Our degree programs include the B.A. Cultures of South Asia and Tibet, the M.A. Buddhist Studies and Contemplative Traditions, and the M.A. Modern South Asia. During your studies you will learn at least one of the three languages Sanskrit, Hindi and Tibetan. In addition, you can study Mongolian as a second language and choose between three electives: Yoga and Meditation, Buddhist Studies, and Modern South Asia.
The study of the Cultures of South Asia and Tibet is a regional and cultural studies program based on philological foundations. It serves to develop an awareness of the complex prerequisites of cultural and social developments in South and Central Asia, to deepen the understanding of these developments and thus to promote an inter- and transculturally based problem awareness as well as intercultural competence. By teaching methods and theories of regional and cultural studies, the study of global exchange processes from a transcultural perspective is made possible and intercultural communication is trained. The program includes the philology of various source languages, primarily Sanskrit, Hindi, Tibetan, and Mongolian. In addition, there is linguistic, literary, cultural and religious history of the Indian subcontinent and Tibet, with a special emphasis on the cultural history of Buddhism and the culture of modern South Asia. Through the choice of their subject focus, students thereby form a special profile in one of the three areas of Yoga and Meditation, Buddhist Studies, or Modern South Asia. An important aim of the program is the ability to work independently and professionally with the phenomena of the respective countries, in which reading and speaking skills have been acquired, on a scientific level. Another goal is to enable students to acquire knowledge and skills leading to further study leading to a master's degree.
The Buddhist Studies and Contemplative Traditions master's program is an English-language consecutive master's degree program. The program includes basic training in one of the Buddhist source languages (Sanskrit, Tibetan, Chinese, Mongolian), combined with an in-depth study of Buddhist culture, history, and literature. Buddhist Studies offers numerous starting points for contributions to contemporary social discourses and contributes to a deeper understanding of global cultural transfer and the transcultural interactions that accompany it. In particular, students will be enabled to access and scientifically evaluate sources in the aforementioned languages, to conduct independent research, and to contribute to scientific and cultural communication. In addition, students have the opportunity to acquire or deepen competencies in religious studies within the framework of the program.
The Master's program Modern South Asia offers you a profound examination of contemporary South Asian literature, culture, history and society. You will deal with current theories and debates such as postcolonialism, orientalism or nationalism and develop a critical awareness of your own position(ing) in a globalized (academic) world. In addition, you will expand your intercultural dialogue skills and receive training in the source language Hindi (beginners and advanced). The course is completed by an introduction to the creative use of new media to develop your own knowledge for a general audience through videos, podcasts or Wikipedia.
Yoga und Meditation
In the elective Yoga and Meditation, we provide knowledge of the historical development of various yoga and meditation traditions, beginning with their origins in ancient India and continuing through developments in Tibet and the modern world. Drawing on original texts (in translation) and secondary sources, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the global components and cross-regional perspectives of various issues related to yoga and meditation. As part of this elective, you will also learn basic Sanskrit in the one-semester "Sanskrit Crash Course." You will practice the correct pronunciation of important Sanskrit words, learn specific yoga terminology, and recite verses and mantras together.
Modern South Asia
If you are interested in the culture and society of contemporary South Asia, a combination of the elective course Contemporary South Asia and the Hindi language courses is an ideal option within the framework of the Bachelor's program. In the elective Contemporary South Asia, we provide you with insights into the culture, history and politics of the South Asian subcontinent within the framework of seminars and lectures. In addition to aspects of socio-cultural and socio-political change, various facets of (post-)coloniality, which continues to shape the subcontinent to this day, play an important role. The textual and (audio-)visual sources we examine in this regard include literature, film, photography, and new media.
In the Buddhist Studies elective, we provide knowledge of the historical development of Buddhism, beginning at its origins in ancient India, continuing through Tibet and East Asia, and ending in the modern world. Based on the phenomenon of the global spread of Buddhism, you will gain a deeper understanding of global cultural transfer, the transcultural interactions that accompany it, and contemporary social discourses on the subject area.
Within the elective, you can specialize in Indian Buddhism or Tibetan Buddhism. If you are interested in the Indian focus, you can additionally study Sanskrit, an Indo-European language in which countless texts of Buddhism are written.
If you wish to study Tibetan Buddhism more intensively, we recommend that you also take Tibetan. This language of the Tibeto-Burmese language branch opens the door to an extremely rich Buddhist tradition that reaches up to the present day.
If you are focusing your studies on one of the concentrations in Yoga and Meditation or Buddhist Studies, you will regularly encounter Sanskrit terms in lectures and seminars. Sanskrit belongs to the Indo-European language family and is considered one of the oldest and richest languages in the world. To understand the literature, culture, philosophy, and religions of ancient India and Indian spirituality, knowledge of Sanskrit is essential. Because of its beauty and complexity, it is also called the "language of the gods".
Sanskrit gives us access to a vast literature, such as those of the Vedas and Upanishads, the great epics Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata (which include the Bhagavadgītā), as well as the Vedānta and yoga literature and countless Buddhist texts. The study of Sanskrit is therefore indispensable for exploring the depths of the classical Hindu and Buddhist religions and philosophical traditions.
When we speak of Sanskrit, we often think of religious and spiritual literature. However, there is also Sanskrit literature in many other fields such as mathematics, economics, political science, medicine, architecture, and poetry. In addition, Sanskrit has attracted the attention of computer scientists in recent years. Thus, Sanskrit can be considered not only a language of the past, but also a language of the present and the future. According to the traditional view, the study of Sanskrit brings bhoga and mokṣa, that is, "enjoyment" on the one hand and "liberation" on the other.
In the area of Contemporary South Asia, the focus of our institute is on North India - therefore, Hindi, a North Indian Indo-Germanic language spoken by about 40 percent of the population and understood by more than 70 percent, plays an important role.
Hindi in its present form is one of the important literary languages of India and is also (along with English) an official language.
If you choose the Hindi language major, you will first receive an intensive two-semester language training in which you will learn script and grammar. Then, from the third semester on, the focus is on using the language for different purposes: You will learn to understand Hindi texts of different genres, styles, and levels of difficulty, write texts in Hindi on your own, and practice Hindi conversation. In the course of your studies, we will introduce you to a variety of interesting original language sources, including contemporary literature, comics and movies, materials from current newspapers and magazines, or from digital media - you will learn to understand, classify, and evaluate these sources independently and to recognize the significance of original language materials.
Tibetan belongs to the Tibeto-Burmese language branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family. The written Tibetan language emerged from the 7th century onwards, when Tibet rose to become a major Central Asian empire under the rule of the Yarlung kings. Since the written language has changed little over the centuries, its study provides access to all periods of Tibetan-language literature.
An important part of Tibetan scripture is the Tibetan Buddhist canon, which is composed of the "Translations of the [Buddha's] Words" (Kanjur) and the "Translations of the Treatises" (Tanjur). The translations of Indian works of Buddhism contained in these collections are characterized by a great closeness to the wording of their originals. By studying the Tibetan translations, therefore, valuable conclusions can be drawn about Buddhist works lost in India. In addition to the translation literature, there is an extensive body of autochthonous Tibetan literature. This includes works on Buddhist doctrine and practice as well as works of folk literature such as epics, songs, and stories. The rich Tibetan culture and its development can be further explored through a variety of historiographical and biographical texts as well as in writings on the traditional fields of knowledge.
The written Tibetan language is contrasted by the spoken Tibetan language, which is characterized by a variety of dialects. It is spoken today by an estimated 6 million people, mainly in the Himalayan region. Knowledge of spoken Tibetan provides direct and present access to a cultural space that is undergoing rapid change.
Second Language: Mongolian
The classical written Mongolian language belongs to the Mongolian language family, which also includes the various modern Mongolian languages. The classical written language developed in the course of the adoption of Tibetan Buddhism in Mongolia from the late 16th century. The translation of the Tibetan canon in the 17th and 18th centuries led to a standardization of grammar and orthography as well as a standardization of vocabulary, especially Buddhist terminology.
In addition to a large number of canonical writings translated from Tibetan - collected in the Mongolian Ganjuur and Danjuur - classical Mongolian literature includes a large number of authochthonous works by Mongolian authors, covering a wide range of topics and genres. In addition to works on Buddhist philosophy as well as on ritual and liturgy, we have works of narrative literature, historiographical and biographical literature, poetic texts such as songs and chants, and writings on traditional sciences. In addition, there is an extensive epic literature.
Through the study of the classical Mongolian written language, you will gain insight into the processes of dissemination and adaptation of Buddhism in Asia. This will sharpen your understanding of processes of transcultural interactions, which play an important role in the current discourse on globalization and give it, against the Mongolian background, a historical depth dimension.