[Online Course] Learn the ancient Buddhist language of Pali with Oxford scholar Richard Gombrich (Jan 2-24; Mar 19-Apr 10, 2016)

For the first time the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies offers its annual intensive Pali course online this year, taught 100% via live interaction with Prof. Gombrich. The dates for this academic year are:

  •  Winter course: 2nd Jan to 24th Jan 2016 inclusive (8 spots left) (students must attend all sessions) or
  • Spring course: 19th Mar to 10th Apr 2016 inclusive (11 spots left) (students must attend all sessions).

The following details come from Professor Gombrich:

Aim. At the end of the course you should be able, using the normal aids available, i.e. dictionaries, grammars and translations, slowly to read a Pali canonical text and understand it for yourself.

Is this really possible? I devised the course and have already given it many times with great success.  Pali can be learnt in less than a month because the aim is only to read it, not to write or speak it – though you do learn to pronounce it and recite a few chants.  There is also much less emphasis on memorisation than in a traditional course: why memorise things you can easily look up?

Who may attend? Anyone who is genuinely interested and prepared to work hard.  There are no academic prerequisites.  There are no exams, and no certificates are issued.

Method. Accordingly, the course is built on learning how to use the Pali-English Dictionary published by the Pali Text Society.  The course begins with learning Pali alphabetical order, and throughout the course each pupil is constantly using the Dictionary.  It is advisable to begin this before the course starts. Tables of the main grammatical forms are supplied and, again, students constantly consult them for themselves, until they become familiar.

Throughout the course, teachers and students connect together via Skype and share the screen and the course materials.  Students are urged to keep asking questions, and to work in cooperation.

Organisation. On the first day students will introduce themselves, and then we shall survey the grammatical terms and principles you need to understand for the course.  Though anyone who has already studied Latin, Greek or Sanskrit will probably be familiar with much of this material, experience suggests that nothing is lost by asking everyone to attend.

The rest of the course is extremely intensive.  It is cumulative, so that to miss a lesson is disastrous.  The one rigid rule is that no one may miss a class. You will find a precise timetable below; the general pattern will be that there will be classes on weekends from 9.30 to 6.00, with a long lunch break, and 6.00 – 9.15 Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings during the week.  There will be no classes on Mondays and Fridays – but there will be homework. There might be small adjustments to the schedule.

The course runs for 3 weeks and 2 days.

Besides the Pali language, the course will discuss the Pali canon and many questions concerning the Buddha’s teaching and our evidence for it.

Practical Arrangements. The course will take place 100% online. I am afraid that a computer, high speed internet and basic ability to use email, Skype and a web browser are needed.

We are experimenting with offering the course online to give students a chance to learn Pali without having to travel all the way to Oxford.

My tuition and the course materials are provided free, but we have to pay for some teaching, IT  and admin expenses.

The cost of the course is £500.

Booking.  Bookings are through the application form. If you are successful in obtaining a place then we will require payment for the course before it starts. When applying, please supply full contact details, including telephone and postal address, and let me know your highest educational qualification. We shall also need to know whether you have learned Pali, Sanskrit or any other language(s) previously. The closing date for applications is 14 calendar days before the course start date. However, since enrollment is restricted to 14, the course is usually fully booked long before the closing date.

Note: we would prefer to be paid by cheque, made out to  “Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies”,  and sent to the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, Wolfson College, Linton Road, Oxford OX2 6UD. If this is not possible then the second best option is via our PayPal account. In this case we kindly ask that you also cover the transaction fee of approximately £20. If that is not possible either please contact susan.gianni@ocbs.org for further details.

Click here for more information and to apply for the course.



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