In this episode, we speak with Dr. Ben Williams (Naropa University) about his story of growing up in spiritual community, the scholar-practitioner, the scriptures and world of non-dual Śaiva Tantra, the Kashmiri exegete Abhinavagupta and his concept of the guru, the view of Aṣṭāṅgayoga within tantra, the new MA program in Yoga Studies at Naropa University, and more.
Ben Williams is an intellectual historian focused on Indian religions and the history of Śaiva tantra. He has received extensive training in Indian philosophy, literature, and aesthetics in Sanskrit sources. Ben received a BA in Religious Studies from the University of Vermont, a Masters in Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School, and completed his PhD in the Department of South Asian Studies at Harvard University. He currently serves as an Assistant Professor of Hinduism at Naropa University, where he has recently co-created a low-residency MA program in Yoga Studies that will launch in fall 2020. Ben also serves on the academic advisory council of the Muktabodha Indological Research Institute, which is dedicated to the preservation of scriptural and philosophical texts of classical India.
Ben’s doctoral thesis is on revelation and the figure of the tantric guru in the writings of Abhinavagupta, an eminent intellectual figure of medieval Kashmir. Building upon this study, one of his current research projects is charting the transmission of tantric traditions to South India that are indebted to non-dual Śaiva teachings and lineages that originally flourished in Kashmir.