As interest in Buddhism continues to grow in America, many people are choosing to deepen their understanding of this tradition through graduate level study. If you are contemplating this route, one of the first things to examine is your motivation for pursuing an advanced degree in this field. Is it to complement a Buddhist practice? Is it to build a career in academia? Most graduate programs in Buddhist studies do not serve as a substitute for the faith in, and the practice of, Buddhism. Rather, they approach Buddhism from analytical vantage points: from history, sociology, philology, philosophy, religious studies, and cultural studies.

Nevertheless, there are a number of degree programs that encourage or support Buddhist practice and scholarship among students. These “practitioner-friendly” programs generally offer one of three things: the ability to pursue a degree in the context of Buddhist priestly training, courses in the practice of Buddhism that complement academic study, or an emphasis on the study of Buddhism from a normative point of view. Keep in mind, though, that if you’re interested in pursuing a career in academia, the institutions that offer these practice-integrated programs  are often not accorded the same status as secular universities.

At most universities, faculty members in Buddhist studies rend to be far fewer in number than their Christian or Jewish counterparts. As a result, very few programs can be considered comprehensive: most have a strength in a particular geographic/cultural area (South Asia, Tibet, East Asia), a particular tradition (Ch’an/Zen, Theravada, Tibetan), or a particular approach (philological, historical, apologetic). While a comprehensive program may be optimal, many graduate students have also prospered in departments with a strength in one area of specialization. In such smaller contexts, working closely with a faculty member whose interests coincide with your own may compensate for the more limited scope of the program.

Most faculty in Buddhist studies are housed in either a religious studies or an area studies program (East Asian, South Asian studies). Religious studies departments commonly require coursework and exams in other religious traditions as well as familiarity with the theoretical literature of the study of religion in general. In contrast, area studies programs place greater emphasis on the study of Asian languages (Pali, Sanskrit, Chinese, Japanese, Tibetan) and the study of Buddhism in its various historical and cultural contexts.

The following Buddhist studies programs are divided into several categories designed to help you decide which schools may be most appropriate for your interests and goals. Professors whose names appear in brackets are not specialists in the study of Buddhism per se, but because their expertise is in subject matter closely related to Buddhism they have taught or directed graduate students in the past.


Practitioner-friendly Institutions* 

California Institute of Integral Studies

1453 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 575-6100
http://www.ciis.edu/

Degrees Offered

M.A. in Asian Philosophies and Cultures
M.A. in East-West Psychology
M.A. in Ecology, Spirituality, and Religion
M.A. in Philosophy Cosmology and Consciousness
PhD in Asian Philosophies and Cultures
PhD in East-West Psychology

Faculty

Steven Goodman (Tibetan Buddhism)
Yi Wu (Chinese Religions and Chinese Buddhism)

Graduate Theological Union

2400 Ridge Road
Berkeley, CA 94709
(510) 649-2400
http://gtu.edu/home

Degrees Offered

M.A. in Buddhist Studies
PhD in Buddhist Studies

University of the West

1409 Walnut Grove Avenue
Rosemead, CA 80302-9926
(626) 571-8811
http://www.uwest.edu/site/

Degrees Offered

M.A. in Psychology (Concentration in Buddhist Psychology)
M.A. in Religious Studies (Concentration in Comparative Religions or Buddhist Studies)
M.Div. in Buddhist Chaplaincy
PhD in Religious Studies (Concentration in Comparative Religions or Buddhist Studies)

Faculty

Francis Cook (East Asian Buddhism)
Wang Yao (Tibetan Buddhism)

Institute of Buddhist Studies

2140 Durant Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 809-1444
http://www.shin-ibs.edu/

Degrees Offered

Certificate in Buddhism and Contemporary Psychology
Certificate in Buddhist Chaplaincy
Certificate in Theravada Buddhist Studies
M.A. in Buddhist Studies (with Graduate Theological Union)
M.Div. in Buddhist Studies

Faculty

Dennis Hirota (Japanese Buddhism)
Daijaku Kinst (Soto Zen Buddhism, Buddhist Chaplaincy)
Richard Payne (Esoteric Buddhism)
Kenneth Tanaka (Chinese Buddhism)

Naropa University

2130 Arapahoe Avenue
Boulder, CO  80302-9926
(303) 444-0202
http://www.naropa.edu/

Degrees Offered

M.A. in Religious Studies
M.A. in Religious Studies with Sanskrit and/or Tibetan Language
M.A. in Contemplative Psychotherapy & Buddhist Psychology
M.A. in Contemplative Education
M.Div. in Buddhist Studies

Faculty

Gaylon Ferguson (Buddhist Studies)
Archarya Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen (Tibetan Buddhism)
Amelia Hall (Tibetan and Himalayan Buddhism)
Sarah Harding (Tibetan Buddhism)
Joanna Macy (Buddhism and Science)
Judith Simmer-Brown (Indo­-Tibetan/American)
Karen Kissel Wegela (Buddhist Psychology)
Elaine Yuen (Tibetan Buddhism)

Maitripa College

1119 SE Market Street
Portland, Oregon 97214
(503) 235-2477
http://maitripa.org/

Degrees Offered

M.A. in Buddhist Studies
M.Div. in Buddhist Studies

Faculty

Leigh Miller (Tibetan Buddhism)
Dan Rubin (Buddhism and Psychology)

Dharma Realm Buddhist University

4951 Bodhi Way
Ukiah, CA 95482
(707) 621-7000
www.drbu.org

Degrees Offered

Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts
Master of Arts program in Buddhist Classics

Most Comprehensive Programs

Harvard University

Committee on the Study of Religion
Barker Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 495-5781
http://studyofreligion.fas.harvard.edu/

Degrees Offered

M.Div. in Buddhist Studies (Harvard Divinity School)
M.T.S. in Buddhist Studies (Harvard Divinity School)
Ph.D. in Religion (Concentrations in Buddhist Studies, East Asian Religions, and South Asian Religions)

Faculty

Ryuichi Abé (Japanese Buddhism)
Charles Hallisey (South and Southeast Asian/Theravada)
Janet Gyatso (Tibetan and South Asian Buddhism)
Anne Monius (South Asian religions)
Parimal Patil (South Asian Philosophies and Religions)
James Robson (Chinese Buddhism)
Leonard van der Kuijp (Indo­-Tibetan History and Literature)

Indiana University

Department of Religious Studies
Sycamore Hall, Room 230
Bloomington, IN 47405
(812) 855-3531
http://indiana.edu/~relstud/

Degrees Offered

M.A. in Religious Studies
Ph.D. in Religious Studies (Concentrations in Buddhist Studies, Chinese Thought, South Asian Religion)

Faculty

Heather Blair (East Asian and Japanese Buddhism)
Michael Ing (Chinese Thought)
Rebecca Manring (South Asian Religions and Asian Languages and Literature)
Richard Nance (Indo-Tibetan Buddhism)

University of Chicago

The Divinity School
1025 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL  60637
(312) 702-8200
https://divinity.uchicago.edu/

Degrees Offered

M.A. in Religious Studies
Ph.D. in Religious Studies

Faculty

Daniel Arnold (South Asian Languages and Civilizations)
Steven Collins (Theravada Buddhism)
Paul Copp (Chinese Religion and Thought, East Asian Languages and Civilizations)
Mathew Kapstein (Tibetan Buddhism)
James Ketelaar (East Asian Languages and Civilization)

University of Hawaii at Manoa

Department of Religion
Sakamaki Hall A311
2530 Dole Street
Honolulu, HI  96822
(808) 956-8299
http://www.hawaii.edu/religion/

Degree Offered

M.A. in Religion

Faculty

Helen Baroni (Japanese Buddhism and Buddhism in America)
Ramdas Lamb (Indian Religions)
Michael Mohr (Japanese Religions and East Asian Buddhism)
Lee Siegel (Indian Religions)

University of Michigan

Department of Asian Language and Culture
Suite 6111
202 South Thayer Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
http://lsa.umich.edu/asian/

Degrees Offered
PhD in Asian Languages and Cultures (Concentration in Buddhist Studies)

Faculty

Juhn Ahn (East Asian Buddhism)
Benjamin Brose (Chinese Buddhism)
Donald Lopez (Tibetan Buddhism)

University of Virginia

Department of Religious Studies
323 Gibson Hall
1540 Jefferson Park Avenue
PO Box 400126
Charlottesville, VA 22904
(434) 924-6706
http://religiousstudies.virginia.edu/

Degrees Offered

M.A. in Religious Studies
PhD in Religious Studies (Concentrations of East Asian Buddhism, Indian-Tibetan or Chinese-Tibetan Buddhism, and Theravada Buddhism within History of Religions)

Faculty

John Campbell (South Asian and Himalayan Religions)
David Germano (Tibetan Buddhism)
Sonam Kachru (Buddhist Philosophy and Religion in South Asia)
John Nemec (South Asian Religions)
Kurtis Schaeffer (Indian and Tibetan Buddhism)

Institutions with Strength in East Asian Buddhist Studies

Princeton University

Department of Religion
1879 Hall
Princeton, NJ  08544
(609) 258-4520
http://religion.princeton.edu/

Degree Offered

PhD in Religion (Concentration in Asian Religions)

Faculty

Jonathan Gold (Indian and Tibetan Buddhism)
Jacqueline Stone (Japanese Buddhism)
Stephen Teiser (Chinese Buddhism)

Stanford University

Department of Religious Studies
450 Serra Mall
Building 70
Stanford, CA 94305-2165
(650) 723-2538
http://religiousstudies.stanford.edu/

Degree Offered

PhD in Religious Studies (Concentration in Buddhist Studies)

Faculty

Paul Harrison (Mahayana Buddhist History and Literature)
John Kieschnick (Chinese Buddhism)
Mark Lewis (Chinese Religions)

University of Arizona

East Asian Studies Department
102 Learning Services Building
1512 E First Street
Tucson, AZ 85721
(520) 621-7505
http://eas.arizona.edu/

Degrees Offered

M.A. in Chinese Studies
M.A. in East Asian Studies
M.A. in Japanese Studies
PhD in Chinese Studies
PhD in Japanese Studies

Faculty

Alison Jameson (East Asian Buddhism)
Takashi Miuri (East Asian Buddhism)
Jiang Wu (Chinese Buddhism)

University of California at Los Angeles

Department of Asian Languages and Cultures
290 Royce Hall
Box 951540
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1540
(310) 206-8235
http://www.alc.ucla.edu/

Degree Offered

PhD in Asian Languages and Cultures (Concentration in Buddhist Studies)

Faculty

William Bodiford (Japanese Buddhism)
Robert Buswell (Chinese and Korean Buddhism)
Natasha Heller (Chinese Religions and Chinese Buddhism)
Stephanie Jamison (Asian Religions)
Gregory Schopen (South Asian Religions and South Asian Buddhism)

University of California at Santa Barbara

Department of Religious Studies
Mail Code 3130
University of California
Santa Barbara, CA 93106
(805) 893-3578
http://www.religion.ucsb.edu/

Degree Offered

PhD in Religious Studies (Concentrations in Buddhist Studies, East Asian Religions, and South Asian Religions)

Faculty

José Cabezón (Tibetan Buddhism)
Barbara Holdrege (South Asian Religions)
Dominic Steavu-Balint (Chinese Religions and Chinese Buddhism)
David White (South Asian Religions)
Mayfair Yang (East Asian Religions)

University of Pennsylvania

Department of Religious Studies
Box 36, College Hall
Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 898-7453
http://www.sas.upenn.edu/religious_studies/

Degree Offered

PhD in Religious Studies (Concentrations in Asian Religions and Buddhist Studies)

Faculty

Daud Ali (South Asian Religions)
Paul Goldin (Chinese Thought)
Victor Mair (Chinese Buddhism)
Justin McDaniel (Indian and Southeast Asian Buddhism)
Deven Patel (Indian Philosophy and Religions)

Yale University

Department of Religious Studies
Box 208287
New Haven, CT 06520
(203) 432-0828
http://religiousstudies.yale.edu/

Degree Offered

PhD in Religion (Concentration in Asian Religions)

Faculty

Phyllis Granoff (Indian Buddhism)
Eric Greene (Chinese Buddhism)
Andrew Quintman (Himalayan and Tibetan Buddhism)
Stanley Weinstein (Chinese and Japanese Buddhism)

Cornell University

Department of Asian Studies
350 Rockefeller Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853
(607) 255-5095
http://lrc.cornell.edu/asian/graduate/ALRC/ALRC

Degrees Offered

M.A. in Asian Studies
PhD in Asian Literature, Religion, and Culture

Faculty

Anne Blackburn (South Asian Religions and Buddhism)
Bronwen Bledsoe (Nepalese Buddhism and South Asian Religions)
Daniel Boucher (Chinese Religions, Chinese Buddhism, Indian Buddhism)
David Holmberg (Sherpa Buddhism)
Andrew Willford (Southeast Asian Religions)

Institutions with Strength in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies

Harvard University

See listing under
Most Comprehensive Programs

University of Michigan

See listing under
Most Comprehensive Programs

University of Virginia

See listing under
Most Comprehensive Programs

University of Washington

Department of Asian Languages and Literature
225 Gowen Hall
Box 353521
Seattle, WA  98195-3521
(206) 543-4996
https://asian.washington.edu/

Degrees Offered

M.A. in Buddhist Studies
PhD in Buddhist Studies

Faculty

Collett Cox (Indian Buddhism)
Tim Lenz (Early Indian Buddhism)
Richard Salomon (Early Indian Buddhism)

Institutions with Strength in Southeast Asian Buddhist Studies

Harvard University

See listing under
Most Comprehensive Programs

University of Chicago

See listing under
Most Comprehensive Programs

Other Noteworthy Programs

Columbia University

Department of Religion
80 Claremont Avenue
Room 103 MC 9610
New York, NY 10027
(212) 851-4122
http://religion.columbia.edu/

Degrees Offered

M.A. in Religion
PhD in Religion (Concentrations in Buddhism, East Asian Religions, and South Asian Religions)

Faculty

Michael Como (East Asian Buddhism)
Bernard Faure (Japanese Buddhism)
Max Moerman (Japanese Religions)
Robert Thurman (Tibetan Buddhism)
Zhaohua Yang (Chinese Buddhism)

University of California at Berkeley

Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures
3413 Dwinelle
Berkeley, CA 94720-2230
(510) 642-3480
http://ealc.berkeley.edu/

Degree Offered

PhD in East Asian Languages and Cultures

Faculty

Mark Blum (Japanese Buddhism)
Jacob Dalton (Tibetan and Southeast Asian Buddhism)
Robert Sharf (Chinese Buddhism)

University of Texas at Austin

Department of Asian Studies
The College of Liberal Arts
The University of Texas at Austin
116 Inner Campus Drive Stop G6000
Austin, TX  78712
(512) 471-5811
http://www.utexas.edu/cola/asianstudies/

Degrees Offered

M.A. in Asian Cultures and Languages
PhD in Asian Cultures and Languages

Faculty

Joel Brereton (Asian Religions)
Oliver Freiberger (Indian Buddhism)
Jishnu Shankar (South Asian Religions)

Rutgers University

Department of Religious Studies
School of Arts and Sciences
70 Lipman Drive
New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8525
(848) 932-9640
http://religion.rutgers.edu/graduate/

Degrees Offered

M.A. in Religious Studies (Concentration in Buddhist Studies)

Faculty

Edward Bryant (Indian Religions)
Tao Jiang (Chinese Buddhism)
Christian Lammerts (Theravada and Southeast Asian Buddhism)

Florida State University

Department of Religion
641 University Way
P.O. Box 3061520
The Florida State University
Tallahassee, FL 32306-1520
(850) 644-1020
http://religion.fsu.edu/

Degrees Offered

M.A. in Religious Studies (Concentration in Buddhist Studies—within History of Religions)
PhD in Religious Studies (Concentration in Buddhist Studies—within History of Religions)

Faculty

Kristina Buhrman (Japanese Religions and Esoteric Buddhism)
Bryan Cuevas (Tibetan and Himalayan Buddhism and Asian Religions)
Kathleen Erndl (South Asian Religions)
Jimmy Yu (Chinese Buddhism and Chinese Religions)

*(updated February 2016)

Temple
Dharma to your inbox

Sign up for Tricycle’s newsletters