Buddhist Studies Certificate Program

Buddhism began in India some two and a half millennia ago. Since that time it has evolved through a number of transformations and has been transmitted to numerous cultures.

Buddhism has had a great impact upon the lives of individuals and the development of societies, and it has made many contributions to various spheres of culture, for example to art, literature, philosophy and religion.

With one of the largest concentrations of scholars of Buddhist Studies in the United States, the Five Colleges provide an excellent environment in which to study Buddhism: collectively, we enable students to study most of the major Buddhist traditions. In addition to our many Junior Year Abroad and other extended study programs in Asia, our academic exchange program with the Central University of Tibetan Studies in India offers a unique opportunity for our students to study with eminent Tibetan scholars.

The Five College Buddhist Certificate might be pursued in conjunction with a major in philosophy, religious studies, anthropology, Asian studies or another field to which Buddhist Studies is directly relevant. However, it might also be used to support studies in a very different field, such as law, one of the social sciences or studies in the arts or humanities. Students who enter this program will benefit from the structure it provides and from advising by program faculty members, enabling them to take full advantage of the resources offered in the Pioneer Valley beyond their individual colleges.

On This Page

Tibetan Studies in India

Professor William Edelglass runs a fabulous Interterm program at Sarnath, India, where students spend January studying at the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies. Students from all five campuses are encouraged to apply. Applications are available every year in early fall semester.


Maria HeimReligion, 542-8475
Sam MorseFine Arts, Asian Languages and Civilizations, 542-2282
Lei YingAsian Languages and Civilizations, 542-5960

Susanne MrozikReligion, 538-2721
Ajay SinhaArt and Art History, 538-2473

Jay GarfieldPhilosophy, 585-3649
Jamie Hubbard, Religion, 585-3449
Andy RotmanReligion, 585-3348
Malcolm Keating, Philosophy 

Stephen MillerAsian Languages and Literatures, 545-0208
David K. Schneider, Asian Languages and Literatures, 545-4954
Reiko SonoAsian Languages and Literatures, 545-4947


Because Buddhist Studies is an interdisciplinary field straddling anthropology, art history, Asian studies, history, language study, literary and textual studies, philosophy and religious studies, students are often unaware of the integrity of the field or of the range of resources available for its study in the Valley.

Each student pursuing the Buddhist Studies certificate will choose, in consultation with the Buddhist Studies advisor at his/her college, a course of study comprising no fewer than seven courses. At least five of these courses should be drawn from the Buddhist Studies courses listed here on this page (list subject to modification from year to year). Two others may be drawn from this list or may be chosen from elsewhere in the Five Colleges to support the student's Buddhist Studies program from other disciplinary perspectives. Each proposed course of study must be approved by the coordinating committee for the Buddhist Studies certificate.

For students who may wish to pursue a certificate in Buddhist Studies as preparation for graduate study in this field, we strongly recommend the study of at least one canonical language (Sanskrit, Pali, Chinese or Tibetan) and/or the modern language of at least one Buddhist culture (especially for those who have an ethnographic interest in Buddhism). Up to two courses in a relevant language can count towards the certificate, although we strongly encourage these students to continue language study beyond the first-year level. Language study is not required, however.

Students at all four colleges and the University are eligible for the program.

Certificate Requirements:

  1. The certificate comprises at least seven courses, at least one of which must be at an advanced level (200 or 300 at Hampshire, 300 or above at Mt Holyoke, Smith, or UMass; comparable upper-level courses at Amherst). 
  2. Students must take at least one course in three different disciplines of Buddhist Studies (anthropology, art history, Asian studies, philosophy, religious studies, etc.).
  3. Students must take at least one course addressing classical Buddhism and one course addressing contemporary Buddhist movements (19th to 21st century), and they must study Buddhism in at least two of the following four geographical areas: South and Southeast Asia, East Asia, the Tibeto-Himalayan region and the West.
  4. Up to two canonical or appropriate colloquial Asian language courses may count towards the certificate.
  5. Students must receive a grade of at least "B" in each course counting towards the certificate.
  6. Courses must be of three credit-hours or more to count towards the certificate.
  7. Courses taken abroad or outside the Five Colleges may count towards the certificate only if they would be approved for credit toward the major in the appropriate department of the student's home institution.
  8. Exceptions to these requirements by petition to the student's campus advisor and the Five College Buddhist Studies Steering Committee.

Interested students should contact a faculty advisor at their campus to enroll in the program.

Please be in contact with a faculty advisor on your campus early in your studies to plan your curriculum.


Note that if you don't see classes from all campuses currently listed, they will appear as the campuses release their course schedules for the semester. The five campuses release their schedules on different dates. Visit this page for specific dates.

Fall 2024 Buddhist Studies Courses

Subject Course # Sect # Course Title Instructor(s) Institution Meeting Times
RELI 111 01 Introduction to Religion Monika Brodnicka Amherst College M/W | 12:30 PM - 1:50 PM
RELI 245 01 Indian Philosophy Maria Heim Amherst College TU/TH | 10:00 AM - 11:20 AM
RELI 256 01 The Story of the Buddha Maria Heim Amherst College TU/TH | 1:00 PM - 2:20 PM
RELIG 163 01 Introduction to Buddhism Susanne Mrozik Mount Holyoke College MW 01:45PM-03:00PM
ANT 274 01 The Anthropology of Religion Pinky Hota Smith College TU TH 9:25 AM - 10:40 AM
BUS 120 01 Study of Buddhism Andy Rotman Smith College TU 7:00 PM - 9:30 PM
PHI 112 01 Chinese Philosophy Qianyi Qin Smith College W 1:20 PM - 2:35 PM; M 1:40 PM - 2:55 PM
PHI 253bb 01 T-Indian-Buddhist&Brahmins Malcolm Keating Smith College TU TH 1:20 PM - 2:35 PM
REL 171 01 Contemporary Hinduism Andy Rotman Smith College W 2:45 PM - 4:00 PM; M 3:05 PM - 4:20 PM

Study Abroad

The Certificate Program strongly encourages students to seek out opportunities for studying abroad. There are many wonderful opportunities for interterm, summer or semester programs in Asia.

How do you find a good study abroad program? Start with your campus's Study Abroad website (linked below) for their lists of approved programs for each country you might be interested in. In most cases you are not limited to this list, but if you become interested in a program that is not on your campus's approved list you will need to discuss the program with your campus advisor and the director of the Study Abroad office on your campus to make sure it will be approved. In addition, see below for a list of several study and travel abroad opportunities.

Additional Study and Travel Aboard Opportunities

South Asia Summer Language Institute

SASLI is dedicated to training students, faculty members and professionals in the languages of South Asia. 

University of Virginia Summer Language Institute

The Summer Language Institute of the University of Virginia offers Chinese.

Rangjung Yeshe Institute

Rangjung Yeshe Institute's mission is to be a center of higher learning, working to the highest standards, to provide both traditional and modern Buddhist education through teaching, translation, publication, research and practice.

The language programs offer a full immersion into Tibetan, Sanskrit and Nepali languages. The Buddhist Studies program provides a living exposure to Buddhist philosophy and a practical introduction to the richness of personal meditation training. All summer programs are fully accredited by Kathmandu University.

Woodenfish Project

Woodenfish Project offers students a chance to experience life at Fuyan Temple at Heng Shan (Heng Mountain), Hunan Province, in southern China. All participants will be provided lodging on the monastic grounds. All courses and activities will be conducted in English—or in Chinese with English translation provided.

Himalayan Health Exchange

Himalayan Health Exchange's expeditions combine service, education and adventure to provide care to the underserved populations in select, remote areas of Indo-Tibetan Borderlands. Each trip combines service and adventure, with team members providing care while also experiencing the land, its natural environment, people and culture.

Interexchange Abroad

Experience the juxtaposition of old and new on one of these programs in Asia. Whether you want to see the opulent cities of Turkey, a country that spans both the European and Asian continents, or the incredible modern cities filled with ancient temples in China, their Teach English and Au Pair programs will help you be more than a tourist while abroad.

The Jamyang Foundation

Equal educational opportunities are a global ideal, but in many parts of the world women still lack basic literacy. To address these disparities, Jamyang Foundation supports innovative education projects for indigenous girls and women in two of the neediest and most remote parts of the world: the Indian Himalayas and the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh.

Emory Tibetan Studies Program

Situated in the foothills of the Himalayas and home to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Dharamsala is the cultural and intellectual capital of the Tibetan exile community. The program integrates academic study, traditional Buddhist pedagogy and field research. Emory University and its partner the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics (IBD) offer two study abroad programs (spring semester and summer term) for students interested in both India and Tibet. Both programs are open to undergraduate students from any accredited university.

Summer Language Study in India

The American Institute of Indian Studies offers instruction in Bangla, Hindi, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Urdu, Telugu and Kannada as well as other languages if there is interest. The programs, located in India, have as their goal to provide a teaching and learning environment of professionalism, excellence and integrity and that operates in a joyful and hospitable manner.


Buddhist Resources in the Five College region

The Western Massachusetts sangha of Rime Shedrub Ling (Academy of Non-Sectarian Study and Practice) is pleased to announce the arrival of Younge Khachab Rinpoche, a nonsectarian teacher of Tibetan Buddhism. Email the sangha.

The Barre Center for Buddhist Studies
Barre, Massachusetts

"The Barre Center for Buddhist Studies is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to exploring Buddhist thought and practice as a living tradition, faithful to its origins, yet adaptable to the current world. [...] The study center offers a variety of courses, workshops, retreats and self-study programs to further research, study and practice. Our programming is rooted in the classical Buddhist tradition of the earliest teachings and practices, but calls for dialogue with other schools of Buddhism and with other academic fields. All courses support both silent meditation practice and conscious investigation of the teachings."

Insight Meditation Society
Barre, Massachusetts

"Primarily, we offer instruction and guidance in insight and loving kindness meditations—practices that help bring genuine happiness to our lives."

The Vipassana Meditation Center (VMC) of Shelburne, MA, offers 10-day residential, silent meditation courses twice monthly to the public without charge on an unsolicited, voluntary, pay-it-forward, donation basis. VMC, in partnership with UMass Amherst, is reserving ten spaces for Pioneer Valley, Massachusetts Five College students, faculty and staff for its August 8th and December 26th 2018 courses. Typically, VMC course retreats are full with a waitlist for three months in advance. Vipassana means “to see things as they really are” and is a way of self-transformation through self-observation. It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind. It is this observation-based, self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body that gradually dissolves mental impurity, resulting in a balanced mind full of love and compassion. It was rediscovered by Gotama Buddha more than 2,600 years ago and was taught by him as a universal remedy for universal ills, i.e., an art of living. The technique, taught in a non-sectarian manner, aims for the total eradication of mental impurities and the resultant highest happiness of full liberation. To apply for either of the courses, please visit http://www.dhamma.org/en-US/schedules/schdhara, select either the August 8th or December 26th course applications and identify yourself as a Five College student, faculty or staff member in the application. 

Contact Us

Program Director:

Maria Heim, Professor of Religion, Amherst College

Five College Staff Liaison:

April Shandor, Academic Programs Coordinator


Join the Five College Buddhist Studies email list!