Faculty Directory

Paula K. R. Arai

Eshinni & Kakushinni Professor of Women & Buddhist Studies

Consortial Faculty
At the GTU since

Steeped in ethnographic research, Arai takes an embodied approach to her work and finds poetic immersive storytelling a potent medium for conveying the experiences of transformative healing she researches. Specializing in Japanese Sōtō Zen Buddhist women, Arai trained under the tutelage of Aoyama Shundō Rōshi at the Aichi Senmon Nisōdō nunnery in Nagoya and maintains decades-long relationships with her laywomen consociates in Japan. Contextualizing her understanding with a comparative historico-cultural lens provides a foundation for engaging with a range of perspectives and traditions. Arai has received generous support for her pursuits, including from Fulbright, American Council of Learned Societies, the Mellon Foundation, and the Reischauer Institute of Harvard University. She has curated exhibits of a Japanese scientist’s Heart Sutra paintings at a number of venues around the US. An active public speaker, Arai also leads workshops on healing rituals.
Arai CV

Degrees and Certifications

PhD, Harvard University, 1993
M.A., Harvard University, 1987
M.T. S., Harvard Divinity School, 1985
B.A., Kalamazoo College, 1983

Research and Teaching Interests
  • Buddhist women
  • Zen,
  • Ritual practices,
  • Healing,
  • Buddhist art
Selected Publications
  • Painting Enlightenment: Healing Visions of the Heart Sutra––The Buddhist Art of Iwasaki Tsuneo. Boulder, CO: Shambhala Publications, 2019.
  • Bringing Zen Home: The Healing Heart of Japanese Women’s Rituals. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2011.
  • Women Living Zen: Japanese Sōtō Buddhist Nuns. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. Paperback version, 2012. Co-edited with Kevin Trainor. Oxford University Press Handbook of Buddhist Practice. New York: Oxford University Press, 2022.
Courses Taught
  • Buddhist Women's Liberating Power
  • Methods in the Study of Buddhism
  • Engaging Buddhist Rituals
  • Women and Zen
  • Buddhist Healing & Medicine