Buddhist studies

Buddhist studies, also known as Buddhology, is the academic study of Buddhism. The term Buddhology was coined in the early 20th-century by Estlin Carpenter – a Unitarian minister, to mean the "study of Buddhahood, the nature of the Buddha, and doctrines of a Buddha", but the terms Buddhology and Buddhist studies are generally synonymous in the contemporary context.[1][2] According to William M. Johnston, in some specific contexts, Buddhology may be viewed as a subset of Buddhist studies, with a focus on Buddhist hermeneutics, exegesis, ontology and Buddha's attributes.[3] Scholars of Buddhist studies focus on the history, culture, archaeology, arts, philology, anthropology, sociology, theology, philosophy, practices, interreligious comparative studies and other subjects related to Buddhism.[3][4][5]

In contrast to the study of Judaism or Christianity, the field of Buddhist studies has been dominated by "outsiders" to Buddhist cultures and traditions. However, Japanese universities have also made major contributions, as have Asian immigrants to Western countries, and Western converts to Buddhism.

University programs and institutes

The first graduate program in Buddhist studies in North America started in 1961 at the University of WisconsinMadision.[6] According to Prebish, Buddhist studies in the United States prior to 1975 was dominated by the University of Wisconsin, Harvard University and the University of Chicago.[7] Prebish cites two surveys by Hart in which the following university programs were found to have produced the most scholars with U.S. university posts: Chicago, Wisconsin, Harvard, Columbia, Yale, Virginia, Stanford, Berkeley, Princeton, Temple, Northwestern, Michigan, Washington, and Tokyo.[8]

Other regionally-accredited U.S. institutions with programs in Buddhism include the University of the West, Institute of Buddhist Studies, Naropa University, and the California Institute of Integral Studies. (A number of dharma centers offer semi-academic, unaccredited study; some of these seem likely eventually to win accreditation.)

Prominent European programs include Oxford University and Cambridge University, School of Oriental and African Studies, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Hamburg, University of Munich, University of Heidelberg, University of Bonn, University of Vienna, Ghent University, and the Sorbonne. In Asia, University of Tokyo and Rissho University have long been a major centers for Buddhist research, and Nalanda University launched a master program at 2016.

Scholars and scholar-practitioners

Charles Prebish, a scholar-practitioner and Chair of Religious Studies at Utah State University, states that the Buddhist studies and academics in North American universities include those who are practicing Buddhists, the latter he terms as “scholar-practitioners.”.[7]

Professional associations


Journals specializing in Buddhist Studies (in alphabetical order):

In addition, many scholars publish in journals devoted to area studies (such as Japan, China, etc.), general Religious Studies, or disciplines such as history, anthropology, or language studies. Some examples would be:

Major university presses that have published in the field include those of Oxford, Cambridge, Indiana, Princeton, SUNY, and the Universities of California, Michigan, Chicago, Hawaii, and Virginia. Non-university presses include Curzon Press, E.J. Brill, Asian Humanities Press, and Motilal Banarsidass. A number of scholars have published through "dharma presses" such as Snow Lion Publications, Wisdom Publications, or Shambhala.

See also


  1. Buddhology, Oxford English Dictionary
  2. Amos Yong (2011), On Doing Theology and Buddhology: A Spectrum of Christian Proposals, Buddhist-Christian Studies, Vol. 31, University of Hawai'i Press pp. 103-118
  3. William M. Johnston (2013). Encyclopedia of Monasticism. Routledge. pp. 225–226. ISBN 978-1-136-78716-4.
  4. Minoru Kiyota (1984), Modern Japanese Buddhology: Its History and Problematics, The Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, volume 7, Number 1, pages 17–33
  5. Paul David Numrich (2008). North American Buddhists in Social Context. BRILL Academic. pp. 4–13. ISBN 978-90-04-16826-8.
  6. Lopez 1998, p. 159.
  7. Prebish, Charles (Spring 2006). "The New Panditas". Buddhadharma. Archived from the original on January 4, 2013.
  8. Prebish 1999, p. 194.


  • Lopez, Donald S., Jr. (ed.) Curators of the Buddha. University of Chicago Press, 1995.
  • Prebish, Charles. "The Academic Study of Buddhism in America: A Silent Sangha." Chapter Eleven of American Buddhism: Methods and Findings in Recent Scholarship (Duncan Ryuken Williams and Christopher S. Queen, eds.). Curzon Press: Surrey (UK), 1999. pp. 183–214

Further reading

  • de Jong, J. W. A Brief History of Buddhist Studies in Europe and America. Tokyo: Kosei Publishing Company, 1997, ISBN 4-333-01762-9
  • Gombrich, Richard (2005). Fifty years of Buddhist studies in britain, Buddhist Studies Review 22 (2), 141-154
  • Swearer, Donald K. and Promta, Somparn. The State of Buddhist Studies in the World 1972-1997. Bangkok: Center for Buddhist Studies, Chulalongkorn University, 2000, ISBN 974-346-371-2
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