Suwanda H. J. Sugunasiri

Hello (Mrs) Dr Guenther:

Here’s a first draft of a piece on Prof. Guenther which I’ve written and expect to post on our website. I would really appreciate it if you could kindly go over it, and cut out that which you feel is unsuitable, and add whatever you feel will help the reader come to know our late professor better. Or any other information that you like to see included..

Pl let me know the names of your children, as well as a more complete list of his publications. A CV would be helpful as well. 

Also, would you have any concerns about posting   a photo taken of  him  by me?  

Wishing you the best in health and happiness!


Prof. Herbert Guenther, 1917 – 2006

It is with a deep sense of loss that we bring you the sad news of the passing
away of Dr. Herbert Guenther, renowned   Buddhist scholar, and    Professor at  the University of Saskatchewan, Canada,  until his retirement in 1984. Active in research and writing until late last year, he passed away serenely in his sleep on March 11, 2006, after a very brief three months of physical weakening, a prime example of a life that ends with the  expiry of the natural life-span. Alert when he met this stranger, in the Senior Citizen’s Home, he, sitting in his wheelchair,  took my hand in his, held a journal I had taken for him, looked right into  the camera for photos, and upon leaving, held both my hands in his two hands, gazing at me intently with his wide open eyes.

Born in Bremen, Germany, in 1917, Prof Guenther taught at the Vienna University where he would meet his future wife, Ilse. Furthering his studies in India, he taught  at  Lucknow and Sanskrit Universities, in Uttar Pradesh and Varanasi respectively, when he was sought out by the University of Saskatchewan in 1964 where he served as the Head of the Far Eastern Studies department until his retirement in 1984.

Well-known for his scholarship on Tibetan Buddhism,  he is the author of several works, among them,  Dawn of Tantra (1975), Buddhism in Western Perspective
 (1977),  and Teachings of Padmasambhava (1996)   co-authored with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the well-known Tibetan teacher and founder of Naropa College in Boulder, Colorado.   Guenther is also well-known for his work as a translator of Buddhist texts,  including The Life and Teaching of Naropa (1963), a translation of the biography of the eleventh-century mystic, and  Mind in Psychology: A Translation of Ye-she rGyal-mtshan’s  “The Necklace of Clear Understanding” (1975). Among his other works are [pl add list]………. Perhaps his last work to appear while alive is a paper, “The Homology of Emotionality and  Rationality” in  the  Canadian Journal of Buddhist Studies (Number One), based on the work of scholar-poet kLong-chen rab-byams-pa (1308 – 64). 

Deeply interested in Buddhist studies, he had told Nalanda (in an e-mail, dated February 9, 2006, sent by  his wife) that “…he was glad to hear that …….. you plan to offer the BA Hons in Buddhadharma Studies”. And further, in the words of Dr. Ilse Guenther, his wife of ……… years and fellow translator,  that having “been deeply interested in Buddhist studies for more than 65 years”, he “feels confident now that somehow his interest and research work will continue.”

He is survived by his wife and two children, ………………………..

May he attain that ultimate peace of Nibbana!

by  Suwanda H. J. Sugunasiri,

Founder-President, Nalanda College of Buddhist Studies

April 4, 2006