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.


Sanskrit is a classical language of South Asia, that is foundational to Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu religious traditions. The formative works of yoga and tantra were also composed in Sanskrit. The Sanskrit language option provides students with a knowledge of Sanskrit grammar and vocabulary, as well as initial reading skills, providing access to the remarkable textual archive of South Asia. 


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 classical 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.

Meditation Requirements and the Nitartha Institute Shedra-Gomdra Option

In addition to four meditation courses taken simultaneously with their related Buddhist Studies course, there is a non-credit requirement for a Buddhist Meditation Intensive (REL650) for which students have two options: 1) twenty-eight days of intensive Buddhist meditation practice done as a monthlong program or divided into two-week, ten-day, or seven-day programs, in a Buddhist tradition of the student’s choice, e.g., Tibetan, Zen, Theravada, and so forth; or 2) the Nitartha Institute intensive study (Shedra) and meditation (Gomdra) option, in which the students attend a month of the Nitartha Institute Summer program plus, separately, two weeks of intensive Buddhist meditation in the tradition of their choice. With their other degree requirements, the Nitartha option enables the student go on to qualify for the Nitartha Institute Certificates of Completion for its Foundation and Intermediate Curriculums, and to enter its Advanced Curriculum. With the Foundation and Intermediate Certificates, and attendance at a second month-long summer program, they would qualify to enter the Nitartha Teacher-in-Training Program. (For information, see

Note on fees: There are occasional course fees associated with individual Naropa classes, which are subject to change. The noncredit requirement of the monthlong Buddhist meditation retreat costs approximately $1,500 (or $750 for two weeks for students choosing the Nitartha Institute Shedra-Gomdra Option). The Nitartha Institute option students also register for a 6-credit Nitartha summer program through Naropa, which will cover the tuition cost, but not the room and board, texts, and other items of the Nitartha program, which add up to approximately $1,700 after receiving a scholarship from Nitartha and Naropa. The prices listed above are estimates based on current costs. These costs are determined by outside organizations and are subject to change. 

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.