Be a Teacher and a Leader

The Asian Philosophies and Cultures doctorate program offers an intensive study in the spiritual and philosophical traditions of South and Southeast Asia, China, and the Himalayan regions. As a doctorate student, you can choose to emphasize Buddhism, Chinese philosophy, Hinduism or comparative studies. Along with in-depth academic studies, students are also encouraged to deepen their knowledge by experiential involvement in spiritual practices and religious traditions. Plus, there is a special program scholarship fund that can provide financial assistance for qualified applicants.

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Our PhD program consists of a minimum of 36 units of coursework and requires a minimum of two years of full-time coursework. Comprehensive exams, a dissertation proposal, and dissertation work will usually take another 2-4 years to complete, depending on the speed with which you finish each requirement. 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.

Degree Requirements:

  • 12 units of required program courses, including research methods, introductory courses, and regional specialization courses
  • 12 units of program elective courses
  • 12 units of general elective courses from any CIIS program
  • 2 comprehensive examinations
  • Dissertation proposal
  • Dissertation
  • PhD students may be required to demonstrate proficiency in one foreign language if it is deemed essential for the student's dissertation research. Language proficiency may be demonstrated by having passed two years of coursework in the study of a language, or additional language study, depending on the dissertation topic.

Below is a list of some of the classes that are offered in this program. To read an individual course description, click on the course title. To view the entire Asian Philosophies and Cultures course list, go to the CIIS Academic Catalog.

Religion and Culture of Tibetan Peoples

This course is an overview of the varieties of Tibetan religious experiences, including the shamanistic folk traditions, the earliest pre-Buddhist organized religion of Bon, and the subsequent development of the Buddhist religious movements, both lay and monastic.

Buddhist Philosophical Systems: Study and Practice

What is the existential role of philosophy in the study and practice of Buddhism? How does an examination of one’s basic outlook or viewpoint clarify the existential pursuit of spiritual transformation? What is the final goal of such transformation? These and allied questions will be explored with respect to the Indian philosophical genre known as siddhanta—i.e., philosophical systems.

Buddhist and Western Psychology: An Integrative Approach

This course is a bridge between Buddhist and Western psychology. A comprehensive psycho-ethical system, Buddhist psychology has influenced Western psychology comparatively recently, but has contributed significant insights leading to new dimensions of wisdom and wholeness.

The old adage "East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet" has been dispelled as an increasing number of therapists investigate this ancient psychology. This course is meant to stimulate further East-West study and assist in the integration of therapeutic and meditative healing modalities.

Hindu Mythology

In this course, we will study literary and religious aspects of Hindu myths. Through the reading of primary sources in translation, the course covers the main divinities and many mythological themes of early Vedic as well as later Puranic literature. We will follow the development of mythology from the Rig Veda to the epics—the Mahabharata and the Ramayana—and up to the classical mythology of the Sanskrit Puranas.

Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother

This course covers the basics of Integral Yoga, based on a selection of conversations and letters from Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Focus is placed on basic principles of yoga psychology, especially the spiritual or yogic attitudes to life that should be developed; on the nature, planes, parts, and possibilities of the human consciousness; approaches toward becoming more conscious of the various parts of our being and achieving a harmonization of them; and conversations of the Mother about the advent of the supramental consciousness on earth and of her work on the transformation of the physical body.

Students will also be directed to online information about the lives of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, their ashram in Pondicherry, India, the experimental city of Auroville, and other aspects of their work. The course will proceed through readings and discussions of the material, a research paper, and two essay tests on the primary concepts covered.

Life Wisdom of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu

This course will cover the principal texts of Taoist thought and practice.

Confucianism: Classic Texts and Philosophy

This course covers the teachings of China’s great philosopher and teacher, drawn from the Analects, the Great Learning, the Doctrine of the Mean, and the Works of Mencius.

Methodologies in the Study of Spiritual Traditions

This course covers the major modern approaches to the methodology and study of religions and spiritual traditions.

Independent Study

Independent studies are coursework that extends a student’s field of inquiry beyond current CIIS courses. Independent studies require a syllabus and contract signed by the student and faculty member, and approved by the program chair.

Dissertation Seminar

Students in dissertation seminar research and write their thesis or dissertation progress with the mentorship of, and in close consultation with, their dissertation chair and committee.

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