Universities which provide good education on dharma topics

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Universities which provide good education on dharma topics

Postby Sherlock » Sat Oct 06, 2012 9:08 am

I'm going to apply for university over the next few months. Ideally, I would like to study linguistics or philosophy at a school with options for study of Dharma-specific topics and languages. E.g. Indian and Central Asian history, Sanskrit, Pali, Avestan, Tibetan.

For the UK, I'm applying for Sanskrit at Oxford, the chances are probably quite slim but I just want to try -- some of my other options for the UK include Linguistics with Tibetan at SOAS and Philosophy at St Andrews (which unfortunately doesn't seem to have many options for languages).

There was an old thread about Harvard being strong at Sanskrit and Virginia being good at Tibetan in the US. I just retook my SAT Reasoning Test Today (I got 2190 the first time I took it around 2 years ago before I entered compulsory military service) and hope I can get a better score (ideally 2300+) so I can try applying for Harvard, although like Oxford, the chances are quite slim. I think I have a good chance of getting into the University of Michigan though, which seems to have the most options for study of different languages according to CARLA.

Would anyone have any advice or recommendations?
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Re: Universities which provide good education on dharma topics

Postby Finnjames » Sat Oct 06, 2012 11:46 am

If you are in the US, you might want to look into the University of California at Santa Barbara. They have an excellent Linguistics Department and also a very strong Buddhist Studies program.
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Re: Universities which provide good education on dharma topics

Postby Indrajala » Sat Oct 06, 2012 1:38 pm

http://www.shedra.org/

In Kathmandu. It is in English. You can learn Sanskrit and Tibetan, and many other subjects related to Dharma.

Not too expensive. About US$6000/year for BA program as I recall. Living costs in Kathmandu are dirt cheap.
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Re: Universities which provide good education on dharma topics

Postby Sherlock » Sat Oct 06, 2012 2:29 pm

Huseng wrote:http://www.shedra.org/

In Kathmandu. It is in English. You can learn Sanskrit and Tibetan, and many other subjects related to Dharma.

Not too expensive. About US$6000/year for BA program as I recall. Living costs in Kathmandu are dirt cheap.


Well, the problem with it might not be widely recognised and a degree in Buddhist Studies limits one's career options quite a bit.
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Re: Universities which provide good education on dharma topics

Postby Indrajala » Sat Oct 06, 2012 3:35 pm

Sherlock wrote:Well, the problem with it might not be widely recognised and a degree in Buddhist Studies limits one's career options quite a bit.


If you have a BA degree in the humanities from a nice western university it is still nevertheless possible you'll be working at Starbucks after graduation. The same goes for a MA degree. PhDs are in no better position actually.

The humanities are actually crumbling in the western world as they get their funding slashed and retiring professors are not replaced with new tenured staff. I had an instructor in my undergrad who taught Tibetan Buddhism. He said when he applied for the job he was one of eighty applicants. Here is a guy who has fluency in Tibetan, and has taught Sanskrit in India, yet the university had no inclination to hire this guy as anything more than a contract instructor.

Actually I really recommend you go to Kathmandu and learn Tibetan and Sanskrit. If you become a talented and skilled translator of Tibetan you'll have opportunities you've never dreamt of. It might mean living in Asia for the long-term, but you'll live a largely stress free lifestyle in the presence of fellow Buddhists who appreciate your skills and come to you for assistance. You might teach a few classes a week and then be left to do translation work on your own time. Such a lifestyle would be immensely more healthy than moving from university to university every few years on contracts.

If, on the other hand, you get a BA or MA from a western university you'll have minimal contacts with Buddhists in Asia and your oral language skills in the target language might be lacking. Literacy is always different from spoken fluency. Moreover, you'd be competing with other people for a dwindling number of career opportunities. If you became really proficient in Tibetan any of the Tibetan lineages and organizations could make ample use of you. The same goes for other languages like Chinese. You'd never have to worry about food, shelter and clothing. It might not be as glamorous as graduating from Cambridge, but that's a worldly concern anyway. As a Tibetan-English translator in Nepal or anywhere really you'd have minimal stress and be part of a welcoming community.

The academic study of Buddhism is being slowly transferred to Asian Buddhist colleges who are willing to fully fund it. This is where the future is. In the years to come Buddhist Studies will not survive ongoing budget cuts in western universities.
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Re: Universities which provide good education on dharma topics

Postby Yudron » Sat Oct 06, 2012 4:11 pm

Huseng wrote:
Sherlock wrote:You'd never have to worry about food, shelter and clothing.


Yes, the Dharma center will find you some substandard housing, and maybe some food when the communal kitchen is open, but getting clothes involves having money--and money is often not forthcoming for translators.
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Re: Universities which provide good education on dharma topics

Postby Sherlock » Sat Oct 06, 2012 4:16 pm

Huseng wrote:
Sherlock wrote:Well, the problem with it might not be widely recognised and a degree in Buddhist Studies limits one's career options quite a bit.


If you have a BA degree in the humanities from a nice western university it is still nevertheless possible you'll be working at Starbucks after graduation. The same goes for a MA degree. PhDs are in no better position actually.

The humanities are actually crumbling in the western world as they get their funding slashed and retiring professors are not replaced with new tenured staff. I had an instructor in my undergrad who taught Tibetan Buddhism. He said when he applied for the job he was one of eighty applicants. Here is a guy who has fluency in Tibetan, and has taught Sanskrit in India, yet the university had no inclination to hire this guy as anything more than a contract instructor.

Actually I really recommend you go to Kathmandu and learn Tibetan and Sanskrit. If you become a talented and skilled translator of Tibetan you'll have opportunities you've never dreamt of. It might mean living in Asia for the long-term, but you'll live a largely stress free lifestyle in the presence of fellow Buddhists who appreciate your skills and come to you for assistance. You might teach a few classes a week and then be left to do translation work on your own time. Such a lifestyle would be immensely more healthy than moving from university to university every few years on contracts.

If, on the other hand, you get a BA or MA from a western university you'll have minimal contacts with Buddhists in Asia and your oral language skills in the target language might be lacking. Literacy is always different from spoken fluency. Moreover, you'd be competing with other people for a dwindling number of career opportunities. If you became really proficient in Tibetan any of the Tibetan lineages and organizations could make ample use of you. The same goes for other languages like Chinese. You'd never have to worry about food, shelter and clothing. It might not be as glamorous as graduating from Cambridge, but that's a worldly concern anyway. As a Tibetan-English translator in Nepal or anywhere really you'd have minimal stress and be part of a welcoming community.

The academic study of Buddhism is being slowly transferred to Asian Buddhist colleges who are willing to fully fund it. This is where the future is. In the years to come Buddhist Studies will not survive ongoing budget cuts in western universities.


That's some food for thought, thanks.

I know a Western professor who taught at a university in Korea for a while and really didn't care for the publishing game; he just taught his classes and read and learned things in his spare time. He said many of the other Western faculty members got bored with that and soon left. I actually wouldn't mind this kind of life. He wasn't teaching Buddhism or any related topics though, like Sanskrit or Pali; he has a PhD in Comparative Literature IIRC and was teaching some Western languages there.
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Re: Universities which provide good education on dharma topics

Postby Sherlock » Sat Oct 06, 2012 4:19 pm

Yudron wrote:
Huseng wrote:
Sherlock wrote:You'd never have to worry about food, shelter and clothing.


Yes, the Dharma center will find you some substandard housing, and maybe some food when the communal kitchen is open, but getting clothes involves having money--and money is often not forthcoming for translators.


I think Huseng is talking about larger centres, probably affiliated to a large monastery.
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Re: Universities which provide good education on dharma topics

Postby Indrajala » Sat Oct 06, 2012 5:05 pm

Sherlock wrote:I think Huseng is talking about larger centres, probably affiliated to a large monastery.


Well from what I've seen if you're willing to live in Nepal or India you'll live comfortably by local standards. Lunch might be dal and rice everyday at the monastery cafeteria, but pizza in Kathmandu is cheap. :smile:

If you had a PhD even from an Asian university somewhere it'd be sufficient to work and live with a proper visa in Buddhist colleges around the subcontinent (or even come to Taiwan and be a resident scholar at one of the Buddhist universities). It wouldn't count for anything in the western world, but that's a worldly concern anyway and not motivated by bodhicitta. The academic world in the west is becoming more and more corrupt anyways with less and less funds being directed towards the traditional humanities. Business and anything commercially or militarily valuable will get funded, which of course means Buddhist Studies receives minimal concern. I don't foresee a bright future for Buddhist Studies in the western world anyway. General interest is declining. It isn't politically relevant to many people anymore either. It had its heyday in the last two decades maybe, that won't happen again. Universities have become commercial enterprises that service private interests.

I doubt you'd get similar support in the western world as you would in Asia, but like I said this is in the context of living in South Asia (or possibly East Asia if your skills and interests take you here). Living in the third world isn't always so nice, but it is often quite down to earth, homely and easygoing. It can be dysfunctional as hell, too, but the trade-off is not having strict schedules to abide by, and very flexible rules for everything. The cost of living is very low and even with a salary of less than US$1000/month you live better than 95% of the population. Even here in Taiwan, which is plush compared to India, as a western expat you make 50% more than most locals just by virtue of your passport.

I was asked not too long ago if I was capable of translating Tibetan because a certain college in Nepal really needed Tibetan-English translators. Unfortunately, I don't know Tibetan yet. I will study it in the future though.

I'm not a scholar and translator of Buddhist texts for the money. In fact I feel ashamed saying I get paid to translate Dharma texts, though that's my reality for the moment. I don't really make that much money anyhow, though without kids, a car or a home to pay for I'm quite comfortable by my own meek standards. I spend 40 hours a week in an office reading and translating texts and essays related to Buddhism. Last year I was sitting in a cafe in Dharamsala, India typing away on my PC and translating a text. I could roll out of bed at 10am, have a late breakfast and then commence working for a few hours before strolling on down to Namgyal Monastery to do some prostrations. One of the happiest times of my life. I have a MA degree in Buddhist Studies and know both Japanese and Chinese with a specialization in Classical Chinese, and strangely enough it enabled me to be a roaming poorly-groomed though sufficiently financed translator. The results speak for themselves:

Image


If I was working in any capacity in the western academic world I couldn't get away being an unshaven bum wearing my Japanese zen outfit.

If you want freedom and adventure come study in Asia somewhere, master your target language (like get really good at it), meet a lot of people, cultivate merit through generosity and service to others, and you'll live better than you would in the west. Asia is where it is at if you want to study and live Buddhism.
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Re: Universities which provide good education on dharma topics

Postby JKhedrup » Sat Oct 06, 2012 6:07 pm

Is that Dharamsala in the background? I'd recognize those hills anywhere!
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A wise man keeps them secret within.
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But a precious gem placed upon it sinks to the depths
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Re: Universities which provide good education on dharma topics

Postby Indrajala » Sat Oct 06, 2012 6:17 pm

JKhedrup wrote:Is that Dharamsala in the background? I'd recognize those hills anywhere!


Yup. That road towards Namgyal has a little shaded seating area, which is where this was taken.
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Re: Universities which provide good education on dharma topics

Postby Yudron » Sat Oct 06, 2012 9:44 pm

I really like to hear what you guys are doing to benefit the Dharma and sentient beings through translating the Dharma--especially when there are pictures involved! I also appreciate you being will to be non-anonymous, thereby taking responsibility for what you write here.

Makes me want to move to Asia. But, that is not what my lamas want from me, and I am used to the comforts of American life... at least for the time being.
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Re: Universities which provide good education on dharma topics

Postby Namgyal » Sat Oct 06, 2012 11:58 pm

In the UK Edinburgh is also good for Sanskrit, and Cambridge for Central Asia. Unfortunately Huseng is quite correct, in the West you will constantly feel a pair of shears clipping at your tail, and if you are unlucky your entire department will get sliced away while you are in the middle of it (happened to me twice). Since there are no longer viable careers in these subjects you need to carefully consider your personal motivation for studying these subjects in the first place. If it because you love the subjects themselves then you should plan to put yourself in a position where you will be most happy in the future, along the lines that Huseng has suggested.
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Re: Universities which provide good education on dharma topics

Postby Indrajala » Sun Oct 07, 2012 2:25 am

Raksha wrote:In the UK Edinburgh is also good for Sanskrit, and Cambridge for Central Asia. Unfortunately Huseng is quite correct, in the West you will constantly feel a pair of shears clipping at your tail, and if you are unlucky your entire department will get sliced away while you are in the middle of it (happened to me twice). Since there are no longer viable careers in these subjects you need to carefully consider your personal motivation for studying these subjects in the first place. If it because you love the subjects themselves then you should plan to put yourself in a position where you will be most happy in the future, along the lines that Huseng has suggested.
:namaste: R.


I was once told if you did Buddhist Studies in decades past you could decide where you'd be working. Now the jobs are scarce and graduates numerous. Now the subject in religious studies getting all the attention is Islam.

In any case, a lot of academic Buddhology in the west is of questionable value. Rehashing old arguments, offering new opinions on long standing unresolved questions, or revisionist readings of Buddhism used to address modern social issues...

The law of diminishing returns is also in effect. When Conze and Lamotte were doing their thing they covered much of the field and even with a few scholars they developed it greatly. Now there are many more scholars, a lot more money spent on research, and yet the results are not as bountiful. There are still unexplored areas, of course, and translations are always needed (but translations don't count for so many tenure points), though it isn't like in previous generations. Now you might spend great amounts of time figuring out which branch of the Mahāsāṃghikas Nāgārjuna belonged to (which is probably going to be inconclusive anyway). This is of course useful but not like in the previous generations where the same amount of time and energy invested produced a lot more. There are still great new works on Buddhism being produced, though it often builds on earlier research and just expands on it rather than uncovering new things.

If you researched Central Asian stuff there might be uncharted territories, but that's not an easy subject to pursue by any means, and you won't have much of an audience.
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Re: Universities which provide good education on dharma topics

Postby Sara H » Sun Oct 07, 2012 9:22 am

Reading this makes me a bit sad, but I know it will also change.
There are some of us working hard to bring Buddhism a home in the west.

These seeds take time to flower and grow.

The lotus stem has to travel through a lot of mud and water before it flowers on the surface.

I know it may not be fully grown in our lifetime, but it is satisfying work nonetheless.

I've already seen the west changing because of it.
It's interesting that the military teaches "Mindfulness training"
Hehehe, good for them, for practicing bringing their minds back to the present moment.
Business's are teaching that too as a business enhancement technique.
Hehehe, you know greed, can sometimes be useful... lol

Some of the seeds planted may not take, but like a good forrest, with time and practice, I think the Dharma will grow nicely here.

Eventually we'll have nice strong tree's. Err, Lotuses.. : )

One thing's for sure, the ground is certainly fertile for it. *smiles warmly*

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Re: Universities which provide good education on dharma topics

Postby Namgyal » Sun Oct 07, 2012 11:43 am

Huseng wrote:In any case, a lot of academic Buddhology in the west is of questionable value. Rehashing old arguments, offering new opinions on long standing unresolved questions, or revisionist readings of Buddhism used to address modern social issues...

The law of diminishing returns is also in effect. When Conze and Lamotte were doing their thing they covered much of the field and even with a few scholars they developed it greatly.

If you researched Central Asian stuff there might be uncharted territories, but that's not an easy subject to pursue by any means, and you won't have much of an audience.


Ahh....Professor Conze, Sadhu! Sadhu! :smile: (I love the fact that he spent WWII as a hermit, meditating in a caravan in the wilds of the New Forest.)

My old boss told me that the best way to get ahead in the academic world is to viciously savage the work of another scholar :crazy: Because he was a bit of an eccentric his colleagues conspired against him and eventually forced him into early retirement....he retired to Thailand to teach Western academic methodology and English to scholarly young monks on a part-time basis, and he is supremely happy! So what Huseng is saying Sherlock is that you should cut to the chase and try to find a job like this, which won't make you rich in money, but will in terms of happiness. Further down the line you would doubtless find this out for yourself...Huseng is simply trying to save you a bit of wasted time and effort.
As for Central Asia, this would depend on your gift for languages. If you can master several at once, and are happy to spend your entire life in a musty library then it could be the career for you. The problem is that the texts in are in an absurd number of very different languages; Mongolian, Uighur, Tocharian, Persian, Sanskrit, Chinese, Tibetan etc. etc. An old acquaintance of mine is the foremost scholar in this field and I seriously doubt that he has seen any daylight in twenty years.
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Re: Universities which provide good education on dharma topics

Postby Indrajala » Sun Oct 07, 2012 8:19 pm

Raksha wrote:My old boss told me that the best way to get ahead in the academic world is to viciously savage the work of another scholar :crazy:


That seems to be the way to get people to read your stuff. Your opponent and all their friends will read your scathing criticism. It is like trolling in a sense. It gets attention.


Because he was a bit of an eccentric his colleagues conspired against him and eventually forced him into early retirement....he retired to Thailand to teach Western academic methodology and English to scholarly young monks on a part-time basis, and he is supremely happy!


Some scholars come to Taiwan to do the same thing. It is nice. You get a quiet place to live, a lot of people who respect your work and an easy schedule.

There are also some roaming scholars around Asia who work for a few years in one place and then go elsewhere. They have a nice free lifestyle.

Buddhist colleges are often very well endowed, though they have problems attracting not just students, but scholars as well.



As for Central Asia, this would depend on your gift for languages. If you can master several at once, and are happy to spend your entire life in a musty library then it could be the career for you. The problem is that the texts in are in an absurd number of very different languages; Mongolian, Uighur, Tocharian, Persian, Sanskrit, Chinese, Tibetan etc. etc. An old acquaintance of mine is the foremost scholar in this field and I seriously doubt that he has seen any daylight in twenty years.
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I think I might know who you're talking about. :smile:

I've sometimes thought about doing something a bit off the beaten path like Central Asian Buddhism, though of course that would require mastery of several new languages. I could do it, but I'm not in a position at the moment to pursue such a goal. Just mastering Classical Chinese is a life's work, to say nothing of Sanskrit and/or Tibetan.


One other thing that comes to mind is that if you master Tibetan and have the connections you could even work in remote places like Ladakh in India. There is a large Tibetan college outside of Leh near where the Tibetan refugees have been resettled. It is not too far from the Dalai Lama's summer residence. When I visited I met the principal of the college and he kindly said if I wanted to learn Tibetan I could easily study there. I imagine if you were fluent in Tibetan and could teach a few subjects they'd be more than happy to accommodate you. Most Buddhist colleges like the idea of having a few foreigners kicking around for diversity's sake. The problem is maybe that most scholars would have unrealistic expectations in terms of salary or accommodations. But if you lived like a local and didn't expect anything special, it could be immensely rewarding and just plain fun.
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Re: Universities which provide good education on dharma topics

Postby Tom » Sun Oct 07, 2012 8:40 pm

The other perspective is that if you are a talented scholar and get accepted into one of the very top schools and you do extremely well, then you will get an education, grants and opportunities that can't be matched by attending translation schools in Nepal and India. In any case field work in India, Tibet and Nepal will usually be incorporated so as to develop your colloquial skills.

There are still opportunities in academia and the other opportunities in Asia discussed would still very much be open for someone going down the academic route.

My point is that if you get accepted into Oxford or Harvard then you should go for it. If not, then Nepal and India are not bad plan Bs.
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Re: Universities which provide good education on dharma topics

Postby Nikolay » Thu Oct 11, 2012 12:31 pm

Thought this would be an appropriate thread to ask this question.

I am considering the Rangjung Yeshe Institute's BA program, but I am still having a lot of second thoughts. Apart from the obvious ones (quality of living in Kathmandu, etc) there is one main concern: even assuming that I successfully finish the 3 year course, what will I do next? Suppose I'll have good language skills in Tibetan ( and maybe even Sanskrit), and a good understanding of Buddhist Philosophy. Will I be able to find a way to support myself, and, eventually, my family? Will it be possible to continue my studies and get MA and Ph.D degrees, preferably in a different (for example, East Asian) country? My ultimate dream is to write a Ph.D thesis on Tibetan and Japanese Vajrayana, but this is probably unrealistic.

I would be very grateful for any advice.
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Re: Universities which provide good education on dharma topics

Postby Indrajala » Thu Oct 11, 2012 12:47 pm

mirage wrote:Thought this would be an appropriate thread to ask this question.

I am considering the Rangjung Yeshe Institute's BA program, but I am still having a lot of second thoughts. Apart from the obvious ones (quality of living in Kathmandu, etc)



Around Boudhanath (RYI is nearby) it is pretty cozy. A lot of tourist friendly restaurants where the hygiene isn't a concern. Kathmandu has power shortages and has "load shedding", so sometimes the power is only on for ten hours a day. Though if you go into the cafes usually they got free WiFi even when the power is out. There is western level medical care available in small clinics towards Thammel (the main tourist area) if I recall correctly.

It is 3rd world, but people are so chilled out and mellow.


there is one main concern: even assuming that I successfully finish the 3 year course, what will I do next? Suppose I'll have good language skills in Tibetan ( and maybe even Sanskrit), and a good understanding of Buddhist Philosophy. Will I be able to find a way to support myself, and, eventually, my family?


I think the days of supporting yourself well (as in middle-class) as an academic in the humanities is passing. Places like Germany and Norway have solid funding for humanities still, though that could easily stop sooner or later.


Will it be possible to continue my studies and get MA and Ph.D degrees, preferably in a different (for example, East Asian) country? My ultimate dream is to write a Ph.D thesis on Tibetan and Japanese Vajrayana, but this is probably unrealistic.


You can study for free at some Buddhist colleges in Taiwan (in English too at one of them).

Japan has nice scholarships. So does Korea and the PRC, though I don't recommend the latter.
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