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Bryan J. Cuevas

John F. Priest Professor of Religion

Departmental Area: History and Ethnography of Religions
Research Areas : Buddhist and Tibetan Studies

Address: Department of Religion
641 University Way / P.O. Box 3061520
The Florida State University
Tallahassee, FL 32306-1520
Office: 120E Dodd Hall
Email: bcuevas@fsu.edu
Office Hours: By appointment

Background


Bryan J. Cuevas (Ph.D. University of Virginia) teaches courses in Asian religious traditions, specializing in Tibetan and Himalayan Buddhism, Tibetan history, language, and culture. His research focuses on Tibetan history and historiography, the social history of death and death-related practices, Buddhist popular religion, and the politics of religious power in medieval Tibetan society.

He is currently working on a study of Tibetan sorcery and the politics of ritual magic up through the 18thcentury. He is also at work on the first complete translation of The Life of Ra Lotsawa, the biography of Tibet's most notorious Buddhist sorcerer, to be published by Penguin Classics. He is the author of Travels in the Netherworld: Buddhist Popular Narratives of Death and the Afterlife in Tibet (Oxford, 2008); The Buddhist Dead: Practices, Discourses, Representations, with Jacqueline Stone (Kuroda Institute/Hawai'i, 2007); Power, Politics, and the Reinvention of Tradition: Tibet in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, with Kurtis Schaeffer (Brill, 2006); and The Hidden History of the Tibetan Book of the Dead (Oxford, 2003). His most recent articles and reviews have appeared in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Journal of Asian Studies, History of Religions, Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, and Revue d’Etudes Tibétaines, as well as contributions to several anthologies on Tibetan literature, history, and ritual studies.

Dr. Cuevas has been a Member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton (2007-08) and has held visiting appointments at UC Berkeley (2005-06), Princeton University (2001-02), and Emory University (2000). He has also been the recipient of fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Institute of Indian Studies. He currently serves on the editorial board of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion and is book review editor for the Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies (http://www.thlib.org/collections/texts/jiats/).

 

News

  • Dr. Cuevas has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship

  • Featured on New Books Network : New Books in Buddhist Studies
    Bryan Cuevas, Travels in the Netherworld: Buddhist Popular Narratives of Death and the Afterlife in Tibet. Oxford University Press, 2008. Interview by Scott Mitchell on September 23, 2011
    To read the article and listen to the podcast, click here.

  • FSU News Item : FSU vaults to top-tier in Asian studies

 

Recent Courses

Fall 2014


REL3340                       The Buddhist Tradition 
This course is a historical and thematic survey of Buddhism from its beginnings through the modern period. Topics covered include origins and history, doctrine, ethical beliefs, meditation, ritual, and monastic and popular traditions. Some attention will also be given to contemporary forms of Buddhism in America. Part I of this course begins with some foundational concepts in Buddhism. Part II explores the Buddhist schools, theories, and practices in different regions of the world and over a span of 2,500 years.

REL4359/RLG5354           Seminar: Buddhist Tantra 
This seminar examines the historical development of Tantra and Tantric Buddhism in early medieval India (c. 500-1200 C.E.) with some attention to the spread and practice of these traditions in Nepal, Tibet, China, and Japan. Topics covered include origins and history of the Tantric movement, esoteric literature, sacred biography, magic and ritual, yoga and meditation, and Tantra and politics. The course will also assess the varied scholarly interpretations and popular representations of Buddhist Tantra over the last century in Europe, the United States, and Asia. Instructor permission or previous coursework in Asian Religions, REL 3340, REL 3358. Contact Dr. Cuevas at bcuevas@fsu.edu.

 

Spring 2012


REL3340 The Buddhist Tradition
A historical and thematic survey of the Buddhist tradition in Asia from its beginnings through the modern period. Topics covered will include origins and history, doctrine, ethical beliefs, meditation, ritual, and monastic and popular traditions. Some attention will also be given to contemporary forms of Buddhism outside of Asia, in Europe and America.

REL4359/5354 Death and the Afterlife in Buddhist Cultures
Death is central to both Buddhist philosophical thought and Buddhism's traditional social roles. Buddhist teachings stress that all is impermanent; awareness of one's mortality is traditionally said to be a necessary impetus to the religious life. At the same time, performing rites for the well-being of the deceased in their postmortem state has been a chief task of Buddhist ritualists throughout Asia. Rituals and beliefs surrounding death also reflect specific cultural values. In this seminar we will study Buddhist approaches to death, dying, and the afterlife with a focus on South and Southeast Asia, Tibet, China, and Japan. Topics include Buddhist cosmology and the doctrine of karmic causality; tales of exemplary deaths; accounts of journeys to the hells and other postmortem realms; the placation of ghosts, demons, and the walking dead; Buddhist funerary and mortuary practices; and changes in contemporary Buddhist funerals. We will consider both Buddhist doctrinal teachings and social roles with respect to death and the afterlife, as well as interactions of Buddhism with local religious cultures. The course will run on a seminar format with active and in-depth discussion of readings and intensive individual writing projects.

Fall 2011


REL3340 The Buddhist Tradition
A historical and thematic survey of the Buddhist tradition in Asia from its beginnings through the modern period. Topics covered will include origins and history, doctrine, ethical beliefs, meditation, ritual, and monastic and popular traditions. Some attention will also be given to contemporary forms of Buddhism outside of Asia, in Europe and America.
Sec. 1 (Ref# 04080) T R 9:30am-10:45am DIF 0228
Sec. 2 (Ref# 07694) T R 12:30pm-1:45pm DOD 0118 (Honors section)

REL4304/5305 Magic & The Supernatural in Asia
This seminar offers a comparative study of the forms and functions of magic, supernatural beliefs, and associated rituals in various societies across Asia, including especially India, Tibet, China, and Japan. Emphasis will be on understanding such beliefs and practices within specific Asian social and historical contexts and broad comparisons with Western conceptions to derive critical insights into the significance of religious beliefs and practices in human life. In addition, sustained focus will be on the wide variety of academic approaches to magic as a cross-cultural category and the problematic distinction between the categories "magic" and "religion." Key questions addressed throughout the course include the following: What is magic? What does magic mean? What does magic do? Is magic distinct from religion? Is magic natural or supernatural? Why do people believe in magic? What is the role of magic in society? The course will run on a seminar format with active and in-depth discussion of readings and intensive individual writing assignments. Permission of instructor required.
Sec. 1/1 (Ref# *****/04104) R 3:00pm-5:45pm BEL 0045

 

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