Maria Heim

Associate Professor of Religion

207 Chapin Hall
PO Box: AC# 2252
Phone: 413-542-8475

Courses in Fall 2013: 

   Introduction to Buddhist Traditions

   Religion in Ancient India


Departmental Affiliations



Reed College -- BA in Interdisciplinary Philosophy and Religion, June 1991

Harvard University -- Ph.D. in Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies, June 1999


Teaching Interests

My home department is Religion, but I am also an affiliate of Asian Languages and Civilizations, and most of my courses are listed in both departments. While my training and scholarship are focused on premodern South Asian Buddhism, I teach about the whole Buddhist world, past and present, across diverse traditions in Asia and the west. My current courses reflect my interests in ethics and literature. I also teach our department’s Introduction to Religion, our Methods and Theories Seminar, and occasionally, comparative and thematic courses.

Like others in my field, I approach religious phenomena from a diverse range of disciplinary stances. For example, in my introductory Buddhism course, we read ancient Buddhist scriptures, narrative literatures, philosophical commentaries, modern ethnographies, historical scholarship, and contemporary autobiographies   all in one semester. We also try to visit at least one local Buddhist site and use a range of visual media as well. I hope that my students come to appreciate the multifaceted nature of religion in human life and develop the tools to approach it critically.

Research Interests

My research centers on South Asian religions, with a specialization in Buddhism. I work on texts in two languages, Sanskrit and Pali. The Buddhist literatures in Sanskrit, Pali, Tibetan, and Chinese, and the many translation efforts from and between these languages, are perhaps the most prolific of any religious tradition. Within these textual corpuses are diverse genres of Buddhist thought   canonical scriptures, scholastic commentaries, belles-lettres, folk narratives, biographies, chronicles, philosophy, and treatises on morality, statecraft, meditation, and monastic practice. Modern scholars have not yet translated or studied all of this vast body of material, and much of my work involves texts that have not been translated into any modern language. My focus is primarily on the intellectual history of the Theravada tradition, that is, the main form of Buddhism found today in Sri Lanka and mainland Southeast Asia.

Within South Asian intellectual history, I have done work on ethics. My current book project is on emotions in ancient South Asian thought. 


Selected Awards and Honors

John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, 2005-2006

Max and Etta Lazerowitz Lecture, Amherst College, April 14, 2005

Faculty Research Award Program, Amherst College, 2005

Post-Doctoral Fellowship for Research Abroad, American Institute for Sri Lankan Studies, 2000

Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship in Religion and Ethics, Charlotte W. Newcombe, 1997-98

Fulbright Student Grant (IIE), Study in India, 1996-97

Phi Beta Kappa, 1991


Selected Publications

The Forerunner of All Things:  Buddhaghosa on Mind, Intention, and Agency.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Theories of the Gift in South Asia: Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain Reflections on Dāna, New York: Routledge, 2004.

"Mind in Theravada Buddhism." A Companion to Buddhsit Philosophy, ed. Steven Emmanuel. Blackwell, 2013: 377-94.

"Shame and Apprehension: Notes on the Moral Value of Hiri and Ottappa." Embedded Religions:  Essays in Honor of W. S. Karunatillake, ed. Carol Anderson, Susanne Mrozik,  and R. M. W. Rajapakse. Colombo, Sri Lanka:  S. Godage and Brothers, 2012: 237-60.

"Buddhist Ethics: A Review Essay." Journal of Religious Ethics, 2011, 39.3:  571-584.

"The Nature of the Beast:  Hatred in Comparative Religious and Philosophical Perspective." Co-authored with Diana Cates, Keith Green, and Joel Gereboff. Journal for the Society of Christian Ethics, 2009, 29.2: 175.

“The Conceit of Self-Loathing.” Journal of Indian Philosophy (2009) 37:  61-74..

“Buddhism.” The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Emotion, ed. John Corrigan. Oxford University Press. Oxford (2007): 17-34.

"Dāna as a Moral Category." Indian Ethics: Classical Traditions and Contemporary Challenges,ed. by Purushottama Bilimoria, Ashgate (2007): 191-209.

"Toward a 'Wider and Juster Initiative': Recent Comparative Work in Buddhist Ethics." Religion Compass, Blackwell (2006): vol. I, 1-13.

"Differentiations in Indian/Hindu Ethics."  The Blackwell Companion to Religious Ethics, ed. William Schweiker. Malden, MA: Blackwell, (2005): 341-354.

"Almsgiving." In The Encyclopedia of Religion, 2nd Edition, ed. Lindsey Jones, et al.Macmillan. (2005): vol. 1, 266-269.

 “Buddhist Ethics.” In The Encyclopedia of Religion, 2nd Edition, ed. Lindsey Jones, et al.  Macmillan. (2005): vol. 2, 1278-1284.

"The Aesthetics of Excess." Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 71.3 (2003):531-554.

"The Ethics of Esteem." Journal of Buddhist Ethics, 7 (2000): 26-42.

"Saving Them From Yourself:  An Inquiry into the South Asian Gift of Fearlessness." Journal of Religious Ethics, Fall (1999): 437-462.

"The Author Replies" (a rejoinder to Ariel Glucklich). Journal of Religious Ethics, Fall (1999):  471-475.



Current Scholarly and Professional Activities

 Journal of Religious Ethics, associate editor.

 American Academy of Religion

 Amherst Representative of the Five College Buddhist Studies Certificate.

Mind and Life Institute Fellow