2022 NEH Summer Institute
June 12-24, 2022

Our world is facing unprecedented ecological and social challenges. In Buddhism, as in other religions, imaginal worlds—worlds deliberately accessed through the imagination—are primary sources for personal healing, inspiration, and insight, as well as for social, cultural, and political transformation. This Institute invites scholars to reflect on the critical roles our imaginations play in creating (and potentially) transforming our world by examining how these worlds are deployed in Buddhist literature, ritual, meditation, and art; Buddhist philosophical theories on the creative dynamic between mind, action, and world; and contemporary theories on the imagination (from philosophy, psychology, cognitive science, anthropology, and religious studies).

Please find recordings from the summer 2022 program below. 

Faculty Presentations

June 13, 2022

Jeffrey Kripal (Rice University), “The World is One, and the Human is Two: Tentative Conclusions of a Working Historian of Religions”  – view recording

Matthew Kapstein (École Pratique des Hautes Études, Emeritus) “Imagination, Imaginaire, and Imaginal in the Study of Religions” (recording not available)

June 14, 2022

Karin Meyers (Mangalam Research Center), “Making God Real: More Theories of the Imagination” – view recording

Laurie Patton (Middlebury College), “Achieving Other Worlds in Vedic Religion” – view recording

June 15, 2022

David McMahan (Franklin and Marshall College), “Imagining Things as They Are” – view recording

William Waldron (Middlebury College), “The Unconscious Construction of Our Collective Worlds” – view recording

June 16, 2022

Elliot Wolfson (University of California, Santa Barbara), “Imagining Otherwise and the Reason of Unreason: Occupying the Space of a Dream without Dreaming” –view recording

Karin Meyers (Mangalam Research Center), “Dreams and Dream Yoga in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism” – view recording

Eric Huntington (Rice Unviersity), “Putting the World to Work: Applied Cosmology in Buddhist Thought and Practice” (recording not available)

June 17, 2022

Jeff Durham (Asian Art Museum of San Francisco), “To Imagine the Universe: How Himalayan Paintings Articulate Self-Contained Cosmoi ” (recording not available)

June 20, 2022

David McMahan (Franklin and Marshall College) “Buddhist Visionary Literature and the Logic of Visionary Imagery” – view recording

Leah Kalmanson (University of North Texas), “The Reality/Unreality of Pure Lands and their Roles in Social-Political Transformation” – view recording

June 21, 2022

Benjamin Bogin (Skidmore College), “Visionary Journeys to Copper Color Mountain” – view recording

Alyson Prude (University of South Georgia), “Sharing Journeys Beyond: Reports of the Deceased and the Worlds They Inhabit” – listen to audio

June 22, 2022

Francisca Cho (Georgetown University), “A Buddhist Theory of Cinema” –view recording

Public Panels

June 15, 2022

“Religion & the Imagination” – Panel Discussion with Jeffrey Kripal (Rice University), Laurie Patton (Middlebury College), and Elliot Wolfson (University of California, Santa Barbara)

June 23, 2022

“Buddhism & the Imagination” – Panel Discussion with Benjamin Bogin (Skidmore College), Francisca Cho (Georgetown University), David McMahan (Franklin and Marshall College), Karin Meyers (Mangalam Research Center), and William Waldron (Middlebury College).

"The Imagination and Imaginal Worlds in the Mirror of Buddhism" has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed on this website, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.