Past Event

Teaching Tibetan Buddhism in the Western Academy

March 10, 2023
11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
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School of International and Public Affairs, 420 West 118th Street, Room 918, New York, NY 10027

Speaker: Jan Willis, Professor of Religious Studies Emerita, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT

Moderator: Gray Tuttle, Leila Hadley Luce Professor of Modern Tibetan Studies, Department of East Asian Languages & Cultures, Columbia University: 

Through personal and practical anecdotes from her own life and teaching, Professor Jan Willis describes in this talk how, over the course of fifty years, she both learned and taught Tibetan Buddhism in undergraduate academic settings in the West. Looking at the obstacles and challenges of teaching an “esoteric” religious tradition, the talk is as much about pedagogy as about Tibetan Buddhism.

Speaker's Bio: Jan Willis has studied with Tibetan Buddhists in India, Nepal, Switzerland, and the U.S. for five decades, and has taught courses in Buddhism for over forty years. She is the author of The Diamond Light: An Introduction to Tibetan Buddhist Meditation (1972), On Knowing Reality: The Tattvartha Chapter of Asanga’s Bodhisattvabhumi (1979), Enlightened Beings: Life Stories from the Ganden Oral Tradition (1995); and editor of Feminine Ground: Essays on Women and Tibet (1989). Additionally, Willis has published numerous articles and essays on various topics in Buddhism—Buddhist meditation, hagiography, women and Buddhism, and Buddhism and race. In December of 2000, TIME magazine named Willis one of six “spiritual innovators for the new millennium.” In 2003, she was a recipient of Wesleyan University’s Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching. Newsweek magazine’s “Spirituality in America” issue in September of 2005 included a profile of Willis and, in its May 2007 edition, Ebony magazine named Willis one of its “Power 150” most influential African Americans.

This event is part of the 2022-2023 lecture series on “Women in Tibetan Studies: A Lecture Series” and is sponsored by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute and co-sponsored by the Modern Tibetan Studies Program and the Department of Religion.


  • To attend this event in-person, please register HERE. Please note that non-CUID holders need to show proof of their primary series and one booster dose of COVID-19 vaccines.
  • To attend this event online, please register HERE.

Contact Information

Julie Kwan