MA in Religious Studies with Language: Indo-Tibetan Buddhism

The 61-credit MA Religious Studies with Language program with the Indo-Tibetan Buddhism concentration offers two emphases: History of Religions and Tibetan Tradition. This MA degree includes all the course work of the MA Religious Studies degree with the Indo-Tibetan Buddhism concentration, which is enriched by training in either Sanskrit or Tibetan through two years (16 credits) of course work or more. This degree surveys Indian and Tibetan Buddhism with emphasis on textual and meditative lineages, integrating study and practice each semester, with the added dimension of exploring Buddhist texts beyond the filter of a particular English translation through language study. 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.


As the classical language of South Asia, Sanskrit is the lingua franca of Buddhist and Hindu religious traditions throughout Asia. The Sanskrit language option provides students with a knowledge of Sanskrit grammar and vocabulary, as well as initial reading knowledge, providing access to the world of Buddhist and Hindu texts.


Study of the Tibetan language provides access to the rich and diverse world of Tibetan Buddhist literature, to the oral teachings of contemporary Tibetan masters, and to a great body of Indian texts that survive only in Tibetan translation. The Tibetan Language option provides training in both classical Tibetan and the spoken language. Study of classic Tibetan involves learning grammar and vocabulary of the classical language and the reading of texts. Modern Tibetan is learned through the study of the contemporary idiom with practice in hearing and speaking Tibetan.

Two Emphases: History of Religions or Tibetan Tradition

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

History of Religions Emphasis

The History of Religions emphasis has been developed by Naropa’s core faculty over the past twenty-five 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

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.

Tibetan Language Teacher Training Program

Each year, a top student is chosen from the third year Tibetan language students to help a faculty member teach Tibetan I and II. The student must be concurrently enrolled in Tibetan V and VI.

Tibetan Apprenticeships

Students who have excelled in two semesters of Tibetan may apply for a research assistant position with the Tsadra Foundation Research Center in Boulder. If applicants also have studied Sanskrit, that is a plus, but not required. Students who have completed at least four Tibetan courses are eligible to apply to the Nalanda Translation Committee Apprenticeship program, which provides funding for a year (or more) for further Tibetan language training with the translation committee after they graduate.

Culminating Requirements

The degree program concludes with an oral comprehensive exam as well as a master’s paper or project which can include a translation of Sanskrit or Tibetan.