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Master of Arts in Asian Contemplative and Transcultural Studies

Program Overview

Program Length

2 Years

Number of Units




Next Cohort


Related Program

Our Approach

CIIS’ two-year, online master's program in Asian Contemplative and Transcultural Studies teaches and researches the contemplative traditions, practices and experiences of South and East Asia as agents for change in the modern world. The program offers a field of study for scholar-practitioners interested in experiencing personal transformation and in becoming leaders who catalyze world transformation.

A reflective and practical engagement with the contemplative traditions, practices and experiences of Asia can play a significant role in restoring meaning and wholeness for modern populations as well as diasporic Asians seeking deep connections with their roots.

The study of these traditions in an academic environment aims to provide a safe, neutral and critically conscious space for learning, and inquiry distanced from ideological, political or cultic identities. Our program provides frameworks for comprehensive understanding and informed engagement while also offering historical and cultural context and depth absent in popular or sectarian approaches.

To further academic development in Asian contemplative studies, our department also offers scholarships specific for this program. Our program is structured using eight themes that interweave a multifaceted interdisciplinary approach to Asian studies. Coursework and student research incorporate a thorough exploration of the following subject areas: Contemplative Science, Contemplative Arts, Contemplative Wisdom, Contemplative Psychology, Contemplative Psychospiritual Practice, Contemplative Applications, Modern Asian Studies, and Transcultural Studies.

Career Paths

CIIS is known for being a pioneer in the field of Asian Contemplative and Transcultural Studies. Students of our program are offered the expertise and experience of our University’s 50-year history with the subject. 

Graduates from our program go on to work as:

  • Educators, researchers, and writers
  • Counselors and mental health professionals
  • Artists and museum curators
  • Community planners and activists
  • Cultural relation experts


The master’s in East-West Psychology with a concentration in Asian Contemplative and Transcultural Studies at CIIS is a two-year, online M.A. program consisting of 36 units.

The program curriculum consists of 23 units of required courses (core courses and required and directed electives) from the principal areas of the program in psycho-spiritual practice, including eastern, western, indigenous, contemporary participatory spirituality, and socially-engaged practices and service learning. The program also includes an additional 13 units of electives in areas of the student’s choice.

The concentration also offers a certificate in Yoga Studies. An appropriate combination of core and elective courses are required for receiving this certificate. It can also be taken separately from the degree concentration and applied as a stackable component to the degree if desired.

Additionally, the following scholarship is available specifically for students of this master's program: Michael and Gityjoon Hebel Scholarship.

Curriculum Highlights

EWP 6043: Introduction to Yoga Psychology (3 units) Yoga is a term with both a broad and general meaning and a narrower and specialized meaning in the country of its origin. The west has its history of reception of the term, which has colored its meanings. In this course, we will look at the broader understanding of yoga as a pervasive Indic cosmo-psychology and an occult anatomy with its archive of practices, cultural expressions and goals related to life-choices. Taking a historical approach, we will explore the roots of yoga practice in the Indus Valley, the cosmological and psychological maps of the Vedas and Upanishads, the occult world of deities and supernaturals, the psychology of ritual, soul and reincarnation, the constitution of human nature, the psychology of knowledge, moksha and samadhi, the Gita's synthesis, the will and its uses, bhakti or devotion, the Tantric system of kundalini and the chakras; siddhis or paranormal powers, and cultural expressions influenced by these understandings. Finally, we will consider attempts at integrating these structures and processes and the utilities of yoga psychology to (post-)human potential.

EWP 8799 Ancient Chinese Landscape Poetry and Spiritual Ecology (3 units) Ancient Chinese landscape (shanshui, or mountain-river, in Chinese) poetry and paintings are a unique genre remarkable for their spiritually transformative powers as well as their aesthetic appreciation of nature and Daoist cosmology. This course explores the characteristic features of landscape poetry, including dissolving the subject/object dichotomy; timeless, selfless spontaneity; and the dramatic manifestation of the experience of expansive mind in identifying with mountains and rivers. The course will explore the ways in which ancient Chinese poets viewed the natural world and how their heart-minds may have been transformed by Daoist spirituality, which is best described as spiritual ecology in contemporary discourse. Students will take the time to cultivate themselves spiritually as they quiet their minds prior to reading and discussing the poems, and also walk mindfully outside in the natural world while reflecting on the poems’ meanings.

EWP 6028 Magic and Mysticism: The Eastern Magical Traditions (3 units) Magical traditions are usually associated with the acquisition of personal power, while mystical traditions are more often associated with surrender to higher spiritual ones. Both, however, may incorporate meditation, theurgy (rituals meant to draw down higher powers into the human sphere), thaumaturgy (the working of miracles), and communication with deities or demons in service of spiritual development. In this course we will look at the confluence of these two traditional paths of knowledge within Eastern traditions and view them as intimately related attempts to transcend the ordinary through mastery of the imaginal realm. Among the traditions surveyed will be the Earth-based beliefs and practices of East and South Asia, and Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Taoist, and Indian Sufi schools of thought.

  • Year 1 | Fall

    EWP 6001 Introduction to East-West Psychology (2 units)

    EWP 6000 Community Retreat (1 unit)

    EWP 6043: Introduction to Yoga Psychology (3 units)

    TSD 6641 Krishnamurti and Bohmian Dialogue and Inquiry (3 units)

    Year 1 | Spring

    EWP 6330 Knowledge Work and the Modern Academy (1 unit)

    EWP 9106 Contemplative Traditions and Practices (3 units)

    EWP 6466 Introduction to Chinese Philosophy and Psychology (3 units)

    Year 1 | Summer

    EWP 6114: Auroville: An Immersive Research Experience (3 units)

    Year 2 | Fall

    EWP 6034 Modernity, Colonialism and Transcultural Hermeneutics (3 units)

    EWP 6124 Chan/Zen Buddhism in Life and Art (3 units)

    PARA 7225: Yoga Sutra of Patanjali (3 Units)

    Year 2 | Spring

    EWP 6326 Chinese Body-Mind Healing Systems: An Interdisciplinary Approach (3 units)

    EWP 6128 Integral Yoga Psychology (3 units)

    EWP 6015 Integrative Seminar (1 unit)

    Year 2 | Summer

    EWP 6321 How to Cultivate Qi (Life Energy) (1 unit)

Entry Requirements

An undergraduate major in psychology is not required, but applicants should have a strong interest in psychology. Students with insufficient background in psychology may be required to take specific courses while in the program.

Successful candidates for admission into our M.A. programs typically have the following qualifications: a vision that is compatible with our program's mission; a path of personal and/or spiritual growth; sufficient maturity and stability to pursue independent inquiry; basic competence in communication and dialogical skills; demonstration of respect for a diversity of viewpoints; the ability to clearly articulate educational and professional goals; basic scholarly writing skills; and the capacity to identify a prospective specialization that is consistent with the program's mission and resources. 

  • Online Admissions Application: Begin the application process by submitting an online graduate application at the link below and submitting the non-refundable $65 application fee payment.

    Degree Requirement: An undergraduate degree (B.A., B.S., or the equivalent) from an accredited college or university.

    Minimum GPA: A GPA of 3.0 or higher in previous coursework is required. However, a GPA below 3.0 does not automatically disqualify an applicant and CIIS will consider a prospective student whose GPA is between 2.0 and 3.0. These individuals are required to submit a GPA Statement and are encouraged to contact our Admissions Team to discuss their options.

    Transcripts: Official transcripts from all accredited academic institutions attended where 7 or more credits have been earned. If transcripts are being mailed to CIIS, they must arrive in their official, sealed envelopes. Transcripts from institutions outside the US or Canada require a foreign credit evaluation through World Education Services (WES) or CIIS will also accept foreign credential evaluations that are in a comprehensive course-by-course format from the current members of the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES).

    Autobiographical Statement: A four-to-six page (typed, double-spaced) introspective autobiographical statement discussing your values, emotional and spiritual insights, aspirations, and life experiences that have led to your decision to apply.

    Goal Statement: A one-page (typed, double-spaced) statement of your educational and professional objectives.

    Academic Writing Sample: A writing sample of eight to ten pages (typed, double-spaced) that demonstrates your capacity to think critically and reflectively and demonstrates graduate level writing abilities. A sample that uses outside sources must include proper citations. You may submit copies of previous work, such as a recent academic paper, article, or report that reflects scholarly abilities.

    Two Letters of Recommendation: Letters of recommendation will be accepted from academic advisors, professors, professional supervisors, or someone able to attest to your ability to undertake the work required for your program. Recommenders should use standard business format and include full contact information-name, email, phone number, and mailing address.

    Candidate Selection

    Successful candidates for admission into our M.A. program typically have the following qualifications: a vision that is compatible with our program's mission; a path of personal and/or spiritual growth; sufficient maturity and stability to pursue independent inquiry; basic competence in communication and dialogical skills; demonstration of respect for a diversity of viewpoints; the ability to clearly articulate educational and professional goals; basic scholarly writing skills; and the capacity to identify a prospective specialization that is consistent with the program's mission and resources.

Our Department in Action

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