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What are the most suitable professors/PhD programs for "early Buddhist texts"?

What are the names of the professors in the world today who specialize in early Buddhist texts?

What are the most suitable PhD programs in the world today to study “early Buddhism texts”?

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Hi,

That’s quite a broad question.

When applying for a PhD position, a candidate will usually be expected to have formulated their basic research question, demonstrate their competency to undertake the investigation (e.g. show their familiarity with any relevant languages, methodologies etc), have secured funding, and identified at least one faculty member who could act as their main supervisor.

The candidate should also ask:

  • Does the institution’s/supervisor’s approach broadly match my own?
  • What duties (beside conducting my own research) am I expected to fulfil?
  • Is it likely I will get along with my supervisor?

In short, what’s suitable for one person may be entirely unsuitable for another.

Is this something you are considering? If so, could you be a bit more specific regarding the topic of your proposed thesis?

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@Leon; that’s in the UK?

Expectations put on applicants vary quite a bit among different countries tho. Perhaps someone else could explain the United States approach at the current time. (It was quite different when I was there some decades ago.)

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If your interested is in Pali? Or more languages?

Hi Gillian,

Indeed; that’s generally the situation here in the UK but in my experience also holds good for Australia and many continental European countries.

A slightly different route involves securing a PhD position attached to an existing project. In such cases, your thesis topic will likely be pre-defined but you would still have to meet the formal requirements for application, e.g. hold an MA in the field.

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Thank you for the feedback. I tried to clarify the question further based on your helpful response.

Duly noted! Thank you for clarifying these expectations.

I totally agree with the overall sentiment.
When I looked for professors at universities across the world, I found that very few of them specialized in early Buddhism, and perhaps even less in early Buddhist texts.
Because I did this search prior to enrolling in my current program, I will probably have to search again (and hopefully post the results of my search here).

That being said, I was hoping to get some recommendations here because searching online is a very imperfect and unreliable process, especially in a field as small as Buddhist studies. My current research advisor/supervisor was actually recommended to me by someone who I was put in touch with in the process of emailing venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi for recommendations.

Yes, definitely.

One thing that I know for sure is that I would like to focus primarily on using early Buddhist texts as the main “source of textual data” for whatever specific research topic that I may do.

I have pivoted my current research to focus on the following topical areas:
(“early”) Buddhism, leadership, happiness, and mental support

Whatever focused topic I choose would probably be something not far away from these.

I seem primarily interested in learn Sanskrit, Prakrit, and Pali - as opposed to Pali alone.
However, I do have a secondary interest in other languages that early sources can be found in - but I am afraid that I do not have the interest nor ability to learn those. However, I shall keep them in mind for now anyway.
Other early languages can be found here: What are all the languages that the early Buddhist/Dhamma-Vinaya textual sources can be found in?

Can you advise me regarding how I can sufficiently prepare myself to learn relevant languages (particularly Sanskrit, Prakrit, and Pali) for a PhD program? How do I know I am sufficiently prepared.
I barely got any exposure at all to any of these languages in my Buddhist Studies master’s program? Any advice regarding sufficient language acquisition would be very much appreciated and helpful! Thank you in advance.

Note: I would pretty much be starting from scratch, but I do seem relatively mentally prepared as I have been thinking about starting for years. I do take (a lot of) time to warm up and begin, so this is not really unexpected or unusual for me as I need time to set up a realistic structure for myself so that I don’t waste time and am better able prepare as efficiently as I can. I remember that you gave some very solid advice regarding learning the three languages here: Learn Sanskrit, Prakrit, Pali - Resource Recommendations?

I know maybe Bhante @sarana might know recommended places.

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Why do you need to do a PhD in Buddhist Studies in the area of early Buddhist texts? For knowledge, for teaching and research, or just for being a Buddhist scholar?

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Hi,

Prof. Kate Crosby at Kings College London (link to staff profile) might be worth contacting. I remember her teaching Pali at SOAS while I was a student there.

As for gaining proficiency in Sanskrit, Pali, Prakrits etc, that’s a tricky one. A possibility would be to enrol on a 1 year MA programme that would give you the opportunity to study at least the basics of the languages before you embark on a PhD. Obviously that entails a significant investment of time and money. The formal language requirements will vary across institutions, so these will guide you somewhat (as can potential supervisors).

I’m happily out of Academia now, but feel free to PM me if you have some related questions that fall outside the scope of the forum.

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Would you be happy to share your experience and/or views on (early?) buddhist studies as an academic? And what makes you happy to be out of it? :slight_smile: Could be useful to hear the experience of some people who went through it like you, but of course it might not be something you’d like to share in public. :pray:

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  1. knowledge/research - I think no matter what profession I do, I think it would definitely likely be based on a foundation of knowledge and research related to Buddhism
  2. teaching/professorship/academia open up the possibility of becoming a professor, if that proves suitable for me - it is not clear at this time whether it will be.

Is it necessary to learn these languages within a formal program in order to apply for a PhD program?
Or is self-study of these languages to a sufficient degree enough to meet the PhD enrollment requirements?

Thank you for the invite. I hope to contact you at some point regarding preparing sufficiently for a PhD program in Buddhist Studies/early Buddhist texts.

Hi,

Although I studied Sanskrit and some Pali as an undergraduate (in Australia and India), my postgraduate focus was actually ancient Iranian languages so I’m afraid I can’t really comment on the state of academic Buddhist studies.

That will depend on the institution’s formal requirements and your supervisor’s own informal criteria for accepting PhD candidates.

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Not sure what do you mean by “suitable.” Where or how would like to make use of your degree?

In Myanmar there is a PhD program, but you need to start from BA right in Myanmar (BA or MA from any other country is not accepted here.)

There is also PhD program in Sri Lanka and India, but the system in Myanmar is free and well supported by the Buddhist community.

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Are these languages relevant to early Buddhist texts?
If so how? Like what languages and what text names?

My academic work was not concerned with Buddhism but I did study some Middle Iranian languages like Sogdian and Khotanese in which Buddhist texts have been transmitted.

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I’m far from an expert, but I’ll just note a few names that I happen to know of:

  • Mark Allon at U Sydney, expert in early Buddhist languages with speciality in Gandhari and early manuscripts.
  • Marcus Bingenheimer, expert in early Buddhism, fluent in Pali and Buddhist Chinese.
  • Alex Wynne and the Oxford Center for Buddhist Studies.
  • U Hong Kong has a good Buddhist studies department.
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I just came across this. The University of Mumbai has a large Pali deparatment and is about to start a doctoral program:

https://mu.ac.in/department-of-pali

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