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Philosophy: Buddhist Studies in India Program

Students with the Dalai Lama 2017-18
Image: Students with the Dalai Lama 2017-18

Spring School at the Central University Tibetan Studies, India

University of Tasmania runs a consortia project which is part of a unique exchange program between University of Tasmania, Deakin University, the Five-College Buddhist Studies Program (USA) and Central University of Tibetan Studies (CUTS, India) as the host institution. The two Australian Universities jointly run this project as UTAS-Deakin Australian Consortium of Indian Studies. Each year University of Tasmania and Deakin will send 10 students each and two accompanying academic leaders. This Exchange enables Australians the opportunity to spend one month (end December- end January) at the Central University of Tibetan Studies to undertake a meaningful, risk-managed and well-mentored mobility experience in India.

The Program is co-taught and closely supervised by the joint administration of CUTS, and the Program staff from the University of Tasmania, Deakin and USA. This project offers students a unique and viable opportunity for practical encounters with Asian ways of knowing, in keeping with UTAS’ and Deakin’ focus on Eastern philosophy. Through UTAS-Deakin partnership, this consortia project extends the program to a wider Australian audience, in turn further developing people-to-people and institutional relationships within the region.

Application Information

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Application will close 31 August.

If your application is successful, you have 10 working days in which to make a non-refundable deposit of $500 to confirm and secure their place. Please click the link to make your payment.

The students study a curriculum comprising an intensive introduction to Buddhist philosophy, Tibetan Buddhist Hermeneutics and Tibetan History and Culture.

Students will attend a number of incidental lectures on Tibetan politics, art history and iconography, music and medicine. The program is taught entirely by the teaching staff of the Central University of Tibetan Studies and students 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.

During this time, students reside on the campus of the Central University of Tibetan Studies. Each student is 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.

To participate in the program, approved students will be enrolled in HPA276 or HPA376 Indo-Tibetan History, Philosophy and Culture (25 credit points). Students are assessed on the basis of intellectual journals and a final examination.

Postgraduate students enrolled at the University of Tasmania and University of Tasmania teaching staff may be 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.

Applications close:  31 August

Deposit is due: 10 Sep

The duration of the program is 4 weeks from the end of December to the end of January.

Students sipping Chai

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.

Indo-Tibetan Hermeneutics will introduce you 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.

Tibetan History and Cultureexposes 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.

Students are assessed on the basis of intellectual journals and a final examination.

In addition to the weekend trip to Bodh Gaya, Nalanda, Raj Gir and your end-of-trip-time in Delhi (during which you could arrange a side trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal and other attractions in that city):-

  • you will be be taken on a walking tour of Sarnath upon arrival, so that you can familiarise yourself with the village and with its many temples and archaeological sites;
  • will travel 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);
  • attend an Indian classical music concert performed by world-class musicians in the Khayal tradition of Hindustani classical music.
  • can 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.

Eligible applicants must:

  • have successfully passed one year of full-time study i.e. normally 100 credit points in their degree (or expect to complete by commencement of program).

Before applying, please consider which degree you want HPA276 or HPA376 (25cp) to count toward AND contact your Faculty Officer for confirmation that you have room for this unit in your degree.

Once you receive approval to participate, the School of Humanities will require your deposit so that travel reservations can be made (see Key Dates).

This is a HECS assessable unit. The HECS fees for the unit are listed in the unit description for HPA276/376 located in the Courses website.

In addition to HECS, your contribution to the program is approximately $4,500.00 which covers return airfares from home state to India, all accommodation, full board and limited sightseeing.

If your participation in the program is subject to financial support (other than your personal savings), please check your eligibility for a scholarship or loan before you apply.

New Colombo Plan

Mobility Scholarships ($3000) and limited College of Arts, Law and Education scholarships (up to $1000) may be available to eligible students. You will be automatically assessed for eligibility at the time of application.

OS-HELP loan

Financial assistance may be available through OS HELP or various Scholarship.

The OS-HELP loan is a fee free loan that eligible Australian Government supported students can choose to take out to fund overseas study experiences.

OS-HELP loan debts are accumulated into your other higher education debts (such as your HECS debt) and repaid in the same way as other HELP debts and is available to eligible undergraduate and postgraduate students.

Check your eligibility to apply here

OS HELP Application form

Other Scholarships may be available. For more information please contact Scholarship & Prizes direct

The University of Tasmania's intensive program Indo-Tibetan History, Philosophy and Culture is taught as an exchange unit taught off-campus at the Central University of Tibetan Studies in India.

Up to 40 students from the University of Tasmania (10 students), Deakin University (10 students) and the Five Colleges Tibetan Studies in India Program (the USA, 20 students) will spend one month at the Central University of Tibetan Studies. Places in the program are limited and will be on a first-come-first-served basis.

Minimum enrolment numbers must be met for the program to go ahead.

The School of Humanities and/or the Unit Coordinator will organise 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. For further information, contact School of Humanities.

Each group of students is accompanied by a staff member or two from each co-operating institution who oversees the Australian students' program and teach Western subjects to the students of the Central University of Tibetan Studies.

Students travelling on University business, including India Exchange students, have an obligation to follow the University of Tasmania's Travel Guidelines and are eligible for cover by the University of Tasmania's Student Travel Insurance Policy for the duration of the program.

Further pre-travel advice including passport, visa medical, insurance and cultural advice will be provided upon confirmation of a place or on receipt of your deposit.

If you have any questions about the program or registration, please contact the Unit Coordinator, Dr Sonam Thakchoe.

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