MA in Religious Studies: Indo-Tibetan Buddhism

The 45-credit MA Religious Studies with Indo-Tibetan Buddhism concentration offers two emphases: History of Religions and Tibetan Traditions.

Tibet has played a central role in the development of Buddhism in Asia, including preserving the scholastic traditions and texts of India while deepening the meditative practices and insights of the Indian oral traditions. This MA degree surveys Indian and Tibetan Buddhism with emphasis on textual and meditative lineages, integrating study and practice each semester. The faculty includes Western-trained academics and acharyas (master teachers) steeped in Tibetan Buddhist practice as well as English-speaking Tibetan lamas extensively trained in their own traditions.

Two Emphases: History of Religions or Tibetan Tradition

For their second academic year, students choose either the History of Religions emphasis or the Tibetan Tradition emphasis.

History of Religions Emphasis

The History of Religions emphasis has been developed by Naropa’s core faculty over the past thirty years and investigates the Buddhist tradition in light of its many dimensions in culture: textual, historical, artistic, and meditative. “History of Religions” refers to academic study that values religion, in this case Buddhism, as an expression of cultures over time, manifesting in literature, the arts, social institutions, traditions of saints, ethics and philosophy, and myth and symbol. While History of Religions introduces critical methods of contemporary scholarship, such as textual analysis and phenomenology, at the forefront is the exploration of the richness of religious imagination and practice.

Tibetan Tradition Emphasis

In the Tibetan Tradition emphasis, students acquire the systematic foundation in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism that students receive in a traditional Tibetan monastic college (shedra), utilizing a blend of traditional and Western styles of pedagogy, based on the materials, teaching methods, and forms of analytical meditation developed at Nitartha Institute since its founding in 1996 by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche. Presenting all Three Turnings of the Wheel of Dharma, these courses emphasize the union of view, meditation, and conduct, and utilize elements of the History of Religions methods described above. (For background information, see www.nitarthainstitute.org.)

The course of study of the Tibetan Tradition emphasis includes attending a monthlong summer program of Nitartha Institute between the first and second years of the degree program.

Culminating Requirements

The degree program concludes with an oral comprehensive exam as well as a master’s paper or project.

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