Pali Online School Gombrich portrait

Pali Online School

Pali Online School


Details of our next intensive three week course will be posted when they are known. 

In the meantime, please visit our new online courses in Pali that allow you to study at your own pace.



Details of last intensive

Name of course: POS-6_W18

Dates: 2nd January – 20 January 2018 (technical dry run on 1st January)

Course runs every day except Sunday.

Times:  9am – 1.30pm GMT (with breaks)

Cost:  £750  (Sangha members receive a 50% discount)

Practical Arrangements. The course will take place entirely online. A computer, high speed internet and basic ability to use email and a web browser are needed.

The course only consists of live interaction between Professor Gombrich, the Teaching Assistants and the students. The intensity of the course is what makes the course so successful and therefore live attendance at all classes is mandatory.

Booking.  Bookings are through the application form below (please scroll down) and we will require payment for the course by 22 December. We shall send out the course book on receipt of payment. When applying, please supply full contact details, including telephone and postal address, and let us 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 10 calendar days before the course start date. The course requires a minimum of 10 to run, and has a maximum capacity of 24.

I found Prof. Gombrich not only immensely knowledgeable, but also very well organised, presenting a set of materials consisting of what we really needed to know in an order to have a good go at translating a variety of passages from the suttas. There’s as much skill in knowing what to leave out or only touch on as in knowing what to include! He is very clear in delivery and provides very helpful (and patient) explanations. When translating, he seemed to pick out straightforward meanings that were well informed by his knowledge of Indian society and culture at the time. And he’s very humorous too.  ”  – Paul Trafford (click here for full review)

Having studied with him at the 2011 Pali Summer School, I can attest to his engaging and direct method and the success that his students experience in reading Pali after a short period of instruction. Students from a variety of backgrounds including academics, interested practitioners, and monastics, traveled from around the world (quite literally) to spend two weeks in Oxford for this class.” – Justin Whitaker (click here for full review)

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 more than twenty 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, but the course is aimed at beginners and I am reluctant to admit those who have already studied Pali. 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 in the course book and, again, students constantly consult them for themselves, until they become familiar.

Throughout the course, teachers and students connect together via video conference and share the screen and the course materials.  Students are urged to keep asking questions, and to work in cooperation.   On many days, Prof. Gombrich will teach for the first 2 hours; on the other days that period will be taught by Dr. Alex Wynne, an experienced teacher who knows the course well. Then, after a break of an hour, which leaves time for students to look at the material by themselves, the students will be organised into small groups, and work together, while TAs will discuss with them any problems they have, revise what has just been taught, and sometimes administer simple written exercises. Details will be supplied in advance in the Teaching Schedule.

Organisation. On 1 January there will be an introductory session. This has two purposes: first, we shall check that students can handle the very simple technical aspects; then students will introduce themselves. Classes will begin the next day. Before this students should have read sections 1—4 of the course book and cast an eye over section 7. They should try to memorise Pali alphabetical order (see sec. 4) before the course begins; they can practise it by using the dictionary (see below).

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

In our experience students need to devote an additional 1-3 hours to homework and revision every day outside of class time; how much they will need will depend largely on the extent of their experience of learning languages.


  • Zoom for voice and screen sharing
  • pair-work for peer-to-peer learning and teaching
  • Professor and TA working with pairs and individuals



  • Preferably no previous knowledge of Pali
  • Knowledge of other languages helpful but not required


  • Ability to use email, Google Drive, Zoom and a web browser
  • Knowledge and ability to copy files, install applications, register via online forms
  • Computer and web camera
  • Both desktop and laptop are acceptable, however tablets will not work (we have tested them)
  • Microphone and earphones with decent sound quality
  • High speed internet


The only material that is an absolute must for the course is the Pali-English Dictionary. There is a free version available online. For links to the paper and electronic version see below. We also suggest two other books; those who intend to keep up their Pali studies after the course may wish to get their own copies.

  1. Pali-English Dictionary by Rhys Davids and Stede, affectionately called the PED
    – you can buy the paper version from the 
    Pali Text Society
    – many people prefer to use the 
    on-line version, which also has the advantage of being free
  2. An Introduction to Pali by A.K. Warder (optional)
  3. A Pali Grammar by Wilhelm Geiger, revised by K.R. Norman (optional)



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 £40. If that is not possible either, please contact for further details.  Payment is due upon successful registration and all payments are non-refundable.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Do I have to be a Buddhist to attend?
A: No.

Q: I don’t know how to use Zoom. What should I do?
A: There are many tutorials online and it’s easy to learn.

Q: I don’t know any foreign languages. May I apply?
A: Yes.

Q: I know some Pali already. May I apply?
A: You may, but be warned: this course is aimed at absolute beginners, so you may be disappointed.

Q: Is this a pre-recorded class?
A: No. All sessions and all interactions are live.

Q: I would love to attend but my schedule would only allow me to attend part of the schedule. May I attend?
A: I am afraid not. All classes are mandatory and build upon each other so missing even one class can have a detrimental effect.

Q: The class schedule is very intensive. Why? Will you give a less intensive course?
A: Experience tells us that the more intensive the course, the better the results. When given in Oxford, it is for 6 hours a day of classroom teaching plus some homework. This online course is already a compromise, in that the schedule tries to accommodate people who are committed to a work/family schedule. That said, after this initial intensive course we do offer a less intensive weekly Pali Reading Club.

Q: Will there be any homework? If yes, how much?
A: We find that most students need to spend 1-3 hours 
daily on homework. That is, revision, redoing exercises, pre-reading materials for the next day, collecting and researching their questions and so on. It is of vital importance to reserve this time in advance to fit into one’s daily schedule.

Q: I am not too tech-savvy. Will you provide technical support?
A: We provide a technical dry-run before the course starts. However, we cannot provide detailed technical support one-on-one, unfortunately. It is your responsibility before the course starts to get familiar with Google Drive, Google Docs and Zoom. Fortunately there is excellent documentation available for all of them for all possible platforms, and Google and YouTube contain many tutorials on how to use them, so you should be able to catch up pretty quickly.