Buddhist Studies M.A. and Ph.D. Programs

Degrees Offered: Graduate M.A., Ph.D. concentrations


The Buddhist Studies disciplinary concentration within the South Asia languages and literature program in the Department of Asian Languages and Literature offers courses leading to the general departmental M.A. and Ph.D. degrees with a specialization in Buddhist Studies. Courses in Buddhist Studies may also be taken in completion of a B.A. degree, or of an M.A. or Ph.D. degree with a specialization in another area.

The program focuses on the study of canonical and post-canonical languages and literature of the Buddhist tradition. Therefore, successful completion of the program requires extensive language and textual study. The program offers a concentration in South Asian Buddhism, with the primary focus of coursework in Sanskrit, and secondarily in Pali, Gandhari, and Classical Chinese.

Related courses in disciplines other than language and literature, such as cultural anthropology, history, philosophy, religion, and ethnomusicology, constitute an important part of the program, and students will normally take courses in these disciplines. The specific program of courses will be worked out on a individual basis between the student and academic adviser. Prospective students should consult with the adviser to the Buddhist Studies disciplinary concentration as to the availability of offerings in each area.


Admitted students will be assigned an interim faculty adviser. Each student is expected to work out a course of study with the adviser which concentrates on areas pertinent to the language specialization. In addition, all students are required to comply with the departmental M.A. and Ph.D. policies and procedures.


The applicant must meet the requirements of the Graduate School for the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees as outlined in the University Bulletin. Applicants to the MA program will ideally have at least two years of Sanskrit training and preparation in the Buddhist history and culture of South, Central or East Asia. Students with one year of Sanskrit will be considered on a case-by-case basis, particularly if they have strong experience in a second Buddhist language or in Buddhist Studies more generally. Students lacking such preparation may be admitted to the M.A. program; however, they must remedy any deficiencies by adding, as early as possible, such courses as the academic adviser considers necessary.

M.A. Concentration

Requirements for Course Work and Credits

  1. For the M.A. non-thesis, 45 course credits, 18 of which must be 500 level and above, are required. Buddhist Studies seminars and text reading courses offered within the department must be included. Students are also required to complete language study through the fourth-year level in their major language. 
  2. The M.A. thesis program requires a minimum of 45 course credits, including 9 thesis (ASIAN 700) credits. At least 18 of the 45 credits must be taken at the 500 level or above. Buddhist Studies seminars and text reading courses offered within the department must be included. In addition, the student must write an acceptable M.A. thesis according to the rules and policies of the Department of Asian Languages and Literature and pass an oral examination.

Ph.D. Concentration

Normally, entry into the Ph.D. program is contingent upon successful completion of the M.A. degree in Asian Languages and Literature at the University of Washington and a satisfactory evaluation by South Asian Language Program faculty. Students with sufficient background, usually the successful completion of a relevant M.A. degree at another institution, may be considered for admission into the Ph.D. program. Students are expected to fulfill the Graduate School's residence requirements (see the Department of Asian Languages and Literature's Policies and Procedures), to fulfill foreign language requirements, to pass a series of examinations (described below), and to write and defend a dissertation. Students who have completed an M.A. in Asian Languages and Literature at the University of Washington with a specialization in the Buddhist Studies disciplinary concentration, as described above, will often have fulfilled the residence requirements for the Ph.D. as set out by the Graduate School. If not, these must be satisfied as the student moves toward the Ph.D. Often, course work will continue to be appropriate.

Students must demonstrate competence in their major language, and must complete the course requirements in a second Asian language. These two languages may include one classical language and one relevant modern language, or two classical languages. In either case, one of the languages must be Sanskrit.

For the Ph.D., students are expected to demonstrate the ability to do original research utilizing primary languages of Buddhist traditions in accordance with their chosen areas of concentration. Students are required to demonstrate competence in their major Asian languages. Where appropriate, students will be strongly encouraged to acquire competence in a modern research language in order to pursue research in the field: for example, in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, China, or Japan. Students are also required to pass three written field examinations selected in accordance with the student's interests. Generally, at least two of these examinations will be directly related to some aspect of Buddhist Studies and a third will fall within the general purview of South Asian languages and literature and have as its subject in an adjacent field or discipline. Once these field examinations have been satisfactorily completed, the student is eligible to take a two-hour comprehensive oral examination, administered by his or her supervisory committee. When that has been passed, students are accorded candidate's status (Ph.C.) and are ready to submit a dissertation proposal. The Ph.D. is conferred once the completed dissertation has been defended successfully before the student's supervisory committee.