Jan Willis, PhD: The Four Noble Truths

07okt18:0020:00Jan Willis, PhD: The Four Noble TruthsWe all wish to be happy and to avoid suffering. Our problem is that we continually seek happiness in the wrong ways and, as a consequence, we only experience more suffering. How can we break the cycle?

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This lecture by Jan Willis is suitable for those who want to learn about Buddha’s approach to difficulties and suffering we experience in life and how to achieve freedom from such conditioning.

The first teaching that Buddha Shakyamuni gave after attaining enlightenment was The Four Noble Truths.

The advantage of studying The Four Noble Truths is that we will gain some confidence that the difficulties and problems in our life can be stopped. By clearly seeing the causes and conditions of our problems and that they can be eliminated, we will identify the remedy.

”As a physician of the human condition, the Buddha provided us with a diagnosis of our suffering (the first noble truth) and an etiology, or cause, of our suffering (the second noble truth). Then he gave us a prognosis for our dis-ease (nirvana, the third noble truth) and finally a prescription for the necessary treatment (the fourth noble truth, the path).

The Four Noble Truths are a plan of action, not simply a collection of ideas to be pondered. In the Buddha’s “First Discourse,” there is a specific action enjoined upon us to go with each of the truths.

Regarding the first noble truth of suffering, we are told to understand it, fully: “This suffering, as a noble truth, should be fully understood,” said the Buddha. And, likewise, with the other three:

“This origin of suffering, as a noble truth, should be abandoned.”

“This cessation of suffering, as a noble truth, should be realized directly.”

“This path leading to the cessation of suffering, as a noble truth, should be followed (cultivated).”

Buddhist Scholar, Teacher, and Practitioner

Jan Willis, PhD, has had a distinguished career as a scholar and teacher of Buddhism spanning fifty years. She first met Tibetan Buddhists in India and Nepal at the age of nineteen and went on to earn degrees in Philosophy and Indic and Buddhist Studies from Cornell and Columbia Universities.

She has taught at UC Santa Cruz, the University of Virginia and at Wesleyan University and now –in retirement–teaches part-time at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, GA.

Jan’s areas of expertise are Tibetan Buddhism, Buddhist saints’ lives, Women and Buddhism, and Buddhism and Race and she has published works in all of these areas.

Coming from Birmingham, AL. she marched there with Dr. King in 1963 and has begun leading workshops which explore Race and Racism through a Buddhist Lens.

Her memoir ”Dreaming Me: Black, Baptist and Buddhist. An African American Woman´s Spiritual Journey” was published 2001.

TIME Magazine named Professor Willis one of six ”spiritual innovators for the new millennium.”(Dec 2000).
She was a recipient of Wesleyan University’s Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching. (2003)
Newsweek’s ”Spirituality in America” issue included a profile of her and (Sept 2005),
Ebony magazine named Willis one of its ”Power 150” most influential African Americans (May 2007).

READ MORE about Jan Willis: https://www.janwillis.org/awards/

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  • Jan Willis Ph.D.

    Jan Willis Ph.D.

    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 Meditation; On Knowing Reality: The Tattvartha Chapter of Asanga’s Bodhisattvabhumi; Dreaming Me: Black, Baptist and Buddhist; and Dharma Matters: Women, Race and Tantra. To learn more, please visit her website: janwillis.org.

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