Jan Willis teaches “Three Principal Aspects of the Path” May 19-22


“As always, in matters of faith and of the heart, a little concrete experience and practice usually takes one higher, while at the same time sets one on firmer ground.”   – Jan Willis in Dreaming Me: Black, Baptist, and Buddhist—One Woman’s Spiritual Journey.

Jan Willis—author, activist, scholar, professor, and long-time Buddhist practitioner—brings her “concrete experience” to teach Lama Tsongkhapa’s packed summary of the steps  to full awakening, “Three Principal Aspects of the Path.” Teachings are Saturday through Monday and commuters are welcomed. See the Event Schedule for details.

The breadth of Jan Willis’ life is hard to summarize in a few words. An interviewer for Argus, the Wesleyan University magazine said it this way:

Jan Willis has been at the forefront of history. She has accomplished what most can only dream of achieving. She marched with Martin Luther King Jr., held sit-in protests during her undergraduate years at Cornell, lived in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, taught at premier academic institutions, and has written some of the leading scholarship in her field.

Jan is also one of Lama Yeshe’s earliest Western disciples and, like our abbess Ven. Thubten Chodron, sees him as one of her root spiritual mentors. (Read an interview where Jan talks about her time with Lama Yeshe with Mandala Magazine.)

Jan grew up in the Jim Crow South of 1950s and 60s and took part in the Civil Rights movement. While traveling through Asia in the early 1970s, she met Lama Yeshe and discovered Dharma as a path to healing the trauma of racism.  “[Buddhism] has helped me in real ways to find what I was looking for as a young person in a world that was violent,” she explained. “It showed me how to locate deep wounds that racism caused in my early life … and having found them, how to heal them.”

Lama Yeshe encouraged Jan’s academic pursuits. Now a Professor Emerita of Religion at Wesleyan University, she holds BA and MA Dreaming Me book coverdegrees from Cornell and a PhD from Columbia University. In addition, she has studied with Tibetan Buddhists in India, Nepal, Switzerland and the U.S. for over four decades, and has taught courses in Buddhism throughout that time.

Jan has published several books and numerous articles on Buddhism. Her best known work is a beautiful personal memoir, Dreaming Me: Black, Baptist, and Buddhist—One Woman’s Spiritual Journey.

Time magazine named Jan Willis one of six “spiritual innovators for the new millenium”; Ebony called her one of its “Power 150” most influential African-Americans; and she was profiled in a 2005 Newsweek article about “Spirituality in America.”

Teaching Lama Tsongkhapa’s concise Three Principal Aspect of the Path, Jan Willis brings a lifetime of study, meditaton, teaching, and practice to Sravasti Abbey.

We welcome her visit and hope you will join us May 19-23. See the Event Schedule for details.