Steven Collins



Steven CollinsChester D. Tripp Professor in the Humanities

The SALC Department is deeply saddened by the loss of Steven Collins, Chester D. Tripp Professor in the Humanities, who died unexpectedly on February 15 in New Zealand, where he was giving a series of invited lectures.  Steve Collins was a wise and compassionate colleague who exemplified in his research, teaching, and service the highest ideals of critical inquiry and thoughtfulness to which the University aspires, in ways both profoundly serious and graciously humane. He did much to shape for the better the lives and work of his colleagues and students, and he is greatly missed.






Steven Collins was trained at Oxford University, where he took Honour Moderations in Literae Humaniores (Greek and Latin Literature, 1972); and Final Honours in P.P.P. (Psychology and Philosophy, 1974) at Christ Church; he was a Graduate Student (1975-77) and Graduate Scholar (1977-79) at Wolfson College and Junior Research Fellow in Oriental Languages at Exeter College (1979-80). He taught at Bristol University (England, 1980-87), Indiana University (Bloomington, 1987-89), and Concordia University (Montreal, 1989-91) before joining the University of Chicago. He is Council Member of the Pali Text Society (London).

Field Specialties

Social and cultural history of Buddhism in premodern and modern South and Southeast Asia; Pali language and literature.

Research Interests

Current interests include the varieties and civilizational place of wisdom, and Buddhist practices of self.


  • D. Phil., Wolfson College, Oxford University, 1979. Thesis: Personal Continuity in Theravada Buddhism

Publications Include:


  • Selfless Persons: imagery and thought in Theravada Buddhism, Cambridge University Press, 1982 (paperback edition, 1990).
  • Nirvana and other Buddhist Felicities: Utopias of the Pali imaginaire, Cambridge University Press, 1998 (paperback edition 2006).
  • A Pali Grammar for Students (Silkworm Press, 2006).
  • Nirvana: concept, imagery, narrative. Cambridge University Press, 2010.
  • The Vessantara Jātaka (ed., Columbia University Press Readings in Buddhist Literatures, 2016).

Articles and Contributions to Edited Volumes

  • "Oral Aspects of Pali Literature," The Indo-Iranian Journal, vol. 35, 1992, pp. 121-35.
  • "The Discourse on What is Primary (Aggañña Sutta)": an annotated translation, Journal of Indian Philosophy, vol. 21 (4) 1993, pp. 301-93.
  • "What are Buddhists doing when they deny the self?", in Religion and Practical Reason, edited by Frank Reynolds and David Tracy, SUNY Press, 1994, pp. 59-86.
  • "What is Literature in Pali?", in S. Pollock (ed.), Literary Cultures in History (University of California Press, 2003), pp. 649-88.
  • "On the Third Precept: Adultery and Prostitution in Pali Texts," Journal of the Pali Text Society, vol. XXVIII (Festschrift for K. R. Norman), 2007.
  • "Monasticism, Utopias and Comparative Social Theory," Religion 18.5 (1988): 101-135.
  • "On the Very Idea of the Pali Canon," Journal of the Pali Text Society XV (1990): 89-126.
  • "Remarks on the Visuddhimagga, and on its treatment of the Memory of Former Dwelling(s) (pubbenivāsānussatiñāṇa),’ Journal of Indian Philosophy (published online 26 August 2009). " Journal of Indian Philosophy (published online 26 August 2009).
  • "Buddhist nuns (mae chi) and the teaching of Pali in Thailand" (jointly with Justin McDaniel); forthcoming in Modern Asian Studies (2010).
  • The Theravāda Civilizations Project: Future Directions in the Study of Buddhism in Southeast Asia, Contemporary Buddhism 2012 (1) (jointly with Juliane Schober)
  • ‘Postscript’ Champions of Buddhism: Weikza Cults in Contemporary Burma, (eds.) Guillaume Rozenberg, Bénédicte Brac de la Perrière and Alicia Turner (National University of Singapore Press, 2014).
  • ‘Remarks on the dichotomy rūpakāya / dhammakāya,’ Contemporary Buddhism, 2014, vol. 15 (2)
    'Madness in Pali Texts’, Buddhist Studies Review, 2014 vol. 31 (2)

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