My research area is the history of religions in Tibet, India, Nepal, and China, with a focus on the Tibetan cultural regions of Asia. For centuries Tibetan Buddhism was the elite religion of a vast swath of Asia. Its sphere of influence extended from the southern borderlands of the Himalayas to the Inner Asian steppes of Siberia, and from Beijing in eastern China to the Volga River in west-central Russia. To study Tibetan Buddhism is thus to study one of the major cultural, intellectual, and institutional forces in Asia. My primary data consists of classical Tibetan literature dating from the eighth through the nineteenth centuries, classical Sanskrit literature dating from the first century BCE through the twelfth century CE, and vernacular literatures of medieval India and Nepal. Over the past decade I have been interested in several issues in the history of Tibet, including Indo-Tibetan poetry; the cultural history of saints in Tibet; the origins and development of Tibetan-language printing throughout Asia; the development of classical learning in Tibetan cultural regions; the history of women in Tibet, and the rise of theocratic institutions in Tibet.
My current work falls within two broad subject areas: 1) the history of the Dalai Lamas of Tibet; 2) the history of Tibetan biography. Methodologically, these two projects they extend my research in the history of religions in two directions: A) The use of databases and geographic information systems (GIS) in an effort to collect, organize, and interpret large bodies of complex literary material with a degree of temporal and spatial specificity that is difficult to achieve through traditional humanistic methods; B) The employment of quantitative methods of data collection and analysis of both literature itself and data collected from literary sources to improve the cogency of historical claims.
I currently have several books in preparation:
- Tibet: History, Culture, and Society. Co-authored with Gray Tuttle. In development and under contract with Columbia University Press.
- Dalai Lamas: The Story of an Idea. Currently in development. Expected completion Spring 2010.
- Sources of Tibetan Tradition. Kurtis R. Schaeffer, Gray Tuttle, Matthew T. Kapstein, Leonard W. J. van der Kuijp, Editors. New York: Columbia University Press, under contract, forthcoming 2008. Part of the Sources of Asian Civilization series.
- The Tibetan History Reader. Kurtis R. Schaeffer and Gray Tuttle, Eds. New York: Columbia University Press. Accepted March 2007. Current status: editorial revisions in process.
- 2005-present, Associate Professor of Tibetan and Buddhist Studies at UVa
- 2000-2005, Assistant Professor, Department of Religious Studies, University of Alabama
- Ph.D., Tibetan and South Asian Religions. Harvard University, 2000
- M.A., Buddhist Studies. University of Washington, 1995
- B.A., Religious Studies, 1988
- Tibetan Buddhism
- Tibetan History
- Indian Buddhism
- Dalai Lamas
- 2006-2010, American Academy of Religion Book Review Editor. Journal of the American Academy of Religion (JAAR)
- 2004 to present, Co-chair (with Frances Garrett). Tibetan and Himalayan Religions Group (THRG)
- 2005-present, Tibetan and Himalayan Library (THL) Project co-director. The Tibetan Buddhist Canonical Collections Cataloging Project
- 2005 to present, International Association for Tibetan Studies: Book Review Editor: Journal of the International Association for Tibetan Studies (JIATS)
- The Culture of the Book in Tibet. New York: Columbia University Press. In Press: Expected publication June 2009.
- An Early Tibetan Catalogue of Buddhist Literature: The Bstan pa rgyas pa nyi ma’i ‘od zer of Bcom ldan ral gri. Kurtis R. Schaeffer and Leonard W. J. van der Kuijp. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Oriental Series, Vol. 64. In Press: Expected publication March 2009.
- Dreaming the Great Brahmin: Tibetan Traditions of a Buddhist Poet Saint. Oxford University Press. 2005.
- Himalayan Hermitess: The Life of a Tibetan Buddhist Nun. Oxford University Press. 2004.
- Power, Politics and the Reinvention of Tradition in Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Tibet: Proceedings of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Xth Seminar, Oxford University, 2003. Kurtis R. Schaeffer and Bryan J. Cuevas, Editors. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2006.
- Among Tibetan Texts: Essays on Tibetan Religion, Literature, and History by E. Gene Smith. Edited with an introduction by Kurtis R. Schaeffer. Wisdom Publications, Boston. (2001). In the Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism Series, a refereed series.
- “Crystal Orbs and Arcane Treasuries: Tibetan Anthologies of Buddhist Tantric Songs from the Tradition of Pha Dam pa sangs rgyas.” Acta Orientalia (Norway) 68 (2007): 5-73.
- “Dying Like Milarepa: Death Accounts in a Tibetan Hagiographic Tradition.” The Buddhist Dead: Practices, Discourses, Representations. Bryan J. Cuevas and Jaqueline I. Stone, Eds. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2007. Kuroda Studies in East Asian Buddhism No. 20. pp. 208-233.
- “Death, Prognosis, and the Physician’s Reputation in Tibet.” In Heroes and Saints: The Moment of Death in Cross-cultural Perspectives. Phyllis Granoff and Koichi Shinohara, Eds. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007. pp. 159-172.
- “Ritual, Festival, and Authority under the Fifth Dalai Lama.” In Power, Politics and the Reinvention of Tradition in Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Tibet: Proceedings of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Xth Seminar, Oxford University, 2003. Kurtis R. Schaeffer and Bryan J. Cuevas, Editors. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2006. pp. 187-202.
- “Future Directions in Modern Tibetan Studies: Religion/History.” The CSSR (Council of Societies for the Study of Religion) Bulletin 35/1 (2006): 17-19.
- “The Autobiography of a Medieval Tibetan Hermitess.” In Women in Tibet: Past and Present. Janet Gyatso and Hanna Havnevik, Eds. Columbia University Press, New York. 2005.
- “The Fifth Dalai Lama.” In The Dalai Lamas: A Visual History. Martin Brauen, Ed. Chicago, Serindia Publications. 2005. pp. 64-91.
- “Karma pas.” In Encyclopedia of Religion, Second Edition. Lindsay Jones, Ed. Macmillan, New York. 2005. vol. 8, pp. 5101-5104.
- “A Letter to Editors of the Buddhist Canon in 14th Century Tibet.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 124/2 (2004): 1-17.
- “Professing Buddhism in Alabama.” The CSSR (Council of Societies for the Study of Religion) Bulletin 33/2 (2004): 43-46.
- “Textual Scholarship, Medical Tradition, and Mahayana Buddhist Ideals in Tibet.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 31/5-6 (2003): 621-641.
- “The Attainment of Immortality: From Nathas in India to Buddhists in Tibet.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 30/6 (2003). pp. 515-533.
- “The Religious Career of Vairocanavajra—A Twelfth-Century Indian Buddhist Master from Daksina Kosala.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 28/4 (2000). pp. 361-384.
- “Printing the Words of the Master: Tibetan Editorial Practice in the Collected Works of ‘Jam dbyangs bzhad pa’i rdo rje I (1648-1721).” Acta Orientalia 60 (1999). pp. 159-177.
Articles in Press
- “Tibetan Poetry on Wutaishan. ” Journal of the International Association for Tibetan Studies.
- “The Printing Projects of Tsangnyon Heruka and His Disciples. ” in Matthew T. Kapstein, Ed., Proceedings of the Eleventh Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies. Brill Publications.
- “New Tibetan Scholarship, 1650-1700.” In Forms of Knowledge in Early Modern South Asia, Sheldon Pollock, Ed. Raleigh: Duke University Press. Submitted December 2005.
- “Salt and the Sovereignty of the Dalai Lama, circa 1697.” In Festschrift for Koichi Shinohara. James Benn, Ed. Submitted December 2005.
- “Putting Hagiography in Place: Tibetan Narratives on Buddha’s Acts at Vajrasana.” In Life of the Buddha: New Perspectives and Discoveries. Sonya Quintanilla, Ed. Vancouver, BC: Brill Publishers. Submitted March 2008.
- “Editorial Perfection and Spiritual Failure: Making the Kanjur and Tanjur at Derge.” Proceedings of the 8th Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies. Elliot Sperling, Ed. Indiana (Forthcoming 2008) .
- “Charting Tibetan Biography.” In the proceedings of the conference “Publishing and Editing: the Evolution and Future of Writing in Tibet,” Paris, May 29-30, 2008. Anne Chayet and Francoise Robin, Editors.
- Donald S. Lopez, Jr., The Madman’s Middle Way: Reflections on Reality of the Tibetan Monk Gendun Chopel. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2006. Journal of the American Academy of Religion 74/4 (2006): 1039-1042.
- Bryan J. Cuevas, The Hidden History of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. Journal of the American Academy of Religion 74/4 (2006): 1042-1044.
- Victoria Sujata, Tibetan Songs of Realization: Echoes from a Seventeenth-Century Scholar and Siddha in Amdo. Boston: Brill, 2005. Journal of Asian Studies 66/3 (2007): 844-846.
- Ronald Davidson. Tibetan Renaissance: Tantric Buddhism in the Rebirth of Tibetan Culture. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005. Submitted to Journal of Religion.
- “Portraits of Buddhist Women: Stories from the Saddharmaratnavaliya by Ranjini Obeyesekere (SUNY Press: 2001).” Journal of the American Oriental Society 124/1 (2004): 208.
- “The Tibetan Assimilation of Buddhism by Matthew Kapstein (Oxford UP: 2000).” Religion 34/3 (2004): 250-253.
- “Beacon of Certainty: Illuminating the View of Dzogchen by John Whitney Pettit (Wisdom, 1999).” International Journal of Hindu Studies (2002).
- “Tibetan Histories: A Bibliography of Tibetan-Language Historical Works by Dan Martin (Serindia, 1997).” Journal of Asian Studies 57/4 (1998). pp. 856-858.