Luis Oscar Gómez, a distinguished scholar and interpreter of Buddhism, died in Mexico City on September 3 due to illness. He was 74.
At the time of his death Gómez was Professor Emeritus of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Michigan, where he had worked for 35 years, contributing to Buddhist Studies in the areas of graduate training, undergraduate teaching, and scholarship.
Gómez founded the University of Michigan’s Ph.D. program in Buddhist Studies. As his complete obituary states, Gómez covered a wide range of topics throughout his career as a scholar, including Indian, Tibetan, Chinese, and pan-Asian Buddhism. He placed a particular emphasis on the literature and religious vision of the Mahayana. Publishing extensively in Spanish, Gómez wrote a number of “groundbreaking articles devoted to the ‘sudden vs. gradual’ dichotomy in both early Chinese Chan and at the Samye Debate in Tibet.” He also authored a number of books, including Land of Bliss: The Paradise of the Buddha of Measureless Light.
Gómez earned his first Ph.D. from Yale University in Buddhist Studies, Indic Philology, and Japanese Language and Literature in 1967, and thirty years later, acquired a second in Clinical Psychology from the University of Michigan.
Gómez contributed to the Norton Anthology of World Religions, including a complete translation of the Bodhicaryāvatāra. He also taught at El Colegio de México, was an Academic Director at the Mangalam Research Institute for Buddhist Languages in Berkeley, practiced as a therapist in Mexico City, and taught Buddhism to practitioners. Up to the time his death, he was working with Paul Harrison from Stanford on translating the Sanskrit text of the Vimalakīrtinirdeśa.
Gómez’s contribution to Buddhist studies continues through the several generations of distinguished scholars he taught throughout his career.