PhD Programs in Buddhist Studies in Asia

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sherabzangpo
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PhD Programs in Buddhist Studies in Asia

Postby sherabzangpo » Fri Jun 14, 2013 6:10 am

This is just for the future. Next month I'm starting an online Masters program in Buddhist Studies through the International Buddhist College of Thailand which ends in April 2016 (it's a 3 year program which actually totals 2 years and 9 months). After that I'd like to get a PhD in Buddhist Studies (or some related field -- I'd be interested in doing Sanskrit or Chinese but doubt I could enter into a PhD program in those subjects without a Masters in those fields). At present there are no legitimate online PhD programs in Buddhist Studies available that I know of. So I will probably have to move somewhere. In a way I'd like to stay in India (I live in Dharamsala) so that I can stay close to my Tibetan Buddhist studies. In another way, a few things turn me off from the idea of doing a PhD in India. One, the weather in most of the places that I could potentially go (The Central Institute of Tibetan Studies in Varanasi etc.) would be hard for me to deal with; I can't really see myself anywhere on the plains in India. Two, the status of a degree from India would not be as good as most other countries (although still better than some, ie Nepal). Three, things are just run so poorly and are so disorganized in India and also with the Tibetans, that I fear I would have to jump through hoops of BS on a regular basis at any Indian or Tibetan college in India. Fourth, dealing with the often rather overt racism of the Indians and Tibetans in an academic context may be hard to deal with as a PhD candidate (probably mainly with the administration; anyone who has lived in India/Nepal for a long time knows what I am talking about). Even the most "Western" option, Rangjung Yeshe, doesn't seem that appealing on several counts. However I'd like to stay in Asia, for a lot of reasons, and ideally in a Mahayana country. In terms of countries other than India, Taiwan seems like the most ideal, since it's Mahayana, affordable, has a strong connection with Tibetan Buddhism, and Chinese is pretty much the most important language after Sanskrit for Tibetan Buddhist studies. I'm also interested in Japan and maybe Korea, though I worry that they would be too expensive. Mongolia might be cool. Most of the other Asian countries don't seem that terribly appealing or appropriate for Tibetan/Mahayana/Vajrayana studies, for fairly obvious reasons. One thing I should mention is that I'm not interested in living a dormitory/monastic lifestyle and need a good amount of privacy and freedom. Availability of decent and affordable housing is a must.

Any suggestions? This is three years from now but I'd like to start thinking about it now. I'm open to any suggestions for universities in Asia with PhD/doctoral programs in Buddhist Studies, whether in India or anywhere else in Asia.
Last edited by sherabzangpo on Fri Jun 14, 2013 6:38 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: PhD Programs in Buddhist Studies in Asia

Postby Indrajala » Fri Jun 14, 2013 6:33 am

tad etat sarvajñānaṃ karuṇāmūlaṃ bodhicittahetukam upāyaparyavasānam iti |

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Re: PhD Programs in Buddhist Studies in Asia

Postby sherabzangpo » Fri Jun 14, 2013 6:43 am

Where are you now? I've been reading your posts and websites with much interest. If you come up to Dharamsala, let me know, it would be great to meet you. Thanks for the advice, I will reply shortly.

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Re: PhD Programs in Buddhist Studies in Asia

Postby Indrajala » Fri Jun 14, 2013 6:51 am

tad etat sarvajñānaṃ karuṇāmūlaṃ bodhicittahetukam upāyaparyavasānam iti |

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Re: PhD Programs in Buddhist Studies in Asia

Postby sherabzangpo » Fri Jun 14, 2013 7:01 am

I'm an American with a 10 year visa, with 4 years left on it. At least I got that out of being born an American :buddha1:

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Re: PhD Programs in Buddhist Studies in Asia

Postby Indrajala » Fri Jun 14, 2013 7:08 am

tad etat sarvajñānaṃ karuṇāmūlaṃ bodhicittahetukam upāyaparyavasānam iti |

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Re: PhD Programs in Buddhist Studies in Asia

Postby Huifeng » Fri Jun 14, 2013 7:13 am

I assume that you have checked out the H-Buddhism page...?
https://www.h-net.org/~buddhism/GradStudies.htm

This side of things, ie. around greater China (PRoC, Taiwan RoC, HK, Macau), the only places that offer anything like this in English that I am aware of are the Centre of Buddhist Studies at the University of Hong Kong, and the Department of Buddhist Studies at Fo Guang University. The former is my alma mater, the latter is where I now teach.

1. At HKU, there is a very large MBS (Masters of Buddhist Studies) program, all taught in English (pretty much all classes at HKU are taught in English). It's one year full time, or two part time. There is also a fairly good MPhil / PhD program, likewise in English. However, there is a long line to get into the latter, and unless one is super qualified, definitely best to do the MBS there first, and then use that to apply for the MPhil / PhD once the faculty get to know you. Even then, may have to wait a year or two to get in. I only know of one person in the past 7 years who has gone straight from the MBS to PhD, and that person graduated top in the MBS class. The program there is very strong in early to mid period Indian Buddhism. They have a bit of Chinese Buddhism. And sometimes they have someone doing some Tibetan Buddhism, Japanese Buddhism, or the like. Great for Pali Buddhism, Agama / Nikaya studies, Abhidharma / Abhidhamma, and Yogacara; some modern Chinese Buddhism, too. Other stuff, not so strong. One can definitely learn some Pali and Sanskrit here, but strangely few language requirements (though if you don't have the languages, you obviously can't work with some subjects or profs).
http://www.buddhism.hku.hk/programme_02.htm

2. At FGU, there are several programs, a BA in Buddhist Studies taught in Mandarin, two MA tracks in Mandarin and English respectively, and a PhD program which is kind of taught in both Mandarin and English (a lot of classes are co-taught with the MA tracks). The main focus is Chinese Buddhism, but also have pretty good Indian Buddhism from the early period, Abhidharma and Mahayana periods. We also have a Prof who teaches Tibetan language and Tibetan Buddhism. Most language classes are taught at undergrad level, so MA students who need to make up language requirements have to sit in on undergrad language classes. Exception being classical Chinese, taught in English.
http://buddhist.fguweb.fgu.edu.tw/front ... tegory=101
http://buddhist.fguweb.fgu.edu.tw/front ... ategory=76
http://buddhist.fguweb.fgu.edu.tw/front ... ategory=77

None of these are online. Personally, I wouldn't be a big fan of an online degree. Doing the actual courses and then later keeping online correspondence while doing research is a different matter, though.

As for degree recognition, in academic circles, with a couple of exceptions, the North Americans and Europeans generally recognize each other, plus good universities in Australia and New Zealand, and maybe the very best in East Asia like Tokyo, Beijing, Hong Kong and the like. Others? ... generally considered second class, or worse. Of course, there are exceptions, and if one does excellence research, writes a top class book, then who cares where their degree is from!

HKU is on HK Island. Some foreign students live on Lamma Island, and travel in for class. Sweet deal. Lamma Island is the hippie home of Hong Kong. FGU is on the side of a mountain in Ilan, surrounded by forest, often shrouded in clouds, looking out over to the Pacific Ocean. It's clean and natural, a little remote, but rains a lot.

~~ Huifeng


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Re: PhD Programs in Buddhist Studies in Asia

Postby yegyal » Fri Jun 14, 2013 7:21 am


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Re: PhD Programs in Buddhist Studies in Asia

Postby Indrajala » Fri Jun 14, 2013 7:24 am

tad etat sarvajñānaṃ karuṇāmūlaṃ bodhicittahetukam upāyaparyavasānam iti |

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Re: PhD Programs in Buddhist Studies in Asia

Postby Huifeng » Fri Jun 14, 2013 7:39 am

Bhante,

I'd tend to agree, though for Buddhist studies at least, I know of a number of (very good) Western scholars who have great respect for Buddhist studies at Tokyo, Otani, Soka, Komazawa and the like. Often it's a case of have your Harvard / Stanford / Princeton / Berkeley / Leiden / Oxford / (whatever) student do their candidacy in the USA, but then spend at least a year with a specialist Prof in places such as these. I know a number of USA University students who do this, and professors who instruct their students to do this.

Should note: By "recognized", there are two senses. One, the technical, as in they do usually accept that a degree from these places is indeed a degree. Two, the sense of think that it is of any great worth or not. Really, I'm just talking about the latter here (and think that Bhante above is thinking likewise).

While in the West it is true that it is considered that a PhD should provide some original findings, but to be honest, this is not always the case at all. In Buddhist studies, I often feel that even at top universities, maybe only 25% are really breaking any ground. The rest are just a good in depth study which clarifies what has gone before (as described above). Takes a rare combination of student and teacher for such things...

~~ Huifeng


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Re: PhD Programs in Buddhist Studies in Asia

Postby Huifeng » Fri Jun 14, 2013 7:44 am

Sherabzangmo,

Oh, should have mentioned above. You may or may not be aware of this, but the International Buddhist College in Thailand (if it's the one I am thinking of) is very closely connected with the Centre of Buddhist Studies at Hong Kong University. The IBC was set up by the Malaysian Chinese Mahayana tradition monk Ven. Wuwei. He is a very old friend (from high school!) of Ven. Prof. KL Dhammajoti, who is the top scholar at HKU. He in turn knows all the rest of the HKU people, with strong links to Kelaniya in Sri Lanka. So... a large number of the IBC faculty are also with HKU, or are former students there. This may include Prof. Endo, Ven. Prof. Guang Xing, Prof. Karunadasa, Ven. Prof. Anuruddha, Ven. Chandaratana, Ven. Zhenjue, and Ven. Zhenchan (plus others). So, that may provide you with a good link to the HKU program, though, as noted above, their queue for the PhD program is very long indeed....

~~ Huifeng


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Re: PhD Programs in Buddhist Studies in Asia

Postby JKhedrup » Fri Jun 14, 2013 7:54 am

I will be in Leiden with Geshe Sonam for a blessing ritual this afternoon. There is a former translator studying there who completed the same translator training program that I did in Dharamsala. She is currently doing the PhD program studying something related to Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. I will see if I can talk to her a little bit about her experiences, and share it with the forum.

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Re: PhD Programs in Buddhist Studies in Asia

Postby JKhedrup » Fri Jun 14, 2013 8:05 am

Though the title is about programs in Asia I thought I would mention U of T as people were talking about the difficulty of some degrees from Asian universities being accepted.

I completed my BA at the University of Toronto and it has been a bit of a dream to upgrade my degree with graduate studies in Buddhism there, though since monks are not allowed to accumulate debt it is not very realistic (plus I might not be able to continue working with a fantastic geshe, which, although it doesn't lead to a degree, leads to a much better understanding of the Dharma).

Still, I encourage you to check out the situation at U of T as it is a widely respected Western academic institution and a degree from there would be broadly accepted in most places. Recently U of T and Columbia University launched a Tibetan studies partnership which could be very interesting. You can read about it here: http://www.religion.utoronto.ca/univers ... #more-5222

Here is the page about developments in the Buddhist studies program at the University of Toronto: http://www.religion.utoronto.ca/program ... t-studies/

http://buddhiststudies.chass.utoronto.ca/

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Re: PhD Programs in Buddhist Studies in Asia

Postby Zhen Li » Fri Jun 14, 2013 9:45 am

JKhedrup. At UofT, you can generally get funding for most PhD programmes. Masters programmes aren't funded, but with your prior skills in Tibetan, you may be able to work as a research assistant while studying, which would act as funding. But it all depends on who is doing what project, and whether you would be an asset to whichever professor's work.

sherabzangpo. While there are Asian options, I'm not sure why you want to stay there as a be all and end all. If you do a graduate degree in Buddhism in the west, you can probably end up travelling back to Asia for research/ethnography anyways. :thumbsup:
Last edited by Zhen Li on Fri Jun 14, 2013 9:51 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: PhD Programs in Buddhist Studies in Asia

Postby yegyal » Fri Jun 14, 2013 9:47 am

There's this very small place in Japan http://www.icabs.ac.jp/

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Re: PhD Programs in Buddhist Studies in Asia

Postby sherabzangpo » Fri Jun 14, 2013 7:08 pm

Thanks everyone for their responses.

A few things about me:

I'm a professional Tibetan translator and fluent in Tibetan. I've been studying Buddhism for 14 years, and Tibetan Buddhism for 10 years. I've been living in India studying Tibetan language and Buddhism (including high level philosophy) for about 5 years. Not to toot my own horn, but to give you a better idea, from what I've seen, I probably have one of the highest levels of fluency in spoken and literary Tibetan among Western Tibetan language students living in Asia (maybe 5th or 6th place), and I arguably might be the best Tibetan-English translator under the age of 32. But in Buddhist philosophy I still consider myself a relative beginner compared to, for example, people who have studied for years in shedras (I've done quite a bit of philosophical study but probably only totaling the equivalent of a couple years of shedra). My work is becoming somewhat well-known in the Tibetan Buddhist community. You can read more about me and my work at the following links:




This will probably give you a better feeling for my background and interests.

I'm currently involved in a few projects that will be published as books when they're finished and will probably be a big deal when they come out, popular texts such as the Sutra of Golden Light -- 29 and 31 chapter versions -- and the complete Yuthok Nyingthik, etc. I'm also translating orally 5 days a week for a great lama (Lobsang Choegyel Rinpoche) here in Dharamsala, and I think it will become quite a local sensation within the next year.

This is also part of the reason I want to stay in India for a while. To really do textual translation work properly ideally requires being around Tibetan scholars (in my opionion), and I am really enjoying translating for the Rinpoche. Also, I like all of the options I have here for Tibetan Buddhist studies in general.

It was based on all of my previous studies that I was able to enter into the online MA program from the International Buddhist College in Thailand, since I don't have a BA. It's an accredited program through the government of Thailand. It's also rather inexpensive, and seems relatively easy. I definitely want to stay in India for another few years. So for all of these reasons I think that this program is about the best I can do right now.

The suggestion of Leiden seems like it would be the best option for me, since even three years from now, I will probably want to stay in India and continue my work and studies here in the future. That is, if I can really do all of my PhD work here in India and not have to go to Holland more than briefly once a year or something. Actually, my first Tibetan language teacher, Chris Wilkinson, is also doing his PhD through Leiden (he lives in Washington). I will ask him about it.

Anything under China (Hong Kong etc.) is out of the question for fairly obvious political reasons. I also have a Tibetan wife, so as long as we stay together, definitely anything China is not possible, and even Taiwan might be difficult (I am not sure), and if I did go to another country, it would have to be a place where they could secure a "dependent visa" for her.

In a sense, I am not so worried about the status of degrees, since I am not even sure whether I would definitely want to be a professor or not. It's mainly for my own status and respectability as a translator and to more easily get translation grants in the future. But of course the higher the status of the degree, the better. I am not really planning on moving back to the US in the near future, and really anywhere in the West is not that appealing to me at the moment, although things could change a few years down the road. However, the possibility of working as a professor or teacher in the future is certainly one of the reasons that I want to get a PhD. I am a little worried about being "stuck" as a translator or even being "stuck" in India due to my translation work, and so more options would definitely be a good thing.

The whole talk about how American/North American universities don't recognize most Asian degrees in BUDDHIST STUDIES just reaffirms my disgust with the American educational system and society in general. Very self-focused and arrogant to say the least. Not to mention a racket. Turns me off even more than I already am. Most of those Western Tibetan Buddhism professors don't even speak decent Tibetan, which to me is kind of a joke.

Rangjung Yeshe is not appealing to me for various reasons, I am not really into their "thing", I don't want to live in Nepal (for a lot of reasons), they are overpriced, I find their approach rather yuppie-ish and overly "Western Buddhist", and a Nepal degree is even worse than an Indian degree.

Again, an Indian PhD doesn't seem that doable for me for all the reasons I mentioned in my first message.

I would be willing to move to another country in Asia, but probably I will want to stay in India and continue the good things I'm doing here.

I am somewhat more interested in Japan because I have an old strong connection to that country. I used to study Japanese, and lived there for 6 months, and actually attained a somewhat high level of fluency in the language at the time (2005), although I've forgotten most of it. The cost is a concern though.

And as I said, Taiwan seems like a fairly good option for the reasons I mentioned.

I will look into Leiden, since most likely I will want to stay in India. Hopefully they would recognize my Thai degree.

I am not really super-focused on the academic side of things, but I think it's a good thing to do, which is why I am going to do this Masters. A PhD is, as I said, 3 years from now for me, but I want to look into things ahead of time.

I think that's all for now. Thanks to everyone once again for their suggestions.

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Re: PhD Programs in Buddhist Studies in Asia

Postby yegyal » Sat Jun 15, 2013 2:58 am


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Re: PhD Programs in Buddhist Studies in Asia

Postby Indrajala » Sat Jun 15, 2013 3:16 am

tad etat sarvajñānaṃ karuṇāmūlaṃ bodhicittahetukam upāyaparyavasānam iti |

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Re: PhD Programs in Buddhist Studies in Asia

Postby JKhedrup » Sat Jun 15, 2013 6:09 am

A friend of mine studying at a Western university told me that knowing good colloquial Tibetan actually proved an obstacle in his academic ambitions. Due to the professor not being able to get around well in colloquial, he said that she blocked access to research opportunities because she saw him as a threat.

I am inclined to believe this is true, though like some Tibetan translators my friend has an overconfidence that can be off-putting and I wonder if this also may have impacted his relationship with the professor. (He is very good, just not necessarily quite as good as he thinks).

I honestly would have no idea how to cope in the academic world. Is it better to keep your head down and just do the work, or do have to "sell yourself" and be super-confident in order to succeed in academics? Translating for a Geshe you are very rarely in direct competition, though from time to time other translators will come to teachings, especially when you start out somewhere (to make sure you can do the job). I hear that academia is cut-throat competitive, but have no idea if this is just a myth.

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Re: PhD Programs in Buddhist Studies in Asia

Postby sherabzangpo » Sat Jun 15, 2013 7:43 am

Last edited by sherabzangpo on Sat Jun 15, 2013 8:10 am, edited 2 times in total.


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