Karma Lekshe Tsomo
Professor, Theology and Religious Studies
Karma Lekshe Tsomo, a specialist in Buddhist studies, has taught at USD since 2000. She offers classes in Buddhist Thought and Culture, World Religions, Comparative Religious Ethics, Religious and Political Identities in the Global Community, and Negotiating Religious Diversity in India. Her research interests include women in Buddhism, death and dying, Buddhist feminist ethics, Buddhism and bioethics, religion and politics, and Buddhist transnationalism. She integrates scholarship and social activism through the Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women and Jamyang Foundation, an innovative education project for women in developing countries, with 15 schools in the Indian Himalayas, Bangladesh, and Laos.
Professor Tsomo received a B.A. in Oriental Languages (Japanese/Chinese) from the University of California, Berkeley; an M.A. in Asian Studies, an M.A. in Religion (Asian), and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Hawai‘i, Manoa. In addition, she studied at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives and the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics in Dharamsala, India for 15 years.
Scholarly and Creative Work
Professor Tsomo’s doctoral research focused on death and identity in China and Tibet. She is the author of Sisters in Solitude: Two Traditions of Monastic Ethics for Women and Into the Jaws of Yama, Lord of Death: Buddhism, Bioethics, and Death, and numerous articles, including "Gender Equity and Human Rights,” and “Global Exchange: Women in the Transmission and Transformation of Buddhism.” In addition, she edited Buddhist Women and Social Justice: Ideals, Challenges, and Achievements; Innovative Buddhist Women: Swimming Against the Stream; Buddhist Women Across Cultures: Realizations; Out of the Shadows: Socially Engaged Buddhist Women; and Sakyadhita: Daughters of the Buddha.
She has produced several educational videos: “Sacred Ground: Consecrating a Village Temple in Spiti Valley,” “Women in Buddhism: Unity and Diversity,” and “Living and Dying in Buddhist Cultures.” Her current research projects include “Buddhist Women of Indonesia: Multiple Subaltern Narratives” and “Buddhist Ethics and Society: South Asian Women’s Perspectives.”
Professor Tsomo emphasizes a dialectical approach to teaching, encouraging students to investigate the assumptions they bring to the study of religion and to dialogue on the fundamental questions of the human experience. She incorporates comparative and experiential approaches, including field research at local churches, temples, synagogues, and mosques. Her classes raise questions about the role of religion in contemporary life, including issues of race, privilege, gender, environment, economic ethics, politics, and violence. She encourages active discussion on issues of global concern, such as secularism, fundamentalism, religious syncretism, and inter-religious dialogue.