Dana Sawyer is the author of a critically acclaimed biography of Aldous Huxley, recognized by the Director of the Centre for Aldous Huxley Studies (an academic society based at the University of Munster, Germany) as the “best-to-date explanation and appraisal of Huxley’s metaphysical position.” Sawyer, a full-time professor of religion and philosophy at the Maine College of Art and an adjunct professor of Asian religions at the Bangor Theological Seminary, is amply qualified to understand and explain the significance of Huston Smith’s life and work.
In recent years, Sawyer has turned his attention away from purely academic research (he is the primary academic authority on the
Dandi sannyasins, an orthodox sect of Hindu swamis) to focus on popular Western intellectuals who have been inspired by Asian religions. In this regard, he hopes to write several other “spiritual biographies” of influential contemporary thinkers. Sawyer, whose father was half Native American, is, like Huston Smith, a life-long advocate of bridge-building between religions and cultures. Also like Smith, he is a professor who prides himself on the ability to explain complex ideas in simple and entertaining language - and his Huxley biography was praised by Laura Huxley, Andrew Harvey, Stephen Cope and Smith himself for just this virtue. These skills, when taken together, account for Smith’s enthusiasm for Sawyer as his biographer.
Dana Sawyer is a member of the American Academy of Religion and the Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy and has been teaching world religions for more than twenty years. In this capacity he has lectured widely in the United States (most recently at Texas A & M University and Amarillo College in September, 2006) as well as abroad – for instance, at Kyoto University of Foreign Studies, Japan (1999), Banares Hindu University, India (1999), the University of Riga, Latvia (2004), and Oxford University in England (2005). He is a graduate of Western Connecticut State University, the University of Hawaii (M.A., Indian Religions), and the University of Iowa (M.A. Asian Religions, and Ph.D. candidate in Asian Religions). However, Sawyer is also a popular lecturer on the topics of Hinduism, Buddhism, comparative religion, and the perennial philosophy, having taught at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, the Kripalu Center in Lenox, MA, the Barre Center from Buddhist Studies in Barre, MA, the Vedanta Society of Southern California in Hollywood, and other such venues. Having strong connections to the popular movements and retreat centers that explore spirituality and consciousness, Sawyer not only knows the exact audience for a biography of Huston Smith but can use those connections to promote it. Sawyer’s work has been cited in “Parabola” and “Shift” (the magazine of the Institute of Noetic Sciences), and he has written articles for “Tricycle, the Buddhist Review” and “Yoga Journal.”
Dana Sawyer lives in Portland, Maine, with his artist wife, Stephani Briggs, a nationally known jewelry designer and goldsmith. They are avid mountaineers and kayakers, spending each summer in retreat at a two-room cabin situated on a lake in northern Maine without electricity or running water.
For research and pleasure, Dana has journeyed to India twelve times and speaks fluent Hindi. He is an advisor to the Interfaith Chaplaincy Institute of Maine and the vice-president of the Board of Trustees of the Siddhartha School Project, a school for underprivileged children in Stok, Ladakh. Though a perennial philosopher and not an advocate of any particular religion, Sawyer has worked for twenty years as a translator and co-teacher with Khen Rimpoche Geshe Tsetan, a high-ranking Buddhist lama who founded the Siddhartha School and is the abbot of Tashi Lungpo monastery, the monastery of Tibet’s Panchen Lama. Sawyer is a lively and entertaining speaker who uses anecdotes and analogies to explain complex philosophical ideas.