Jan Willis, PhD: What does it mean to take refuge in the Three Jewels? Public talk

18sep18:0021:00Jan Willis, PhD: What does it mean to take refuge in the Three Jewels? Public talkThis talk is also part of Discovering Buddhism module "Refuge in Three Jewels".


(Onsdag) 18:00 - 21:00 CET(GMT+02:00)

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”What does it mean to take refuge in Three Jewels”, Public Talk by Professor Jan Willis

Professor Willis will explore in depth the Mahayana Buddhist refuge; the outer and inner refuge, the meaning of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, what are they – and why is Dharma the actual refuge? And we might hear some stories about Lama Yeshe; Professor Willis was his student for 15 years!


The better you understand the Buddhist science of mind, about the nature of mind and its potential, and the Tathagatagarba – the better you can grasp the Buddhist refuge. There is no magic, you just need to meditate on the logic of Buddhism. And bring the intellectual understanding to the heart, made your understanding deeper, more expieriencal.

The Three Jewels in Buddhism:
Buddha is often described as doctor who has the medicine for our inner distress and disturbing thoughts. Buddha Shakyamuni was in fact an actual historical person, an  ordinary person from the beginning, who perfected his mind – and that´s why seen as a valid refuge.
Dharma, the teachings, are the medicin, the actual refuge – and Sangha represents the nurse who see that we get the right medicine on right time.

This talk is open for Buddhist and non-Buddhist, to you who has refuge and want to deepen your understanding, to you who are considering the option – and everyone who wants to learn more about Buddhism – feel welcome!

This is also part of the Discovering Budhism Module Refuge in Three Jewels 6-week course, and free talk for those who participate in the entire course.


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, and Maitripa College in Portland.

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/

Professor Jan Willis

Jan Willis grew up in deep South of US, Alabama as the daughter of a Baptist deacon and steelworker – and with thelegacy of slavery. One single street in her city separated the white and black neighbourhoods. The Ku Klux Klan, white supremacist hate group, even burned a cross outside Willis’s house, as she crouched inside, expecting to die.

At the age of 15 she marched with Civil Rights movement and Martin Luther King Jr in Birmingham Alabama. Dr King had found Birmingham as the most segregated city in entire US. Six weeks they were having silent non-violent marches on downtown, six weeks they were surrounded with hatred, and polis´with big dogs.

Dr King, in order to keep the groups calm, told her and others: “They are not just what you see, even they go also home and kiss the baby and have family-life”. This was a real Buddhist teaching, says Jan Willis, decades after.

Meeting Lama Yeshe healed the wounds from racism

When she graduated from the college, Willis was considering two options: go to Nepal and study Buddhism or join the Black Panthers and fight for black rights (since the non-violent movement wasn´t enough) – ”peace or a piece,” as she puts it.

And everything in her life changed. Buddhism taught her compassion and self-acceptance. Lama Yeshe encouraged her academic studies, and it led her to her job, teaching Buddhism at Wesleyan University. And it even taught her how to make peace with the Baptist church of her childhood.

”Buddhist meditation taught her how to endure a slight and let it go, to pray deeply for the good of humankind, so that all may find inner peace.

It’s a subtle kind of love.

”You’re aware of your common humanity,” she says. ”You want them to avoid suffering.” This realization enabled her, after more than 30 years away, to finally feel at home in her father’s Baptist church.  And it leads her to call herself today, by that rarest of appellations–an African-American Baptist Buddhist”. (Newsweek 2005)

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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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