Welcome to the NEH Summer Institute, "Buddhist Traditions of Tibet and the Himalayas" website, which is intended to be a resource for all college and university teachers who want to enhance their treatment of Buddhism as it has existed in these regions.

The Institute will be concerned with the study of Buddhism in Tibetan and the Himalayas and it will follow the contemporary trend in Buddhist studies to go beyond the sole use of texts and philological-philosophical analysis to study and teach Buddhism. Balancing the use of elite sources with anthropological studies, our goal is to convey how Buddhism has been a lived religion that affected Himalayan societies. Accordingly, we will devote special attention to themes relevant to this goal: monastic life in the Himalayan communities; the use of art in the regional transmission of Buddhist culture; healing traditions through which Buddhism influenced whole societies; consideration of forms of Mahāyāna meditation (visualization meditation; Dzog-chen; fasting) not usually taught in American Buddhist Centers. We will also sponsor lecture-demonstrations by distinguished ritual specialists from the region, and for Nepal present an experience of Buddhist life cycle rites, festivals, and feasting.

Providing a forum to address participants’ general questions about Mahāyāna-Vajrayāna traditions, we will also consider how the corpus of Mahāyāna texts formed, and explore the Vajrayāna tradition through the case study of the Cakrasamvara Tantra. We will also provide overviews of the Tibetan and Nepalese canons and focus on both canonical and vernacular texts that can be useful in the classroom. Institute faculty will also devote attention to the “culture of texts” and the variety of sources from the Himalayan region that can prove fruitful for undergraduates such as popular stories, saint biographies, and ritual texts.

Our treatment of Himalayan traditions also will open an especially important meta-subject for the college classroom: a critical examination of Orientalism in this region, especially in how Himalayan peoples, religions, and cultures have been presented in Euro-American media culture.


Todd Lewis, College of the Holy Cross
Leonard van der Kuijp, Harvard University

Institute Assistant:
Ross Weisman, College of the Holy Cross

Technical Advisor:
Mary Morrisard-Larkin, College of the Holy Cross