Recommendations for formal Pali and Buddhist study

I am considering pursuing formal- university level, perhaps Masters degree- in Pali and Buddhist studies, as a Theravada Samaneri (with luck I will finally get ordained in November).

Does anyone have any recommendations for high quality education in English?


Anumodana on your upcoming ordination! What geographical location are you looking at for universities?

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Thank you. Possible locations include the US, where I live now, and Asian countries that are relatively stable, such as Thailand.

In the US, Harvard Divinity School would be my first pick. They offer a two-year Master’s in Theological Studies (MTS), and you could have a concentration in Buddhist Studies. In the program, you must choose a language related to your field of study to develop proficiency in, and they do offer Pāli. By the end of the program, the student should have an intermediate level of proficiency with the language.

I’ve heard very good things about the program. It seems to have quite a diverse population and is supposed to be more supportive/cooperative compared to other master’s programs, which can be quite cutthroat as students compete for professors’ attention (with the hopes of getting recommendations for acceptance into PhD programs). Harvard’s program also has Charles Hallisey, which is a big plus. If you’re interested in pursuing this option, I have a lot of admissions resources I’d be glad to share with you.

Another excellent choice would be University of Chicago’s Master of Arts in Divinity, concentrating in Buddhist Studies. They also offer Pāli. Although it’s a very well-respected and rigorous program, I’ve heard that the culture at UChicago is quite competitive and cutthroat, with some professors even exploiting this by playing students off each other.

As I understand it, the divinity programs at most other schools in the US are more heavily slanted towards Christianity, so at those places it may be harder to avoid having to take a lot of courses in Christianity and also harder to find enough courses on Buddhism.

Once exception would be Naropa University, which offers a Master of Divinity. I don’t think it’s of the same caliber as Harvard or UChicago, but I’ve heard a lot of students from there go on to be accepted at top universities for PhD programs. I’m not sure if they offer Pāli or not.

Finally, you might find this Tricycle article on best places for Buddhist Studies in the US helpful.


That was very informative! Thanks!

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