Buddhist studies involve interdisciplinary approaches to the religion known as Buddhism, including cultural, historic and social aspects. Many of the master's programs for Buddhist studies are on a Ph.D. track, which means students have the opportunity to continue studies and earn their doctorate seamlessly at a single institution. Students interested in a Buddhist studies graduate program will find several colleges and universities to choose from but should first learn about general program information and types of courses to expect.
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General Degree Program Information
Buddhist studies graduate programs typically emphasize course topics based on faculty specialty, and thus specialized courses tend to differ. Certain programs offer different language and regional specializations, for example, which can significantly inform coursework. Students often take special crossover courses from other departments, such as art history and Asian studies. However, core classes common to many of the programs include:
Buddhist philosophy courses are integral to graduate Buddhist studies programs. These courses will provide knowledge and insight into the noble truths and other beliefs that are at the core of Buddhism. Courses may cover Buddhist epistemology and ontology, among other topics.
Buddhism in the West
An important area of study for Buddhist scholars is how Buddhism affected and still affects the West. Once Buddhism spread to the Western world, certain elements of the religion changed and adapted. The differences between Western Buddhist practices and traditional Buddhist practices are commonly covered in Buddhist studies graduate programs.
Tibetan Religion and Buddhism
Tibetan Buddhism is an important area of study for many Buddhist graduate students. Tibetan Buddhism courses will cover the unique Buddhist traditions practiced in Tibet. Topics may cover traditions and rituals that developed in Tibet over centuries, as well as different predominant schools of Buddhism, such as Vajrayana.
Buddhism as a religion in India is usually covered in Buddhist studies programs since Buddhism began in ancient India. Students may cover other Indian religions, such as Hindu and Samana traditions, in order to provide context for Buddhism as an unorthodox Indian religion.
Buddhist Art History
The art and architecture of Buddhist cultures will be studied to gain insight into how the religion is honored and practiced. Buddhism as a religion incorporates many different visual and material cues, today and historically. Buddhist art generally lays the foundation for a historical analysis.
Admission Requirements for Buddhist Studies Graduate Programs
Each graduate program for Buddhist studies will have its own requirements and qualifications which must be met before admittance. The most important requirement for any graduate degree program is already having an accredited bachelor's degree completed. Master's programs in Buddhist studies generally prefer a candidate who has previous knowledge in a classical Buddhist language, such as Pali, Sanskrit, Tibetan, Chinese, or Japanese. At the doctoral level, applicants are required to demonstrate competence in one or more such languages in order to conduct specialized research. There may also be GPA or Graduate Record Examination score minimums which must be met in order for a student to be considered for the program.
Depending on the university or college a student chooses for Buddhist studies, the courses and program requirements will vary. However, some of the core course requirements for a Buddhist studies graduate degree will cover the important historic, social and cultural cues which have directly influenced the religion throughout time.