The AMRS is a concentrated program for those who seek greater knowledge of and sophistication in the academic study of religion.  Students working in Buddhism can study with any of the Divinity School’s faculty and visiting faculty, as well as other relevant faculty throughout the University, including in the departments of Anthropology, Art History, History, East Asian Languages and Civilizations (EALC), and South Asian Languages and Civilizations (SALC).  More on Buddhism at the University of Chicago may be found here.   

Program Length

The AMRS Program can be completed in one (1) year on a full-time basis. Students may study on a part-time basis.

Program Requirements

Completion of a minimum of nine courses, including:

  •  Introduction to the Study of Religion
  • Courses in at least three areas of study and in two committees of the faculty
  • One-hour oral examination based on a paper written for a class

Application Materials

  • Divinity School Application for Graduate Admission
  • Personal Statement
  • Academic Transcripts
  • 3 Letters of Recommendation
  • TOEFL/IELTS Scores
  • Current Resume or CV
  • Writing sample

Click here to apply!




DVPR 40440 – Pure Land Buddhism
This course will explore the motif of the "Pure Land" in Mahāyāna Buddhism, and its attendant applications to Buddhist practice, faith, devotional, and doctrine. We will examine the textual sources on the bodhisattva vows and specific entailments of various pure lands in Indic Mahāyāna scripture, and then the development of Pure Land thought and practice in China and Japan, including its expression in Tiantai and Jodo Shinshu traditions. Brook Ziporyn
DVPR 41025 – Otherwise than God: Creatorless Religiosity East and West
This course will workshop an in-progress manuscript in the philosophy of religions entitled Otherwise Than God, which explores alternatives to monotheism in the philosophy of religion, mainly in Europe, India and China, centered around the alternative consequences of the assumption of a purposeless or a purposeful cosmos. The main touchpoints in both the course and the book are (on the European side) Spinoza, Schopenhauer, early Schelling and Hegel, Nietzsche and Bataille, with sideswipes at Socrates, Plato and Aristotle as the villians of the piece, various Buddhist texts and thinkers on the Indian side, and classical Confucianism and Daoism philosophy in China. Some familiarity with Tiantai Buddhist thought would be helpful but is not required. Note: This course is open to undergrads by Petition. Brook Ziporyn
HREL 36260 – Buddhism in Early Theravada Literature
A critical examination of important canonical (Buddhavacana--attributed to the Buddha) and non-canonical Pali literature central to the religious "imaginaire" of Theravada Buddhists in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. Literary texts include Vinayapitaka (Book of Monastic Discipline), Dhammapada (didactic verses attributed to the Buddha), Mahaparinibbana Sutta (sermon recounting the final 3 months of the Buddha's career), Vessantara Jataka (epic narrative of the Buddha's next-to-last rebirth as a king), the Edicts of Asoka (proclamations of the 3rd c. BCE Indian emperor), Anagatavamsa Desana (prophecy of the future Buddha Metteyya), Mahavamsa (the monastic "Great Chronicle" recounting the history of Buddhism) and royal inscriptions and paintings from the late-medieval period.  John Holt


DVPR 30201 - Indian Philosophy I: Origins and Orientations
This course introduces some of the early themes and textual traditions that set much of the agenda for the later development of Indian philosophy. Particular attention will be paid to the rivalry that was perhaps most generative throughout the history of Indian philosophy: that between the Hindu schools of thought rooted in the Vedas, and the Buddhists who so powerfully challenged them. Dan Arnold
HREL 35811 - Foundations of Chinese Buddhism
An introduction to the Buddhism of premodern China, examined through lenses of philosophy, texts, and art. We will examine important sources for the major currents of Chinese Buddhist thought and practice stretching from the earliest days of the religion in China through around the 13th century (with some attention to modern connections), giving special consideration to major textual and artistic monuments, such as translated scriptures, Chan literature, and the cave-shrines of Dunhuang. Paul Copp
HREL 37440 - Buddha Then and Now: Transformations from Amaravati to Anuradhapura
The Buddhist sculptures in Amaravati are arguably the earliest to influence the early Buddhist art of the other parts of the sub-continent as well as south and southeast Asia. The course begins with the discussion of the context in which the Buddha images were made in Amaravati and the factors including Buddhist doctrinal developments that contributed to the spread of these images to various parts of Sri Lanka. Then it traces the course and function of Buddhist iconography in Sri Lanka until into the 21st century to assess the role of geopolitical factors. The positionality and portrayals of the images of Buddha are also considered and analyzed. The course traces the trajectories that transformed the image of the Buddha from a symbol of peace to jingoist assertiveness. Through the study of the images of the Buddha, the aim is to comprehend the ways Buddhism has changed over centuries from an inclusive posture which helped it sustain and spread to different parts of the world only later to become exclusionary. Sree Padma Holt
SANS 47901 - Readings: Advanced Sanskrit II
This term we will read a Sanskrit philosophical text — most likely from a Buddhist school of thought — exemplifying the śāstra genre of Sanskrit, which, as the genre of most commentaries, can afford access to most any Sanskrit text. Dan Arnold


DVPR 30302 - Indian Philosophy II: The Classical Traditions
This course follows the first module on Indian philosophy by exploring the debates between several classical "schools" or "viewpoints" (darśanas) of Indian philosophy. In addition to expanding upon the methods of systematized reasoning inaugurated by the Nyāya and Buddhist epistemological traditions, particular attention will be given to systems of scriptural hermeneutics -- Mīmāṃsā and Vedānta -- and their consequences for the philosophy of language, theories of cognitive error, and even poetics. Anand Venkatkrishnan
DVPR 34300 - Buddhist Poetry in India
The substantial Buddhist contribution to Indian poetry is of interest for what it teaches us of both Buddhism and the broad development of Indian literature. The present course will focus upon three phases in this history, with attention to what changes of language and literary genre tell us of the transformations of Indian religious culture from the last centuries B.C.E. to about the year 1000. Readings (all in translation) will include the Therīgāthā, a collection of verses written in Pali and the most ancient Indian example of womens’ literature, selections from the work of the great Sanskrit poets Aśvaghoṣa, Āryaśūra, and Mātṛceta, and the mystical songs, in the Apabhraṃśa language, of the Buddhist tantric saints. Prerequisites: General knowledge of Buddhism is desirable. Matthew Kapstein
DVPR 49630 - Madhyamaka in India and China
This seminar will consider exemplary texts from the Madhyamaka school(s) of Buddhist philosophy, particularly focusing on notable points of divergence and/or concord between the Indian schools with which the tradition originated, and the various Chinese schools that reflect China's distinctive appropriation of the tradition. Note: This course is open to undergrads by Petition. Brook Ziporyn and Dan Arnold
HREL 47270 - Being Buddhist in Southeast Asia
A study of the various ways in which lay and monastic Buddhists practice and express their understanding of the Theravada religious path in Sri Lanka and SE Asia (Laos, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia). Ethnographic and historical readings will focus on social (ritual) articulations of Buddhist practice and identity in contemporary cultural contexts. A term paper on topic in consultation with instructor is required. Prerequisite: Previous familiarity with Buddhism in south or southeast Asia. Note: This course is open to undergrads by Petition.  John Holt
DVPR 47902 - Readings: Advanced Sanskrit III
An advanced Sanskrit reading course focusing on the development of skills in either classical belles lettres (kāvya) or scholastic, commentarial prose (śāstra). In the former, emphasis is on the ability to rearrange complex poetic forms into digestible prose word order. In the latter, students learn both the stylistic conventions of scholastic Sanskrit and the technical vocabulary of the relevant intellectual discipline. Anand Venkatkrishnan
HREL 52402 - Readings: Advanced Tibetan III and Introduction to Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit
Complementing the course on Buddhist Poetry in India, we will be reading a celebrated verse scripture, the Prajñā-pāramitā-ratnaguṇa-sañcaya-gāthā (“Verses Gathering the Jewel-like Qualities of the Perfection of Wisdom”) in both its Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit original and its Tibetan translation. (Students are required to have had at least two years of either Sanskrit or Tibetan – it will not be necessary to do both.) Those wishing to take the course for Sanskrit credit should enroll in SALC. Prerequisites: Students must have had two years of Tibetan OR Sanskrit. Note: This course is open to undergrads ONLY by petition. Matthew Kapstein