As part of an ongoing academic exchange program with the Tibetan universities in exile in India, each year the Five Colleges send fifteen students to spend January term studying Buddhist philosophy, Tibetan history and culture, and Tibetan textual analysis in an intensive program taught by the faculty of the Central University of Tibetan Studies in Sarnath, India. The University is a research and teaching university established and jointly administered by the Tibetan Government in exile and the Ministry of Education of India.
Sarnath is a small village on the outskirts of Varanasi (Benares) in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Varanasi is an ancient city of about two million on the river Ganges and a major pilgrimage site for Hindus. Sarnath, the location of the Buddha's first teaching after attaining enlightenment, is a major pilgrimage site for Buddhists, and an important archaeological site. In addition, the program will take full advantage of its location outside of the ancient city of Benares to visit Hindu temples and museums, attend classical Indian music concerts, and participate in other educational and cultural opportunities.
The course of studies will include daily lectures in Buddhist philosophy, close reading and discussion of important Buddhist treatises, hermeneutics, and special lectures on such topics as Tibetan medicine, art, history, and culture taught by the faculty and staff of the Central University of Tibetan Studies. Arrangements for language instruction can be made for any students who wish to pursue this.
Students will live in a guesthouse or hostel on the campus of the Central University of Tibetan Studies. Each student is assigned a Tibetan "buddy" student from the Central University, and there is ample opportunity for interaction with the Tibetan students and with other friends in and around Sarnath. All participating students must travel and remain with the group.
Constance Kassor, lecturer in the religion department at Smith College, will accompany the students from the United States, provide academic support while in India, and facilitate in-country travel arrangements. Constance is an alumna of the Tibetan Studies in India Program, and she returned to the Central University for Tibetan Studies for an additional year of research in Buddhist philosophy before attending graduate school. She has spent several years living and working with Tibetan communities in exile in India and Nepal.
There are four required orientation seminars prior to departure.