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Navigating spiritual paths with Durham's Buddhist Chaplain

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Dr Robert Bluck joined the University in September last year as our new Buddhist chaplain.

Dialogue caught up with Robert to find out more about his role and his plans.

What is your role at Durham?

I became the Buddhist chaplain in September 2023. Like the other chaplains, my role is to support all students and staff, offering friendship and spiritual care – whatever their religious beliefs or secular worldview. As a voluntary chaplain, I’m here every Friday in term time.

Tell us a bit more about yourself and what you'll bring to the University.

My background is in higher education, working as a tutor-librarian and Open University lecturer in world religions, with a PhD in Buddhist Studies – subsequently published as British Buddhism. This was based on visiting Buddhist centres from all traditions, to become familiar with their different styles and approaches. I’ve been a practising Buddhist for many years in the Theravada and Zen traditions, but am not attached to a particular monastic centre. My forthcoming book The Unofficial Buddhist explores how those sympathetic to Buddhism can practice in today’s secular society. So, I’m hopefully able to offer both an academic approach and long personal experience of Buddhist teaching and practice.

What are your main priorities for your first six months at Durham?

I’m hoping to meet Buddhist students and staff, support the new DU Buddhist Society, and offer pastoral support to those in need. I'm also hoping to begin leading meditation sessions, offer talks on Buddhism, participate in interfaith events, and begin networking with Buddhist chaplains in other universities.

What has been your greatest achievement?

I would have said completing my PhD and getting it published...but only this week I received a contract for my new book The Unofficial Buddhist, so maybe my greatest achievement will be later in the year when it's published.

In terms of my role at Durham it is too early to think about achievements, but I’ve very much enjoyed offering regular talks to students in the Buddhist Society and discussing Buddhism and meditation with students and staff. I’m also beginning to be invited to offer talks and to lead meditation sessions.

What do you like to do outside of work and what does your ideal day off work look like?

As well as teaching and leading meditation, I offer talks to secular, Christian and interfaith groups, and I’ve contributed book chapters and articles on Buddhism. My wife and I are keen birdwatchers, but my real passion is cycling. A friend and I have ridden round the entire coastline of mainland Britain, 5,000 miles in all – but not all at once!

My ideal day off work would include a long cycle ride in Northumberland, with a nice café stop in the middle.



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