Karen Derris: A Professor and Her Students Engage H. H. the Karmapa

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In this episode of the Wisdom Podcast, Daniel Aitken speaks with Dr. Karen Derris, scholar of South and Southeast Asian Buddhist traditions and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Redlands. For the past several years, Karen has had the rare opportunity of working one-on-one with His Holiness the Karmapa as an editor of his most recent book, Interconnected: Embracing Life in Our Global Society. You’ll hear Karen share the deep impact of working under the Karmapa’s direct guidance, which she describes as like being “inside a sutra” and among the most profound experiences of her entire career. Karen also shares stories from her travels to Gyuto Monastery in India, where she and her students met with the Karmapa for a three-week dialogue. Karen describes how this rare connection with the Karmapa had a profound influence on her students’ professional aspirations, leading to deeply meaningful service-oriented careers. Additionally, their conversations helped inform the message of Interconnected, which offers a twenty-first century model of interdependence in support of a truly global society.

About the Interviewee

Dr. Karen Derris is a scholar of South and Southeast Asian Buddhist traditions, professor of religious studies at the University of Redlands, as well as the Virginia Hunsaker Chair in Distinguished Teaching. Her research focuses on the intersection of literature, ethics, and history in pre-modern Buddhist traditions, as well as the central importance of community in Buddhist ethical and spiritual development. Dr. Derris received her PhD from the Committee on the Study of Religion at Harvard University in 2000.

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