José Cabezón

Distinguished Professor Emeritus
Dalai Lama Professor Emeritus

Ph.D., The University of Wisconsin
Tibetan Buddhist Studies


I taught at UCSB from 2001 to 2023, serving as Department Chair from 2010 to 2013. In 2020 I served as president of the American Academy of Religion. From 2005 to 2022 I was chief editor (with Tom Tillemans) of Wisdom Publication’s “Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism” series (

Throughout my career I have been interested in several broad topics in the history of religion, including monasticism, scholasticism, sexuality, and more recently dreams. My more theoretical work has interrogated some of the basic categories of the field, including identity, philosophy, theology, and comparison. Over the past decade, though, my work has focused more on the close reading of classical Indian and Tibetan Buddhist texts. I have always been interested in Tibetan Buddhist doctrinal literature, especially polemics, but I have also worked on ritual, historiographical, and hagiographical texts. My longstanding interests in gender and sexuality resulted in a book,  Sexuality in Classical South Asian Buddhism (Wisdom Publications, 2017). I have also published a translation of Mipam’s Treatise on Royal Ethics (Rgyal po’i lugs kyi bstan bcos), The Just King (Snow Lion, 2017), a work of Buddhist political theory.

My latest book focuses on Sera, one of the largest and most important monasteries in the Tibetan world. I lived and studied at Sera (the diaspora Sera in Karnataka, India) from 1980 until 1985, and collected materials for this project for more than three decades. Some of my findings have been published on my Sera Project website (, hosted by the Tibetan and Himalayan Library. The new, book-length study of Sera (Sera Monastery, Wisdom Publications, 2019), co-authored with Dr. Penpa Dorjee of the Central University of Tibetan Studies in Sarnath, India, draws on this earlier research, but it also contains a new narrative history of the monastery from its founding in 1419 until the present day. This research was funded by a Guggenheim Fellowship and by an ACLS/Ho Collaborative Research Fellowship.

The graduate students I have supervised have worked on a wide variety of research projects in Tibet and the Himalayan Buddhism using methodological lenses as diverse philosophy, intellectual history, and ethnography.



  • Sera Monastery (2019), with Penpa Dorjee
  • Sexuality in Classical South Asian Buddhism (2017).
  • Mipam’s Treatise on Royal Ethics (2017).
  • The Buddha’s Doctrine and the Nine Vehicles: Rob Bande Sherab’s Lamp of the Teachings. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.
  • Meditation on the Nature of Mind (co-authored with with H. H. the Dalai Lama and containing an annotated translation of a work by Khöntön Peljor Lhundrub). Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2011.
  • Editor, Tibetan Ritual. Oxford: OxfordUniversity Press, 2010.
  • Editor, A Glimpse of Another World: A Journey Through Western Tibet (1938) by F. Bailey Vanderhoef. Online publication (UCSB and Santa Barbara Museum of Art).
  • Freedom from Extremes: Goramspa’s Distinguishing the Views and the Polemics of Emptiness. (With Geshe L. Dargyay). Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2007.
  • The Hermitages of Sera. Tibetan and Himalayan Digital Library (University of Virginia). Peer reviewed monograph. Online .
  • Co-editor with S. G. Davaney, Identity and the Politics of Scholarship in the Study of Religion. NY: Routledge, 2006.
  • Editor, Scholasticism: Cross-Cultural and Comparative Perspective. Albany: SUNY Press, 1998.
  • Co-editor with R. R. Jackson, Tibetan Literature: Essays in Honor of Geshe Lhundub Sopa. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 1995. Reprinted online at
  • Buddhism and Language: A Study of Indo-Tibetan Scholasticism. Albany: SUNY Press, 1994.
  • Co-editor with M. Stemmeler, Religion, Homosexuality and Literature, Proceedings of the 1991 Gay Men’s Issues in Religion Panel of the AAR. Las Colinas, Texas: Monument Press, 1993.
  • Editor, Buddhism, Sexuality and Gender. Albany: SUNY Press, 1992.
  • A Dose of Emptiness: An Annotated Translation of mKhas Grub rje’s sTong thun chen mo. Albany: SUNY Press, 1992.
  • Editor, H.H. The Dalai Lama, The Bodhgaya Interviews: 1980‑1985. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 1988. Later republished as Answers.


  • “On Tulku Lineages,” Revue d’Etudes Tibetaines 38: 1-28.
  • “The Life and Lives of ‘Khon ston dpal ‘byor lhun grub,” Tibet Journal, vol. 34, no. 3 (2010), pp. 209-230. Translated into Tibetan and republished in Blo bzang rdo rje, ed., ‘Khon ston dpal ‘byor lhun grub, Dkon mchog gsum la skyabs su ‘gro tshul gyi gdams pa zab mo snyan brgyud khyad par gsum ldan. Xining: Rig gnas dpe skrung khang, 2012, pp. 1-21.
  • “The Changing Field of Buddhist Studies in North America,” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, vol. 30, nos. 1-2 (2009), pp. 267-82.
  • “Language and the Ultimate: Do Mādhyamikas Make Philosophical Claims: A Selection from Khedrupjey’s Great Digest (Stong thun chen mo).” In William Edelglass and Jay Garfield, eds., Buddhist Philosophy: Essential Readings. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009, 126-37.
  • “The Madhyamaka in Gro lung pa’s Bstan Rim chen mo” In Maret Kerk ed.,  Proceedings of the International Association of Tibetan Studies. Leiden: Brill, 2009, pp. 11-58.
  • “The Role of Polemics in Tibetan Mahāyāna Thought.” In Darol Bryant and Susan Bryant, eds., Mahāyāna Buddhism: History and Culture (New Delhi: Tibet House, 2008), 27-43.
  • “Science, Ethics and the Buddhist University,” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Universities, vol. 1 (2008), pp. 28-44.
  • “Buddhist Narratives of the Great Debates,” Argumentation, vol. 22 (2008), pp. 71-92.
  • “State Control of Tibetan Buddhist Monasticism in the People’s Republic of China.” In Mayfair Yang, ed., Chinese Religiosities: Afflictions of Modernity and State Formation. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008, pp. 261-91, 363-73 (notes).
  • “The Cults of Peaceful and Wrathful Avalokiteśvara at Sera Monastery” in William McGee, ed., Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara (Guanyin) and Modern Society: Proceedings of the Chung hwa Avalokiteśvara Conference. Taipei: Chung hwa Institute, 2007, pp. 35-64.
  • “A Response to Paul Williams’s The Unexpected Way,” in John May, ed., Converging Ways? Conversion and Belonging in Buddhism and Christiantiy. Munich: EOS Verlag, 89-115.
  • “The Dissemination of Tibetan Buddhism,” in M. Juergensmeyer, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Global Religions. Oxford: Oxford University Press,  2006, pp. 91-107.
  • “Three Tibetan Views of Creation,” in Perry Schmidt-Leukel, ed., Buddhism, Christianity and the Question of Creation. Hants, England: Ashgate, 2006, pp. 33-45
  • “The Discipline and Its Other: The Dialectic of Alterity in the Study of Religion,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, vol. 74, no. 1 (2006), pp. 21-38
  • “Tibetan Buddhist Society.” In Mark Juergensmeyer, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Global Religions. Oxford: Oxford University Presss, 2006, pp. 91-107.
  • “Identity and the Work of the Scholar of Religion.” In José Ignacio Cabezon and Sheila Greeve Davaney, Identity and the Politics of Scholarship in the Study of Religion. NY: Routledge, 2004, pp. 43-59.
  • “Buddhism and Science: On the Nature of the Dialogue.” In B. Alan Wallace, ed., Buddhism and Science: Breaking New Ground. NY: Columbia University Press, 2003, pp. 35-68.
  • Contributor (chaps. 18-21) to the translation of Tsong kha pa’s Lam rim chen mo.Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment. Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2002, vol. III, pp. 225-275.
  •  “Two Views on the Svàtantrika/Pràsaïgika Distinction in 14th century Tibet.” In G. Dreyfus and S. McClintock, eds., The Svàtantrika/Pràsaïgika Distinction: What Difference Does a Difference Make? Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2002, pp. 289-315.
  • “Authorship and Literary Production in Classical Buddhist Tibet.” In Guy Newland, ed., Changing Minds (Jeffrey Hopkins festschrift). Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 2001, pp. 233-64.
  • “Buddhist Theology in the Academy.” In Roger Jackson and John Makransky, eds., Buddhist Theology. Surrey, England: Curzon Press, 2000, pp. 25-51.
  • “Truth in Buddhist Theology.” In Roger Jackson and John Makransky, eds., Buddhist Theology. Surrey, England: Curzon Press, 2000, pp. 136-154.
  •  “Islam in the Tibetan Cultural Sphere.” In G. Henry, ed., Islam in Tibet. Louisville: Fons Vitae, 1997, pp. 13-32. Reprinted with slight editorial modifications as “Islam on the Roof of the World,” Aramco World, vol. 49, no.1 (1998), pp. 12-23.
  • “Indian Contributions to a Theory of Cross-Cultural Comaprison.” In Joseph W. Elder, Edward C. Dimock Jr., and Ainslee T. Embree, eds., India’s Worlds and U. S. Scholars: 1947-1997. New Delhi: Manohar and American Institute of Indian Studies, 1998, pp. 477-488.
  • “Tibetan Gothic: Panofsky’s Thesis in the Tibetan Cultural Milieu.” In J. I. Cabezón, ed., Scholasticism: Cross-Cultural and Comparative Perspectives. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998, pp. 141-58.
  • “Rong ston Shà kya rgyal msthan on Madhyamaka Thesislessness.” In Tibetan Studies, Proceedings of the International Conference on Tibetan Studies (Graz, Austria), Helmut Krasser, et. al., eds. Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1997, pp. 97-105.
  • “The Regulations of a Monastery.” In D. S. Lopez, Jr., ed., Religions of Tibet in Practice. Princeton: Princeton University Presss, 1997, pp. 335-51. Reprinted in D. S. Lopez, Jr. ed., Religions of Asia in Practice. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997.
  • “Buddhist Principles in the Tibetan Liberation Movement.” In Christopher Queen and Sally King, eds., Engaged Buddhism. Albany: SUNY Press, 1996, pp. 295-320.
  • “On the sGra pa rin chen pa’i rtsod lan of Paõ chen bLo zang chos rgyan,” Asiatische Studien/Études Asiatiques, XLIX.4 (1995), pp. 643-669.
  • “Buddhist Studies as a Discipline and the Study of Method,” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, vol. 18, no. 2 (1995), pp. 231-268.
  •  “Comparison as a Principle of Knowledge and its Application to the Translation of Buddhist Texts.” In Doboom Tulku, ed., Buddhist Translations: Problems and Perspectives. New Delhi: Manohar, 1995, pp. 59-74.
  • “Firm Feet and Long Lives: The Zhabs brtan Genre of Tibetan Liberature.” In J. I. Cabezón and R. Jackson eds., Tibetan Literature. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications,1995, pp. 344-57.
  • “Homosexuality and Buddhism.” In Arlene Swidler, ed., Homosexuality and World Religions. Valley Forge: Trinity Press International, 1993, pp. 81-101. Reprinted in W. Leyland, ed., Queer Dharma (San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press, 1998), pp. 29-44.
  • “Vasubandhu’s Vyàkhyàyukti on the Authenticity of the Mahàyàna Sūtras.” In J. Timm, ed., Traditional Hermeneutics in South Asia. Albany: State University of new York Press, 1992, pp. 221-243.
  • “Mother Wisdom/ Father Love: Gender Based Imagery in Mahàyàna Buddhist Texts.” In J. I. Cabezón, ed., Buddhism, Sexuality and Gender. Albany: State University of new York Press Press, pp. 181-199.
  • “The Canonization of Philosophy and the Rhetoric of Siddhànta in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism.” In P. J. Griffiths and J. Keenan, eds., Buddha Nature, Professor Minoru Kiyota festschrift. San Francisco: Buddhist Books International, 1992, pp. 7-26.
  • “Tibetan Language” and “The Thang ka According to Tradition” (the latter with Thubten Tandhar), two entries in White Lotus: An Introduction to Tibetan Culture. Ithaca: Snow Lion Press, 1990, pp. 133-138, 155-158.
  • “The Pràsaïgikas on Logic: Tibetan dGe lugs pa Exegesis on the Question of Svatantras”, Journal of Indian Philosophy, vol.15 (1988), pp. 55-62.
  •  One Hundred and Eight Verses in Praise of Great Compassion. Booklet (28pp.) An annotated translation from the Tibetan of the Snying rje chen po la bstod pa’i tshig bcad brgya rtsa brgyad of bLo bzang rta dbyangs. Mysore, India: Mysore Printing and Publishing, l985.
  • “Truth and Meaning in the Buddhist Scriptures,” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, vol.4, no.1 (1981), pp. 7-23.
  •  “A Study of the F.U.R. Mutations of Phycomyces,” Cold Spring Harbor Reports in Phycomycycology, l974.

Courses Taught:

  • RG ST 31, Religions of Tibet
  • RG ST 135, Guided Readings in Tibetan Buddhist Texts (an advanced text reading course, where we read texts in the original Tibetan)
  • RG ST 162A, Indian Philosophy
  • RG ST 184A, The Practice of Tibetan Buddhism
  • RG ST 184B, Tibetan Buddhist Literature
  • RG ST 254A, Seminar on Tibetan Buddhist Traditions
  • RG ST 254B, The Study of Tibet from the Missionaries to Cultural Studies
  • RG ST 254C, Seminar on Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy