Thomas Yarnall

Dr. Tom Yarnall (B.A. in Religion, Amherst College, 1983; MA., MPhil., and PhD in Religion, Columbia University, 2003) is an Associate Research Scholar and Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Religion at Columbia.

Courses he has developed and regularly teaches include the lecture/survey course on the history, culture, philosophy, and practices of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, as well as advanced seminars on Buddhist Philosophy, Buddhist Ethics, and Buddhist Contemplative Sciences (including Buddhist Tantra). Each course explores its subject matter not only within its relevant socio-historical contexts but also within the contexts of contemporary disciplines and discourses (including post-modern and post-structuralist methodologies; Western traditions of philosophy, epistemology, ethics, and socio-political theories; cognitive sciences; psychology; and so forth). Dr. Yarnall also teaches Tibetan and Sanskrit languages, and assists undergraduate and graduate students with advanced research skills, tools, and resources in all of the above areas.

As a researcher Dr. Yarnall works with the Columbia University Center for Buddhist Studies (CUCBS), serving as the Executive Editor (2003–present) for the two series of scholarly translations/studies entitled the Treasury of the Buddhist Sciences (Tibetan Tengyur texts and associated literature) and the Treasury of the Indic Sciences, being co‑published by CUCBS, the American Institute of Buddhist Studies, and Tibet House US, and distributed by Columbia University Press. To date he has edited and produced 23 titles within these series, with 8 more forthcoming in 2018–19, and has developed a comprehensive plan for ongoing future publications within these series. In a related capacity, Dr. Yarnall also has served as a principal organizer, steering committee member, and participant in numerous international conferences (in India, US, Canada, Taiwan, etc.) on topics involving methodological, theoretical, philological, technical, and practical issues pertaining to the translation and transmission of Buddhist texts and ideas.

Dr. Yarnall’s own scholarly research has focused on Mādhyamika philosophy, Buddhist ethics, and especially on Indian and Tibetan Tantric materials of the Unexcelled Yoga class. His study and translation of the creation stage chapters of Tsong Khapa’s Great Treatise on the Stages of Mantra (sngags rim chen mo) was published in the Treasury of the Buddhist Sciences series in 2013, and was a finalist for the Tsadra Foundation’s “Shantarakshita Award for Excellence in Translation” for books published 2012–15. His forthcoming book (under consideration for publication by Columbia University Press in 2018), entitled The Emptiness that is Form: The Nonconceptual Embodiment of Buddhahood, contains a detailed analysis and study of the relationship between the view of emptiness and the practice of deity yoga in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Tantra, informed both by traditional Indian and Tibetan sources and perspectives as well as by a wide variety of contemporary disciplines and methodologies.