Philosophy: Buddhist Studies in India Program

Students sipping Chai

Summer School at the Central University of Tibetan Studies

Each year in which this program is offered, up to ten students from the University of Tasmania and other cooperating institutions spend one month (end December- end January) at the Central University of Tibetan Studies. They study a curriculum comprising an intensive introduction to Buddhist philosophy, Tibetan Buddhist Hermeneutics and Tibetan History and Culture.

In addition they attend a number of incidental lectures on Tibetan politics, art history and iconography, music and medicine. This programme is taught entirely by the teaching staff of the Central University of Tibetan Studies. The students also participate in a number of ancillary activities, including an Indian classical music concert, tours of Varanasi and travel to important Buddhist sites India, including Bodh Gaya, Raj Gir and the ruins of Nalanda University.

Application Information

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Applications are now open for the 2017/18 Tasmanian Buddhist Studies in India Program.

Program Dates - End of December to End of January.

Applications close  on 15 October.

During this time the students reside on the campus of the Central University of Tibetan Studies. Each student will be assigned a student colleague drawn from the student body of Central University of Tibetan Studies who helps in acculturation and gives a "student's eye view" of Tibetan culture. The course (HPA 276/376) is weighted at 25%. Students are assessed on the basis of intellectual journals and a final examination.

Each group of students is accompanied by two or three staff members from the University of Tasmania and/or other co-operating institutions who oversee the Australian students' programme and teach Western subjects to the students of the Central University of Tibetan Studies.

Philosophy at UTAS organises all travel, accommodation and other essential arrangements in India, and round-trip travel from Hobart to and from Sarnath for all students travelling from Tasmania. Any student enrolled in a university who has completed the first year is eligible. For further information, contact School of Humanities.

Postgraduate students enrolled at the University of Tasmania and University of Tasmania teaching staff are also eligible to spend up to one year in residence at the Central University of Tibetan Studies and/or at the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics pursuing their own research.

You will study Buddhist philosophy as it is presented in the Tibetan tradition, though of course condensed into a brief, three week presentation instead of the fifteen years over which it is studied in preparation for a Geshe degree! The course will begin by explaining 'taking refuge', and will introduce all of the fundamental philosophical ideas common to all Buddhist philosophical schools before examining the distinctive features of each of the major Mahayana schools of India and Tibet. By the end of the course you will have a comprehensive overview of Buddhist philosophy and the tradition as it is seen by Tibetan scholars.

In this course you will be introduced to the methods of reading and interpreting primary Buddhist texts characteristic of the classical Indian and Tibetan tradition. In particular, you will gain experience in the use of written and oral commentary in extracting the meaning or multiple meanings of the compressed verses in which many of these are composed. Your teachers will present these texts to you as they are taught in Tibetan monastic universities. This study will reinforce your philosophical studies and will prepare you for more advanced work with Buddhist texts. You will begin with a short text addressed to lay readers by Nagarjuna, read with two Tibetan commentaries. You will then study the most important text on Buddhist ethics and conclude with a study of the highly condensed Heart of Wisdom sutra, one of the most fundamental texts of all of Mahayana philosophy, which you will read with all of its Indian commentaries and exegetical essays by a contemporary Western scholar. You will hence learn not only how to read texts and to use commentaries, but how to study a text with a traditional teacher.

This course exposes you to Tibetan history from two distinct perspectives. First the history of Tibet will be presented as it is understood within the culture, as a religious and often mythical history of the origins of the Tibetan people, of the transmission of Buddhism to Tibet and of the major religious lineages. The second half of the course will adopt more modern Western techniques to explore the political history of Tibet from its earliest periods to the present, with special emphasis on the early Tibetan monarchy, the establishment of the authority of the Dalai Lamas and the structure of the theocracy, and on Tibet's relations to its neighbours, especially China. This course will not only teach you about Tibetan history, but about the different ways in which people conceive of their own history and construct historical narratives.

Each year we arrange a number of supplementary lectures on special topics, depending upon which scholars happening to be visiting CIHTS and on the availability of regular and visiting professors at the Institute itself. In the past these lectures have covered topics in Tibetan medicine and astrology; art history and iconography; Buddhism in everyday life; Tibetan exile political structures; the cultures of Himalayan India; Tibetan music and dance; Buddhism and nonviolence; engaged Buddhism; the Western sangha; women in Tibetan orders. We cannot predict in advance just how many of these lectures there will be, or what their topics will be, but we can promise a rich program. We will also schedule regular discussion sessions with your teachers in which you can ask questions, and pursue points raised in classes.

In addition to the weekend trip to Bodh Gaya, Nalanda and Raj Gir and your time at the end of the program in Delhi (whence you may be able to arrange a side trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal and other attractions in that city) we will take you on a walking tour of Sarnath upon arrival, so that you will be familiar with the village and with its many temples and archaeological sites and we will go together into Varanasi, take a boat ride on the Ganga and visit important spots in the city (after this you will be completely comfortable going into this marvellous city on your own or in small groups to explore in your free time). We will also host an Indian classical music concert performed by world-class musicians in the Khayal tradition of Hindustani classical music. You can also expect a night of cultural exchange with the students of the Tibetan institute, in which songs, dances and other performances will be exchanged, and perhaps a cricket match, a party or two (in the Tibetan style) and other memorable occasions.

To find out more, please email: Humanities.Admin@utas.edu.au.