Memorial for Luis Óscar Gómez
Luis Gómez passed away in Mexico City on September 3, 2017. He received his B.A. degree in 1963 from Universidad de Puerto Rico, enrolling there at age sixteen. He received his Ph.D. degree in Buddhist Studies, Indic Philology, and Japanese Language and Literature from Yale University in 1967. He joined the faculty of the University of Michigan in 1973, teaching there until his retirement in 2008. He founded Michigan’s highly regarded Ph.D. program in Buddhist Studies, which has produced several generations of outstanding scholars. That his students specialized in Chinese, Japanese, Tibetan, Indian, Thai, and Burmese Buddhism testifies to his wide-ranging knowledge, as well as his high level of proficiency in Sanskrit, Pali, Tibetan, Chinese, and Japanese, as well as Latin, French, German, and Italian (in addition to his native Spanish).
Luis Gómez’s scholarship on Buddhism covered a remarkable range of important topics over his career, including Indian, Tibetan, Chinese, and pan-Asian Buddhism, with a particular emphasis on the literature and religious vision of the Mahayana. He wrote groundbreaking articles on such topics as proto-Madhyamaka in the Pali Canon and the “sudden vs. gradual” dichotomy in both early Chinese Chan and at the Samye Debate in Tibet. Among his books, his Land of Bliss: The Paradise of the Buddha of Measureless Light is considered the definitive study of this highly influential Buddhist scripture
After his retirement from the University of Michigan, he remained fully active as a scholar and teacher. He made major contributions to the Norton Anthology of World Religions, including a complete translation of the Bodhicaryāvatāra, a work that he regarded as a guide for his life. At the time of his death, he was working with Paul Harrison of Stanford on an English translation of the Sanskrit text of the Vimalakīrtinirdeśa and Luis left a number of unpublished works, including an introduction to Buddhism and a book-length study of the Samye Debate.
Over the past decade, he divided his time between the Mangalam Research Institute for Buddhist Languages in Berkeley and El Colegio de México in Mexico City, where he laid the foundations for a new generation of Latin American scholars of Buddhism.
In June 2017, knowing that he had just a few months to live, he decided to give his final lecture at the Translation and Transmission Conference.
To honor his memory, the University of Michigan is seeking raise an endowment to establish the Luis Gomez Memorial Lecture Fund, which would support an annual lecture in Luis’s honor, bringing a major scholar of Buddhism to campus. Generous donations from students of Luis and from Buddhist organizations from around the world have helped raise more than half of the fundraising goal. To help reach the goal, please consider making a donation here.
Obituary written by Donald S. Lopez, Jr.
Publications and Contributions of Note
- The Norton Anthology of World Religions: Buddhism (Norton, 2015)
- Buddhist Studies – The Legacy of Gadjin M. Nagao (Motilal Banarsidass, 2008)
- The Land of Bliss: The Paradise of the Buddha of Measureless Light (University of Hawai’i Press, 1996)
- Buddhism in Practice (Princeton University Press, 1995)
- Sudden and Gradual (Motilal Banarsidass, 1991)
- Studies in the Literature of the Great Vehicle (Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Michigan, 1989)
- Studies in Ch’an and Hua-yen (University of Hawai’i Press, 1985)
- Barabudur: History and Significance of a Buddhist Monument (Asian Humanities Press, 1981)
- Prajñāpāramitā and Related Systems (University of California and The Institute of Buddhist Studies, 1977)