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Manuel LopezDr. Manuel A. Lopez-Zafra

Assistant Professor

Office: 608 Hibbard Hall
Telephone: (715) 836-2929 or 2545

Fall 2015 Schedule:

  • RELS 100-001, Intro to World Religions:
    MWF, 9:00-9:50 am
  • RELS 312-001, Buddhism:
    MWF, 11:00-11:50 am
  • RELS 326-001, Asian Religious Philosophies:
    M W, 2:00-3:15 pm
  • OFFICE HOURS: M W 10:00-11:00
                                 and by appointment


  • Ph.D., University of Virginia
  • M.A., University of Virginia
  • B.A., Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain

I am a scholar of Buddhism with a particular regional focus on Tibet and the Himalayas (Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan). I teach courses on Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Buddhist Contemplative Systems, Asian Religions, Asian Religions and Politics, as well as a survey of World Religions. I am also interested in the intersection of religion and popular culture.

I have been dedicated to the scholarly study of Buddhism for over 15 years, and my interest in Buddhism has led me to study in a wide variety of countries. Between 1999 and 2001, I left my native Spain and immersed myself in the study of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and its culture by living in Tibet for two years, where I studied the language, the history, and the complexities of Tibetan Buddhist doctrines and practices at two different Chinese Universities. Between 2001-2003 I pursued an M.A. in the Religious Studies Department at the University of Virginia, where I was able to expand my knowledge of Asian religions, studying the history and, in particular, the enormous variety of contemplative practices found in Buddhism, as well as in other East Asian Religions. Between 2003-2009, I was the co-director and main lecturer of the SIT Study Abroad Tibetan and Himalayan Studies Program, based in Kathmandu, Nepal, which allowed me to experience and study the rich diversity of the religious traditions across the Himalayas, as I lived, worked, and traveled in Northern India (Dharamsala), Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet itself. In 2009, I returned to the University of Virginia to complete my Ph.D. During those years, I also balanced my study of Buddhism with that of other East Asian religious traditions, including Chinese religions (Daoism, Confucianism, Popular Religion), and Japanese religions.

My dissertation research focused on the processes by which Buddhist ideas, texts, and practices were transmitted across Asia, particularly in Tibet, and how the Buddhist tradition was, at the same time, transformed during its assimilation to a new culture. In order to explore this process, I studied and translated portions of the single largest philosophical treatise written by a Tibetan scholar that has survived from the early period of introduction of Buddhism in Tibet, The Lamp for the Eye in Meditation, authored by the 10th century scholar, Nupchen Sangyé Yeshé. This treatise discusses in detail a variety of Buddhist meditative traditions that had been imported into Tibet from India (tantra), and China (Chan), as well as introducing what many scholars consider to be the first Tibetan contemplative tradition: the Great Perfection, a unique Tibetan reinterpretation of the Buddhist path. Despite its significance and uniqueness, there is no published translation or comprehensive study of this text. I am currently working on two articles based on some of my dissertation research, as well as on turning my dissertation into a book.