Holly Gayley
Associate Professor • Interim Chair, Department of Religious Studies • Co-Director of the Tibet Himalaya Initiative
Religious Studies

Office: HUMN 290


  • UNDERGRADUATE: Foundations of Buddhism, Women in Buddhism,
    Tibetan Buddhism, and Meditation: Ancient and Modern
  • GRADUATE: Gender in Hagiography, Buddhist Ethics, Ritual Theory,
    Transnational Buddhism, and Buddhist Literature in Tibet

Primary Teaching Areas and Opportunities for Student Supervision

  • Buddhism, women in Tibet, gender and sexuality in Buddhist tantra, Buddhist ethics, tantric ritual,
    Buddhist modernism, minorities in China, transnational Buddhism, mindfulness movement


Holly Gayley, Associate Professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder, is a scholar and translator of contemporary Buddhist literature in Tibet and Himalaya. Her research areas include gender and sexuality in Buddhist tantra, ethical reform in contemporary Tibet, and theorizing translation, both literary and cultural, in the transmission of Buddhist teachings to North America. Gayley is author of Love Letters from Golok: A Tantric Couple in Modern Tibet (Columbia University Press, 2016), co-editor of A Gathering of Brilliant Moons: Practice Advice from the Rimé Masters of Tibet (Wisdom Publications, 2017), translator of Inseparable Across Lifetimes: The Lives and Love Letters of the Buddhist Visionaries Namtrul Rinpoche and Khandro Tāre Lhamo (Snow Lion, 2019), and editor of Voices from Larung Gar: Shaping Tibetan Buddhism for the Twenty-First Century (Snow Lion Publications, 2021).

Her recent journal articles and chapters on Tibetan and Himalayan women writers, gender and sexuality include “Parody and Pathos: Sexual Transgression by ‘Fake’ Lamas in Tibetan Short Stories,” co-authored with Somtso Bhum in Revue d'Etudes Tibétaines (April 2022), "Karma and Female Agency in Novels by Bhutanese Women Writers" in Innaugural Issue of the International Journal for Bhutan and Himalayan Research (Fall 2020), "Gendered Hagiography in Tibet: Comparing Clerical Representations of the Female Visionary, Khandro Tāre Lhamo" in Buddhist Feminisms and Femininities, edited by Karma Lekshe Tsomo (2019), and "Revisiting the Secret Consort (gsang yum) in Tibetan Buddhism" in Religions (June 2018).

Her work on 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 culminated in the anthology, Voices from Larung Gar. Her journal articles 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), revised as a chapter in Voices for Larung Gar to introduce select translations from Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok's "Heart Advice to Tibetans for the Twenty-First Century."

In addition, Dr. Gayley is co-founder of the Tibet Himalaya Initiative at CU Boulder, co-chair of a five-year seminar on "Transnational Religious Expression: Between Asia and North America" at the American Academy of Religion, and part of the founding team for the Contemplative Resource Center at CU Boulder.

Research Areas and Publications

Women in Tibet and Himalaya, Gender and Sexuality in Buddhist Tantra

Buddhist Ethics, Advice Literature, Cultural Revitalization in Contemporary Tibet

Buddhist Modernism, the Secular in Tibet, and Contemporary Himalayan Literature

Treasure Revelation in the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism