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Tibetan Studies in India Program

Students on a lawn in India

As part of an ongoing academic exchange program with the Tibetan universities in exile in India, each year the Five Colleges send 15 students to spend interterm studying Buddhist philosophy, Tibetan history and culture, and Tibetan textual analysis in an intensive program taught by the faculty of the Central University of Tibetan Studies in Sarnath, India. This research and teaching university was established and is jointly administered by the Tibetan Government in exile and the Ministry of Education of India. Students live in a guesthouse or hostel on the campus of the Central University of Tibetan Studies.


Yes. We do plan to go to India this January!

Join us for an information session on Tuesday, September 20, 2022 - from 12:30 - 1:15 pm in Campus Center 204.

About the Program

The Location in Sarnath, India

Sarnath is a small village on the outskirts of Varanasi (Benares) in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Varanasi is an ancient city of about two million on the river Ganges and is a major pilgrimage site for Hindus. Sarnath, the location of the Buddha's first teaching after attaining enlightenment, is a major pilgrimage site for Buddhists and an important archaeological site. The program also takes full advantage of its location outside of the ancient city of Benares to visit Hindu temples and museums, attend classical Indian music concerts, and participate in other educational and cultural opportunities.

Living Arrangements

Students will live in a guesthouse or hostel on the campus of the Central University of Tibetan Studies. Each student is assigned a Tibetan "buddy" student from the Central University, and there is ample opportunity for interaction with the Tibetan students and with other friends in and around Sarnath. All participating students must travel and remain with the group.

Is there an application form?

Yes, the form is online. Please follow the instructions on Applying to the Program.

Do I need a passport to apply?

Yes. You will need a current passport with two blank pages for the India visa application. You must have the passport in hand when you apply to the program.

I know that one of my references has to be a professor. Who should the other one be?

Anyone who knows you well and can attest to your interpersonal skills, maturity and suitability for an intensive program in a very challenging cultural context.

What are the selection criteria?

No hard criteria. We look for people who have good academic reasons for undertaking this program and who seem to be academically serious and mature. We try to balance the group by areas of study and to make sure that students from all of the Five Colleges can participate. Having done some preparatory work, or having some previous multicultural experience is an advantage but is not necessary.

Can first-year students apply?

No. First-year students are not eligible for this program.

Are there any prerequisites?


Do I need to speak a language?

English is essential. No other language is necessary, but Tibetan and Hindi are great assets.

How many students go on this trip?

Fifteen from the Five Colleges.

Will our classes be taught in English?

Some of the classes will be taught by English-speaking professors; some will be taught through translators.

What does my fee cover?

Your visa, round-trip air fare from Boston, all transportation, food and lodging and program-related costs in India, ground transport from Boston to your home campus.

What doesn't it cover?

Your passport, getting to Boston, gifts for your mom, stuff you might want to buy in India, your medical preparation, your discretionary spending in India.

How much more money do I need?

That depends on your medical insurance (immunization costs and coverage varies), how far you will be from Boston at Christmas, and how much you like to spend on yourselves and friends. Hard to say in general.

If I am not a Smith College student, how do I get financial aid?

Talk to the appropriate folks on your campus.

If I am a Smith student, can I get financial aid?

Yes. You may apply for an International Experience Grant to help cover the costs of the program.  *Note: any IEG funds awarded will be disbursed directly to the program to cover fees and expenses of the program.

Visit for more information. *Note that the application deadline for this grant may differ from the application deadline for the Tibetan Studies in India Program.  

Can I make my own travel arrangements?

No. You must travel with the group.

Can my partner come?


Do I need all those immunizations?

Yes. It is dangerous to be in India without these immunizations. In order to protect you, other members of our group, our hosts, and the integrity of the program, we require that all students are appropriately immunized. There are no exceptions, for any reason.

If I don't take the course for credit do I still need to go to class?

Absolutely. Participation in all program activities and attendance at all classes is required.

Do I have to attend the introductory classes?


Do we get to tour around India?

No. You will be in Sarnath/Varanasi almost the entire time, except for a weekend trip to Bodh Gaya and Raj Gir and two days in Delhi.

Is this really academically intense?


Where do we live when we are there?

At a very nice guest house on the campus.

What is the food like?

Vegetarian Indian and Tibetan. Very good, very healthy. While vegan diets can be accommodated at the guest house where we will spend most of our time, the program is unable to guarantee accommodations for those with special food restrictions or severe food allergies.

What will the weather be like?

Cool at night, warm during the day, probably no rain. You will need a sweater or light jacket, but also clothes suitable for warm weather.

Please note that this itinerary is tentative and is subject to change.

  • December 27, 2022: Departure from Boston (Logan) 
  • December 28, 2022: Arrive New Delhi 
  • December 29, 2022: Travel by air to Sarnath (date is tentative)
  • January 22, 2023: Travel by air to New Delhi (date is tentative)
  • January 23, 2023: Travel from New Delhi to Boston (Logan)
  • January 23, 2023:  Arrival on campus

Requirements & Courses

Students must attend six introductory classes during the fall semester. Classes are held in Dewey House Common Room between 7 and 9 p.m.

  • Tuesday, November 1, 2022
  • Thursday, November 3, 2022
  • Tuesday, November 8, 2022
  • Thursday, November 10, 2022
  • Tuesday, November 15, 2022
  • Thursday, November 17, 2022

This program is located in a relatively underdeveloped area of India. State-of-the-art health care is not immediately available, and diseases not prevalent in the United States are endemic there. It is therefore essential in order to participate in this program to be up-to-date on immunizations, including measles, mumps and rubella; hepatitis; meningitis; and tetanus. In addition, program-specific immunizations are required, including Hepatitis A and typhoid vaccines and malaria prophylaxis. Students are also encouraged, but not required, to consider rabies and Japanese encephalitis vaccination. We have a very good record of keeping our students safe and healthy, and this prophylaxis maintains that record.

The Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies campus is not fully accessible to those with mobility impairment. If this is an issue, please consult with the program director prior to application. And the institute does not offer psychological or psychiatric services; the program is very intensive and culturally challenging. Those who are in need of psychological accommodations should discuss their needs with their care providers prior to application.

Course Work

Smith students who participate in the program must take the six introductory evening classes at Smith College as well as enroll in BUS 253 Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy and Hermeneutics, a four-credit interterm course. Five College students should check with their home institution or the program director for information about obtaining credit.

While in residence at Sarnath, there will be daily lectures in Buddhist philosophy, close reading and discussion of important Buddhist treatises, hermeneutics and special lectures on such topics as Tibetan medicine, art, history and culture taught by the faculty and staff of the Central University of Tibetan Studies. Arrangements for language instruction can be made for any students who wish to pursue this.

Required Readings

  • HH the Dalai Lama, Freedom in Exile (Harper Perennial)
  • Stanley Wolpert, India (University of California Press)
  • John Powers, A Concise Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism(Snow Lion)
  • Rupert Gethin, The Foundations of Buddhism (Oxford University Press)
  • Sam van Schaik, Tibet: A History (Yale University Press)
  • Melvyn Goldstein, The Snow Lion and the Dragon (University of California Press
  • Ju Mipham, Introduction to the Middle Way: Chandrakirti's Madhyamakavatara with Commentary
    (Chandrakirti Paperback.)
  • Santideva, Vesna Wallace and B. Alan Wallace, trans., A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life (Snow Lion)
  • Paul Williams, Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations, 2nd edition (Routledge)

Recommended Readings

  • Diana Eck, Benares: City of Light (Columbia University)
  • Jay L. Garfield, Engaging Buddhism: Why it Matters to Philosophy (Oxford University Press)
  • Georges Dreyfus, The Sound of Two Hands Clapping(University of California Press)


Jay Garfield

Program Director

Jay L. Garfield is a professor of philosophy, logic and Buddhist studies at Smith College and visiting professor of Buddhist studies at the Harvard Divinity School. He is a specialist in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist philosophy and has been a director of this program since its inception in 1991.

Apply to the Program


Applications and Two Letters of Recommendation must be received by Thursday, October 13, 2022, by 4:00 p.m.

Preference will be given to students for whom this program would be an integral part of their program of studies and who have undertaken relevant preparations (such as the previous study of Buddhism, Tibetan studies or Asian studies.); however, no previous experience is required.

Program Costs

The program costs approximately $2,700, which includes all travel from Logan International Airport and back to campus, accommodations and visa fees. This does not include books, medical expenses, passport or pocket money.

Deposit and Payment

Students accepted into the program must pay a nonrefundable $300 deposit by Wednesday, October 26, 2022, with the balance due by Thursday, December 1, 2022.

Financial Aid

Any Smith College student can apply for an International Experience Grant through the study abroad office, regardless of their financial aid status. Students from other campuses should check financial aid options through their study abroad office.



Letters of Recommendation


Department of Philosophy
Dewey House 106
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063
Phone: 413-585-3679
Fax: 413-585-3710

Administrative Assistant: Liz Krauza

Questions about the Tibetan Studies in India Program may be directed to or to Jay Garfield.