Janet Gyatso: Tibetan Buddhism, Animal Ethics, and Compassion

On this episode of the Wisdom Podcast, host Daniel Aitken speaks with Janet Gyatso, renowned scholar and professor of Buddhist Studies at Harvard University. Janet is the author of several publications on the cultural and intellectual history of Tibetan Buddhism, including her award-winning book on the history of Tibetan medicine in early modern Tibet, Being Human in a Buddhist World. In this rich conversation recorded at her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, you’ll hear Janet share fascinating stories from her early adventures as a young graduate student and scholar—from her travels in Asia to meaningful encounters with great masters such as Kalu Rinpoche, and later, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Janet also discusses her work on Jigme Lingpa and the terma tradition, and how she has negotiated being both scholar and practitioner throughout her academic career. Finally, you’ll hear Janet share her most recent scholarship on animal ethics, and ways we might transform our vision of care and compassion to prioritize the value and welfare of other species.

Janet Gyatso is Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies at Harvard University. Her writing has centered on Tibetan Buddhism and its cultural and intellectual history from the perspective of large issues in the humanities about human experience and its literary presentation. Current and previous topics of her scholarship include animal ethics; sex and gender in Buddhist monasticism; the current female ordination movement in Buddhism; visionary revelation in Buddhism; lineage, memory, and authorship; the philosophy of experience; and autobiographical writing in Tibet. She is the author of Being Human in a Buddhist World: An Intellectual History of Medicine in Early Modern Tibet and Apparitions of the Self: The Secret Autobiographies of a Tibetan Visionary, as well as several edited volumes.