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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


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 Buddhist ritual magic in Tibet through the eighteenth century. He is the author of Travels in the Netherworld: Buddhist Popular Narratives of Death and the Afterlife in Tibet (Oxford, 2008) and The Hidden History of the Tibetan Book of the Dead (Oxford, 2003). He is also the co-editor of The Buddhist Dead: Practices, Discourses, Representations, with Jacqueline I. Stone (Kuroda Institute/Hawai'i, 2007) and Power, Politics, and the Reinvention of Tradition: Tibet in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, with Kurtis R. Schaeffer (Brill, 2006). Most recently, he is the translator of The All-Pervading Melodious Drumbeat: The Life of Ra Lotsawa (Penguin Classics, 2015), the biography of Tibet’s most notorious Buddhist sorcerer. His 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 Memorial 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 Religionand is book review editor for the Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies.



  • 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 2015

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. Meets the Liberal Studies- Cultural Practice and Cross-cultural (x) requirements.

REL 4359-01/RLG 5354-01        Seminar: Buddhist Biography/Autobiography
Biography is one of the most central and enduring literary genres of the Buddhist tradition. Religious biography (hagiography) is a form of didactic literature that speaks about the ideal Buddhist life, with the Buddha's own life serving as the paradigm for all Buddhists, monks, nuns, and laity alike. But Buddhist biography is more than a popular vehicle for religious instruction; it is also a particular type of historical writing, one that emphasizes individual agency and views the subject as a point at which diverse historical forces converge. This is apparent also in religious autobiography, which promises a more intimate portrait of the “self” in history in relation to the world. In this seminar we examine the nature of Buddhist sacred life writing with a focus on traditional Buddhist hagiography and autobiography in India, Tibet, China, and Japan. Issues addressed will include biography as history, sociocultural constructions of experience, aspects of the self-consciousness of personality, and the availability of particular identity roles transmitted through texts. The course will run on a seminar format with active and in-depth discussion of readings and intensive individual writing projects.

RLG5354           Buddhist Biography 

RLG5356           Readings in Tibetan 

Spring 2015

REL3936-03           Demons and Devils, East and West (co-taught with Dr. Matthew Goff)
This course offers a comparative introduction to demons, devils, and other troublesome spirits in various religious traditions East and West. Specifically, we will examine demonic and devilish figures in ancient Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism across Asia and the Near East. Biblical and other ancient texts that describe demons, devils, and spirits will be explored in their social and historical contexts, so that students will have a sense of how interpretations of such entities have changed over time and across cultures. Emphasis will be on comparative understanding of the beliefs and practices surrounding demonic entities in the ancient world to derive critical insights into the significance of such religious ideas in the lives of human beings. Key topics will include mythologies of chaos and evil, Satan and the Buddhist Māra, the relationship between gods, demons, and human beings, local spirits and ghosts in the monastery, demon-caused illness, exorcism, and healing.

REL4359/RLG5354           Seminar: Tibetan Buddhist Historiography 
An advanced introduction to Tibetan Buddhist history and historiography, exploring in detail the development of the culture, religion, and politics of Tibet from the ancient empire to present relations with China. The course will examine the varied academic approaches that scholars have taken in their attempts to understand and interpret Tibetan religious history. With this particular goal in mind we will focus thoroughly and critically on four recent scholarly works in the field of Tibetan Studies and several indigenous Tibetan histories in translation. The course will run on a seminar format with active and in-depth discussion of readings and intensive individual writing projects. Prerequisite: REL 3358 or permission of instructor. Contact Dr. Cuevas at bcuevas@fsu.edu.