Indo-Tibetan Buddhism Concentration

The 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.

Meditation Requirements and the Nitartha Institute Shedra Option

In addition to four 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) twenty-eight days of intensive Buddhist meditation practice done as a monthlong program or divided into two-week, ten-day, or seven-day programs, in a Buddhist tradition of the student’s choice, e.g., Tibetan, Zen, Theravada, and so forth; or 2) 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

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.

Culminating Requirements

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

Degree Requirements

First year, fall


First year, spring


First year, summer

Nitartha Institute Shedra-Gomdra Option only: ***

SUBTOTAL 6 (Nitartha Institute Shedra-Gomdra Option only - uses 6 elective credits)

Second year, fall


Second year, spring

SUBTOTAL 12 (6 for Nitartha Institute Shedra-Gomdra Option students)

Total Credits: 45

* It is highly recommended that students complete the noncredit monthlong Buddhist Meditation Intensive 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.

Nitartha Institute Shedra-Gomdra Option students only required to do two weeks of this meditation intensive.

**Students can take up 6 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.

*** Students choosing the Nitartha Institute Shedra-Gomdra Option should complete this monthlong program in the summer following their first year. This is integral to the sequence of the curriculum. This replaces 6 credits of electives in the final semester.

Religious Studies Electives

Buddhism Electives

General Electives

Contemplative Practice Electives

* These courses must be taken in sequence. The prerequisites for REL609W are Meditation Practicum I and II, as well as a Buddhist monthlong meditation intensive, two weeks of which must be completed before the class begins.

Related Programs

  • Indo-Tibetan Buddhism with Language

    This MA degree includes all the course work of the MA Religious Studies degree with the Indo-Tibetan Buddhism concentration, and is enriched by training in either Sanskrit or Tibetan through two years (16 credits) of course work or more.