Pursuing Graduate Degree in Buddhist Studies

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Pema Yolo
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Pursuing Graduate Degree in Buddhist Studies

Post by Pema Yolo » Fri Dec 14, 2018 11:42 pm

I know this forum is more for academic discussion/debate, but this seems like possibly the best place to put my inquiry. Mods, feel free to re-locate if necessary.

I am looking to return to higher ed for an advanced degree in Buddhist studies, either Grad or combination of that and a PhD. My interest lies specifically in Dudjom Tersar, Dzogchen, and Tibetan language. I have been working on a project for the last two years related to documenting the tersar with self-funding and a small but generous grant. I've realized that going it alone with no institutional support is probably not the most efficacious way to achieve my aims. Also, if I'm putting in the work why not come out at the end with a degree.

So my ask to the community is basically advice related to Buddhist Studies programs, and also their feasibility for a non-career academic – specifically regarding admittance. I started my undergrad degree in my late twenties at a very prestigious art school and got my BFA. I finished six years ago, and have since been off doing my thing. I'm not sure how well a BFA translates into applying for a Graduate degree in another field, but recommendation letters and other requirements seem tricky or possibly not pertinent to my current focus. My final GPA was a 3.4 or so (can't remember exactly, but not a 4.0) and I was active in many things at school. The GRE is probably going to be an issue. I have not had to take standardized tests in 20 years, although I did extremely well on the ACT and basically aced the English portion twice in a row when I was younger. I don't have the resources for GRE tutoring, and frankly it seems like a waste of life, but maybe it's absolutely necessary. However, I believe I can demonstrate a commitment and desire to do this; from my work with my grant, volunteer editing for Shang Shung, transcribing teachings from my teacher, and other not for profit work. And my undergrad program would be considered "rigorous" - most grads going for higher ed are in relatively top-tier schools.

I have been making a spreadsheet of various programs, so far researching U Va, Havard Divinity, Indiana U Bloomington, U Chicago, U Michigan (PhD), and Oxford. These seemed to have the most comprehensive offerings. Chicago (Master of Arts in Religious Studies) and Oxford have no GRE requirement, so I am focusing on them so far. I am still broadly researching other programs, but there are not a ton of offerings related to Tibetan Buddhism.

So, maybe some of you have gone through this before. I thought maybe this thread could be useful for others in the future. Anyone out there have any experience? :smile:

Pema Yolo
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Re: Pursuing Graduate Degree in Buddhist Studies

Post by Pema Yolo » Fri Dec 14, 2018 11:56 pm

I suppose I should add that I did search the forum and came up with a few threads, this one from 2014 being the most recent I believe. I guess I would reiterate that my question more specifically regards returning to school for this degree as a non-career academic in my late 30's.

An additional route I have been exploring but not as in depth yet is beginning with a Masters in Visual Anthropology, which could work nicely with the Dudjom project and possibly relate more to my background. Those programs seem to be even fewer in number though.

Also, if anyone else is looking, Tricycle has a nice list of Buddhist Studies programs, which is largely what I have been using as my starting point.

Pema Yolo
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Re: Pursuing Graduate Degree in Buddhist Studies

Post by Pema Yolo » Sat Dec 15, 2018 12:37 am

Interesting post from Queequeg in another topic.
Queequeg wrote:
Mon Jan 30, 2017 11:35 pm
I have an MA in Religion. Wife just received her PhD in Art History focusing on a genre of Japanese Buddhist/Shinto paintings, so I'm living the academic life precariously through her.

I suspect Religion as a distinct subject is going to continue to dwindle. The big, private research universities (Ivies, Chicago, NW, Mich., Stanford) and traditional liberal arts colleges will keep the departments. As for public research universities, I think it will depend on the institutions. Colleges and Universities at the second tier and below... the further down the rankings you go, probably less and less religion (less and less liberal arts, period).

I suspect Religion is going to go the way of Anthropology and Sociology Departments - basically, consolidation into other departments.

Some unsolicited practical advice for current and future Religion specialists who want a job after they graduate - MULTI-DISCIPLINARY APPROACH. You need some material angle to your research - archaeology, art history, economics, cartography (SEXY!) (Look at the schedule of talks for conferences like AAS for a pulse on what's hot) etc. etc. And become a capable translator. If all you want to do is text studies, or merely focus on ideas, you need to blow everyone away - be a freaking genius, hard to do without coming off as a blowhard. For us mortals incapable of a tour de force dissertation, workaday, professional approach is critical - this is as much a profession as being a doctor or accountant or lawyer. Having a substantial Chinese aspect of your research is an excellent professional move - ridiculously valued right now. If you're studies are in East Asia, you will probably lose out to the Chinese specialist every freakin time. India and Tibet are exotic, but the endowments are not yet arrived in large amounts ($$) for those areas of study. Not like the East Asians who want to make a Confucian splash and show their support for education.

Pardon my cynicism. Wife needs to get a job. Its been long enough.

MiphamFan
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Re: Pursuing Graduate Degree in Buddhist Studies

Post by MiphamFan » Sat Dec 15, 2018 1:46 am

What's your end goal out of doing this?

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Queequeg
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Re: Pursuing Graduate Degree in Buddhist Studies

Post by Queequeg » Sat Dec 15, 2018 3:04 am

Well, I always have a soft spot for aspiring academics....

Here's the thing... Unless you track for a PhD and academic career, the money is going to be hard to come by. Masters programs will be happy to take your money and you'll buy some precious time with scholars but you'll basically be on your own paying for it. That said, if your goal is translating or writing for a popular audience, the advice I got was you just need an MA.

I hate to break it, but your age is going to be held against you for admissions to funded programs. At the big time universities with the money, PhD candidates have to be no older than early 30s. You have to understand that they're already sizing you up for your potential in the job market which will reflect on them in the long run. It's embarrassing for departments and advisors to turn out students who don't get jobs after graduation.

Pm me if you have specific questions.

Remember you can always email scholars you want to work with. They're always Fielding questions from potential candidates.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

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mañjughoṣamaṇi
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Re: Pursuing Graduate Degree in Buddhist Studies

Post by mañjughoṣamaṇi » Thu Dec 20, 2018 11:26 pm

Queequeg wrote:
Sat Dec 15, 2018 3:04 am
Well, I always have a soft spot for aspiring academics....

Here's the thing... Unless you track for a PhD and academic career, the money is going to be hard to come by. Masters programs will be happy to take your money and you'll buy some precious time with scholars but you'll basically be on your own paying for it. That said, if your goal is translating or writing for a popular audience, the advice I got was you just need an MA.
This is true. I have a number of colleagues with ~$100,000 in student debt from masters at some of the institutions you mentioned.
I hate to break it, but your age is going to be held against you for admissions to funded programs. At the big time universities with the money, PhD candidates have to be no older than early 30s.
This might be true of some programs, however with the recent shift to fixed five year funding packages by a number of universities, there is more interest in 'mature' students. I was accepted into my program at 35, and thereafter there was a 40 year old accepted. The unfortunate reality is that many students are not going to end up in academia, as adjuncts or tenure track, after their PhDs.

I think the bigger question to ask is if one wants to go this route at all. If your goal is to become a translator there are other ways to facilitate that, and translation is not a valorized activity in academia compared to journal articles. There is increasing pressure for junior academics in programs to publish research articles prior to the completion of their dissertations.
Remember you can always email scholars you want to work with. They're always Fielding questions from potential candidates.
This is good advice. I would also recommend reaching out to current students in the programs. They can often give you a lot more information about the culture of a department.
སེམས་རྣམ་པར་གྲོལ་བར་བྱའི་ཕྱིར་བྱམས་པ་བསྒོམ་པར་བྱའོ།
“In order to completely liberate the mind, cultivate loving kindness.” -- Maitribhāvana Sūtra

"The bottom always falls out of the quest for the elementary. The irreducibly individual recedes like the horizon, as our analysis advances." -- Genesis, Michel Serres

Crazywisdom
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Re: Pursuing Graduate Degree in Buddhist Studies

Post by Crazywisdom » Thu Dec 20, 2018 11:33 pm

If you’re going thru all that just join the Shedra.
Vajra fangs deliver vajra venom to your Mara body.

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Queequeg
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Re: Pursuing Graduate Degree in Buddhist Studies

Post by Queequeg » Thu Dec 20, 2018 11:39 pm

mañjughoṣamaṇi wrote:
Thu Dec 20, 2018 11:26 pm
Queequeg wrote:
Sat Dec 15, 2018 3:04 am
I hate to break it, but your age is going to be held against you for admissions to funded programs. At the big time universities with the money, PhD candidates have to be no older than early 30s.
This might be true of some programs, however with the recent shift to fixed five year funding packages by a number of universities, there is more interest in 'mature' students. I was accepted into my program at 35, and thereafter there was a 40 year old accepted. The unfortunate reality is that many students are not going to end up in academia, as adjuncts or tenure track, after their PhDs.
After I posted this, I spoke to my wife about age and she agrees with this - she said, it depends. The advice I related was from my advisor back in my MA days.

Anyway, I hope the OP follows through and continues to contribute to the transmission of Dharma to the world!
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

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mañjughoṣamaṇi
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Re: Pursuing Graduate Degree in Buddhist Studies

Post by mañjughoṣamaṇi » Thu Dec 20, 2018 11:45 pm

Queequeg wrote:
Thu Dec 20, 2018 11:39 pm
After I posted this, I spoke to my wife about age and she agrees with this - she said, it depends. The advice I related was from my advisor back in my MA days.
Yeah, It definitely varies from field to field, department to department and faculty to faculty.
སེམས་རྣམ་པར་གྲོལ་བར་བྱའི་ཕྱིར་བྱམས་པ་བསྒོམ་པར་བྱའོ།
“In order to completely liberate the mind, cultivate loving kindness.” -- Maitribhāvana Sūtra

"The bottom always falls out of the quest for the elementary. The irreducibly individual recedes like the horizon, as our analysis advances." -- Genesis, Michel Serres

Pema Yolo
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Re: Pursuing Graduate Degree in Buddhist Studies

Post by Pema Yolo » Fri Dec 21, 2018 1:30 am

Thanks for all the replies everyone! I'm getting caught up here after holiday travel.
MiphamFan wrote:
Sat Dec 15, 2018 1:46 am
What's your end goal out of doing this?
mañjughoṣamaṇi wrote:
Thu Dec 20, 2018 11:26 pm
I think the bigger question to ask is if one wants to go this route at all. If your goal is to become a translator there are other ways to facilitate that, and translation is not a valorized activity in academia compared to journal articles.
My goal is primarily to finish my Dudjom book project. I realized after spending an extended amount of time in India and Nepal that lacking spoken Tibetan and having to rely on hiring translators is going to make completing the book much more difficult than I had anticipated. I'm not sure if translating texts is something I see myself doing. I suppose that would all depend on how learning classical Tibetan goes. So I guess to answer Queequeg's earlier question, I'm leaning more toward writing for a popular audience than straight translation, at least at this time.

Mañjughoṣamaṇi, if you don't mind me asking, what kind of program were you accepted to? Religious studies?

Pema Yolo
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Re: Pursuing Graduate Degree in Buddhist Studies

Post by Pema Yolo » Fri Dec 21, 2018 1:32 am

Queequeg wrote:
Sat Dec 15, 2018 3:04 am
Remember you can always email scholars you want to work with. They're always Fielding questions from potential candidates.
I've been researching various people and am preparing to do that after their semester/holiday has most likely finished. Thanks for the advice.
And thank you for your offer to answer questions, I will take you up on that soon.

MiphamFan
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Re: Pursuing Graduate Degree in Buddhist Studies

Post by MiphamFan » Fri Dec 21, 2018 1:33 am

Pema Yolo wrote:
Fri Dec 21, 2018 1:30 am
Thanks for all the replies everyone! I'm getting caught up here after holiday travel.
MiphamFan wrote:
Sat Dec 15, 2018 1:46 am
What's your end goal out of doing this?
mañjughoṣamaṇi wrote:
Thu Dec 20, 2018 11:26 pm
I think the bigger question to ask is if one wants to go this route at all. If your goal is to become a translator there are other ways to facilitate that, and translation is not a valorized activity in academia compared to journal articles.
My goal is primarily to finish my Dudjom book project. I realized after spending an extended amount of time in India and Nepal that lacking spoken Tibetan and having to rely on hiring translators is going to make completing the book much more difficult than I had anticipated. I'm not sure if translating texts is something I see myself doing. I suppose that would all depend on how learning classical Tibetan goes. So I guess to answer Queequeg's earlier question, I'm leaning more toward writing for a popular audience than straight translation, at least at this time.

Mañjughoṣamaṇi, if you don't mind me asking, what kind of program were you accepted to? Religious studies?
If that's your issue then going for a full graduate programme seems like an incredibly expensive and roundabout way of going at it. Why don't you consider an intensive language programme instead?

Pema Yolo
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Re: Pursuing Graduate Degree in Buddhist Studies

Post by Pema Yolo » Fri Dec 21, 2018 2:12 am

Pema Yolo wrote:
Fri Dec 14, 2018 11:42 pm
I have been working on a project for the last two years related to documenting the tersar with self-funding and a small but generous grant. I've realized that going it alone with no institutional support is probably not the most efficacious way to achieve my aims. Also, if I'm putting in the work why not come out at the end with a degree.
Also, having a degree at the end opens other possibilities, whereas taking a language intensive means I probably just have a new language, which is great, but see above.

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mañjughoṣamaṇi
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Re: Pursuing Graduate Degree in Buddhist Studies

Post by mañjughoṣamaṇi » Fri Dec 21, 2018 5:23 pm

Pema Yolo wrote:
Fri Dec 21, 2018 1:30 am
My goal is primarily to finish my Dudjom book project. I realized after spending an extended amount of time in India and Nepal that lacking spoken Tibetan and having to rely on hiring translators is going to make completing the book much more difficult than I had anticipated. I'm not sure if translating texts is something I see myself doing. I suppose that would all depend on how learning classical Tibetan goes. So I guess to answer Queequeg's earlier question, I'm leaning more toward writing for a popular audience than straight translation, at least at this time.

Mañjughoṣamaṇi, if you don't mind me asking, what kind of program were you accepted to? Religious studies?
Hi,

I think we briefly met at Tulku Yeshi's Yuthog Nyingthig teachings a few years back at pemachopel's home/center, and I went to Shang Shung's medical program in the same cohort as your partner.

I was accepted into an anthropology program where I carry out research on Tibetan medicine drawing on drawing on training in medical and linguistic anthropology.

Unless you are also interested in the theory and methods of the subfields of anthropology (or other social sciences) I wouldn't recommend going that route. There are rather elaborate disciplinary histories and frameworks you would need to take on board, that while they can point your inquiries in new directions, also demand a large time to learn (or be disciplined into). Much of the training is geared towards producing literature that will primarily appeal to the interests of other anthropologists. It would also leave much less time for language study which with the recent shift towards shorter time to completion means the expectation is increasingly that you will have spent your BA and MA developing competency in your required field languages (or at least the national languages). That brings you back to the costly MAs.

Best,
Todd
སེམས་རྣམ་པར་གྲོལ་བར་བྱའི་ཕྱིར་བྱམས་པ་བསྒོམ་པར་བྱའོ།
“In order to completely liberate the mind, cultivate loving kindness.” -- Maitribhāvana Sūtra

"The bottom always falls out of the quest for the elementary. The irreducibly individual recedes like the horizon, as our analysis advances." -- Genesis, Michel Serres

Pema Yolo
Posts: 43
Joined: Sun May 17, 2015 5:32 am

Re: Pursuing Graduate Degree in Buddhist Studies

Post by Pema Yolo » Tue Feb 05, 2019 6:16 am

Crazywisdom wrote:
Thu Dec 20, 2018 11:33 pm
If you’re going thru all that just join the Shedra.
I've been thinking and researching still, and I suppose for the sake of fully considering all options, is anyone familiar with any dzogchen based shedras that are accessible to westerners?

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