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Bulgaria’s Sofia University to Launch Master’s Program in Buddhist Studies

Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski.” From

Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” will begin a master’s degree program in Buddhist studies from the academic year 2021/22. The program, Buddhism: Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, is the first academic program in Bulgaria to offer a comprehensive exploration of the literary and cultural heritage of Buddhism, its religious and philosophical traditions, and the specifics of its development in Asia, as well as its global spread and reception in the West.

Organized by Sofia University’s Faculty of Classical and Modern Philology, the program includes the study of Eastern languages ​​related to Buddhist culture. Students graduating from the program acquire or improve their competencies in one of the modern languages ​​of Buddhist culture—Chinese, Korean, and Japanese—and develop skills for critical thinking, analysis, and translation of ancient Buddhist texts in Pali and Sanskrit. Language education is organized flexibly to enable students to study one of the offered languages ​​from the elementary level and to deepen their language competencies. Graduates acquire a Master of Buddhist Studies qualification, with one of the Eastern languages ​​they have chosen to study as a compulsory unit, such as Master of Buddhist Studies (with Chinese).

Lecture by Prof. Shashi Bala at the Indology Department of Sofia University. Image courtesy of the author

During the last two decades of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, Buddhism has drawn growing public interest in the Western world to a degree that has not previously been observed during its more-than-150-year spread beyond Asia. This has led some scholars to posit the formation of so-called “global” or “modern” Buddhism. This phenomena is one of many reasons for growing academic interest in the development of Buddhism, whose history, schools, and practices are studied in undergraduate and graduate programs at prestigious universities around the world. 

Based on the achievements standards of excellence of Bulgarian Oriental Studies at the Center for Eastern Languages ​​and Cultures of Sofia University’s Faculty of Classical and Modern Philology, the team of established Bulgarian professors will offer this program to prepare competent specialists in the field of Buddhism. The expertise of graduating students can be successfully focused toward intercultural and inter-religious dialogue in the modern world. 

The master’s program is designed for students with an undergraduate degree in Indology, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, or other specialties in philology, as well as undergraduate students in other professional fields in the humanities, social sciences, and nature and mathematical sciences, who have an interest in Buddhism and Buddhist studies. The university plans to later open the program to international students.

Seminar on the Buddhist culture of the Himalayan region at Sofia University. Image courtesy of the author

With admission from the winter semester of 2021/22, Buddhism: Languages, Literatures, and Cultures is a full-time program within three semesters, with a total minimum load of 795 hours and 90 credits. The program is built upon the foundation of expertise, knowledge, and materials nurtured by the Faculty of Classical and Modern Philology, and delivered by professors from the specialties of Indology, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese Studies at the Center for Oriental Languages ​​and Cultures at Sofia University.

Teaching teams include young researchers who have studied classical Buddhist languages ​​and Buddhist traditions in academic institutes and traditional Buddhist centers in Asia, Europe, and the United States. The academic program will include presentations and seminars from guest speakers and international experts in the field of Buddhism. Their presentations will also be made available to the general public through various digital platforms. 

Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” is the oldest institute of higher education in Bulgaria. It was founded on 1 October 1888 to serve as Bulgaria’s primary university, and has consistently ranked as the best in the country. With 11 departments and 19 degree programs, the Faculty of Classical and Modern Philology stands out as the university’s largest faculty. Its founding dates back in the 1920s, growing from within the Faculty of History and Philology, the first faculty of the university. 

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Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”

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