Prof. Jan Willis

Religion Department
Wesleyan University
Middletown, Connecticut

Prof. Jan Willis is a well-known writer and author who has published a number of articles and essays on various topics relating to Buddhism: Buddhist meditation, women and Buddhism, and Buddhism and race. She has studied with Tibetan Buddhists in India, Nepal, Switzerland, and the U.S. for four decades; and has taught courses about Buddhism for 37 years. 

Prof. Willis is the author of The Diamond Light: An Introduction to Tibetan Buddhist Meditation (1972), On Knowing Reality: The Tattvartha Chapter of Asanga’s Bodhisattvabhumi (1979), Enlightened Beings: Life Stories from the Ganden Oral Tradition (1995); and is the editor of Feminine Ground: Essays on Women and Tibet (1989).

In 2001, she authored the memoir Dreaming Me: An African American Woman’s Spiritual Journey (reissued October 1, 2008, by Wisdom Publications as Dreaming Me: Black, Baptist, and Buddhist–One Woman’s Spiritual Journey). 

Prof. Willis received her B.A. and M.A. in philosophy at Cornell University in New York, and her Ph.D. in Indic and Buddhist studies from Columbia University in New York in 1976. She currently is a distinguished professor of religion at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.

In December 2000, Time magazine named Prof. Willis one of six “spiritual innovators for the new millennium.”  In 2003, she was a recipient of Wesleyan University’s Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching. In September 2005, Newsweek magazine’s “Spirituality in America” issue included a profile of her; and in its May 2007 edition, Ebony magazine named Prof. Willis one of its Power 150 most influential African Americans.