Holly Gayley
Associate Professor • Arts & Sciences Council Representative
Religious Studies

HUMN 290

TH 2:00 PM-3:00PM and by appointment

Courses

  • Foundations of Buddhism, Women in Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Gender in Hagiography, Buddhist Ethics, Ritual Theory, Transnational Buddhism, Buddhist Literature in Tibet

Primary Teaching Areas and Opportunities for Student Supervision

  • Buddhism, Tibetan religions, hagiography, religion and gender, Buddhist ethics, tantric ritual, minorities in China, Buddhist modernism

Overview: 

Holly Gayley is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her research focuses on the revitalization of Buddhism in Tibetan areas of the PRC in the post-Maoist period. Dr. Gayley became interested in the academic study of Buddhism through her travels among Tibetan communities in India, Nepal, and China. She completed her Masters in Buddhist Studies at Naropa University in 2000 and Ph.D. at Harvard University in Tibetan and Himalayan Studies in 2009. Dr. Gayley's first book titled, Love Letters from Golok: A Tantric Couple in Modern Tibet, came out in November 2016 with Columbia University Press. The book charts the lives and love letters of a contemporary Buddhist tantric couple, Khandro Tāre Lhamo and Namtrul Jigme Phuntsok, who played a significant role in revitalizing Buddhism in eastern Tibet since the 1980s. Examining Buddhist conceptions of gender, agency and healing, this book recovers Tibetan voices in representing their own modern history under Chinese rule and contributes to burgeoning scholarly literature on Buddhist women, minorities in China, and studies of collective trauma.
 
Dr. Gayley's second project explores the emergence of Buddhist modernism on the Tibetan plateau and a new ethical reform movement spawned by cleric-scholars at Larung Buddhist Academy in Serta. Her recent publications on the topic include "Controversy over Buddhist Ethical Reform: A Secular Critique of Clerical Authority in the Tibetan Blogosphere" (Himalaya Journal, 2016), "Non-Violence as a Shifting Signifier on the Tibetan Plateau" (Contemporary Buddhism, 2016 with Padma 'tsho), "Reimagining Buddhist Ethics on the Tibetan Plateau (Journal of Buddhist Ethics, 2013), and "The Ethics of Cultural Survival: A Buddhist Vision of Progress in Mkhan po 'Jigs phun's Advice to Tibetans of the 21st Century" in Mapping the Modern in Tibet (International Institute for Tibetan and Buddhist Studies, 2011).
 

Published and Forthcoming Books

Recent Publications

Recent Conference Papers

"Psychologizing the Six Realms: Cultural Translation in the Transmission of Buddhist Tantra," paper presented on a panel on Transnational Religious Expression in North America: Asia in Translation at the American Academy of Religion conference in San Antonio, November 19–22, 2016.

"Black Yak: Narrating the Economic Toll of Buddhist Ethical Reform on Tibetan Nomads," paper co-authored with Tsewang Dorje and presented at Himalayan Studies Conference IV at the University of Texas at Austin, February 25-28, 2016.

"Situating Female Religious Authority: Gender, Genre and Geography in Eastern Tibet," paper presented on a panel on Female Lives and Narratives in Tibet at the American Academy of Religion conference in Atlanta, November 21-24, 2015.

"Buddhist Modernism and Ethical Reform on the Tibetan Plateau: New Articulations of Non-Violence," paper co-authored with Padmatso and presented at a panel on Formations of Doctrine in Buddhist Modernity at the American Academy of Religion conference in Atlanta, November 21-24, 2015.

"Buddhist Love Letters: An Exploration of Epistolary Intimacy and Tibetan Literary Style," paper presented on a panel about Tibetan Letters, Buddhist Lives: Epistolary Approaches to the Study of Tibetan Buddhism at the American Academy of Religion conference in San Diego, November 22-25, 2014.

"Oral Styles of Versification in the Love Letters of a Buddhist Visionary Couple," presentation as a member of the five-year seminar, Religion and the Literary in Tibet (2010-2014), at the American Academy of Religion conference in San Diego, November 22-25, 2014.

"The Compassionate Treatment of Animals: A Contemporary Buddhist Approach in Eastern Tibet," paper presented at the Uberoi Conference on the Four Dharma Traditions, held at Naropa University, September 12-14, 2014.

"Heroine in Troubled Times: The Miracles of Khandro Tāre Lhamo during the Socialist Transformation of Tibet," paper presented at a panel on Buddhist Women Masters at the meeting of DANAM, the Dharma Academy of North America (to be held concurrently with the 2013 American Academy of Religion conference in Baltimore, November 23–26, 2013).

"Constructing the Secular in Buddhist Advice to the Laity in Contemporary Tibet," paper presented at the Thirteenth Seminar of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, hosted by The Mongolian Academy of Sciences in Mongolia, July 21–27, 2013.

"Eating Monkey Brains: Exoticizing the Chinese Banquet in a Tibetan Buddhist Argument for Vegetarianism," paper presented on a panel that I co-organized on "The Culinary in Buddhism: Miracles, Medicine & Monstrosity" at the American Academy of Religion conference held in San Francisco on November 19–22, 2011.

"The New Upāsaka: Lay Ethicization in Tibetan Regions of the PRC," paper presented at a panel on "The Role of the Laity in the Formation of Modern Buddhism: A Cross-Cultural Examination" at the XVIth Congress of the International Association of Buddhist Studies conference, in Taiwan on June 20–25, 2011.

"Science vs. Superstition: Repositioning Tibetan Buddhism in the PRC," paper presented at a panel that I co-organized with Paul Hackett of Columbia University on "Scientific Buddhism" among Tibetans and their Western Interlocutors at the American Academy of Religion conference held in Atlanta on October 30–November 1, 2010.

"Satire as Sectarianism: Yogic Triumphalism in Mdo mkhyen brtse Ye shes rdo rje's Babble of a Foolish Man," paper for panel that I co-organized with Annabella Pitkin at Columbia University onSectarian Articulations: Creative Processes of Lineage Formation for the Twelfth Seminar of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, hosted by University of British Columbia on August 15–21, 2010.