Asian and Comparative Studies MA and PhD Programs
The Asian & Comparative Studies graduate program is distinctive in its recognition that spiritual discovery and practice can contribute to academic rigor in the study of Asian religious and philosophical traditions.
In the Asian and Comparative Studies program, students study several of the world's major religious traditions, engaging new and classical perspectives on Eastern religious and spiritual philosophies.
Our program's San Francisco Bay Area location offers students a resource-rich academic environment that includes distinguished guest lecturers, easy access to scholars and practitioners in Asian traditions, and CIIS public programs and workshops that feature topics such as Creativity in Tibetan Buddhism, Sanskrit Mantra, and Mindfulness Meditation.
Research resources include the CIIS Laurence S. Rockefeller Library and UC Berkeley's renowned South Asian collection.
Other on-campus resources our students have found useful include the Center for Writing and Scholarship, which helps students improve their writing and research skills at every level, the Student Alliance, which provides some funding for conference attendance and presentations, and Career Development Services, which includes support for Fulbright scholarship applications and job searches.
Our Faculty and Community
Students love our program for many reasons. Our faculty foster a rigorous academic environment that also recognizes the importance of and supports a student's overall well-being. We encourage students and members of our wider community to join us for regular community events, including a monthly colloquium series that invites students to share their research on Asian philosophical and religious texts in a supportive environment.
In addition to our core faculty, students also have several opportunities each year to attend classes and free guest lectures presented by world-renowned visiting scholars.
What Our Graduates Do
Our graduates pursue careers as scholars, university professors, and authors, and are also encouraged to envision creative applications of philosophy that may provide employment in areas outside academia, such as business and organizational leadership, social development, political consulting, or personal development.
Our recent MA and PhD graduates have applied their degrees in a variety of ways, and amongst them are secondary and university faculty and administrators, independent lecturers on yoga, Buddhism, and Chinese philosophy, published authors, and founders and administrators of successful non-profit organizations/NGOs in the US and Asia.
About the MA Program
The Asian and Comparative Studies MA Program seeks to create a fruitful and rigorous environment in which students may gain a broad foundation in Asian philosophy and religion, while engaging critically with textual, historical, sociological/anthropological, and practical applications of Asian philosophy and religion.
An MA degree in Asian and Comparative Studies may prepare a student for a variety of traditional and creative applications. Many MA students go on to pursue a PhD program in Religious Studies or Asian and Comparative Studies, while others apply their MA study creatively, such as teaching yoga asana and philosophy around the world, using knowledge of Asian philosophy and religion to promote social well-being in developing countries, or applying Buddhist and/or Chinese philosophy to business and organizational leadership and development.
About the 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. They examine sacred texts and writings, practices and disciplines, historical contexts and sociocultural issues. Language study and close study of a variety of research methods complete the curriculum.
Students gain an in-depth understanding of philosophical and religious thought and are encouraged to include an experiential component as an important adjunct to their intellectual development. Our academic environment includes guest lecturers, public programs, and workshops that feature topics such as Creativity in Tibetan Buddhism and Sanskrit Mantra.
Students develop academic credentials for traditional teaching positions and are also encouraged to envision creative applications of philosophy that may provide employment in areas outside academia. The PhD curriculum focuses on practical skills in research, teaching, language, translation, and cross-cultural communication as preparation for research and teaching in the fields of comparative philosophy and religion and religious studies.