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Acclaimed American Buddhist Academic Steven D. Goodman Dies, Aged 75

The widely celebrated author, translator, and professor of Tibetan Buddhism Steven D. Goodman died at his home in Oakland, California, on 3 August. He was 75. He was reported to have been suffering for some time and was receiving treatment for a rare blood disorder.

Goodman was a professor of Asian philosophy and a Research and Program Director for Asian and Comparative Studies at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) in San Francisco. Before his two-decade career at CIIS, Goodman taught at the University of California at Berkeley and Santa Barbara, Rice University, the Graduate Theological Union, Nyingma Institute, and Naropa Institute—now Naropa University. He studied for his doctorate in Far Eastern studies at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, under the world-renowned scholar Herbert V. Guenther.

Goodman’s publications include Tibetan Buddhism: Reason and Revelation (SUNY Press 1992), co-edited with Ronald M. Davidson, a source book for the study of Tibetan philosophical and visionary literature, and “Transforming the Causes of Suffering” in Mindfulness in Meaningful Work (Parallax Press 1994). In 1994, he was awarded a Rockefeller Fellowship at Rice University Center for Cultural Studies for the study of Tibetan mystical poetry.


Goodman is remembered lovingly by his students and colleagues for his wry wit, generous spirit, and playful pedagogy. In a Facebook post announcing his passing, the CIIS Alumni Association noted: “May he rest well while his tenacious Trickster spirit lives on.” (Facebook)

Nikko Odiseos, president of Shambhala Publications, recounts: “I first met Steven in the 1990s when Kyabje Thinley Norbu Rinpoche introduced us and said to me, ‘Steven is not an ordinary scholar, he is very special’ and went on to extoll his genuine connection with the tradition and practice. Our paths often crossed in subsequent decades, as a lot of my friends studied with him at the California Institute of Integral Studies, where he mesmerized a generation of eager Buddhist scholars and practitioners. He was always, warm, joyful, generous, and a delight to be with.” (Shambhala Publications)

Goodman served as a translator for a number of well known Tibetan Buddhist teachers, including Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse, Tenzin Wangyal, Bhaka Tulku, Thinley Norbu, and Lama Tharchin. He was a founding member of the Working Committee for the project 84000: Translating The Words of The Buddha, and was an advisor to Khyentse Foundation. He was also a founding board member and president of the Buddhist Film Foundation.

The Bhutanese filmmaker and teacher and founder of Khyentse Foundation, Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, said in a statement: “Steven had all the requisite academic knowledge and achievements, and he was also one of those very, very rare scholars who looked at Buddhism directly for what it truly is. And so he dared to go beyond both the subjective and the objective. Steven Goodman’s passing is a major loss for Buddhism in America, and especially for the study of Tibetan Buddhism in the West.” (Berkeleyside)


Goodman’s latest book, The Buddhist Psychology of Awakening: An In-Depth Guide to Abhidharma (Shambhala), was published on 21 July this year.

See more

CIIS Alumni Association (Facebook)
Steven D. Goodman (Shambhala Publications)
Remembering Steven D. Goodman, author, professor, and translator of Tibetan Buddhist works (Berkeleyside)

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