Janet Gyatso

Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies

Janet Gyatso

Bio

Professor Janet Gyatso (珍妮·嘉措) is a specialist in Buddhist studies with concentration on Tibetan and South Asian cultural and intellectual history. Her books include Apparitions of the Self: The Secret Autobiographies of a Tibetan Visionary; In the Mirror of Memory: Reflections on Mindfulness and Remembrance in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism; and Women of Tibet. She has recently completed a new book, Being Human in a Buddhist World: An Intellectual History of Medicine in Early Modern Tibet (Columbia University Press, 2015), which focuses upon alternative early modernities and the conjunctions and disjunctures between religious and scientific epistemologies in Tibetan medicine in the sixteenth–eighteenth centuries. She has also been writing on sex and gender in Buddhist monasticism, and on the current female ordination movement in Buddhism. Previous topics of her scholarship have included visionary revelation in Buddhism; lineage, memory, and authorship; the philosophy of experience; and autobiographical writing in Tibet.

Gyatso was president of the International Association of Tibetan Studies from 2000 to 2006, and co-chair of the Buddhism Section of the American Academy of Religion from 2004 to 2010. She teaches lecture courses and advanced seminars on Buddhist history, ritual, and ideas, and on Tibetan literary practices and religious history. In both teaching and writing she draws on cultural and literary theory, and endeavors to widen the spectrum of intellectual resources for the understanding of Buddhist and Tibetan history. She is a member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ Committee on the Study of Religion, Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, and Committee on Inner Asian and Altaic Studies, and is an active participant in the Harvard Buddhist Studies Forum. She is also involved in the development of a new track for the training of Buddhist lay ministers and leaders in the master of divinity program at HDS.

Gyatso taught at Amherst College before coming to Harvard as the Divinity School’s first Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies. In July 2014 she became HDS associate dean for faculty and academic affairs.

Research interests: Buddhist studies; Tibetan and South Asian cultural history; conceptions of sex and gender in Buddhist monasticism; the female ordination movement in Buddhism; visionary revelation in Buddhism; issues concerning lineage, memory, and authorship; philosophical questions on the status of experience; autobiographical writing in Tibet.

Selected Publications

Books

  • The Way of Humans in a Buddhist World: An Intellectual History of Medicine in Early Modern Tibet. Completed draft.
  • Women of Tibet. Co-edited with Hanna Havnevik. London: Hurst and Co., and New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.
  • Apparitions of the Self: The Secret Autobiographies of a Tibetan Visionary. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998.
  • In the Mirror of Memory: Reflections on Mindfulness and Remembrance in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism. Edited volume of essays. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992.

Recent Articles and Chapters

  • “Looking for Gender in the Desi’s Medical Paintings,” Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity, 2012.
  • “James Duncan Gentry [Ph. D.]: Substance and Sense: Objects of Power in the Life, Writings, and Legacy of the Tibetan Ritual Master Sog bzlog pa Bio gros rgyal mtshan,” Harvard Theological Review, 2014.
  • “C. Pierce Salguero, Translating Buddhist Medicine in Medieval China,” Social History of Medicine, 2015.
  • “The Lives and Liberation of Princess Mandarava: The Indian Consort of Padmasambhava,” Simon and Schuster, 2015.
  • “Being human in a Buddhist world,” Being Human in a Buddhist World, 2015.
  • “The Illuminated Life of the Great Yolmowa,” Journal of Asian Studies, 2016.
  • “Turning Personal: Recent Work on Autobiography in Tibetan Studies-Vision and Violence: Lama Zhang and the Politics of Charisma in Twelfth-Century Tibet,” The Journal of Asian Studies, 2016.
  • “The Yogin and the Madman: Reading the Biographical Corpus of Tibet’s Great Saint Milarepa, Journal of Asian Studies, 2016.
  • “Love and Liberation: Autobiographical Writings of the Tibetan Buddhist Visionary Sera Khandro,” Journal of Asian Studies, 2016.
  • “Translating Buddhist Medicine in Medieval China,” History of Religions, 2017.
  • “Did the Buddha Really Author the Classic Tibetan Medical Text? A Critical Examination from The Lamp to Dispel Darkness,” Buddhism and Medicine, 2016.
  • “Julie A. Regan [PhD]: The Poetic Path to Awakening: Reading the Buddhist Literary Text as a Form of Practice in Asvaghosa’s mahakavya,” Harvard Theological Review, 2017.
  • “Longchenpa and the Possession of the Dakinis,” Tantra in Practice, 2018.
  • “Book Review Forum: Edited by Bill McGrath,” Asian Medicine, 2018.
  • “Seeing from All Sides,” Readings of Santideva’s Guide to Bodhisattva Practice, 2019.
  • “Introduction. The Secret Autobiographies of Jigme Lingpa,” Apparitions to the Self, 2020.
  • “Dakki’s Grand Secret-Talk,” Apparitions of the Self, 2020.
  • “Autobiography in Tibet,” Apparitions of the Self, 2020.
  • “Apparitions of the Self,” Apparitions of the Self, 2020.
  • “The Dakini Talks: On Gender, Language, and the Secret Autobiographer,” Apparitions of the Self, 2020.
  • “Dharma in Common: Yuanzhao and the Resurgence of Buddhist Monasticism in Medieval East Asia, 2021.

Media