Louis Komjathy

Louis Komjathy
Office: Maher Hall 282

Associate Professor, Theology and Religious Studies

  • Ph.D., Boston University, Religious Studies, emphasis on Daoism
  • B.A. magna cum laude, University of California, San Diego; Literature and Philosophy
  • 1993 Burckhardt Prize for Literature, University of California, San Diego
  • 2005 Angela and James Rallis Memorial Award for outstanding research promise in the Humanities, Boston University

A member of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies since 2009, Louis Komjathy, PhD, is a teacher-scholar of Daoism, Chinese religions, and comparative religious studies with an emphasis on contemplative practice, embodiment, and mystical experience. In addition to his departmental and university commitments, he is founding co-director of the Center for Daoist Studies, founding co-chair of the Daoist Studies Unit of the American Academy of Religion, and founding co-chair of the Contemplative Studies Unit of the American Academy of Religion. In 2017, he was appointed as a lifetime Research Fellow of the Mind & Life Institute. 

Scholarly Work

Professor Komjathy has published extensively on Daoism, both in traditional Chinese contexts and in a contemporary global context. He has written seminal articles on Daoism in America, definitive studies of early Quanzhen (Complete Perfection) Daoism, as well as authoritative introductions to the Daoist tradition more broadly. He is increasingly focusing on larger comparative, cross-cultural, inter-disciplinary and theoretical projects. In addition to numerous peer-reviewed academic articles and book chapters, Professor Komjathy has published nine books to date, with some of the most recent being The Daoist Tradition: An Introduction (Bloomsbury Academic, 2013), Contemplative Literature: A Comparative Sourcebook on Meditation and Contemplative Prayer (State University of New York Press, 2015), Taming the Wild Horse: An Annotated Translation and Study of the Daoist Horse Taming Pictures (Columbia University Press, 2017), and Introducing Contemplative Studies (Wiley-Blackwell, 2018). The Daoist Tradition and Contemplative Literature serve as textbooks for the courses THRS 316: The Daoist Tradition and THRS 394: Meditation Traditions of the World, respectively. His current research projects focus on Daoist meditation and Daoist commentary literature as well as contemplative practice from a comparative and theoretical perspective. In addition to using historical contextualization, textual study and literary translation as research methodologies, Professor Komjathy has conducted archaeological fieldwork on Shandong Daoism and ethnographic work on contemporary Daoist monasticism, which included living as a participant-observer in a variety of Quanzhen monasteries. This research was supported by a Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation Grant and a visiting professorship at Shandong University.

Areas of Interest

Professor Komjathy teaches introductory courses in Religious Studies and upper-division courses on Daoism, Chinese religions, comparative mysticism, and meditation traditions. He is particularly interested in the complex interplay among worldviews, practices, and experience. Dr. Komjathy employs a variety of pedagogical approaches in his classes, including interactive lecturing, peer-directed learning, small group discussion, guest speakers, and site visits. He aims to help students understand the context-specific dimensions of religious traditions and larger issues derived from and applicable to comparative religious studies, including the contemporary context of globalization, multiculturalism, and religious pluralism. He has refined his teaching skills through participation in the Wild Hope Project at Pacific Lutheran University, the Pre-tenure Religion Faculty Workshop at the Wabash Center, and the Ninth Annual Summer Session on Contemplative Pedagogy through the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society. Given his leadership role in the emerging interdisciplinary field of Contemplative Studies, Professor Komjathy also frequently gives lectures and leads seminars on contemplative education and contemplative pedagogy across the country. Most recently he has served as a contemplative faculty member for the Brown Contemplative Studies Think Tank, Mind & Life International Symposium for Contemplative Research, and Mind & Life Summer Research Institute.