Master of Divinity

The Master of Divinity degree prepares students for professional work in the fields of pastoral care, chaplaincy, community development, and dharma teaching. This 72-credit, three-year program is firmly grounded in Buddhist philosophy and meditation practice, while emphasizing an interreligious approach to individual and community care. This training is then applied in hands-on field education work, to develop individuals who can actively manifest wisdom and compassion in the world. The program breaks new ground in preparing Buddhist-inspired students to serve their communities in leadership capacities.

The MDiv degree prepares students through four streams of learning: 1) theological study—an in-depth understanding of the basic Buddhist texts and doctrines in historical and present-day contexts; 2) community—devoted to the insights and tools for fostering “engaged” communities; 3) interfaith pastoral care—the ability to serve the spiritual and human needs of a diverse community in ministerial/chaplaincy roles while embodying the principles and practices of one’s primary tradition; and 4) practice and meditation—the spiritual practice of sitting meditation from the Buddhist tradition.

Field education opportunities (either Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) or internship placements) based on individual student interests provide a context for integrating all four streams of learning and applying them to real-world needs, while initiating the process of lifetime learning through the student's work.

Optional Specialties:

Meditation Requirements and the Nitartha Institute Shedra Option: In addition to three 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) choose to do a month of intensive Buddhist meditation practice done as a month or divided into two-week, 10-day, or 7-day programs, in a Buddhist tradition of the student’s choice, e.g., Tibetan, Zen, Theravada, and so forth, or 2) choose the Nitartha Institute “Shedra” 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 qualifies students to receive the Nitartha Institute Certificates of Completion for its Foundation and Intermediate Curriculums, and to enter its Advanced Curriculum. They also qualify to enter the Nitartha Teacher-in-Training Program if they attend a second month-long summer program. (For information, see www.nitarthainstitute.org.)

Note on fees: The noncredit requirement of the month-long Buddhist meditation retreat costs approximately $1,300 (or $700 for two-weeks for students choosing the Nitartha Institute Shedra Option). The Nitartha Institute option students also register for a 3-credit Nitartha summer program through Naropa, which will cover the tuition cost, but not the room and board, text, and other items of the Nitartha program, which add up to approximately $3,500, though Nitartha and Naropa may award scholarships for some of those costs. The prices listed above are estimates based on current costs. These costs are determined by outside organizations and are subject to change. There are also occasionally smaller course fees associated with individual classes, which are subject to change.

Mindfulness Instructor Training: A three-course series training students to offer instruction in shamatha practice and being a mindfulness instructor. Participants develop skills in first-time meditation instruction and mentoring new practitioners.

Shambhala Training: Shambhala Training is the path of study and practice of Shambhala Warriorship: the tradition of human bravery, not being afraid of who you are. This training, in partnership with Shambhala International, shows how to take the challenges of daily life in our modern society as opportunities for contemplative practice.

Degree Requirements

Please note that many students complete the program in four rather than three years. For a complete four-year plan, please see your academic advisor.  Some courses are only offered alternate years; please consult your academic advisor. 

First year, fall (13)

  • REL600 Meditation Practicum I: Seeds of Peace (3)
  • REL602 Contemplative Communication in Spiritual Caregiving (3)
  • REL611 First Turning of the Wheel: Nature of Mind and Emotions (3)
  • REL614 Mind and Its World (3)
  • REL616 Integration Lab I (1)

First year, spring (13)

  • REL615 Power, Privilege, and Diversity (3) or REL763 Dharma Talks and Religious Education (3)
  • REL620 Meditation Practicum II: Self and No-Self (3)
  • REL650 Buddhist Meditation Intensive (noncredit)*
  • REL654 Integration Lab II (1)
  • REL661 The Second Turning of the Wheel: The Bodhisattva Path (3)
  • Religious Studies or Graduate Collective elective (3)****

First year, summer (3 Nitartha Institute Shedra Option Only)

Nitartha Institute Shedra Option Only *** 

  • REL705 Mind Only School (1.5)
  • REL720 The Mahayana Path to Enlightenment (1.5)

Second year, fall (13 (14.5 - Field education)

  • REL635 Meditation Practicum III: Mind-Training (3)
  • REL658 Ritual Arts (3) or REL714 Introduction to Pastoral Care (3)
  • REL728 Integration Lab III (1)
  • REL744 Master of Divinity Field Education I (1.5) (For students choosing field education)***
  • REL779 Interreligious Dialog (3)
  • REL710 Third Turning of the Wheel: Yogacara and Buddha Nature (3)
  • Religious Studies or Graduate Collective elective (3)****

Second year, spring (12-13 (13.5-14.5 - Field Education)

  • REL615 Power, Privilege, and Diversity (3) or REL763 Dharma Talks and Religious Education (3)
  • REL745 Master of Divinity Field Education II (1.5) (For students choosing field education)***
  • REL749 Contemporary American Religion (3) or REL804 Applied Ethics and Service Learning (2)
  • REL768 Integration Lab IV (1)
  • Religious Studies or Graduate Collective elective (3)****

Second year, summer (3)

  • REL747 Master of Divinity Clinical Pastoral Education (3) (For students choosing CPE)***

Third year, fall (6)

  • REL658 Ritual Arts (3) or REL714 Introduction to Pastoral Care (3)
  • Religious Studies or Graduate Collective elective (3)****

Third year, spring (11-13 (8-9 Nitartha Institute Shedra Option)

  • REL804 Applied Ethics and Service Learning (3) or REL749 Contemporary American Religion (3)
  • REL853 MDiv Capstone Seminar (2)
  • REL880 Comprehensive Exam (0)
  • Religious Studies or Graduate Collective Elective**** (6) Except for Nitartha Institute Shedra Option students (3)**

Total Credits: 72

*It is highly recommended that students complete the noncredit month long dathün requirement (REL650) by the winter break between the fall and spring semesters of their first year or, at the latest, during the summer following their first year.

** Students choosing the Nitartha Institute Shedra Option should complete the requirement of attending a monthlong Nitartha Institute program in the summer following their first year. This is integral to the sequence of the curriculum. This replaces three credits of electives in the final semester.

***Internship is an opportunity for students to apply, integrate, and reconsider specific practices of ministry or spiritual leadership in a “real-life” setting.  This contextual learning requirement may be met in one of two ways: 1) REL744 Master of Divinity Field Education I (1.5 credits) & REL 745 Master of Divinity Field Education II (1.5 credits); OR 2) REL747 Master of Divinity Clinical Pastoral Education (3.0 credits).  Although internship is commonly taken during the second year, students may also take it in the third or subsequent years. 

**** Students can take up to six of their elective credits in courses from other programs in The Graduate Collective that are designated as open to students outside their programs, with permission of the faculty member.