Announcing Book: Love Letters from Golok

love-letters-from-golokAnnouncing the release of Love Letters from Golok: A Tantric Couple in Modern Tibet, which chronicles the lives and letters of Khandro Tare Lhamo (1938–2002) and Namtrul Rinpoche (1944–2011). This Buddhist tantric couple played a significant role in revitalizing Buddhist teachings, practices, and institutions in the Tibetan region of Golok during post-Mao era.

Get 30% off at Columbia University Press with discount code: GAYLEY.
Read select letters in current issue of Tricyle Magazine.

I began this research project in 2004, when I first visited Golok. On that occasion, Namtrul Rinpoche kindly gave me their published corpus of revelations and an extra volume containing his correspondence with Tare Lhamo over more than a year, beginning in 1978. Their letters are almost entirely in verse, containing prophecies about their future revelations and intimate expressions of affection. The interplay of love and destiny in their letters and lives is a central theme in the book, alongside strategies for narrating cultural trauma related to their coming of age during the Maoist period. Read more

Himalaya Issue on the Secular in Tibet


Nicole Willock and I co-edited the May 2016 issue of Himalaya on the theme,  “The Secular in Tibetan Cultural Worlds.” The issue examines Tibetan responses to secularism in diverse geographic contexts from Himalaya to Central Asia with contributions by Tsering Gonkatsang, Matthew King, Leigh Miller, Emmi Okada, Annabella Pitkin, Françoise Robin, Dominique Townsend, and the co-editors. Our introduction, “Theorizing the Secular in Tibetan Cultural Worlds,” discusses the categories of ‘religion’ and the ‘secular’ in Tibetan discourse as they emerged historically and places them within the context of the varieties of Asian secularisms. My own article, “Controversy over Buddhist Ethical Reform: A Secular Critique of Clerical Authority in the Tibetan Blogosphere,” examines the blogosphere debate over ethical reform inaugurated in eastern Tibet by Larung Buddhist Academy.

Cover of Himalaya 36:1, artwork by Dedron (Luciano Benetton Collection).

TBRC Series on the Dudjom Lineage

dudjom-lingpaKhandro Tare Lhamo had connections with the Dudjom lineage through her root teacher, Dzongter Kunzang Nyima (1904-1958), who was the grandson and speech emanation of Dudjom Lingpa (1835-1904), and through her first marriage to his son, Mingyur Dorje (1934-1959). In the early 1990s, Khandro Tare Lhamo recognized one of the reincarnations of Dudjom Rinpoche Jigdral Yeshe Dorje (1904-1987), the renowned reincarnation of Dudjom Lingpa who served as the head of the Nyingma lineage in exile.

Dudjom Lingpa was a terton (treasure revealer) and a towering figure in the Golok treasure scene and his eight sons all became important religious figures in the region. Several years ago, I wrote a series of three short essays for the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center (TBRC) website on the Dudjom lineage according to historian Pema Osal Thaye. “The Scions of Dudjom Lingpa” discusses the importance of family lineage in the transmission of Nyingma teachings, particularly the revelations of “treasures” or terma. “Articulating Lineage in Golok” explores different modes of religious authority and lineage transmission in the case of Dudjom Lingpa and his scions. And “Who’s Who in the Dudjom Lineage” provides an overview of his family lineage across four generations.

Statue of Dudjom Lingpa at Tsimda Monastery, photo by Holly Gayley.

Launch of Tibet Himalaya Initiative


Last fall, together with colleagues Emily Yeh, Carole McGranahan, and Ariana Maki, I founded the Tibet Himalaya Initiative (THI) at CU Boulder. Our launch colloquium on “The Art of Translation” took place with Ringu Tulku Rinpoche on November 11, 2015.

In our inaugural year, we hosted more than a dozen guest speakers, visiting artists, and film screenings, including Tibetan Arts Week (April 4-10, 2016) with acclaimed contemporary Tibetan artist Gonkar Gyatso and the filmmaker and poet Jangbu (Dorje Tsering Chenaktsang).

In the coming year, we are co-sponsoring the Tsadra Translation and Transmission Conference, May 31 – June 3, 2017 and organizing Himalayan Studies Conference V, the biannual conference of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies, September 1-4, 2017. Both conferences will be held on the CU Boulder campus.