Jan Willis (BA and MA in Philosophy, Cornell University; PhD in Indic and Buddhist Studies, Columbia University) is Professor Emerita of Religion at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut and now Visiting Professor of Religion at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, GA. She has studied with Tibetan Buddhists in India, Nepal, Switzerland and the U.S. for almost five decades, and has taught courses in Buddhism for just 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 the 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 2001, she authored the memoir, Dreaming Me: An African American Woman’s Spiritual Journey (which was re-issued in 2008 by Wisdom Publications as Dreaming Me: Black, Baptist, and Buddhist—One Woman’s Spiritual Journey).
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.
In October and November of 2012, Jan spent seven weeks in a nunnery in Thailand and in September of 2013, she walked three-hundred and forty miles of the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain.
Read an excerpt from ‘Dreaming Me’ here
Listen to her teaching on ‘The Bodhisattva’s Way of Life here