Tantric meditations in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism are rich with ornate visualizations. These practices are multi-dimensional: meditators engage body, speech and mind in experiencing a blissful reality in which enlightened beings inhabit celestial mansions. These sacred visions are understood to exist, not as absolute concrete realities, but instead as arising dependently, like a mirage, a dream, or the moon’s reflection on a clear lake.

In this three-day series offered on May 7, 8 and 9, 2015, Professor Robert Thurman and Dr. Tom Yarnall are the speakers for the first two sessions. Professor Thurman introduces us to vajrayana and the wisdom of emptiness, sharing how emptiness and form co-exist in the Tibetan Buddhist worldview. Dr. Yarnall continues with the topic, with emphasis on Creation Stage. For the third session, Jewel Heart instructor Mark Magill follows up the earlier conversations and closes the series with a summary, discussion and guided meditation.

Speaker Bios:

Robert Thurman, graduate of Harvard University, PhD in Buddhology, is currently the Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Columbia University. In 1972, He founded the American Institute of Buddhist Studies, with mission to research and translate the 4,000 works of the Tibetan Tengyur into English, volumes gradually being researched, translated and published with Columbia University Press as Treasury of the Buddhist Sciences.

In 1987, he co-founded, with Richard Gere and Philip Glass, Tibet House US, dedicated to the preservation and renaissance of Tibetan civilization. In 2001, he co- founded with Nena Thurman the Menla Mountain Retreat Center in the Catskill Mountains to advance the life sciences and healing arts of the Indo-Tibetan Buddhist medicine tradition.

Thurman is the translator of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, and author of many books, including Inner Revolution, The Central Philosophy of Tibet, The Brilliant Illumination of the Lamp, Wisdom and Compassion: The Sacred Art of Tibet, Infinite Life, The Jewel Tree of Tibet, Circling the Sacred Mountain, and Why the Dalai Lama Matters.

Dr. Tom Yarnall is an Associate Research Scholar and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Religion at Columbia University in New York. As a teacher he specializes in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies, teaching courses in Buddhist history, philosophy, ethics, and contemplative sciences, and in Tibetan and Sanskrit languages. As a researcher he works with the Columbia Center for Buddhist Studies (CCBS) and the Columbia-affiliated American Institute of Buddhist Studies (AIBS), serving as the Executive Editor for the “Treasury of the Buddhist Sciences” series of translations of works from the Tibetan Tengyur (and associated literature), being co-published by AIBS, CCBS, and Tibet House US, and being distributed by Columbia University Press.

Dr. Yarnall began his engagement with Buddhism almost 40 years ago (in the late 70s), studying intensively with Tibetan Lamas from all four orders (including H.H. the Dalai Lama, H.H. Sakya Dagchen Rinpoche, Ven. Dezhung Rinpoche, and many others), while earning a B.A. in Religion (Buddhist Studies) at Amherst College in 1983. He later enrolled in the graduate program in Religion (Buddhist Studies) at Columbia University, earning an M.A., an M.Phil., and a Ph.D. (with honors) in 2003.

Dr. Yarnall’s own scholarly work has focused on Mādhyamika philosophy, Buddhist ethics, and especially on Indian and Tibetan Tantric materials of the Unexcelled Yoga class. His study and translation of the creation stage chapters of Tsong Khapa’s Great Treatise on the Stages of Mantra (sngags rim chen mo) was published in the “Treasury of the Buddhist Sciences” series in 2013. His forthcoming book, entitled The Emptiness that is Form: The Nonconceptual Embodiment of Buddhahood, contains a detailed analysis and study of the relationship between the view of emptiness and practice of deity yoga in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Tantra.

Mark Magill is a student of Gelek Rimpoche. He has led of a number courses and workshops at Jewel Heart. As a writer, he has worked with Rimpoche on his book Good Life, Good Death and served as editor for Gelek Rimpoche’s articles for Tricycle Magazine and other Buddhist publications. Mark’s books include Why Is the Buddha Smiling and Meditation and the Art of Beekeeping.

Session One with Professor Thurman is two hours and 20 minutes in length.
Session Two with Dr. Yarnall is two hours and 15 minutes in length.
Session Three with Mark Magill is two hours in length.

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