Religious Studies
Master of Arts

Explore spirituality in human experience as expressed in the religions of the world through in-depth study, contemplative practices, and personal investigation.

ApplY For Spring or Fall 2020

By the Numbers



Cost of tuition per credit for 2019-2020 academic year (recently reduced from $995/credit).



Of Naropa graduate students receive a scholarship, fellowship, or assistantship.



The average number of assistantships offered to Naropa graduate students every year.

Naropa University’s Religious Studies master’s degree program is one of personal and intellectual transformation. As a Religious Studies graduate student, you will cultivate insights, knowledge, and meditative methods (such as mindfulness, yoga, and compassion practices) that will empower you to serve the inner and outer needs of the world, whether in the classroom, your community, through inter-religious dialogue, or the larger society.

At Naropa, you can remain broadly focused in your studies by choosing a Contemplative Religions concentration, or you can specialize through the in-depth study of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. We also offer a Master of Arts with Language, which allows you to add two years of Sanskrit and/or Tibetan language to your degree program.

Whatever path you choose, you will study the great masters and their works, ancient and modern, that are important to each tradition, while also delving into their profundities through contemplative methods.

Alumni from Naropa’s Master of Arts in Religious Studies program have been accepted to doctoral programs around the world, including Harvard University, Oxford University, University of Chicago, University of California—Santa Barbara, University of Virginia, Rice University, University of the West, and the California Institute of Integral Studies.

Our Religious Studies graduates have also created compelling careers for themselves as professors, translators, teachers, social service professionals, ministers, experts in humanities, computing, librarians, lawyers, and activists. 


Enhance your MA in Religious Studies degree with an optional two-year study of Sanskrit or Tibetan language, in order to become a translator, in preparation for a doctoral program, and/or to enrich your personal understanding of the related traditions. 

Contemplative Intensive

Complete a 28-day group practice retreat in the religious tradition(s) of your choice, all at one time or in two to four shorter retreats, for an in-depth contemplative experience, living in a community context.

2–3 Years

The Master of Arts program in Religious Studies (45 credit hours) and the Master of Arts program in Religious Studies with Language (61 credit hours) offer both academic and contemplative experiences that encompass the beautiful plurality of global religious expression. This program will prepare you for doctoral-level graduate study, research, translation services, or other careers that require strong analytic and writing skills.

Roger Morales

Alumni Highlight

“I have the job I have today because of Naropa. Although I have a separate degree in Library and Information Science, the main reason I am working at ATLA today is because I have intimate knowledge of Buddhism and Hinduism. I specialize in these fields in my current job and use my education daily. My knowledge of Sanskrit has come into play, as well as by having the ability to read and understand Buddhist terms in Sanskrit.”

— Roger Morales, MA 2013
Theological Librarian for the American Theological Library Association

Featured Religious Studies Courses

  • Methods and Issues in the Study of Religion
  • Interreligious Dialogue
  • Non-Dualism in Theory and Practice
  • Contemplative Hinduism
  • Classical Jewish Mysticism
  • The First Turning of the Wheel: Nature of Mind and Emotions


Program Learning Outcomes

MA Religious Studies, Contemplative Religions Concentration

  • Theory and Methods in Religious Studies - Students will demonstrate knowledge of the academic discourse of religious studies through the application of historical, cultural and contemplative dimensions in their written work and/or oral presentations.
  • Contemplative Practice and Perspectives - Students will demonstrate engagement with the experience of contemplative practice and the consideration of multiple approaches to contemplative learning through written work and/or oral presentations.
  • Respect for Diversity and Cross-Cultural Understanding - Students exhibit respect for diverse religious traditions and cross-cultural understanding through dialogue journals or reflection papers, or warrior exams.
  • Integration of Experience - Students exhibit a mature and nuanced approach to contemplative exercises and practice through written and verbal expression, and expressions of compassion toward self and others.
  • Reflexive Writing and Communication - Students demonstrate the skills of speaking and writing from their own reflexive stance, while maintaining the standards of scholarly academic discourse.

MA Religious Studies, Indo-Tibetan Buddhism Concentration

  • Historical, Doctrinal, and Cultural Development of Buddhism - Students will demonstrate an understanding of the historical, doctrinal, and cultural development of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism.
  • Contemplative Practice - Students will demonstrate proficiency in Buddhist meditation practices in an experiential manner, informed by their study of Buddhism.
  • Contemplative Scholarship - Students will demonstrate the integration of a contemplative perspective in properly written academic papers and effective oral presentations, with a personal and critical perspective.
  • Diversity - Students will demonstrate respect for diverse religious traditions and for diversity of race, gender, and so on.

Language: For both the Contemplative Religions and Indo-Tibetan Buddhism Concentrations of the MA in Religious Studies.

Sanksrit Language:

  • Sanskrit Literary Translation - Students will demonstrate a facility with the translation of texts in Sanskrit, demonstrating a working vocabulary.
  • Sanskrit Literary Syntax & Grammar - Students will demonstrate a knowledge of literary syntax and grammar, and appropriate interpretation of Sanskrit.
  • Sanskrit Oral Reading - Students will learn to read aloud a Sanskrit text that they have studied, using proper pronunciation in a fluid, idiomatic manner.

Tibetan Language:

  • Tibetan Literary Translation - Students will demonstrate a facility with the translation of texts in Tibetan, demonstrating a working vocabulary.
  • Tibetan Literary Syntax & Grammar - Students will demonstrate a knowledge of literary syntax and grammar, and appropriate interpretation of Tibetan.
  • Tibetan Oral Reading - Students will learn to read aloud a Tibetan text that they have studied, using proper pronunciation in a fluid, idiomatic manner.
  • Tibetan Colloquial Syntax, Grammar, Vocabulary - Students will demonstrate a knowledge of Tibetan colloquial syntax, grammar, and vocabulary for the colloquial form of the language at the level taught in their courses.
  • Tibetan Colloquial Pronunciation & Comprehension - Students will demonstrate an ability to speak Tibetan with proper pronunciation in a fluid, idiomatic manner and understand what is spoken to them at the level taught in their courses.


phil stanley highlight

Faculty Highlight

“Our students share a common aspiration to be personally transformed by their education at Naropa, however they aspire to apply their training after they graduate, be that to acquire language skills and a breadth of knowledge of the Buddhist tradition, or a grounding in a range of religious traditions, or develop chaplaincy skills to serve others.”

— Phil Stanley, PhD