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Buddhist Studies

 Buddhist temple in Seoul, Korea

A minor in Buddhist studies is an excellent adjunct to majors in such fields as religion, philosophy, American studies, anthropology, art history, Asian studies, comparative literature, East Asian languages and literature, East Asian studies, and the study of women and gender. It allows for a deeper focus in Buddhism, offering an interdisciplinary complement to your major as well as an important credential for graduate admissions.


Listen to podcasts created by Smith students

Students in the spring 2022 course PHI 252 Buddhist Philosophy: Madyamaka and Yogācāra explored the applications of Buddhist philosophy outside of the classroom. They created a series of podcasts to showcase their findings which is accessible at their website Buddhist Philosophy and Buddhist Practice in the Pioneer Valley.

Learn more about the Buddhist Studies Program

Get a helpful snapshot of our program in our latest brochure

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Stay informed about the latest news, events and opportunities in Buddhist studies by signing up for our email list. Contact Phoebe McKinnell for more information. You can also check out the Buddhist studies Facebook page for the latest information on events, photos and more.


BUS 120 The Study of Buddhism is required of all Buddhist studies minors. Twenty-four additional credit hours may be drawn from at least two disciplines, including anthropology, art history, literature, philosophy, religion and sociology, or others where appropriate, chosen in consultation with your minor adviser.

At least eight credits in the minor must be taken at Smith; up to 12 credits of overseas study may be counted. The minor requires one seminar addressing a topic in Buddhist studies.

You should study Buddhism as it is practiced in at least two of the following four geographical areas: South and Southeast Asia, East Asia, the Tibeto-Himalayan region and the West.

The minor should comprise study of both classical and contemporary Buddhism.

Buddhist studies relies on linguistic competence, and students who intend to pursue graduate studies in Buddhist studies are strongly encouraged to study languages; however, language study is not required for the minor.

A maximum of eight credits toward the minor may be satisfied by the study of a language relevant to Buddhist studies (to be approved by your minor adviser). This language might be a canonical language, or a modern language that facilitates research in Buddhism. Credit for language will only be given for courses at the second-year level or above.


Spring 2022

REL 164 Buddhist Meditation
This course will explore classical and contemporary forms of Buddhist meditation theory and practice. It will examine both classical formulations and contemporary expositions with an eye to seeing how the theory and practice of Buddhist meditation are being adapted to fit the needs of people today. {H} 4 Credits
Jamie Hubbard

REL 171 Introduction to Contemporary Hinduism
This course is an introduction to the ideas and practices of contemporary Hinduism in India and the diaspora, with an emphasis on how Hindu identities are constructed and contested, and the roles they play in culture and politics. Materials to be considered include philosophical writings, ritual texts, devotional poetry and images, religious comic books, legal treatises, personal memoirs, as well as ethnographic and popular films. {H} {L} 4 Credits
Andy Rotman

PHI 252 Buddhist Philosophy: Madhyamaka and Yogacara
This course examines the two principal schools of Indian Mahayana Buddhist philosophy. The Madhyamaka school is highly skeptical and critical in its dialectic. The ​Yogācāra or Cittamatra school is highly idealist. The two present contrasting interpretations of the thesis that phenomena are empty and contrasting interpretations of the relationship between conventional and ultimate reality. The debate between their respective proponents is among the most fertile in the history of Buddhist philosophy. We will read each school's principal sutras and early philosophical texts, medieval Tibetan and Chinese commentarial literature and recent scholarly discussions of the texts and doctrines of these schools. Prerequisites: one course in Philosophy or Buddhist Studies. {H} 4 Credits
Jay Garfield 

ARH 280mc Topics in Art Historical Studies: Meditations in Caves
The course is an introduction to Buddhist grottoes of East Asia. We will learn the historical trajectories of Buddhist grottoes, including the development of cave architecture, mural painting, and sculpture. It pays special attention to the site specificity of the visual imageries, and their transmissions, commissions, and functions. The case studies in this course range from the Kizil Caves and Mogao Caves in Northwestern China, to the Yungang Caves and Longmen Caves in the central plains, and the Seokguram Caves in the Korean Peninsula. We will also consider the collecting, preserving and displaying of Buddhist grottoes in the contemporary world. {A} {H} 4 credits
Yanlong Guo

PSY/REL 304 Happiness: Buddhist and Psychological Understandings of Personal Well-Being
What is happiness? What is personal well-being? How are they achieved? This course examines the core ideas of the Buddhist science of mind and how they are being studied and employed by psychologists, neuroscientists, cognitive scientists and psychotherapists. The focus of the course is the notion of "happiness," its cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary definition as well as the techniques advocated for its achievement by both the Buddhist and the psychologist. Prerequisite: PSY 100, REL 105, one course in Buddhist traditions or permission of instructor. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {N} {S} 4 credits
Jamie Hubbard, Phil Peake


There are also many Buddhism-related courses offered throughout the Five Colleges. You can use the Five College Course Guide to find current offerings.

Two Wisdom Academy online courses are available to the Smith College community free of charge:  

1. Smith College Professor Jay Garfield and Central Michigan University Professor Guy Newland recorded The Three Turnings of the Wheel of Dharma. The course, over 10 lessons, provides students with:

  • a solid grounding in the core teachings of Buddhist philosophy
  • an overview of important texts and philosophers from across Buddhist traditions
  • a comprehensive, unified vision of the Buddha’s teachings
  • an explanation of how ethics and metaphysics relate to each other

Smith College students, faculty and community members can log in here to access the Three Turnings course content free of charge.  

2. Professor Jay Garfield recorded Buddhist Philosophy in Depth, Parts One, Two and Three, with each part comprised of 10 lessons. The course provides students with:

  • the fundamentals of Buddhist philosophy across traditions
  • familiarity with Buddhism’s greatest thinkers and writers
  • how philosophy can be used to deepen Buddhist practice
  • what constitutes Buddhist ethics, metaphysics, and philosophy of mind
  • how the core teachings of the Buddha have evolved throughout history
  • the famed teachings on emptiness or Madhyamaka, the philosophy of the Middle Way
  • the influential Mind Only school of philosophy, or Yogācāra
  • how Ancient Buddhist philosophers conceived of the mind and the phenomenal world, and how they debated their views
  • how the influence and richness of Indian Buddhist philosophy helped spread the Buddha’s message throughout Asia
  • how the synthesis of Madhyamaka and Yogācāra philosophy helped form the early Chinese schools, and Chan, as well as the significance of the kōan tradition in Chan
  • how Buddhism was transmitted to Japan, and influenced by the famed Zen Master Eihei Dōgen
  • how the traditions of sutra and tantra were transmitted to Tibet, and gave rise to the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism, carrying on the Nalanda tradition of Indian Buddhist philosophy
  • the distinctive features of the Buddhadharma’s transmission to the West

Smith College students, faculty and community members can log in here to access the Buddhist Philosophy in Depth course content free of charge.  

Faculty Seminar

The Five College Buddhist Studies faculty, along with interested scholars from other institutions in the area, meets three or four times each semester to discuss precirculated, in-progress work of seminar members or of invited scholars. See a list of recent seminars.

If you are interested in participating in our seminar, please send an email to Andy Rotman.

Five College Certificate

The Five Colleges provide an excellent environment in which to study Buddhism, with one of the largest concentrations of scholars of Buddhist studies in the United States. Collectively, we enable students to study most of the major Buddhist traditions. In addition to junior year abroad and other extended study programs in Asia, our academic exchange program with the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in India offers a unique opportunity for our students to study with eminent Tibetan scholars.

The Five College Buddhist Studies 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, enabling them to take full advantage of the resources offered in the Pioneer Valley beyond their individual colleges.




Buddhist Studies

Wright Hall 106
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: 413-585-3662

Administrative Assistant:
Phoebe McKinnell