A Vision of What Might Be: The Pandemic, Protests, and Possibilities


  • Jan Willis Wesleyan University


social justice, wisdom, Buddha, MLK, U. S. society, spiritual practice, memoir


Times of crisis offer us opportunities for radical transformation. The past two years of the Covid pandemic have laid bare, in glaring fashion, the social, economic, and judicial inequities in American life. Even so, some moral and religious leaders have provided us with teachings and guidelines for a new vision of what we might become. Here, based on my experience as a Professor of Religion and an African American Tibetan Buddhist scholar and practitioner, I draw on the teachings of two of these visionaries—the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Buddha—to help us to imagine the moral and spiritual transformations that might be possible.

Author Biography

Jan Willis, Wesleyan University

Jan Willis (BA and MA in Philosophy from Cornell University; and PhD in Indic and Buddhist Studies from Columbia University) is Professor of Religious Studies Emerita at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.

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-five years. Hailed by TIME magazine in 2000 as one of six “spiritual innovators for the new millennium,” she has also been profiled in Newsweek and Ebony magazines. In 2003 she received Wesleyan University’s Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching. She is the author of five books and numerous articles and essays--on Buddhist meditation, hagiography, women and Buddhism, and Buddhism and race--and of a memoir, Dreaming Me: Black, Baptist, and Buddhist. Her latest book, Dharma Matters: Women, Race and Tantra; Collected Essays by Jan Willis, was published in 2020.


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