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John Campbell is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at U.Va. and a founding member of the Contemplative Sciences Center's Directorate. His involvement in contemplative practice began more than twenty years ago as a student of the late Shri K. Pattabhi Jois, a master of Ashtanga Yoga and its related traditional knowledge systems, including grammar, healing, and metaphysics.
This association would provide both the background and inspiration for Campbell's personal and professional pursuits. It was during the period of his academic training as a translator of Sanskrit and Tibetan-language texts that Jois would honor him as one of the few Certified teachers of Ashtanga Yoga worldwide, and in 2009 he received his Ph.D. from Columbia University with a doctoral dissertation on commentarial literature of Tantric Buddhist practice systems. That same year K. P. Jois, affectionately known as Guruji, passed away, and the following period saw Campbell straddling the separate worlds of academia and traditional yoga instruction in New York City. In 2011, he drafted a proposal for a university-based center of Yoga research and study, designed as a combination of modern academic methods with traditional "contemplative pedagogies". By extraordinary good fortune, an opportunity came about to present this curricular prototype to the U.Va. President's Office. This idea was in turn taken up, expanded, and ultimately transformed into the far-reaching vision of the Contemplative Sciences Center.
After serving as Coordinating Director of the Center, in 2013, he joined the U.Va. faculty full-time as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses relating to Indo-Tibetan Buddhism and Hinduism, with an emphasis on Tantra and Yoga. His research interests encompass the literature of esoteric practice systems of Southern and Himalayan Asia, and extend also to critical issues of translation, interpretation, and hermeneutics. He is currently working on a monograph about the commentarial literature of Tantric Buddhist practice systems in late first millennium India.
As a member of the CSC Directorate, Dr. Campbell is working to develop new study opportunities and research initiatives that integrate the core academic objectives of the Arts and Sciences with the transformative ideas, values, and skills of contemplative traditions. His most significant and innovative efforts to bring the CSC's vision into the University currently are in the area of curriculum design, including an undergraduate exploration of Yoga practice in which the conventional syllabus is supplemented by instruction in postural yoga (see "Theory and Practice of Yoga"), as well as a new graduate course on esoteric practices in Asian religions. Dr. Campbell is also currently discussing plans with the Religion Department for the creation of the MA degree in Yoga Studies. Other notable efforts include collaborations with the Contemplative Pedagogies Project of the Teaching Resource Center to promote contemplative practices in teaching, and expanding opportunities for contemplative instruction throughout the University community as part of CSC's coordinated efforts to promote health and wellness practices.
A lifetime New Yorker, he is very happy now to be living in Charlottesville with his three children and wife, Claude Wampler, a visiting professor in the Studio Art program of the McIntire Department Art.