Women in Tantric Buddhism

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Launches May 10, 2022

Live Dialogues & Self-Paced Classes
With Pema Khandro, Holy Gayley, Judith Simmer Brown, Sarah Jacoby, and Amy Langenberg.

Pema Khandro

Holly Gayley

Judith Simmer Brown

Sarah Jacoby

Amy Langenberg


Course Description

This is the missing history of women in Tantric Buddhism. This course addresses the fascinating story of nuns, mothers, teachers, consorts, prophets and disciples. Taught by scholar-practitioners whose groundbreaking research on women and Buddhism has changed the way we think of Buddhist history. This course will address the history of women in Buddhism, the history of yoginis and dakinis in India and Tibet, the stories of important Buddhist women, Buddhist philosophy on gender, sex and sexuality, the role of the consort in historical Tibet and contemporary manifestations and so much more.

Women in Tantric Buddhism – Live Online Classes

5pm Pacific Time | 8pm Eastern Time

Tue, May 10th – Free Introduction with Pema Khandro

Tue, May 17th – Dialogue with Pema Khandro and Holly Gayley

Tue, May 24th – Dialogue with Pema Khandro and Judith Simmer Brown

Wed, May 25th – Dialogue with Pema Khandro and Sarah Jacoby

Thu, May 26th – Dialogue with Pema Khandro and Amy Langenberg

Women in Tantric Buddhism – Self Paced Coursework

Classes Launch on May 10th, 2022

Course Tuition

$270 General Tuition

Member Discounts
Click on “Have a coupon?” and apply your discount code to receive your member discount. Learn more about Membership Here.

Teacher Bios

Holy Gayley

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 (forthcoming in 2021).

Dr. Gayley‘s numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals explore 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. Her recent publications 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).

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.

Judith Simmer Brown

Judith Simmer Brown
Raised a minister’s daughter in Nebraska, Judith Simmer-Brown began meditation practice as a student of Suzuki Roshi. It was while teaching religion and Buddhism at Western Washington University in Bellingham that Judith received a flyer inaugurating The Naropa Institute. Meeting the Vidyadhara at that first summer session in 1974 “blew her world apart,” and Judith fled back to Bellingham, “not sure whether to hide or pack.” But when offered a position in the new Buddhist Studies M.A. program at The Naropa Institute in 1977, Judith accepted one-week’s notice to join the tiny faculty. She never left.

During her early years of teaching at Naropa, Judith worked with the Vidyadhara on various projects. He always encouraged her to trust her own experience, to teach, and to “not care so much what other people think.” Judith taught at Seminaries, served on the founding faculty of the Ngedon School, directed a series of Buddhist-Christian conferences, and influenced Naropa Institute through its early, difficult years. Judith continues to teach at what is now Naropa University, chairing the religious studies department; guides the Ngedon School; and serves on several international Buddhist-Christian dialogue groups. Judith founded Naropa’s Engaged Buddhism program, and has been a member of the Board of Directors of Shambhala International since 1995.

In 1980 Judith married Richard Brown, chair of the education department at Naropa. They have two children, Owen and Alicia. Judith’s special passion has long been the Vidyadhara’s teachings on “feminine principle,” which led her to research and write Dakini’s Warm Breath: The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism, published by Shambhala Publications in 2001.

Sarah Jacoby

Sarah Jacoby studies Asian Religions with a specialization in Tibetan Buddhism. She received her B.A. from Yale University, majoring in women’s studies, and her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Virginia’s Department of Religious Studies. She joined Northwestern University in 2009 after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Society of Fellows in the Humanities at Columbia University. Her research interests include Indo-Tibetan Buddhist doctrine and ritual in practice, studies in gender and sexuality, Tibetan literature, autobiography studies, Buddhist revelation, the history of emotions, Buddhism in contemporary Tibet, and eastern Tibetan area studies.

For an overview of Professor Jacoby’s research and teaching, see the article “Treasure Seeker” recently published by Northwestern News.

Professor Jacoby has received an American Council of Learned Sciences (ACLS) Fellowship and an American Academy of Religion International Collaborative Research Grant. Her research has also been funded by The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation, the Charlotte W. Newcombe Dissertation Writing Fellowship, the Fulbright Hays Dissertation Research Fellowship, and multiple Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships (FLAS).

Her first monograph Love and Liberation: Autobiographical Writings of the Tibetan Buddhist Visionary Sera Khandro (Columbia University Press, 2014) is the winner of the 2016 E. Gene Smith Book Prize from the Association of Asian Studies for books on Inner Asia and a finalist for the 2015 American Academy of Religion Book Award for Excellence in Historical Studies. Love and Liberation is the first study in any language of the autobiographical and biographical writings of one of the most prolific female authors in Tibetan history, Sera Khandro Künzang Dekyong Chönyi Wangmo (also called Dewé Dorjé, 1892–1940). She was extraordinary not only for achieving religious mastery as a Tibetan Buddhist visionary and guru to many lamas, monastics, and laity in the Golok region of eastern Tibet, but also for her candor. This book listens to Sera Khandro’s conversations with land deities, dakinis, bodhisattvas, lamas, and fellow religious community members whose voices interweave with her own to narrate what is both a story of love between Sera Khandro and her guru, Drimé Özer, and spiritual liberation.

Her other books include Buddhism: Introducing the Buddhist Experience (Oxford University Press, 2014, co-authored with Donald Mitchell), and Buddhism Beyond the Monastery: Tantric Practices and their Performers in Tibet and the Himalayas (Brill, 2009, co-edited with Antonio Terrone). Her current book project examines rare biographical and ritual texts written by the early 18th-century Tibetan religious hierarch Lelung Zhepai Dorjé.

In 2015 and 2018 Professor Jacoby was voted by Northwestern students onto the ASG Faculty Honor Roll. In 2014 she was awarded a Searle Center for Advanced Learning and Teaching Innovation in Teaching Grant. In 2012, she was voted onto the ASG Faculty Honor Roll and awarded a teaching excellence award from the Department of Religious Studies. Courses she teaches include Introduction to Buddhism, Buddhism and Gender, Buddhist Auto/biography, Tibetan Religion and Culture, Theory and Methods in the Study of Religion, Religion, Sexuality, and Celibacy, and Feminist Theory and the Study of Religion.

For information about the Khyentse Foundation Buddhist Studies Lecture Series that Professor Jacoby is chairing, see here.

Pema Khandro

Pema Khandro is a scholar and teacher of Tibetan Buddhism. She is the founder of the non-profit organization Ngakpa International and oversees its projects, the Dakini Mountain Retreat Center,  the Buddhist Studies Institute and the Yogic Medicine Institute as well as Ngakpa House, a charity which supports the education of children and elders in the Himalayas.

Pema Khandro’s academic work specializes in the history of Dzogchen and as well as the culture and literature of  Tibetan yogis. She has a bachelor’s degree in Sociology, a  a Master’s degree specializing in the study of Tibetan Buddhism and is currently completing her Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies at the University of Virginia. She speaks English, Tibetan, Chinese and Spanish languages.

Pema Khandro is an authorized Lama and lineage holder of the Nyingma and Kagyu lineages and one of few westerners recognized and enthroned as a tulku, a Buddhist leader who carries on the lineage of a predecessor.

She ordained in the Nyingma tradition and was authorized to pass this non-monastic lineage of ordained Buddhist Yogis, also known as naljorpas and ngakpas on to her students, a task which she has been dedicated to since 1999.

As a teacher of Vajrayana, she specializes in Dzogchen, a contemplative and philosophical tradition which emphasize cultivating awareness and presence as the goal of the path. Pema Khandro also specializes in teaching Chod and the other esoteric Buddhist practices for lay people and householders which focus on direct access to cultivating intrinsic wisdom.

Pema Khandro emphasizes the importance of the body-mind connection, natural health and nutrition. She is certified as Tibetan Naturopath and Ayurvedic practitioner, and is three times certified as an Advanced Hatha Yoga teacher. She has led dozens of courses in nutrition, yoga teacher trainings, yoga therapy trainings, meditation trainings and courses in natural medicine for health practitioners from every field.

Today, Pema Khandro continues to be an advocate of the relevance of traditions of Tibet’s Buddhist Yogis as Buddhism takes shape in North America. She runs a residential center, leads a thriving community, runs a clinic and Ngakpa Intl, the non-profit organization which oversees Dakini Mountain, the Yogic Medicine Institute and the Buddhist Studies Institute. She teaches courses regularly, pursues research projects and continues to cultivate a close relationship with her students and friends who work together in Ngakpa Intl and the North American Community of Buddhist Yogis.

For more details visit: Pema Khandro Extended Biography
For answers to frequently asked questions visit: Pema Khandro FAQ