Thank you everyone.
In one way I learn towards doing a research-only degree, since it would allow me the freedom to be anywhere, or at least one that has the option of a research-only degree. I am also leaning towards staying in Asia but perhaps outside of India, but I am still looking into US options. Part of the problem with the US I see is that as mentioned above, doing a PhD in Buddhist or Religious Studies in the US can be difficult to enter, very expensive, and perhaps it may not even be such a good fit as someone who has been more on the traditional-linguistic side for a long time in Asia etc. side of things. I am not really fixated on programs in the US, and am very aware that doing one could potentially be much more difficult in many ways; another problem is that there is really nothing within a reasonable distance of my parents that is not extremely expensive or probably hard to enter, and even in the best cases, such as Virginia (if they have funding for their highly expensive programs), I am living in a new place quite far from my parents (5 hours) where I don't know anyone, after having lived in India for 7 years. It's not exactly the ideal, and since U. of Pittsburgh recently did away with its Religious Studies graduate program it kind of leaves me without anything in the area to do. So I really am not sure how the US would pan out, although I'm still looking into it.
At the same time I think doing a taught portion with classes would be very good on many levels also. Right now I'm mainly looking into Mahidol's program in Bangkok, which has both options and which is the best choice in Thailand; I have the choice of doing a taught or research-only program, get a student visa to Thailand, the program is not that expensive, I would definitely gain entry, and it has a mostly Western staff, I would be challenged, etc. I'm also looking into Leiden, which wouldn't have a taught portion (or if it did I wouldn't be able to afford doing it), but might be the best option in terms of a research-only program (I guess SOAS has them too), at least in terms of 'name'.
In frightening eons of chaos,
In unrefined times of great fear,
Many harmful spirits in the form of monks
Will refer to us with unpleasantries.
Out of respect for the World's Master,
We will strive to feel encouraged, with powerful joy.
Donning the armor of patience,
We shall vigorously expound this Sūtra.
- The Tibetan Lotus Sūtra: Scripture on the Wondrous Dharma of the White Lotus (saddharma puṇḍarīka sūtra, dam pa'i chos pad+ma dkar po'i mdo)
Chapter 12: Encouragement (spro bar bya ba) http://www.tibetanlotussutra.net