Moraga, CA - Nov. 12, 2016.  Last month the 2016 Toshihide Numata Book Award was awarded to Janet Gyatso for her book, Being Human in a Buddhist World: An Intellectual History of Medicine in Early Modern Tibet (Columbia University Press, 2015). The award ceremony was held on Oct. 28 at the Center for Buddhist Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

The ceremony featured a keynote address by the author and a symposium including remarks by the medical anthropologist Vincanne Adams (University of California, San Francisco), the philosopher Evan Thompson (University of British Columbia), and the historian Stacey van Vleet (University of California, Berkeley).

Gyatso is shown left, addressing her fellow scholars at the event. (See more pictures below.)

About Being Human in a Buddhist World

The members of the selection committee for this year's award were uniformly effusive in their praise of Being Human in a Buddhist World, citing the book as “a stellar example of scholarship that crosses diverse fields, placing Tibetan Buddhism, Tibetan culture, (or ‘civilization,’ as Gyatso prefers to call it), and the history of science into conversation,” and calling Professor Gyatso “a true virtuoso at interpreting both visual and literary sources.”1

Elsewhere the critical reception includes comments like "the most important study of Tibetan medicine in the English language," from Donald Lopez (University of Michigan); "the key book on medicine and religion in Tibet for this generation" and "field defining," from Kurtis R. Schaffer (University of Virginia); "a significant contribution not only to Tibetan and Buddhist studies but also to current debates on the historiography and philosophy of the interactions and conflicts between religion and science," from Steven Collins (University of Chicago).2

About the Toshi Book Award

The award, sponsored by Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai and administered by the Center, is presented each year to an outstanding book in any area of Buddhist studies. For more information about the Toshi Award, see the Center's informational page here. The selection is made by an external committee that is appointed annually.


  1. Center for Buddhist Studies, "The Center for Buddhist Studies Announces the Winner of the 2016 Toshihide Numata Book Award," Sept. 19, 2016, at (Accessed Nov. 12, 2016).
  2. As collected in "Editorial Reviews" from the Being Human in a Buddhist World product page at (Accessed Nov. 12, 2016).

Photos from the Award Ceremony 

Shown below from left to right are Robert Sharf, representing the Center for Buddhist Studies; George Tanabe, representing BDK America; and George Tanabe with Janet Gyatso.

Robert Scharf  George Tanabe      George Tanabe and Janet Gyatso

About the Parties Shown

Janet Gyatso is the Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies at Harvard University, where she also serves as Associate Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs. She received her BA, MA, and PhD at the University of California, Berkeley. She is a specialist in Buddhist studies with concentration on Tibetan and South Asian cultural and intellectual history. Topics of her scholarship have included visionary revelation in Buddhism; lineage, memory, and authorship; the philosophy of experience; and autobiographical writing in Tibet; sex and gender in Buddhist monasticism; and the current female ordination movement in Buddhism. 

Robert Sharf is the D. H. Chen Distinguished Professor of Buddhist Studies in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of California, Berkeley. He received a BA and an MA from the University of Toronto, and a PhD from the University of Michigan. His graduate work included being a Research Fellow at Kyoto University fieldwork at Kōfukuji in Nara. In addition to his many publications, he serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, the Journal for the Study of Chinese Religions, the Journal of Religion in Japan, and the Kuroda Institute Series (University of Hawai'i Press).

George J. Tanabe, Jr. is a Professor Emeritus of the University of Hawaii Honolulu. He received a BA from Willamette University, a Master of Divinity from the Union Theological Seminary, an MA and Phd from Columbia University. Graduate work included a stint as Foreign Research Student at Tokyo University. He has written widely on Japanese religions and culture. Among other awards and honors, he was presented with the Order of the Rising Sun from the government of Japan. He currently serves as chief executive of BDK America and BDK Hawaii.