Universiteit Leiden

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Henk Blezer

University Lecturer

Dr. H.W.A. Blezer
+31 70 800 9950


Blezer was trained in Indian, Buddhist and Tibetan Studies at the department for languages and cultures of South and Central Asia at Leiden University (MA 1992). His background and training is in philology or text-critical and text-historical work. His intellectual proclivities are toward ‘history of ideas’ and his present methodo-logical expertise, besides philology, lies in what he styles ‘textual archaeology’ and a narratological approach to history. In his writing he bears a distinctly European Buddhological fingerprint. In his research work he has increasingly sought communication with native scholarship and expertise and works in close collaboration with traditional scholars, monks and tantric (esoteric) specialists. This (mutual!) exchange he maintains by regular fieldwork trips and also by inviting informants to work (and students to study) with him at his institute of affiliation.

In 1997, he completed a four-year Ph.D. research project (also at the CNWS, Leiden University) on Tibetan tantric expertise regarding death, dying and so-called intermediate states. The results were published as Kar gling Zhi khro, A Tantric Buddhist Concept (Leiden 1997). His thesis traces developments in speculations regarding intermediate states (bar do) and descriptions of spectacular ‘visions’, supposedly experienced in a postmortem state of awareness. The descriptions of these visions can entail elaborate arrangements or mandalas of peaceful and wrathful deities (zhi khro), in this case the mandalas are laid out according to the tradition of Karma gling pa (and therefore are styled kar gling zhi khro). They are well known, also outside Tibet, from the so-called Tibetan Book of the Dead. The descriptions are to be understood from the theoretical (and practical) back-ground of Great Perfection (rDzogs chen) systems, which is a specific approach to tantric practice that is shared by the so-called old traditions in Tibetan Buddhism (the rNying ma pa) and ‘Bon’ traditions. His thesis develops a history of these ideas for the wider Indo-Tibetan cultural realm, covering more than two millennia.

Starting 1998, Blezer conducted postdoc research on The ‘Bon’-Origin of Tibetan Buddhist Speculations regarding a Post-Mortem State called ‘Reality as It Is’ at the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS, Leiden University). This project extended the Ph.D. research into new and uncharted terrain by examining related speculations in hitherto unexplored Bon material. Both Buddhist and ‘Bon’ traditions in Tibet share similar speculations regarding spontaneously arising ‘experiences’ of luminosity and more complex visions in a supposed early post-mortem state of aware-ness. The research concerned issues of inter-textuality (or rather inter-conceptuality) of Great Perfection expertise on postmortem states. It resulted in a history of (shared) ideas and a quest for origins of these fascinating Great Perfection concepts.
In this research period he also acted as a convener of the ninth seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies (IATS, held in Leiden from June 24th–30th, 2000). The IATS seminars are the largest international forum on Tibetan Studies.

From the end of 2000 until the beginning of 2002, Blezer labored on the proceedings of the ninth seminar of the IATS, which were published by Brill Academic Publishers in 2002 (Leiden) and cover ten edited volumes.

From 2002, in a new postdoc research project on the Antecedents of Bon religion in Tibet, Blezer started digging deeper into the early beginnings of Bon religion. This NWO-funded project deals with issues of continuity, migration and transformation of pivotal ideas (cultural markers) in Bon religious literature. The focus is on appreci-ating the (relative) continuity of culture through understanding the dynamics of its change and the logic of its temporally and spatially defined emic construction. It mainly deals with indirect evidence from texts on doctrine and ritual rather than with explicit and self-consciously historical narratives. What particularly comes under scrutiny in this project is the nature of the continuity of Bon traditions with earlier, pre-10th-century strata of ‘Tibetan’ culture. He works on the assumption that a limited degree of continuity of Bon ideas can indeed be established and investigates the flipside of the coin: the ways in which ideas change and migrate in literature, that is, the dynamics of continuity and transfor-ma-tion: the Bon tradition of reinvention.

Full CV



Key publication
Blezer, Henk W.A., and Teeuwen, Mark J., Challenging Paradigms—Buddhism and Nativism: Framing Identity Discourse in Buddhist Environments, Leiden: Brill 2013.


  • Kar gling Zhi khro, A Tantric Buddhist Concept, Ph.D.-Thesis, published in CNWS publications, Vol.56, Leiden 1997
  • (Managing) editor of the proceedings of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Leiden 2000, ten volumes.

Articles and reports

  • "Karma Gling pa: Treasure Finder ( gTer sTon), Creative Editor ( gTer sTon?)—A Preliminary Comparison of the Man ngag snying gi dgongs pa rgyal ba'i bka' zhes bya ba'i rgyud and Two Bar do thos grol chen mo-Texts: The Chos nyid bar do'i gsal 'debs thos grol chen mo and the Srid pa bar do'i ngo sprod gsal 'debs thos grol chen mo", in East and West, vol.52, nos.1–4 (December 2002), pp.311–45; a scrambled version of this article appeared earlier in Reading Asia: New Research in Asian Studies, pp.292-338, Leiden 2001
  • The ‘ BondBal mo Nyer bdun(/brgyad) and the Buddhist dBang phyug ma Nyer brgyad, a Brief Comparison", in New Horizons in Bon Studies, pp.117–178, Osaka 2000. Blezer, H.W.A. (2003). Tibet. In Bor, Jan & Leeuw, Karel van der (Ed.), 25 Eeuwen Oosterse Filosofie. (pp. 191-272). Amsterdam: Boom.




University Lecturer

  • Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen
  • Faculteitsbureau
  • International Studies

Work address

Turfmarkt 99
2511 DP The Hague
Room number 5.14



No relevant ancillary activities

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