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Jan Willis – Buddhism and Activism

October 13 @ 14:00 - 18:00

Jan Willis Buddhism and Activism

The Buddha was an activist. He didn’t just sit under the tree and meditate, but he chose to change the structure of the society he lived in.

WHEN: Sunday, October 13, 2.00 pm – 6.00 pm CET
WHERE: Teacher onsite at Gablerstrasse and on Zoom – see below for disclaimer
LEVEL: Everyone is welcome!

The Buddha was an activist. He didn’t just sit under the tree and meditate, but he chose to change the structure of the society he lived in. He was not a comfortable person for people who loved power and oppressed others. The Buddha refused the conventions that imprisoned people in the society, he admitted people of all casts to his community of followers, while traditionally the path of contemplation and meditation had been the job of a particular cast in ancient India.

But the Buddha is not only the historical person. The word ”buddha” means ”awakened” which refers to our own mind that is clear and lucid imbued with universal compassion and wisdom. However, most of the time we have the other mind in place, that is busy, clouded by biases and narrow ideas, which become the cause of destructive emotions.

What are the methods for aligning our minds with values of universal compassion, clarity, wisdom? How can we balance our own internal evolution with injustice and aggression that we see in the outside world? How should we deal with challenges that we face – wars, conflicts, climate change, segregation – in a constructive and fruitful way? And why is the internal job that the Buddha and his followers have been doing so important right now?

Jan Willis will share insights on how the Buddha’s teachings are relevant these days to counter racism, biases, divisiveness we face and how wisdom and compassion for all beings can heal ourselves and the world at large.


Buddhist Scholar, Teacher, and Practitioner: Jan WillisBuddhist Scholar, Teacher, and Practitioner: Jan Willis grew up in the Jim Crow South, marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Birmingham Civil Rights Campaign, and escaped the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama only to face racism of another kind while enrolled at an Ivy League university. Jan persevered and earned her BA and MA in Philosophy from Cornell University, and her PhD in Indic and Buddhist Studies from Columbia University. When she studied abroad in India and Nepal, she met the Tibetan Lama Thubten Yeshe who became her mentor for fifteen years, and one of the most influential Buddhist teachers in the West. Through his guidance, Jan learned to face down the demons of her past and embrace her whole identity – Black, Baptist, and Buddhist. She has studied and taught Buddhism for fifty years.

In December of 2000, Time magazine named 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. Newsweek magazine’s “Spirituality in America” issue in 2005 included a profile of Willis. In its May 2007 edition, Ebony magazine named Willis one of its “Power 150” most influential African Americans.

Jan is currently Professor of Religion Emerita at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, and Visiting Professor of Religion at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, GA. She is the author of numerous essays and books, including The Diamond Light: An Introduction to Tibetan Buddhist MeditationOn Knowing Reality: The Tattvartha Chapter of Asanga’s BodhisattvabhumiDreaming Me: Black, Baptist and Buddhist; and Dharma Matters: Women, Race and Tantra.

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Disclaimer: Lhagsam may publish recorded sessions in the public domain (e.g., on YouTube). By joining this event, you are agreeing to give your consent to this process. To protect your privacy, we recommend being conscious about any personal information you share during the sessions. The teacher and staff are always in the spotlight on Zoom and the camera eye when onsite. To further enhance anonymity on Zoom, you may want to consider turning off video or naming yourself using your first name.


Suggested donation: Please consider supporting us with a donation. Suggested donation per day is 80 CHF. No one will be turned away due to lack of funds.



Cost: Suggested donation per day is 80 CHF. No one will be turned away due to lack of funds. You can donate online (via Paypal, Twint or E-Banking).

Language: English

Level: Everyone is welcome!


October 13
14:00 - 18:00
Event Categories:


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