The South Asia specialisation is specifically intended for students interested in one or more countries or regions of pre-modern, modern or contemporary South Asia, in fields such as history, literature, art and art history, media and cultural studies, religious studies, philosophy or philology. Expertise in Leiden covers India and Sri Lanka.
The programme allows students either to emphasise language and a single country study, or a specific discipline and region, especially since many courses examine regional issues that extend beyond the study of a single country or language. The programme’s modular structure with elective courses and an individually supervised thesis allows students a considerable degree of freedom and individual specialisation.
The specialisation gives students ample opportunity either to deepen their classical or modern language learning started at BA level, or, if they wish, to start with the relevant modern languages.
Prior knowledge of a classical or modern South Asian language is not required, but students have the option of taking an intensive modern language course at beginner’s level in Japanese, Indonesian, Chinese, Korean or Hindi.
“This university has incredible strengths which make it possible to study Buddhism across all of Asia.”
“As a third-year undergraduate, I went to Japan for the first time as an exchange student. There I met Professor Gadjin Nagao, who inspired me to devote myself to the academic study of Buddhism. I stayed an extra year in Japan to study more Japanese, and began the study of Chinese and Sanskrit, so that I would be able to read Buddhist texts in their original languages.
After returning to the US, I went to the University of Michigan to do a PhD in Buddhist Studies. I have been teaching and doing research about various aspects of Buddhism ever since, at universities throughout the United States, including Yale and UCLA; I still go to Japan regularly.
I came to Leiden excited about the opportunity to build a great master’s programme. This university has incredible strengths which make it possible to study Buddhism across all of Asia: there are scholars and teachers here specialising in Indonesia, India, Tibet, China, Korea and Japan! Moreover, students can choose to focus not only on religious aspects of Buddhist traditions, but also philosophical, literary, linguistic or (art) historical angles.
The library of our Kern Institute is famous around the world for its excellent resources on South Asia and Tibet, while the Sinological Institute library is second to none in Europe for the depth and breadth of its collections.
I teach introductory courses on Buddhism, and advanced thematic seminars on various topics. And of course, I always love to read Buddhist texts with students, in original languages as well as in translation. The study of Buddhism should be a dynamic synthesis of factual knowledge and critical perspectives, and the Leiden master’s programme is designed to train students in just this approach.”