Michael R. Sheehy, Ph.D. is the senior editor of Tibetan literary research at the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center (TBRC) in the city of New York, and the founder and executive director of Jonang Foundation. His doctoral work in Tibetan and Buddhist studies concentrated on writings from the Nyingma, Kagyü and Jonang yogic traditions. His dissertation was a study of the intellectual history, philosophical formulations, and literary productions of zhentong (gzhan stong) Buddhist thought according to the Jonangpa along with an annotated translation of the ground (gzhi) section of the modern Tibetan text, The Great Exposition on Extrinsic Emptiness.
Dr. Sheehy specializes in marginalized esoteric religious movements in Tibet with an interest in Buddhist strategies for the transmission of knowledge. His research interests include the intellectual history of the Jonangpa and Shangpa lineages, interpretations of the Kālachakra, the zhentong contemplative and exegetical tradition, Dzogchen literature, Vajrayāna understandings of consciousness and its transformations, Tibetan life writing and literary culture. Currently, his research is concerned with Tibetan historical and philosophical works that narrate the exegetical tradition of Zhentong Madhyamaka from the time of the Jonang author Tāranātha (1575-1635) up to the modern author Khenpo Lodrö Drakpa (1920-1975). In particular, he has taken an interest in the biographies and works of several of the major Tibetan authors who contributed to the late 19th and 20th century renaissance of the Jonang scholastic tradition in Amdo.
From 2004 to 2008, Michael lived in a Jonang monastery in the Golok region of northeastern Tibet where he studied Buddhist philosophy and literature with native Tibetan scholars. He has conducted extensive field research on Jonang art, literature, ritual, and religious sites throughout the Golok, Ngawa, Gyarong, and Dzamthang regions of the Amdo cultural domain of far eastern Tibet. As the facilitator of initiatives hosted by Jonang Foundation, he has spent years working closely with Jonangpa masters, and has served as an oral interpreter for the extensive Kālachakra empowerment and for zhentong teachings on numerous occasions.
Recent publications include his translation, Paths of Pure Vision (Independent, ’06) by Khentrul Jamphal Lodrö, “Rangjung Dorje’s Variegations of Mind: Ordinary Awareness and Pristine Awareness in Tibetan Buddhist Literature” in the volume Buddhist Thought and Applied Psychological Research (Routeledge, 2005), his dissertation, The Gzhan stong chen mo: A Study of Emptiness According to the Modern Tibetan Buddhist Jo nang Scholar ‘Dzam thang Mkhan po Ngag dbang Blos gros Grags pa (1920-1975) (CIIS, ’07), and “A Lineage History of Vajrayoga and Tantric Zhentong from the Jonang Kālachakra Practice Tradition” in As Long As Space Endures: Essays on the Kālachakra Tantra in Honor of the Dalai Lama (Snow Lion, ’09). He is now working on a book about the contemporary Jonang tradition tentatively titled The Living Jonangpa, a series of academic articles that discuss the Zhentong Madhyamaka transmission lineage, and is translating several Tibetan historical and philosophical works. He is a frequent contributor to the TBRC Blog.
Michael also lectures in the Department of Religious Studies at Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberal Arts. He teaches courses on Buddhism, Himalayan visual and ritual culture, and Tibetan language.