Welcome to my web page! I have created this page as a way to display a few of the “hats” I wear or at least try to don in this existence. Each of the links on the left will reveal a brief, quickly drafted description of that aspect of my life.
While this kind of static web presentation has been rapidly replaced by social media sites, content management systems and other recent advances in the internet, I have chosen to do this part of my site “by hand” as a way to play around with web-design and technique, especially JQuery. This site gives me the opportunity to archive some of my accomplishments, such as my music and translations, as well as a place to experiment with the technology in more creative ways than I do at work, such as the Tarot Thrower. In short, I have created this site as a way not only to share who I am and document my interests but also as a testing/training area for web-design ideas, online tools, and just to “play” with the basic internet technologies for the fun of it!
If you happen to land here, drop me a line and let me know what you think.
Scholastic study has always been an important part of my life. Specific courses and teachers have been highly influential in my personal growth and academic career. At high school, Phillips Exeter Academy, I took a course in Jungian Pscyhology that began a life-long interest in alternative spiritual techniques as pychological tools for understanding, such as the tarot and the I-Ching, and particularly an interest in the role of the unconscious in human behavior and religion. In college, the required freshman seminar I chose was on Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. Thoreau’s romantic transcendentalism blended well with Jung’s equally romantic psycho-spirituality. In retrospect, I can see how this prepared me for the next stage in my academic development, Buddhism.
After taking time off during which I decided to not major in Chemistry, I returned to college with an open mind toward choosing a major but with an obvious bent toward spirituality. Flipping through the course catalog, I saw an introduction to Buddhism course and decided to try that. The course was taught by Robert Thurman, who was a phenomenal, engaging teacher. Influenced by that course, which was heavily weighted toward Tibetan Buddhism, I switched my major to Religion and spent a year abroad in India through the University of Wisconsin’s excellent program. After receiving an undergraduate degree from Wesleyan University, I did not intend to go to graduate school, but I found myself in Charlottesville, Virginia, and discovered that the University of Virginia had a graduate program in Tibetan Buddhism and offered courses in Tibetan language. I began to sit in on the first year Tibetan classes and based on my performance in those classes was encouraged to apply to the graduate program, which I began in 1987.
At UVa, under the tutelage of Jeffrey Hopkins, I began to read a Tibetan Tantric commentary from the Nyingma school. Written at the turn of the twentieth century by the renown scholar Jikmé Denbé Nyima (’jigs med bstan pa’i nyi ma), the commentary on the Secret Essence Tantra (gsang ba’i nying bo, guhyagarbatantra) called The Key to the Treasury (mdzod kyi lde’u mig) is an important text for an understanding of modern Nyingma thought on Tantra and the difference between Sūtra and Tantra. With a grant from the American Institute of Indian Studies, I spent another year in India studying The Key to the Treasury with Khenpo Namdröl at Namdröl Ling Monastery in South India in 1993-1994. My dissertation, Penetrating the Secret Essence, was a summary of the philosophy, worldview, and practice in the Nyingma interpretation of the Secret Essence Tantra as presented in Jikmé Denbé Nyima’s commentary.
Since obtaining my PhD in 2004, I have been employed by the Tibetan and Himalayan Library and SHANTI at UVa developing digitals tools for scholars of the arts and sciences and in particular students of Tibetan culture. Thus, another hat I wear is that of a programmer.
In THL my main work has been to develop a system for marking up and displaying texts. These texts can be multi-volume collections, monographs, articles, or essays. They can be in any language, but primarily Tibetan and English. The markup includes both metadata including traditional catalog data and structural and semantic markup of the text itself. Accessing the texts and displaying them involves SOLR indexes, a Cocoon webapp installed on Tomcat being sent to a dynamic web page via PHP and AJAX.
Here are some links to relevant sections of THL:
- THL Home
- Literary Catalogs of Tibetan Texts
- Jounral of the International Association of Tibetan Studies
- The Antiquities of Zhang Zhung
- Extended Wylie Transliteration System
Recently, I have begun working with another project SHANTI at University of Viriginia. My present work for this project involves creating a way in Drupal to create and manage visualizations of data using the tools developed by the Viseyes Project.
I have always loved music as a means for expressing myself in ways that are beyond the scope of words. I began playing piano around the age of eight, but also learned guitar as this is a much more portable instrument. Well, I enjoy playing covers, especially if I can do them in a different way, I have also written over 30 songs. In the course of the years, as I have played these songs at “music nights” or around campfires, people have expressed their enjoyment of them enought that I’ve felt it’s time to start recording them and putting them on line. Unfortunately, time and resources are a factor in creating a good recording, and I am limited on both accounts, not to mention the mechanics of record is a completely different skill from playing the songs. Nonetheless, I have managed to get some rough, first drafts of songs down and put them up on Sound Cloud. You can listen to them here
However hard we try, the world does not fit neatly into categories unless there is a catch-all category for “everything else.” That’s what this page is about. A few of my other interests include the following:
- Tarot: I have found the tarot a useful tool to understanding myself and the world. Check out my online tarot thrower, where you can do a spread on line and click on a card for its meaning,
- Activism: I am part of a group that advocates for the humane treatment of prisoners, Supporting Prisoners and Acting for Radical Change.
- Beer Brewing: I have yet to discover a way to make beer available on-line, but that's probably a good thing. I do enjoy brewing beer at home with simple, relatively inexpensive equipment. It is a kind of alchemical process, much akin to bread-making and yoghurt-making both of which I also enjoy doing, and the results are delicious....
- Behind the Veil: See who’s under the cover, by clicking here....
The Tibetan thanka (pronounced “tanka” = “religious painting”) that is briefly revealed when switching to this description is a painting of the Eighth Century Tibetan saint, Vimalamitra. Vimalamitra was a contemporary of the more well-known figure Padmasambhava, who can arguably be called the patron saint of Tibet. While a fair amount of scholarly attention has been focused on Padmasambhava and his cult, very little attention has been directed toward Vimilamitra. There may have been two people with the name Vimilamitra, as this could well have been a common name. (It means “stainless friend.”) The Tibetan hagiographies of Vimilamitra focus mianly on his connection with the “Great Completeness” (rdzogs chen) and the Atiyoga group of Tantras in the Old Schools of Tibetan Buddhism. This and other evidence points to a 9th to 10th century date for Vimilamitra. Yet, there is equally strong evidence of an 8th century Vimilamitra who was intimitely connected with the Mahāyoga tradition and wrote several commentaries on The Secret Essence Tantra (guhyagarbha, rgyud gsang ba’i snying po). Further research is necessary before anything conclusive could be said on this matter.
This particular image was one of the first I acquired in my interest in Tibetan Buddhism, and it has always been one of my favorite. His posture and look are unique, portraying more of an image of a wild yogi than of a scholastic monk. Given my connection with The Secret Essence Tantra, I have always been more interested in that side of Vimilamitra and his connection to that scripture. The image is on a postcard from “The Tibet Exhibition of Japan 1983” and gives only his name on the back. At present, I know nothing more of this particular thanka.