Master of Arts (MA) in Buddhist Studies

In light of the current situation around the world, and in order to ensure the best possible conditions for students and staff to remain safe and healthy, RYI will offer all of its fall 2020 and spring 2021 classes online.

Applications are now closed for the fall semester graduate programs and will open again November 1 for for fall 2021. 

Orientation begins August 26.

Classes begin August 31.

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The MA program is a 2-year (4 semester / 60 credit) program that combines graduate-level seminars with extensive research in primary source literature and languages. The program provides students with the methods and skills required for mature academic research, and develops their abilities to undertake independent research projects within the field of Buddhist Studies.

During the first year of the program each student is assigned a Thesis Supervisor who will work with the student on developing the thesis proposal and the thesis itself.

The first year of study is approached in two ways. For those with sufficient competence in Classical Tibetan and spoken Dharma Tibetan, philosophical texts from the monastic university curriculum are taught in Tibetan with no translation. In addition to increasing students' understanding of Buddhist philosophy, this approach also enhances the students' ability to conduct research using primary Tibetan source materials. For those whose language skills are not as fully developed, the first year is spent developing the necessary competence in classical Tibetan or Sanskrit to allow students to conduct research in Buddhist primary literature. In both cases, research papers on topics related to philosophical or linguistic study are prepared with the help of the thesis supervisors as part of the required coursework.

In research seminars, also offered during the first three semesters of study, issues of method relevant to academic research of religion and Buddhism are discussed. These courses introduce the historical development of the study of religion and enable the graduate student to engage in critical scholarship and research.

In the second year of the MA, the focus turns toward the practical application of the skills acquired during the first year of study, culminating in the writing of the MA thesis. Working with an experienced thesis supervisor, the student formulates a thesis project and spends the first semester studying the necessary historical, literary, and philosophical background materials before spending the second semester writing the thesis itself, with continued guidance by the thesis supervisor.

Entrance into the MA program requires at least one year of Classical Tibetan or Sanskrit, and 12 credits of Religious Studies coursework. Interested applicants who do not have the required prerequisites may do a year of preparatory work in our MA Preparatory program to ready themselves for admission to the MA. Once applicants get accepted into the MA preparatory program, a course of study will be prescribed for them.

For a detailed description of the program, including Admission Requirements, please download the MA Course Description.

Meet a Student

“I received the Tsadra Foundation scholarship to study two years of the Masters. Thanks to that scholarship I was able to study intensively and the means to live here in Nepal. I would definitely recommend this course to people who are interested in furthering their studies in Buddhism, particularly in philosophy. One thing that is important to know is that it is a very unique course because we study in both the traditional Tibetan approach and the contemporary academic approach. It is not something that is offered in many universities. The professors guide us in researching the MA thesis, and in developing critical skills by reading different academic journals and publications that help us to develop our own thesis. Having these two approaches is very enriching. It’s a very intensive course and therefore very demanding. If you have the time and conditions are favorable, then it is a really wonderful opportunity to have two or three years to dedicate yourself full time to doing this.”

Cyntia Font - Mexico -

Application and Admission

Entrance into the MA program in Buddhist Studies requires at least one year of Classical Tibetan or Sanskrit, and 12 credits of Buddhist Studies or Asian Religions coursework. Interested applicants who do not have the required prerequisites may do a year of preparatory study in our MA Preparatory program to ready themselves for admission to the MA. Based on a student’s previous course work, a course of study will be prescribed to ensure he or she meets the prerequisites for the MA program. To be admitted to either the MA Preparatory program or the MA program, students should visit the Admissions Section of this website. Admission to the MA program is competitive and meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission: admission is based on an evaluation of the overall application package.

For more information, please refer to the Eligibility Requirements and Admissions Process for the MA program in Buddhist Studies.