Course | Masters Programme (Buddhist Studies)
A man may conquer a thousand men a thousand times in battle; but he who conquers himself is the greatest of conquerors. ~ Dhammapada VIII:103
Masters Programme in Buddhist Studies
Buddhism has been India’s greatest gift to Asia and indeed, to the rest of the world. Over the last fifty years, Buddhist Studies has grown into a complex field, with historical, philosophical, linguistic, and socio-cultural aspects which are being studied independently as well as in comparative light. New materials came to light in the last century and have created the need for sustained research into this important chapter in human history.
The MA programme offered by K. J. Somaiya Centre for Buddhist Studies, has been designed keeping in mind the advances made in this field. It will facilitate the creation of a strong resource base in the areas of history, philosophy and Buddhist literature as also in the allied fields of art and architecture. Modern developments, such as socially engaged Buddhism and the interaction of trade and religion have been incorporated, so that students of other disciplines may also participate and benefit from the specialized courses.
In addition, this programme underscores the students’ personal growth, as a result of the exposure to diverse perspectives, to ethical values and their application in responsible citizenship.
The core papers in the syllabus cover all the basic subjects that any student of MA (Buddhist Studies) would be expected to know. The electives have been drawn up in such that students can explore their particular interest, such as history, philosophy, literature, etc. (A detailed syllabus has been attached at the end of this post) Each semester will have four papers, two of which will be compulsory (core papers) and two will be electives. There are two sets of electives offered in each semester and the student will have to chose one from each group.
The course starts on 1, August 2013 and is a two-year full-time course.
The Buddha’s teachings are derived from his experience of enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. He was 35 then, and he spent the next 45 years of his life walking through modern-day eastern UP and Bihar, teaching the path he had discovered. According to Buddhism, we do not see things the way they really are — which is that they are impermanent, marked by suffering and devoid of an enduring, permanent Self. In a universe made of ever-changing, fleeting moments of existence that arise and cease due to causes and conditions, man tends to posit permanence – of his own self and his relationships, or of his views of the external world comprising home and possessions, community, and nation. He engages in actions that enhance these notions of self and is devastated each time he is faced with their impermanence. And so the Buddha says there is suffering in human life, with its root cause being desire. However, he explains the way out of this quagmire in detailed texts that begin with the cultivation of ethical mental states, and involve the resolution of incorrect cognition by refining consciousness in meditative processes to eventually attain the bliss of Nirvana.
The Buddha, although he is worshipped in Buddhist temples across Asia, saw himself only as a teacher; as one who could guide anyone who was willing to walk the path he had defined. Even in his time, his teachings drew a large following. Over the next thousand years, it spread across Asia, in diverse cultural and ethnic groups. Everywhere, it absorbed local religious and cultural symbols, with the result that there are distinct forms of Buddhism prevailing across the continent today.
Relevance of Buddhism Today
Buddhism is extremely relevant in today’s world because it dispenses with dogma and places responsibility for resolution of the human condition squarely on the individual. In addition to the cultivation of wisdom, Buddhism insists that karuna (compassion) is equally important. The texts record how the Buddha was not inclined to live anymore, after his goal of enlightenment had been attained. When he did eventually rise up and start teaching, it was out of his immense compassion for the suffering that living beings experience as they remain trapped in ignorance. It would be fair to say that this emphasis on compassion towards all sentient beings is the hallmark of Buddhist practice. As we find ourselves caught up in a world that hurtles towards strife in all areas – economic, political, as well as the stress of modern, competitive lifestyle, Buddhism teaches how peaceful and compassionate engagement with society is possible.
Who Should Take this Course and Why
According to the University rules, this course is open to all students who have a Bachelors’ degree in the Humanities. Those from other disciplines are also eligible, after they have cleared an entrance test. Such students will be provided with study material to help them prepare for the test.
This course is of interest to two kinds of profiles:
- One, those who wish to pursue a career in academia and would use this base to then go on to do doctoral work and research as well as teach in this field. The scope for this is increasing in India as students are becoming increasingly drawn to the interdisciplinary nature of this field and also to the extent to which Buddhism exercised an influence on Indian religious and philosophical traditions. Added to this is the fact that Buddhism across Asia presents an exciting challenge to those with a research-oriented disposition, as there is more than a thousand-year period of dissemination, with its attendant impact on art and culture.
- Two, this course will also be of interest to those who are seeking to continue education after retirement. Many such persons have enrolled into our Diploma and PG Diploma courses through the years and it contributes not just to a feeling of positive engagement but is also deeply fulfilling as they delve into areas they had interest in but did not have time to commit to.
About the Institute
The K. J. Somaiya Centre for Buddhist Studies is the only institution committed to research in Buddhism in western India. Inaugurated in 1993 by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, it has been at the forefront of bringing visibility to this field in Indian academia. Over the years, a number of research projects have been undertaken, often in collaboration with scholars from Southeast Asia, Europe and Japan.
The institute hosts a biennial international conference which draws some of the best-known scholars in the field. The introduction of an MA (Buddhist Studies) in Mumbai University is yet another contribution by the institute, as the syllabus was developed by the faculty of the institute, with inputs from scholars all over India. The institute is justifiably proud of this effort as the syllabus is one of the finest MA syllabi in this particular field.
Mumbai Campus: +91-22-2102 4338 or +91-22-2102 2537. If you would like more information about the course, you can contact the institute via email at director.buddhist [at] somaiya.edu
A detailed PDF of the syllabus is available for download.