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Dharma Matters: Women, Race, and Tantra

Dharma Matters: Women, Race, and Tantra

by Jan Willis


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A powerful collection of essays on race and gender in contemporary Buddhist practice, which is a hot-button topic in the West right now, by one of the leading thinkers in the area.

Jan Willis was among the first Westerners to encounter exiled Tibetan teachers in India in the late sixties, instantly finding her spiritual and academic home, and she has engaged with virtually all of the great Tibetan Buddhist lamas of that time as well as with numerous Western scholar-practitioners. Recognized for her considerable academic accomplishments and for her cultural relevance, her writing engages head-on with issues current to Buddhist practitioners in America, including dual-faith practitioners and those from marginalized groups.

This collection of eighteen scholarly and popular essays spans over thirty years of reflection and teaching by Willis. Grouped in four sections—Women and Buddhism, Buddhism and Race, Tantric Buddhism and Saints’ Lives, and Buddhist-Christian Reflections—the essays provide timely and topical reading for Dharma practitioners in America who are interested in Willis’s penetrating perspective on questions such as:

-How can women fashion their own lineage outside of and apart from patriarchal traditions?

-How can the stories of women ancestors empower contemporary women?

-What is the value of going beyond a strict reliance on sacred scriptures to an actual social history of Buddhism as it relates to women?

-What is the significance of an individual’s ethnicity in Western Buddhist settings?

-How does it feel for African American Buddhists to practice in American Buddhist centers?

-Can Buddhist Dharma in America teach all individuals, regardless of gender, race, or ethnicity, how to be free?

Within tantric Buddhist narratives, Willis explores the life story in its traditional hagiographic form but also gives readers access to the real story of living human beings outside of the formulaic narrative framework of the saints’ lives. As she delves into Buddhist scriptures, Willis’s inquiries balance sacred text and historical perspective to address contemporary social issues meaningful to all Buddhist practitioners. With regard to her own “Baptist Buddhist” identity, she explores dual-faith identities as well as highlights what is central to their ethical practices.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781614295686
Publisher: Wisdom Publications MA
Publication date: 04/21/2020
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Jan Willis’s distinguished career as a scholar and teacher of Buddhism spans fifty years, including thirty-six years at Wesleyan University. Coming from Birmingham, Alabama, a child of Jim Crow, she marched there with Dr. King in 1963. She first met Tibetan Buddhists in India and Nepal when she was nineteen. While traveling through Asia during the early 1970s, she became a student of Lama Thubten Yeshe, who encouraged her academic pursuits. She went on to earn degrees in philosophy and Indic and Buddhist Studies from Cornell and Columbia Universities, and has published widely on Tibetan Buddhism, women and Buddhism, Buddhism and race, Buddhist meditation, and hagiography. She has studied with Tibetan Buddhists in India, Nepal, Switzerland, and the United States for five decades. In 2000 Time magazine named Willis one of six “spiritual innovators for the new millenium.”

She is the author of The Diamond Light: An Introduction to Tibetan Buddhist Meditation; On Knowing Reality: The Tattvartha Chapter of Asanga’s Bodhisattvabhumi; Enlightened Beings: Life Stories from the Ganden Oral Tradition; Dreaming Me: Black, Baptist, and Buddhist—One Woman's Spiritual Journey; and the editor of Feminine Ground: Essays on Women and Tibet.