Master of Arts
in Applied Buddhist Studies
The Master of Arts in Applied Buddhist Studies at NTI is a program that combines graduate-level seminars with extensive research projects in a range of areas of the history, philosophy and contemporary aspects of Buddhism
It completes the Applied Buddhist Studies Program and culminates in an applied research project. You will study the impact of Buddhism in different countries, plus dialogues between Buddhism and other religions. You will explore the philosophy of life according to Buddhist beliefs as a spiritual mentor and source of spiritual self-reliance, morality and ethics, plus learn the applications of Buddhist philosophy to all aspects of life – family, career, and responsible government and management.
The aim of the program is to introduce students to the methods and skills involved in established academic research and to develop their ability to undertake independent research projects within the field of Buddhist and religious studies.
All teachers are highly qualified and experienced academics holding university appointments. NTI also provides support to help students with research projects and library searches.
- Insights, motivation and new skills to benefit your relationships and your career by understanding how and why you act or react in a particular manner.
- Knowledge and insights of Buddhist values relevant to community, care and humanities professions such as counselling, social work and health occupations.
- Advanced knowledge and understanding of Buddhist beliefs and culture – investigate, analyse and explain the origins of Buddhism, its influences and impacts
- Command analytical and critical skills to high order – apply the research methods of religious studies and social science to analyse and critically evaluate the influence of Buddhism from historical to modern times.
- Apply knowledge to new situations and think critically, rigorously and independently – explore the philosophy of life and ethical principles founded on Buddhist beliefs and their applications.
|Head of Program (Applied Buddhist Studies)||Dr Tamara Ditrich|
|Course Duration||Full-time: 18 months. Part-time options available for domestic students only|
|Delivery Method||On-campus + supported online study|
Bachelor degree with a major in humanities or social sciences, OR
a Graduate Diploma with a focus on Buddhist Studies, OR
a Graduate Certificate with a focus on Buddhist Studies and three (3) years of relevant work experience (for example, in Buddhist ministry or counselling, demonstrated through the provision of a CV or evidence of professional training, such as certificate of completion).
Note: Applicants who are not eligible for direct entry to this course, but are eligible for entry to the Graduate Certificate, or Graduate Diploma can transition to the Master degree, upon successful completion of the Graduate Certificate and Graduate Diploma requirements.
|English Language Requirements||Applicants who have undertaken studies overseas may have to provide proof of proficiency in English. Applicants who have not completed substantial tertiary studies in English will need to meet our English Language Requirements.|
|Related Courses||Graduate Diploma in Applied Buddhist Studies
Graduate Certificate in Applied Buddhist Studies
|Tuition Fees 2021#||
|Non-Tuition Fees||More about non-tuition fees|
|CRICOS Course Code||072351C|
|CRICOS Provider Number||03233C|
This course can be completed in 3 semesters of full-time study. Students can spread their subjects over a longer period. It is possible to exit with the Graduate Certificate in Applied Buddhist Studies or Graduate Diploma of Applied Buddhist Studies.
The Master of Arts (Applied Buddhist Studies) qualification requires the completion of 10 subjects and the Research Project (72 credit points); OR the completion of 12 subjects (for a total of 72 credit points) as follows:
|ABS901||Introduction to Buddhism|
|ABS902||Mindfulness: Theory and Practice|
|ABS950||Research Project (12 credit points); OR two elective subjects|
6 electives to be chosen from the schedule below but may include a maximum of 3 subjects from the Health and Social Wellbeing Program
Please note: Not all electives are offered in each semester. Please check the timetable, or with the Student Services Office for scheduled subjects.
Mindfulness and Cognitive Science
The subject “Mindfulness and Cognitive science” examines the foundations as well as some of most recent developments in the field of cognitive science – a rapidly growing area of research, integrating insights from a broad spectrum of disciplines concerned with the study of human mind.
The aim of the subject is to put this relatively young research project vis a vis the two and a half millennia old Buddhist endeavour of exploration in the same area.
The subject begins with an interdisciplinary overview of the so called “paradigms” of cognitive science, each of them representing one of the basic views on the nature of mind. The following paradigms are examined:
- Information-processing paradigm
- Cognitivistic paradigm
- Embodied cognition
The latter position is explored in more detail: some of the most recent developments in the area of the study of lived human experience are examined (theoretically and experientially). Together, the students will investigate how modern science of lived experience relates to Buddhist studies of the same subject. By studying research papers, cases, and personal accounts and through inquiry into personal experiences, they will be encouraged to compare, validate and critically examine methods and insights of both cultures.
The subject will examine intersections of mindfulness meditation and scientific studies of consciousness. Students will be encouraged to compare and reflect on the validity of knowledge obtained by both paths. Special attention will be drawn to parallels between mindfulness and phenomenological reduction.
Meditation Practices in Chinese Buddhism
‘Meditation Practices in Chinese Buddhism’ offers students an intellectually-engaged study of the tradition and practices of Chinese Chan (later Japanese Zen) Buddhism based on experiential engagement with its practice.
The unit proceeds by continually interweaving experiential inquiry with scholarly study and critical reflection upon direct experience of the tradition and its meditation practices, in a way that will enrich further studies in Buddhist meditative thought and practices encountered in other NTI course offerings.
‘Meditation Practices in Chinese Buddhism’ provides an overview of the historical and cultural circumstances that shaped the Mahayana tradition of Chan (‘Zen’) Buddhism in China, from 6th century CE through the Tang and Song dynasties, with attention to its engagement with existing Daoist philosophy and ethos, while offering direct experience of the two primary streams of Chan meditation practice – ‘Silent Illumination’, and ‘Koan Introspection’ – that emerged in the classical period.
The markedly different cultural expressions of Chan (Zen) that have formed as it moved into a Western context will be assessed for signs of cultural accretion, adaptation, renovation or transformation within the received tradition.
This subject aims to introduce to students the philosophy of mind and consciousness and approaches to psychology in early Buddhism and Indian Mahayana Buddhism.
The focus of the subject will be on the Yogacara school of Mahayana Buddhism. However, as it is important for students to be familiar with pre-Yogacarin Buddhist thought, the subject will begin with an introduction to the conception of mind in early Buddhism. Then, both the thought of the Prajnaparamita Sutras and that of the Madhyamaka school will be taught.
Afterwards, the subject turns to the Yogacara school and focuses on various topics related to the notions of mind and consciousness, the psychology of freedom, rational psychology, and salient Yogacara and Madhyamaka features of Buddhist Tantric psychology.
This subject, through its in-depth and more specialised focus on the mind and its workings, builds upon knowledge covered in the foundational subject Introduction to Buddhism and complements the subject Buddhism and Psychoanalysis. Its rigorous coverage of the theoretical and philosophical underpinnings of Buddhist meditative practice makes this subject highly relevant to more applied subjects such as Mindfulness: Theory and Application, The Heart of Relationship: An Integration of Buddhism and Psychotherapy, and Buddhist Ethics: Ethical Challenges of the Modern World.
‘Indian Buddhism’ recounts the growth of Buddhism in South Asia, and covers the teachings and precepts of the different perspectives from the early beginnings, through the development of Mahayana Buddhism.
This subject provides a survey of the growth of Buddhism in South Asia – from its origins in about the fifth century BCE, through to the major developments in India and Sri Lanka, including the appearance of early Mahayana forms. It integrates developments in doctrine with relevant archaeological and historical evidence from the field.
Naturalisation of Buddhism in China and Beyond
This subject provides a historical survey of the impact of Buddhism in Chinese culture, exploring its growth and transformation through significant people, doctrines, practices and institutions from the turn of the Common Era to the present.
It begins with the transmission of Buddhism from India to China and follows the development of a uniquely Chinese Buddhism after a period of initial conflict before integration with the local culture.
The second part of the subject uses Buddhist sacred sites as experiential windows to further explore major aspects of the Chinese Buddhist tradition and its interaction with Chinese literature, philosophy, art, architecture and indigenous religious practices.
This subject offers an insight into how Buddhism became one of the three pillars of traditional Chinese religions.
Introduction to Buddhism
‘Introduction to Buddhism’ outlines and explores the fundamentals of Buddhist thought. Students examine ideas around the origin and development of Buddhism, key Buddhist doctrines, and the basic concepts of Buddhist philosophy across various traditions. The role of Buddhist philosophy, meditation, and practice in approaching morality and ethics, as well as contemporary developments in global Buddhism, is introduced and critically appraised. Students critically examine the meaning of life through Buddhist perspectives.
Mindfulness: Theory and Practice
Mindfulness Theory and Practice examines the systems of meditative practice taught in Buddhist traditions, focusing on mindfulness as the key component in the Buddhist doctrinal framework. It explores the theoretical foundations for meditative practice as well as the practical methods and techniques of meditation, and it also looks at the variety of applications of mindfulness in new contexts and environments.
The subject places emphasis both on theory and on practice: apart from the study and critical examination of primary and secondary sources on Buddhist meditation, the students also explore several techniques and aspects of mindfulness in practice. They are expected to devote two hours per day to the practice of mindfulness and record and reflect on their experiences. The classes are accompanied by practical sessions of meditation as appropriate to the development of each topic.
Buddhist Ethics provides an overview of Buddhist ethics in different traditions; it also examines issues arising from their application in the contemporary world. After outlining the framework of Buddhist ethics, a number of contemporary issues are reviewed and discussed using the lens of Buddhist ethical traditions: issues examined include the natural world (environment, animals, conservation), abortion, suicide, euthanasia, war, gender and sexuality, economics, social responsibility, etc.
Increasing individual ethical behaviour is at the heart of Buddhist traditions: understanding the nature of ethical choices and behaviours is also fundamental to a sound comprehension of Buddhism. This subject presents an introduction to the major areas of ethical consideration important in Buddhist teachings and then critically investigates a range of contemporary issues in order to highlight possible contributions from—or gaps in—traditional Buddhist paradigms and perspectives.
Research Methods of Religious Studies
‘Research Methods of Religious Studies’ is an introduction to critical thinking and the modes of research used in Applied Buddhist Studies. The basic skills and processes associated with developing research questions, reviewing relevant literature and conducting research are discussed. Qualitative and quantitative research methods are reviewed. The subject also covers key basic principles in academic writing, including referencing and citation methods.
As part of the subject, students are encouraged to develop their own original ideas and formulate research proposals that demonstrate their understanding of applied research. The subject particularly focuses on the principles of research and critical evaluation, which are key skills required in the process of reviewing and expanding the literature base of Buddhism and its applications. The subject also covers the basics of academic writing to help students present discussion and arguments effectively in written form.
Buddhism and Interreligious Understanding
The subject focuses on a theory of religion, spirituality, and interfaith dialogue. Firstly, it presents secularisation processes and outlines the foundations of religious studies, it then proceeds with an examination of fundamental issues in the history and development of the major world religions, including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism from a comparative and interfaith perspective.
In the theoretical component the major methodological approaches will be presented and examined, and in the practical part readings of key texts, related to the subject outlined, will be discussed in the context of modern societal problems such as economic, political and gender issues, and approaches to conflict resolution and peace.
The subject outlines the main features of contemporary feminist philosophy of religion, drawing particularly from the works of Luce Irigaray. Additionally, the subject aims to investigate the role and future of religion and interfaith dialogue in our globalised world. Students will also explore how Buddhist perspectives could inform and contribute to contemporary interfaith dialogue.
Buddhism, Environment and Sustainability
Buddhism, Environment and Sustainability examines the relationship between Buddhist traditions, including contemporary Buddhist practice, and global issues in sustainability and environment. It explores both classic and new sources of Buddhist environmentalism, as well as the position of environmentalism from other spiritual paths. Spiritual traditions have a key role in engaging creative responses to environmental and associated social challenges.
This subject will analyse scales of Buddhist environmentalism from the global to the personal, and situate them in both local and global geographic contexts. The subject places emphasis both on theory and on practice: apart from the study and critical examination of primary and secondary sources on Buddhist environmentalism, students will participate in field activities examining local environmental issues.
Buddhism and Modern Society
The various schools of Buddhism teach systems of beliefs and practices based on the principles of change and interdependence.
This subject surveys how major Buddhist Schools today respond to contemporary issues and events around the world by adapting and reinterpreting the ancient doctrines to the modern world. This process is studied in both directions: how traditional Buddhist communities adapt to modernity and how Buddhist teachings are interpreted, reinvented or embraced.
The topics include Buddhist responses to globalisation, science and technology, economics, consumerism, workplace management, ethical leadership, bioethics, gender issues and environmental sustainability. This subject will provide an opportunity to discuss how Buddhists in East Asia, South Asia and the West can continue to grow the religion in the future.
Health as Buddhist Practice
In this subject, you will explore the meaning of health and illness and how different traditions – especially the Greek-origin European ‘science’ tradition, Indian-origin Buddhist understandings, and traditional Chinese medical approaches – conceive of and act on mind-body health and ill health.
The subject content will include the philosophy, history and political economy of health practices as they have developed within different cultural and environmental contexts. You will be introduced to a range of different medical approaches including indigenous Australian, Ayurveda and traditional Chinese as well as examining the reality of mainstream science-based medicine as it exists in Western societies.
You will be taught a range of practices that are said to influence health. You will be asked to adopt and critically examine the impact of one practice on your own health. How does your own experience compare to the reported expected outcomes and evidence base for this practice? What does the practice tell us about the ideas that are the implicit underpinnings of such a practice?
It is hoped that the mix of theoretical input and student experiences will allow us to explore health and illness in depth and in new ways.
Tradition and Change
The subject is intended as a comprehensive survey of Buddhism from its early beginnings to the present day. It aims to give students an insight into the origins and the spread of Buddhism across Asia and beyond.
The subject will familiarize students with the rich spectrum of Buddhist traditions and schools of philosophy and give an overview of their developments from the early beginning till the present day. Special attention will be given to the rich variety of Buddhist practices, particularly to meditation.
The lectures will provide a comprehensive survey of tradition and change in Buddhist thought and practices throughout the history, while specific topics (such as politics, gender issues, society and environment in Buddhist context) will be investigated through film viewing, seminars, group discussions and projects.
Exploration of various facets of Buddhism will provide an opportunity for deeper appreciation and understanding of Buddhism as a living tradition, which is expanding fast beyond Asia and becoming a transnational religion of the 21st century.
Selected Readings of Buddhist Meditation Literature
The subject aims to cultivate students’ analytical ability and understanding of Buddhist textual traditions from which the teachings and practices of modern Buddhism have developed.
It focuses on textual representations of Buddhist meditation (mindfulness in particular) which is perceived to be at the heart of Buddhism. The subject explores how different methods of meditative practices are viewed and presented in some of the most influential texts on Buddhist meditation (such as the Satipatthāna-sutta) within major Buddhist traditions.
The selected texts on meditation are read in English translation, critically analysed, and their relevance for contemporary meditation practices discussed and reflected upon. Since the texts read in this course are on meditation, various meditative techniques are explored also in practice.
The subject informs students on different methodological approaches to textual analysis, provides foundations and background for deeper understanding of Buddhist meditation within its historical and cultural framework and its relation to contemporary meditation practices such as mindfulness, applied in a variety of new contexts.
Mindfulness and Conflict Transformation
The subject explores Buddhist peace work and conflict transformation strategies for social well-being and peaceful co-existence.
It presents “good practices” of Buddhist inclusive communities, characteristics and benefits of a moral culture (such as keeping peace with nature, nonviolence, Buddhist peace principles and ethics, etc.). Since the preparation for peace on the social level has to start with individual transformation, the greater part of the course will be dedicated to intra-psyche change based on mindfulness theory and practice.
The students will explore several techniques and aspects of conflict transformation combined with mindfulness in practice. They are expected to devote two hours per day to the practice of mindfulness in the conflict transformation process and record and reflect on their experiences.
The subject assumes a basic knowledge of Buddhism or elements of mindfulness achieved through the preliminary readings listed under prescribed readings
Buddhist Art as Visual Communication
The aim of this subject is to teach the knowledge and interpretative skills necessary to fully engage with Buddhist material culture. The subject will be structured thematically across 4 days, with the fifth day for presentations during an excursion to the Art Gallery of NSW.
It will start with a brief assessment of Buddhism from the viewpoint of select contemporary Western writers, before presenting the evolution of the image of the historical Buddha Sakyamuni, including aniconic and synoptic representations. Other sessions will include an analysis of the characteristics and distinguishing qualities of diverse buddhas and bodhisattvas (with special attention to Avalokitesvara); symbols that convey the values and beliefs of Buddhism; the generation of merit through commissions; the visualisation of a deity; and the power of inscribed dharani and ‘seed’ syllables.
In this intensive course there will be sessions devoted to the visual communication of Buddhist teachings, e.g., the Wheel of the Six Realms of Existence, the Pure Lands, and the mandala. Select teachers, such as the First Patriarch of Zen, Bodhidharma, and noted monks, lamas, and laymen, will be considered as well.