Academic Biography:

Todd Lewis has taught at the College of the Holy Cross since 1990. In 1996, he was promoted to Associate Professor in the Religious Studies Department and in 2003 was promoted to the rank of Professor. In 2015, Lewis was named the Monsignor Edward G. Murray Professor in the Arts and Humanities.

He has also been a Research Associate in the Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies at Harvard University, and is currently involved in the Nepal Studies initiative there.  

Beginning with his scholarly training at Columbia University (where he earned his Ph.D. in Religion 1984), Professor Lewis' research and teaching has been interdisciplinary, linking anthropology, the history of religions, and Indology. His area of special expertise is Newar Buddhism in the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal, and he has written extensively about Buddhist narratives, their depiction in popular art, and the role of merchants in Buddhist history. Professor Lewis is also one of the world's leading authorities on the religions of the mid-montane Himalayan region and the social history of Buddhism.

Most of his research focus for over thirty years has been Buddhism in the Kathmandu Valley, particularly the traditions found among the Newars, the indigenous population of Nepal 's capital. He has resided in the Asan Tol neighborhood in the city of Kathmandu for his dissertation research (1979-1982), and for three postdoctoral fellowships (1987-8, 2012), all supported by the Fulbright-Hayes program in the Department of Education. Professor Lewis has been awarded many other fellowships to support his research and writing: he has received awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Academy of Religion, the American Philosophical Society, the Social Science Research Council, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. In 2011, he was awarded a fellowship by the Simon Guggenheim Foundation.

In addition to over forty articles published in leading academic journals and invited chapters contributed to edited scholarly volumes, Professor Lewis has published two books on Newar Buddhism. The first was Popular Buddhist Texts from Nepal: Narratives and Rituals of Newar Buddhism (State University of New York Press, 2000). More recent was Sugata Saurabha: A Poem on the Life of the Buddha by Chittadhar Hridaya of Nepal,one of the landmarks in 20th Century Newar literature. A translation in collaboration with Subarna Man Tuladhar of Kathmandu has now appeared in two forms. A dual language edition was published in the Harvard Oriental Series (67) in 2008, the first in the Newari language to appear in this series; and then an English-only translation, with an abridged introduction, that was published by Oxford University Press in 2011. This book won two international awards: theToshide Numata Book Prize for the Outstanding Book in the field of Buddhist Studies (2011) and the Inaugural Prize for the Outstanding Translation in Buddhist Scholarship (2012) by the Khyentse Foundation. This translation will be released for global distribution in 2018 by Shambhala Press.

Professor Lewis has also contributed to a series of successful textbooks. His co-authored textbook, World Religions Today (published by Oxford University Press, now in its sixth edition), is widely used today in college classes. Other textbooks in this arena are: Asian Religions Today (Oxford,  2008), Religions of the West Today (Oxford, 2008), and Religion and Globalization (Oxford, 2007).

In 2014, he edited a new textbookBuddhists: Understanding Buddhism Through the Lives of Practitioners published by Wiley-Blackwell. Its thirty-three biographies introduce the tradition through the medium of biographical narratives; these life histories range from antiquity until the present day, focusing on individuals from South Asia, East Asia, and in the West.

In 2014, Professor Lewis also co-edited Sucāruvādadeśika: A Festschrift Honoring Professor Theodore Riccardi. The title translates as “Beloved/beautiful/delightful Teacher whose Speech/Music is Delightful.” Its thirty chapters by former students and colleagues honor his beloved mentor at Columbia University.

In 2016, Lewis co-edited the volume Teaching Buddhism: New Insights on Understanding and Presenting the Traditions. It contains nineteen chapters and is part of the "Teaching Religion" series sponsored by the American Academy of Religion.

Professor Lewis has also shot, directed, and produced films for classroom use.

At Holy Cross, Professor Lewis now teaches courses on Buddhism, seminars on various schools of Buddhism, Ancient and Medieval Hinduism, as well as courses on theories of religion and modernization. He has also developed the comparative courses “Pilgrimage and World Religions,” “Gardens and World Religions,” “Ancient India and Ancient Greece,” and “Ecology and Religion.” His course on Zen Buddhism was featured in 2014 in Holy Cross Magazine.

Professor Lewis has been an active member of the Holy Cross Asian Studies Program and twice has served as its director. He is also a member of the Environmental Studies program faculty. Professor Lewis has also been a central participant in the 21st Century college curriculum reviews, having chaired the Language Requirement Review Committee (1996-7) and the Intellectual Maturation Committee (2003-4), and the Curriculum Review Steering Committee (2004-6). He has also served on the Curriculum Committee, the Committee on Tenure and Promotion, and chaired the Committee on Faculty Scholarship.


In the wider academic world, Professor Lewis was the founding co-chair of the Tibetan and Himalayan Religions Group within the American Academy of Religion, the leading organization for scholars in this field. Lewis is also an member of the Asian Studies Association, the International Association of Buddhist Studies, and serves on the Editorial Boards of the Journal of Buddhist Ethics (2014-), Asian Literature and Translation: A Journal of Religion, Society and Culture (2012--), the Journal of Buddhist Ethics (2014-), Journal for Tibetan and Himalayan Studies (at Shaanxi Normal University, China), (2016-), and the Journal of the North American Japanese Garden Association (2017—).


Professor Lewis has since 2002 directed six summer institutes funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, programs for K-12 teachers or college faculty drawn from across the United States and international schools. Over 180 teachers have studied with him and other leading scholars of the region, incorporating themes, case studies, and literatures of the region in their own classroom teaching. These programs have drawn on his book, The Himalayas: A Syllabus of the Region’s History, Anthropology, and Religion (co-authored with Theodore Riccardi, Jr. Ann Arbor: Asian Studies Association, 1995), a work that provides a curriculum overview of the region and recommended readings.


For his teaching and service to Holy Cross, and for his activities in the local and national educational community, Professor Lewis in 2008 was nominated as “Professor of the Year” in the program sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.


Previous academic positions were at Montclair State University (1989-1990), Rutgers University (1988-89), Carleton College (1988), Columbia University (1983-1987), and the University of California, Berkeley (1983).

Professor Lewis is married to Joy Chen Lewis, who joined him on previous Fulbright research sojourns to Nepal in 1987 and 1997-1998. They have two children and reside in Holden, Massachusetts.

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