Religious Studies with Language: Indo-Tibetan Buddhism MA

Indo-Tibetan LanguageThe 61 credit MA Religious Studies with Language program with the Indo-Tibetan Buddhism concentration includes all the course work of the MA Religious Studies degree with the Indo-Tibetan Buddhism concentration, and 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.

Optional Tibetan Tradition Emphasis

Students with particular interest in the scholastic tradition of Tibet have the rare opportunity of rounding out the monastic college (shedra) aspect of their studies by selecting the optional Tibetan Tradition emphasis, which involves attending a monthlong summer program of Nitartha Institute between the first and second years of the degree program. The courses they take during this program, in conjunction with their studies at Naropa, lead to the completion and receipt of the Foundation and Intermediate Curriculum Certificates of Nitartha Institute, which qualify students to enter the study of the Advanced Curriculum and to apply for the Teaching-in-Training program at Nitartha after their graduation from Naropa. (For background information, see

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 complete their degree.

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.