Jan Willis is one of the earliest American scholar-practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism, having studied Buddhism with Tibetan teachers for fifty years. She was one of the first western students of Lama Thubten Yeshe. Jan discovered the Dharma as a path to healing the trauma of racism she experienced growing up in the segregated south and has forged paths for the integration of Buddhism and social and political justice.
Dr. Willis is a Professor Emerita of Religion at Wesleyan University and a Visiting Professor of Religious Studies at Agnes Scott College in Decatur Georgia. She has studied with Tibetan Buddhists in India, Nepal, Switzerland and the U.S. for five decades, and has taught courses in Buddhism for over forty years.
She is the author of the memoir “Dreaming Me: Black, Baptist, and Buddhist” (2001) and scholarly and popular works on Buddhist meditation, hagiography, women and Buddhism, and Buddhism and race. TIME magazine named Willis one of six “spiritual innovators for the new millennium,” Newsweek magazine’s “Spirituality in America” issue in September of 2005 included a profile of Willis and, in its May 2007 edition, Ebony magazine named Willis one of its “Power 150” most influential African Americans.