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.

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

Culminating Requirements

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