The Buddhist Studies in India curriculum consists of three components: Required Courses, Core Courses, and Language Courses.

Students enroll in five courses comprised of three required courses, one core course, and a language course or an additional core course, earning the equivalent of 16 semester credits upon successful completion. Course credits are awarded in Carleton College academic credits. The student’s home institution is responsible for converting the Carleton credits. Please see the recommended credit conversion.


Required Courses

RELG 359: Buddhist Meditation Traditions (required)

Students will complement their understanding of Buddhist thought and culture through the study and practice of traditional meditation disciplines. This course emphasizes the history, characteristics, and approach of three distinct meditation traditions within Buddhism: Vipassana, Zazen, and Dzogchen. Meditation practice and instruction is led in the morning and evening six days a week by representatives of these traditions who possess a theoretical as well as practical understanding of their discipline. Lectures and discussions led by the program director complement and contextualize the three meditation traditions being studied.

ASST 255: Introduction to Field Methods and Ethics (required)

This course introduces students to the skills and ethics needed to conduct fieldwork for their independent study project in South Asia. In consultation with their adviser, students generate an ISP proposal concerned with some aspect of Buddhist Studies (philosophy, ritual, meditation, the arts, culture, etc.) utilizing the unique resources available in India and neighboring countries. The ISP proposal outlines the topic, research methods, and resources located/developed by the student. Topics covered in the course include: introduction to research ethics; conducting a literature review; design and implementation of data collection protocols, interviewing, and survey questionnaires; summary, analysis and presentation data.

ASST 391: Independent Study (required)

Students spend three weeks of the program conducting field work for the self-designed independent study project proposed in ASST 255: Introduction to Field Methods and Ethics.

Students demonstrate ability to carry out an independent study project that successfully incorporates appropriate field research methods and responsible approaches to interpretation of data, and effectively demonstrates what they have learned about their research topic. The progress of each research project is evaluated at regular intervals in relation to parameters established in conjunction with the Faculty Director and faculty adviser. Students present their research at the end of the ISP.


Core Courses

PHIL 318: Buddhist Philosophy

This course introduces students to major trends in Buddhist philosophy as it developed in India from the time of the Buddha until the 11th century CE. The course emphasizes the relationships between philosophical reasoning and the meditation practices encountered in the Buddhist Meditation Traditions course. With this in mind, the course is organized into three units covering the Indian philosophical foundations for the Theravāda, Zen, and Tibetan Vajrayāna traditions. While paying attention first and foremost to philosophical arguments and their evolution, we also examine the ways in which metaphysics, epistemology and ethics inform one another in each tradition.

SOAN 322: Contemporary Buddhist Culture

This course introduces students to the complexity and plurality of Buddhist traditions that have flourished in diverse societies and cultures in the modern era. This course enables students to sympathetically understand and critically investigate various Buddhist traditions and their historically and culturally specific configurations of philosophical beliefs, cultural values, everyday practices, social institutions, and personal experiences. Focusing on Buddhist traditions of South and Southeast Asia, Japan, and Tibet, we explore topics including syncretism and popular religion, monasticism, gender, economic development, social movements, political violence, and religious revival. Students expand their research skills in anthropology through field assignments in Bodh Gaya.

ASST 319: History of South Asian Buddhism

This course provides students with an introduction to the history of South Asian Buddhism. Using primary and secondary sources and resources available to us in Bodh Gaya, we evaluate competing perspectives on the history of Buddhism and debate significant historical and ethical questions. How did Buddhism relate to other ancient Indian religions? What was the relationship between Buddhism and ancient Indian political, social, and economic structures? How did Buddhism change during its 2000 years in India? What impact did South Asian Buddhism have on the ancient and medieval world? What is the relationship between modern Buddhism and ancient Buddhism?


Language Courses

LCST 101: Elementary Hindi

An introduction to basic colloquial Hindi speaking and writing skills for everyday interactions in Northern India. Essential grammar is introduced and reviewed in morning meetings, and conversational and reading abilities are developed in afternoon practice. Students are encouraged to practice speaking and listening comprehension by conversing with Hindi speakers outside of class.

LCST 103: Intermediate Hindi

This course builds on the student’s previous training in spoken and written Hindi language.  Students will gain the ability to initiate and sustain conversations with Hindi speakers, read and write in Hindi about personal and social situations, as well as extract the main idea and information from descriptive and narrative texts. Students will apply their language learning and deepen their understanding of Indian culture through interaction with local residents and participation in seasonal festivals and other activities.

LCST 101: Elementary Tibetan

This course seeks to develop students’ level of proficiency in spoken Tibetan for basic communication, as well as the ability to read and write simple sentence constructions. Learning is grounded in written Tibetan, covering the alphabet, pronunciation, grammar, and basic vocabulary. Reading and comprehension skills are enhanced through direct translation of essential texts such as the Heart Sutra and a prayer of Manjushri. Students gain facility with spoken Tibetan through classroom drills and informal practice with Tibetans in Bodh Gaya. Students will also improve their understanding of Tibetan culture and society through this course.