Entering the Space of Dakinis: Interview with Prof. Janet Gyatso (Dakini Conversations: Ep.2)

For Dakini Day today, am delighted to announce the second episode of the Dakini Conversations podcast with Prof. Janet Gyatso, the first and current Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies at the Divinity School of Harvard University. The Youtube video can be watched here:

The audio-only podcast can also be downloaded and listened to on the Spotify channel, Apple, and Amazon Music.

In the Buddhist Studies and Tibetology world, Prof. Gyatso really needs no introduction, and is a prime example of a woman who has reached the peak of the academy, while at the same time writing original and thought-provoking research about issues connected to women, feminism, gender, androcentrism and Buddhism. If anyone might be awarded the title ‘Queen’ of the Buddhist Studies academy, Prof. Gyatso would surely be a prime contender!

Her books include Being Human in a Buddhist World: An Intellectual History of Medicine in Early Modern Tibet; 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 in Tibet. Prof. Gyatso has also been writing on sex and gender in Buddhist monasticism, and on the current female ordination movement in Buddhism. Her current writing concerns the phenomenology of living well with animals and related ethical issues and practices. For a fuller biography of Prof. Gyatso, see here.

In the interview the following topics are discussed (see timestamps below). Ranging from life as a graduate student with (now well-known) other scholars in the 1970s at Berkeley, California, her PhD on Tibetan master, Thangtong Gyalpo, the art and pleasure of translation, being a female academic, her book Women in Tibet, translation and handling of secret autobiographical material of Jigme Lingpa and more. The conversation finishes with a discussion of her love of animals, vegetarianism and forthcoming book on animal ethics, and sexual misconduct by Buddhist teachers.

00:00:00 Introduction
00:01:36 Personal Background
00:04:15 Studies at University of California during the 1970s and Tibetan Buddhist teachers
00:06:15 A hub of activity: hanging out with fellow students at the Mediterranean Cafe 00:08:22 Studies of Sanskrit and Tibetan and its relevance for practitioner
00:11:17 PhD on Tibetan master and innovator, Thangtong Gyalpo
0:14:32 Translating terms in English or keeping them in the original language
00:16:20 Translation as a ‘special pleasure’ and entering the mental space of a text/teaching 00:19:03 The importance of real devotion and connection with the text or teacher
00:20:00 Reasons for becoming an academic
00:23:24 Being a woman in academia
00:26:31 The book ‘Women in Tibet’
00:31:35 Own personal feeling and outlook on Buddhism as philosophy and practice 00:33:26 Secret Autobiographies of Jigme Lingpa: Getting transmission and permission from Drodrubchen, Dilgo Khyentse and others
00:38:53 Entering the poetic space of the hidden and secret levels of transmission/lung 00:42:54 Dakini Talks: The Dakini and Jigme Lingpa’s secret autobiographies, the dakini principle and ‘voice’
00:45:35 The Dakini as troubling, annoying, direct female ‘messenger’ of truth
00:48:55 The female roots of Vajrayana and lack of female visibility in the 21st Century 00:52:20 Being an ‘animal-lover’ and reasons for new work on Animal Ethics and Rights 00:53:59 Mass factory farming and the work and ideas of philosopher, Peter Singer
0:55:34 The question of eating murdered animals in terms of Buddhism and the environment
00:59:37 Buddha’s teachings on eating animals, and examples of Tibetan Buddhist vegetarianism
01:02:40 Current research drawing people’s attention to loving animals and their capacities 01:07:15 Sexual misconduct of Tibetan Buddhist teachers and supporting survivors more 01:12:26 Opportunities to discuss cross-cultural physical boundaries and changing norms

I hope you all enjoy this conversation with Prof. Janet Gyatso. More excellent and interesting guests are in the pipeline! 

Music? For that dakini, 1970s California vibe, Gold Dust Woman by Fleetwood Mac.

One thought on “Entering the Space of Dakinis: Interview with Prof. Janet Gyatso (Dakini Conversations: Ep.2)

  1. Min16.sec.20,, entering the mental space of text,,
    Gampopa said about one of His
    book that reading this book is like
    meeting Him face to face !!!

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