Reginald A. Ray
Dr. Reginald “Reggie” Ray is the Founder and Spiritual Director of the Dharma Ocean Foundation and University Professor (retired) at Naropa University.
Reggie received his B.A. in religion from Williams College (1965), and his M.A. (1967) and Ph.D. (1973) in the History of Religions from the Divinity School of the University of Chicago, focusing on Indo-Tibetan Buddhism (Sanskrit and Tibetan languages). His dissertation advisor was the world-renowned scholar Mircea Eliade, one of the leading historians of religion of the 20th century. During his time as a graduate student in Chicago, Reggie also studied with senior Jungian analyst and author Dr. June Singer, spending some two years with her in intensive Jungian individuation work, which crystalized and deepened his understanding of the process and dynamics of spirituality as an unfolding life journey.
Reggie met Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche in May of 1970, a few weeks after his arrival in the US, and became one of his first American students. After spending a year in India on a Fulbright-Hays research fellowship in 1973, he took up a tenure track position in the Religious Studies department at Indiana University. In the spring of 1974, at the invitation of Chögyam Trungpa, he moved to Boulder, Colorado where he became the first full-time faculty member and chair of the Buddhist Studies (later Religious Studies) Department at Naropa University. During his roughly three and a half decades at Naropa, he grew the department, developing with Trungpa Rinpoche many initiatives and projects that became signatures of Naropa. He also continued his active participation in the larger academic professional world through regularly presenting his research at scholarly conferences, writing for journals, and teaching part-time at the University of Colorado (graduate appointment). He twice received the prestigious year-long NEH Senior Research Fellowship in support of his research and scholarly writing, and in 1994 he published an internationally recognized, ground-breaking scholarly monograph, Buddhist Saints in India.
From the beginning of his study with Trungpa Rinpoche, Reggie held many roles in Rinpoche’s lineage—student, scholar, meditation instructor, and teacher. In the 1980’s, he led many Vajrayana programs (Vajra Assemblies, Mahamudra retreats, Fire Pujas) for Rinpoche’s most advanced students. At Rinpoche’s direction, Reggie has always combined his study and teaching with a strong meditation practice, including daily practice and annual solitary retreats of 1-3 months each year. He has accumulated some 6-7 years in solitary retreat, in which he has explored all of Trungpa Rinpoche’s practice teachings, and an equal amount of time in group retreats as a participant and leader.
In 1997, Reggie became the first teacher in residence at the Shambhala Mountain Center and, over his seven year tenure there, became well known for his intensive Winter Dathün retreats, his Vajrayana programs, his students, and for helping to build SMC into a major retreat center. In 2005, seeking a permanent home for a growing community of students, Reggie and his then wife, Lee Ray, moved to Crestone, Colorado, and co-founded Dharma Ocean.
In addition to his work with his root guru, Trungpa Rinpoche, Reggie has studied with many accomplished masters of the Nyingma and Kagyu schools of Tibetan Buddhism and Zen. He has also worked with indigenous teachers from North and South America and Africa, including a close and transformative friendship with the gifted African shaman, Malidome Somé. Beginning when he was 20 years old, Reggie has explored somatic teachings east and west, traditional and modern, such as Yoga and Qi Gung (which he practices today) and traditions such as the work of Gerda Alexander, Rolfing, and Hakomi therapy and therapeutic techniques. He now incorporates much of the wisdom of these earth-based lineages and traditions into his teaching, because, as he says, Vajrayana is essentially an earth-based tradition already.
A pivotal event occurred in Reggie’s life, and in the life of Dharma Ocean, when he met Caroline Pfohl. From the very beginning, their friendship has flowed out into all areas of their work lives, Reggie’s into Dharma Ocean, Caroline’s into her philanthropic work. Their respective missions, to bring authentic spiritual teachings into the world to address the spiritual aridity and catastrophic dysfunction of our world, have since become one, as have their personal lives. As partners in life, on the path, and in their work, they collaborate as co-lineage holders of Dharma Ocean. (For their respective roles and functions, see “Joining Heaven and Earth.”)
Reggie has written extensively on the history and practice of Indian and Tibetan Buddhism, including six books and many articles, essays, and reviews. His scholarly work Buddhist Saints in India was runner up (1994) for the “best first book” award of the American Academy of Religion and favorably reviewed in some 15 major academic journals. His two volumes on Tibetan Buddhism, Indestructible Truth and Secrets of the Vajra World, have become classics in Buddhist America and beyond, and are widely used in university classes on Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism. His corpus of work on somatically-based meditation, the book Touching Enlightenment, the audio set Your Breathing Body, and his annual program Meditating with the Body have deeply influenced a generation of meditators, Tibetan Buddhists, spiritual practitioners of many faiths, body workers, somatic therapists, and others interested in the spirituality of the body. These works and others, including his most recent audio set, Mahamudra for the Modern World, and his many offerings over the internet, have made the highest teachings of Tibetan Buddhism accessible to modern people and effective in addressing their spiritual longings, aspirations and imperatives.