Religious Studies: Indo-Tibetan Buddhism MA

Indo-Tibetan BuddhismThe 45-credit MA Religious Studies with Indo-Tibetan Buddhism concentration is designed for students who want an in-depth study of Buddhism, from the Indian roots of all forms of Buddhism, to its wide-ranging manifestations in Tibetan Buddhism that has not only preserved the textual, meditative, oral, and scholastic traditions of India for both sutra and tantra, but has also played a central role in the development of Buddhism throughout the Himalayas, Central Asia, and Mongolia.

This MA degree investigates the Buddhist tradition as it developed in India, from the perspective of the Three Turnings, and how it adapted to the Tibetan landscape, with an approach that values religion and human experience as expressed in culture, the arts, social institutions, the lives of saints/yogis, ethics and philosophy, ritual, myth, symbol, and contemplative practice. The program explores critical methods of contemporary scholarship, such as textual analysis and phenomenology, as well as the richness of religious imagination and meditative practices, through integrating study and practice each semester. This program also includes elements of a traditional Tibetan monastic college education (shedra) that provides a systematic foundation in Buddhist view, meditation, and conduct, based on the materials, teaching methods, and forms of analytical meditation developed at Nitartha Institute since its founding in 1996 by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche. The faculty includes Western-trained academics and acharyas (master teachers) steeped in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist practice, as well as English-speaking Tibetan lamas (masters) extensively trained in their own traditions.

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. 

Culminating Requirements

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