Buddhism

There are four subfields under Buddhism: Indian/Theravada Buddhism (not currently offered), Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, Chinese Buddhism, and Japanese Buddhism. Students are trained to teach and do research in the histories, languages and literatures, doctrines, and ritual practices of their chosen traditions. Aside from courses offered in the department on these subjects, students are encouraged to take related courses in Anthropology, Art History, History, EALAC and MESAAS to broaden their training. After one finishes the course work and passes the field exams, it is common to spend at least a year abroad to carry out research on the dissertation.

Language Requirements

Since one works with Buddhist scriptures written in Pali, Sanskrit, Tibetan or Chinese, these are the canonical languages in the field of Buddhism. Much secondary literature is in French, German and Japanese, they are therefore also important in one’s work. We recommend that one should spend as much time in learning these languages as possible. As requirement, the following serves as a guideline. For a Ph.D. candidate in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, 3 years in Sanskrit and 4 years in Tibetan are necessary. If the candidate’s dissertation topic involves the use of Chinese or Japanese sources, then Chinese and/or Japanese will be required in addition to the above; if not, one or the other is still recommended. For a candidate in Chinese Buddhism, 4 years of Chinese (modern and classical) and 3 years of Japanese (modern and classical) are the minimum. Similarly, for a Ph. D. candidate in Japanese Buddhism, 4 years of Japanese and 3 years of Chinese are the minimum. If the candidate’s dissertation topic requires the use of Indo-Tibetan sources, then Sanskrit and/or Tibetan will be necessary in addition to the above; otherwise, only recommended.

First Field Examination

There are two advanced field exams in Buddhist Studies. The first is intended to measure the student's mastery of the general field of Buddhist Studies, broken down into five dimensions; 1) canons, 2) history, 3) social sciences, 4) philosophies, 5) religious praxis. Normally, at the beginning of the third year, the student is given a comprehensive bibliography of classic works in these five subject areas of Buddhist Studies, with which every scholar in the field eventually should be familiar. On the basis of this bibliography, the student prepares a personal, realistic list of works to be mastered during the year, with a view to presenting one 40-50 page essay, on a question or questions formulated in consultation with the committee, addressed in a way that demonstrates mastery of the five dimensions. These essays will be presented in April of the third year, and a two hour oral meeting with the committee will be scheduled to discuss questions arising from the essays.  The examination committee may decide on one of three courses of action: (a) pass a student, (b) terminate a student from the program, or (c) allow the student to retake the exams.

Second Field Exam

The second advanced field exam focuses on the student's area of specialty. It should not serve as a dissertation proposal (though in some cases its material might naturally be re-worked later into a chapter of a dissertation). Normally, at the beginning of the fourth year, the student will work out a topic, in whatever area or era of Buddhism. The exam proposal should approach the subject if possible with reference to the five dimensions mentioned above. Thus, for example, if the exam is focused on the history of a 15th century Tibetan Buddhist movement, the life and message of a 13th century Japanese monk, or a philosophical controversy between Indian philosophers, the proposal should consider the literary resources available at the time, the historical nexus the movement, monk or philosophers occupied, the social realities of the time and the institutional changes involved, the major philosophical issues and the relevant religious experiences and events. The field exam proposal will be developed during the first semester, a forty to fifty page essay will be completed by March and a two hour defense conducted by early April.