secular Buddhists and fellow travellers were influened by this short collection of Buddhist texts, chosen, it seems, to stress the humanistic aspect of Buddhism?

    Steve, I largely agree with your comments — there are now lists on-line that compare university educations as “investments.” Social work appears to be the least desirable professional training. I used to think university education was a useful way to expose future members of the social/economic elite to ideas, and ethical values, beyond status and wealth. Maybe have been true of Oxbridge in the 19th C., or Gombrich’s memory, but these days you can get a business degree at a leading university without learning much that might trouble the conscience of Donald Trump.

    I think I’ll follow this up with an observation about comtemporary ethics as a comment to Doug’s new video on secular Buddhism.

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