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Buddhist Studies

Northwestern has long been a hub of Buddhist studies. In the early twentieth-century, Tibet explorer and political scientist William Montgomery McGovern (1897-1964) regaled generations of students with stories of his adventures, recorded in his 1924 book To Lhasa in Disguise: A Secret Expedition Through Mysterious Tibet (New York: Grosset & Dunlap). Modern Chinese Buddhist reformer Taixu lectured at Northwestern in the late 1920s, and by the 1960s Northwestern had became the first university in the United States to hire a Buddhist monk as a professor—Sri Lankan monk Walpola Rahula. Now the graduate program in Buddhist Studies focuses on Tibetan, Indian, and Chinese Buddhism, with particular strengths in Tibetan Buddhist revelation (Tib. gter ma), Chinese Buddhist apocrypha, Buddhist narrative literature, gender and sexuality studies, body and materiality, religion and politics, Tibetan and Chinese Buddhist art, and interactions between Buddhism and Daoism. The program is interdisciplinary in focus, with Buddhist studies doctoral students often taking several courses in other departments such as Art History, Asian Languages & Cultures, or History. Other opportunities for interdisciplinary development include the Graduate Certificate in Gender and Sexuality Studies and the Asian Studies Graduate Cluster. Normally applicants should have a good reading knowledge of either Chinese, Sanskrit, or Tibetan before entering the program. Before completing the program, a student must pass exams in one of these classical languages.

For information about the Khyentse Foundation Buddhist Studies Lecture Series at Northwestern, please see here. Also, to learn more about the upcoming Tibetan translation workshop Professor Jacoby is co-organizing to be held at Northwestern Oct 13-16, 2022, see Celebrating Buddhist Women’s Voices in the Tibetan Tradition.

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