Introducing Samye Institute's Vajrayana Membership

Alexander Yiannopoulos

Dr. Alexander Yiannopoulos (Ph.D. 2020, Emory University) has been studying and practicing Buddhadharma since 2005, when he took refuge under the Bodhi Tree with Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche. Dr. Yiannopoulos is a graduate of the M.A. program in Buddhist Studies and Himalayan Languages at the Rangjung Yeshe Institute in Kathmandu, Nepal, where he studied for six years, and completed his first Fulbright research fellowship.

His Master’s thesis, “Luminosity: Reflexive Awareness in Ratnākaraśānti’s Pith Instructions for the Ornament of the Middle Way,” comprising the complete translation of an important philosophical work by the eleventh century scholar and tantric ritual specialist Ratnākaraśānti (also known as the Mahāsiddha, Śāntipa), examines the latter’s synthesis of the Madhyamaka and Yogācāra traditions of Buddhist philosophy, with the concept of “luminosity” (prakāśa) or “reflexive awareness” (svasaṃvitti) derived from the pan-Indian epistemological tradition of pramāṇa literature.

This focus on “luminosity” or “clear light” (Tib. ‘od gsal)—a key term in the contemplative practices of Mahamudra and Dzogchen—within their original Indian philosophical context continued in Yiannopoulos’ Ph.D. dissertation, “The Structure of Dharmakīrti’s Philosophy: A Study of Object-Cognition in the Perception Chapter (pratyakṣapariccheda) of the Pramāṇasamuccaya, the Pramāṇavārttika, and Their Earliest Commentaries,” the research for which was conducted at the Central University for Tibetan Studies in Sarnath, India, during his second Fulbright research fellowship.

Drawing on a wide range of previously-untranslated primary literature, this study of object-cognition in the Perception Chapter of Diṅnāga’s seminal Pramāṇasamuccaya and Dharmakīrti’s massively influential Pramāṇavārttika explores how the Buddhist account of sensory knowledge relates to the Buddhist account of ultimate, nondual gnosis (prajñā)—and, by extension, provides a model for understanding how Buddhist philosophy may be integrated with Buddhist practice.