Visitorship for Traditional Scholars

If you are a scholar from the monastic education system, would you like to spend a term in Oxford
to work with teachers and students in the University?
Or do you know of someone who might make a success of this opportunity?

Or, in case you live within range of Oxford,
would you like to help with this scheme,
or simply to attend some events with a Visitor?

Or are you just interested in what is going on here?
Whichever it is, you may like to read this page
and then write to: info@so-wide.org .

2023 Visitorship for Traditional Scholars

If you would be interested in joining the Visitorship scheme, please write to: info@so-wide.org . To learn more, click the button below.

Importantly, we have not yet arranged a Visitor for 2023. If you would like to be considered, please write by 23/10./22 at the latest. Thanks!

ཕྱི་ལོ་༢༠༢༢ ལོའི་སྲོལ་རྒྱུན་མཁས་པ་གདན་ཞུའི་སྙན་ཞུ་འདི་བཞིན་བསྡུ་འགོ་བཙུགས་ཟིན་པས། ཨོ་ཁི་སི་སློབ་གྲྭ་ཆེན་མོར་ཟླ་བ་གསུམ་ལྷག་རིང་གདན་ཞུ་སློབ་དཔོན་གྱི་མིང་ཐོག་ནས་ཕེབས་བློ་ཡོད་པ་རྣམས་ཀྱིས། སོ་སོའི་སློབ་གཉེར་གྱི་རྒྱུད་རིམ་སྙིང་བསྡུ་དང་། སྐད་ཡིག་འདྲ་མིན་གྱི་ཆུད་ཚད། དེ་བཞིན་སློབ་གཉེར་གྱི་་བརྗོད་གཞི་དགའ་ཤོས་རྣམས་འཁོད་པ་ཞིག་གློག་འཕྲིན་ཁང་བྱང་ info@so-wide.org. བརྒྱུད་ནས་༢༠༢༢ སྤྱི་ཟླ་༡༠ ཚེས་༢༣ ལས་མ་འགྱངས་བར་བསྐུར་རོགས། གནས་ཚུལ་རྒྱས་པ་གཤམ་གྱི་སྒམ་ཆུང་དེར་ནོན་དང་གཟིགས་ཐུབ།

The Scheme

THE CONCEPT

In 2008, HH the Dalai Lama visited Oxford. So-Wide arranged the visit.

We asked if he had any advice for us. He suggested we could set up a scheme for traditional scholars to visit Oxford.

We agreed there was scope for this. So, we did some work. A few years later, the Visitorship for Traditional Scholars was ready to launch.

At the time, most of those working on Buddhist topics were in Tibetan and Himalayan Studies, so the scheme started by inviting a traditional Tibetan scholar to Oxford once a year for a University term. This has been going on since 2011.

Visitors are selected in consultation with the University. One aim is to invite people from different traditions (Gelug, Sakya, Kagyu, Nyingma). It is also good to have some nuns as well as monks.

SPONSORS

Charities play a role in the Oxford environment. So-Wide runs the Visitorship in association with:

  • the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies (OCBS ocbs.org),

which supports and promotes Buddhist Studies at Oxford,

and  

which regularly hosts monastics from diverse Buddhist traditions

and where our Visitors live.

The Faculty of Middle Eastern and Asian Studies in the University of Oxford is the academic sponsor (https://www.orinst.ox.ac.uk). Professor Ulrike Roesler heads the Tibetan and Himalayan Studies team there.

ARRANGEMENTS

Oxford terms are busy. This is particularly true at the beginning and end of the academic year.

That is why Visitors are invited in the middle of the year. They come for the 8 weeks of the spring (or ‘Hilary’) term, from January to March. 

When a prospective Visitor is proposed, the first stage is to talk things over. In phone or video-calls, everything is discussed thoroughly.

This is an opportunity for both sides to check what is involved. It is important to assess, for instance:

  • how easy it will be for a prospective Visitor to communicate with students, and
  • what he or she is likely to gain from the opportunity.

When a Visitor has been selected, formal letters of invitation are issued. This makes it possible to secure a visa.

So-Wide transfers funds to the Visitor’s bank account to cover initial expenses — visa, domestic travel to secure the visa and to get to the airport, and return air flight. On arrival, Visitors are picked up from the airport, brought to Oxford and introduced to the Vihara (OBV).

Once recovered from the flight, our volunteers show them round the town, get them a bus pass and demonstrate how to use it, arrange for the issue of a library card, and so on. Visitors also get some spending money.

Volunteers remain on hand for help and advice throughout the Visitor’s stay. We also nominate one of the students to provide support within the Faculty. 

Soon after arrival, the Visitor meets the teacher(s) and students with whom he or she will work. A basic schedule is arranged (reading-group and talks).

Then it is up to the Visitor. In consultation with the students, staff and volunteers, he or she is responsible for filling out the programme.

How it Works

FINDING A PATH

Students in Tibetan and Himalayan Studies at the University of Oxford are all post-graduate — some on a Masters’ programme, some doing doctorates. Their needs are varied — much depends on the topic they are working on. 

Visitors are encouraged to make themselves available, so that they can get to know interested students. They learn about the students as people and also about their projects — and then they may asked to help, or simply to discuss issues, as each student sees fit.

Also, Visitors can share widely in the life and work of the student body. A Visitor who makes the effort will get to attend seminars and lectures, and will be invited to colleges.

ACTIVITIES

The Faculty will arrange for the Visitor to give some talks and to take a reading-group. These activities are important, but it is also vital for every Visitor to take the initiative with individual students.

Visitors also connect with people across the university and beyond. They can give talks to the Buddhist Society, and to devotees in the Vihara. They can also link up with people in the UK who follow their tradition or lineage.

Towards the end of term, a Visitor will commonly give a lecture in the OCBS Lecture Series. So-Wide people will help with preparing this presentation. These talks are open to public and a wide range of people will attend. You can see some examples here.

London is an hour-and-a-half away. They are also great sightseeing opportunities around Oxford.

A TWO-WAY EXCHANGE

Over the years, Visitors have made a great contribution to the life and work of the University. They have found the Oxford experience meaningful in their own lives, too.

That was always the intention. The scheme aims to help Oxford students, who gain intimate contact with insiders and so come to appreciate Buddhist traditions more fully — and it also aims to introduce scholars from the monastic educational system to the academic world, both intellectually and socially.

Among our Oxford students are people genuinely willing to live what they learn of Buddhist traditions. Visitors will find kindred spirits.

From these en­counters, Visitors can explore how it may be possible to step onto the Path while at the same time enquiring critically into the social history of Buddhism. They have often come to appreciate, too, how even the most traditional monastic education today reflects much that has come out of academic Buddhist Studies.

It will be good to build on this. Some relevant reflections will be found here.

 

Visits to Date

Some visitors have been well-known figures. Some have been relatively junior.

  • In 2011, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche came for a memorable visit (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khyentse_Norbu)
  • In 2013, we were privileged to receive Arjia Rinpoche

      (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/8th_Arjia_Rinpoche).

  • In 2014 we much appreciated the visit of Lama Tenzin Tselek
          from the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics in Dharmsala
  • In 2015 we were happy to be joined by Lama Tenzin Damchoe
          from the same institution.
  • In 2016 we were delighted to host a nun, Ani Nawang Jinpa
    from the Drukpa Kagyü lineage based in Hemis monastery, Leh.
  • In 2017 we enjoyed a visit from Gakar Rinpoche
    of the Nyingma College of Shechen in Kathmandu.
  • In 2018 Geshe Zopa made a great impact
    from Kopan/Sera and the FPMT.
  • In 2019, we were pleased to welcome Yangten Tulku Rinpoche
    from HHDL’s office in Dharmsala.
  • In 2020, it was wonderful to meet Lama Konchok Zhiva (Shanta Kumar Negi)
    from the Drikung Kagyu Institute in Dehradun and CIHTS Leh.
  • In 2022, we were lucky to have with us Geshe Lharampa Minyak Rinpoche
    from Drepung Gomang Monastery

Thus we have covered a fairly wide range of institutions. We intend to maintain and indeed increase the diversity in the future.

You will find CVs of our visitors on this site, plus some samples of their work. (Unfortunately we are short of photos, but hope to make up this deficiency).

Looking Ahead

So far, the scheme has grown organically. It is now time to set it on a firmer footing.

It will be good to spread word of what has been happening here in Oxford across the monastic education system. Please do that.

Looking ahead, the intention is:

  • to offer the institutions, from which our Visitors come, a fuller role in the operation of the scheme;
  • to build up a pipeline of prospective Visitors; and
  • to extend the scheme to support UK students travelling to Asia as well as traditional scholars coming to the UK.

If any of this could be of interest, please get in touch.

 

 

Get in touch

Would you like to know more?
Feel free to get in touch
with any queries.

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