About the ACS PhD Program

The Asian and Comparative Studies doctorate offers intensive study in the spiritual and philosophical traditions of South and Southeast Asia, China, and the Himalayan regions. Areas of emphasis include Hinduism, Buddhism, Chinese philosophy, and comparative studies. With in-depth study in Asian or comparative studies, students also gain an understanding of how philosophical and religious thought is deepened by experiential involvement, an important adjunct to intellectual understanding.

In addition, the program encourages students to apply who have strong backgrounds in non-Asian philosophies or religions and who are motivated to pursue comparative work.  

The PhD consists of a minimum of 36 semester units of coursework and requires a minimum of two years of full-time coursework. Comprehensive exams, dissertation proposal work, and dissertation work will usually take another 2-4 years, depending on the speed with which a student completes their requirements. Of the 36 units, 17 units are to be taken in one of the following areas of specialization: Buddhist Studies, Chinese Philosophy, or Hindu Religion and Philosophy. Students admitted to the PhD with an MA in another area may be required to take additional units.  

The study of Asian classical languages trains the student to gain direct access to the textual treasures of Asia. Therefore, linguistic training in the classical languages of Pali, Sanskrit, Tibetan, or Chinese is a requirement of the program. Other languages, such as Arabic or Persian, may be substituted for those whose work is with material not written in the classical Asian languages. It is expected that the two years of language study will be taken before entering the PhD program. If the two years of language are taken after entering the PhD program, the units for this language study will not count toward the 36 units needed for graduation. Students who have not taken any relevant language preceding entry to the PhD program will therefore need 48 units to graduate. Classical Sanskrit, Chinese, and Tibetan are offered by CIIS faculty members. For training in other languages, this may be undertaken, upon approval by the program, at sister institutions.  

Graduates of our PhD program are expected to:  

1.     Make an original and substantive contribution to the disciplines of Asian or Comparative religion or philosophy

  • Think independently to develop questions, concepts, and methodologies
  • Identify new research opportunities within these fields
  • Reflect critically upon the histories, tenets, and traditions in their major field
  • Keep abreast of current advances within these fields and related areas


2.     Demonstrate advanced research and language skills

  • Synthesize existing knowledge, identifying and accessing appropriate resources and other sources of relevant information and critically analyzing and evaluating their own findings and those of others
  • Master application of existing research methodologies, techniques, and technical skills
  • Master the linguistic skills to critically consult and evaluate the quality and reliability of existing translations with reference to the original language
  • Understand the range of issues in the comparative approach to religion and philosophy


3.     Demonstrate commitment to participation in the community of scholars.

  • Show commitment to personal professional development through engagement in professional societies, publication, and other knowledge transfer modes.
  • Show commitment to supporting and promoting learning through teaching, collaborative inquiry, or professional practice.


4.       Demonstrate ability to situate scholarship in relationship to social and personal transformation.

5.     Demonstrate professional skills.

  • Adhere to ethical standards in the discipline.
  • Listen, give, and receive feedback effectively.
  • Communicate in a style appropriate to the discipline and setting.
  • Develop sufficient linguistic skills, usually in a classical Asian language, to translate religious texts.

Curriculum


PhD in Philosophy and Religion with a concentration in Asian and Comparative Studies (with two years of previous language already taken)

Total Unit Requirement: 36 units  

I. Core Requirements: 20 units

A. PARA 7003 Methodologies in the Study of Spiritual Traditions
B. Area of Specialization: Select 17 units in one of the following areas (examples are given, additional options may be available. A student may specialize in another area of Asian Philosophy & Religion with permission from the Program Chair, and requirements will be adjusted accordingly):

1. Buddhist Studies

PARA 620X Any Tibetan Language Course
PARA 6560 Buddhist Cosmology
PARA 7141 Mahayana Abhidharma
PARA 7210 Buddhist Meditative Traditions in India and Tibet
PARA 7214 Mahayana Buddhism: The School of the Middle Way
PARA 7215 Mahayana Buddhism: The School of Mind Only
PARA 7216 Buddha Nature in Mahayana Buddhism

2. Chinese Philosophy

PARA 660X Any Chinese Language Course
PARA 7344 Confucianism and Neo-Confucianism
PARA 7570 The Life of Chinese Philosophical Terms
PARA 7600 Ch'an Buddhism (Chinese Zen)
PARA 7605 Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu
PARA 7654 The Divination and Wisdom of the I Ching (I Ching 1)
PARA 7655 Confucianism: Classic Texts and Philosophy
PARA 8030 Seminar on Chinese Philosophy

3. Hindu Religion and Philosophy

PARA 630X Any Sanskrit Language Course
PARA 7001 Integral Perspectives on Vedanta
PARA 7230 Studies in the Upanishads
PARA 7235 The Bhagavad Gita: Ancient and Modern Perspectives
PARA 7255 Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
PARA 7275 Orthodoxy, Heterodoxy, and Dissent in Indian Traditions
PARA 7280 The Hindu Goddess
PARA 7285 Hindu Tantrism  

Students doing a PhD under the "Comparative" rubric will have courses in their specialization decided by agreement with the advisor. All other aspects of their course of study will be the same as the other specializations. 

II. Electives: 16 units

16 units from any CIIS program   

III. Comprehensive Projects: 0 units

PARA 9600 Comprehensive Project (two projects that demonstrate breadth and depth of knowledge in a student's chosen field)  

IV. Dissertation: 0 units

PARA 6900 Thesis/Dissertation Proposal Completion (usually takes three semesters)
PARA 7900 Thesis/Dissertation Seminar     

 

PhD in Philosophy and Religion with a concentration in Asian and Comparative Studies (with language requirement)

Total Unit Requirement: 48 units   

I. Core Requirements: 20 units

A. PARA 7003 Methodologies in the Study of Spiritual Traditions 
B. Area of Specialization: Select 17 units in one of these areas (examples are given, additional options may be available. A student may specialize in another area of Asian Philosophy & Religion with permission from the Program Chair, and requirements will be adjusted accordingly):

1. Buddhist Studies

PARA 620X Any Tibetan Language Course
PARA 6560 Buddhist Cosmology 
PARA 7141 Mahayana Abhidharma 
PARA 7210 Buddhist Meditative Traditions in India and Tibet 
PARA 7214 Mahayana Buddhism: The School of the Middle Way 
PARA 7215 Mahayana Buddhism: The School of Mind Only 
PARA 7216 Buddha Nature in Mahayana Buddhism

2. Chinese Philosophy

PARA 660X Any Chinese Language Course
PARA 7344 Confucianism and Neo-Confucianism 
PARA 7570 The Life of Chinese Philosophical Terms 
PARA 7600 Ch'an Buddhism (Chinese Zen) 
PARA 7605 Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu 
PARA 7654 The Divination and Wisdom of the I Ching (I Ching 1) 
PARA 7655 Confucianism: Classic Texts and Philosophy 
PARA 8030 Seminar on Chinese Philosophy

3. Hindu Religion and Philosophy

PARA 630X Any Sanskrit Language Course
PARA 7001 Integral Perspectives on Vedanta 
PARA 7230 Studies in the Upanishads 
PARA 7235 The Bhagavad Gita: Ancient and Modern Perspectives 
PARA 7255 Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 
PARA 7275 Orthodoxy, Heterodoxy, and Dissent in Indian Traditions 
PARA 7280 The Hindu Goddess 
PARA 7285 Hindu Tantrism  

Students doing a PhD under the "Comparative" rubric will have courses in their specialization decided by agreement with the advisor. All other aspects of their course of study will be the same as the other specializations. 

II. Language Courses: 12 units 

12 units from among the following:

PARA 6201 Beginning Tibetan I
PARA 6202 Beginning Tibetan II
PARA 6203 Intermediate Tibetan I
PARA 6204 Intermediate Tibetan II
PARA 6205 Advanced Tibetan I
PARA 6206 Advanced Tibetan II
PARA 6207 Advanced Tibetan III
PARA 6208 Advanced Tibetan IV

PARA 6301 Beginning Sanskrit I
PARA 6302 Beginning Sanskrit II
PARA 6303 Intermediate Sanskrit I
PARA 6304 Intermediate Sanskrit II
PARA 6305 Advanced Sanskrit I
PARA 6306 Advanced Sanskrit II
PARA 6307 Advanced Sanskrit III
PARA 6308 Advanced Sanskrit IV

PARA 6601 Beginning Chinese I
PARA 6602 Beginning Chinese II
PARA 6603 Intermediate Chinese I
PARA 6604 Intermediate Chinese II
PARA 6605 Advanced Chinese I
PARA 6606 Advanced Chinese II
PARA 6607 Advanced Chinese III
PARA 6608 Advanced Chinese IV 

III. Electives: 16 units

16 units from any CIIS program   

IV. Comprehensive Projects: 0 units

PARA 9600 Comprehensive Project (two projects that demonstrate breadth and depth of knowledge in a student's chosen field)  

V. Dissertation: 0 units

PARA 6900 Thesis/Dissertation Proposal Completion (usually takes three semesters) 
PARA 7900 Thesis/Dissertation Seminar