Buddhism is not only a religion. It has great lessons for students of economics, history, sociology and philosophy, Prachi Rege discovers after a visit to KJ Somaiya`s Centre for Buddhist Studies.
Sanghamitra Pushkar’s father was a devout Buddhist. To express his reverence to the lord, he even named her after Budddha’s disciple king Ashoka’s daughter Sanghamitra. Pushkar, 40 wanted to fulfil her father’s dream of spreading the knowledge of Buddhism around the world. Caught in the daily grind work and family- Pushkar was a primary school teacher in New Delhi- she couldn’t really do much. Besides reading a few books on Buddhism, she could not get herself formally trained in the subject. But as they say, where there’s a will, there’s a way and so Pushkar found her path.
When she settled in Mumbai following her husband’s transfer, Pushkar chanced upon the Centre for Buddhist Studies located at Somaiya College of Management Studies and Research (SIMSR). “It was a god sent opportunity and at the first chance I applied for the diploma course,” says the ardent Buddhism student who has now signed up for a two-year full time MA programme introduced just last month.
Recognised by the University of Mumbai, the four semester MA programme in Buddhist Studies is an interdisciplinary course. As a result, students who are pursuing their Masters in any other field of Humanities can pick a subject of their choice from the course, on credit system. “Through the concept of how Buddhism influenced the silk route and extended as a religion around the world, this course will be beneficial for students who are studying economics, history, sociology or philosophy at the Masters level,” says K Sankarnarayan, director of the Centre.
Professors and PhD scholars from the department of Pali and Buddhist studies from University of Pune, Banaras Hindu University, Delhi University and Calcutta University have designed the curriculum. The course covers aspects like genesis of Buddhism, various languages of the scriptures, art and architecture of the era, philosophy of the religion and the business ethics it propagated, which are applicable even today.
Professors from Central University of Tibetan Studies in Sarnath have been instrumental in designing the Tibetan Language paper which is a core part of the MA programme. “Since most of the written Buddhist scriptures are in the Tibetan language, learning the language will help those who are keen on translating these scripts,” explains Sankarnarayan.
While there are five in house faculty members training the students, occasional visits from Buddhist Scholars from around the world have also been planned.
Many of Pushkar’s classmates are at the Centre pursuing their passion for Buddhism. A retired teacher, a dentist, a housewife – all have signed up for the programme at the Centre, which was launched in 1993 at the hands of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Subhada Pawar, a homemaker has earned a diploma in Pali and Buddhist studies and is now going deeper in her passion with the MA programme. .“I want to get to the core of the thought behind the concept of Buddhism and then reach out to others,” Pawar signs off.
1) Students with a Bachelors’ degree in any discipline with a minimum score of 55% are eligible for the programme. Those from fields other than Arts will have to appear for an entrance test.
2) With each paper being worth 6 credits, the student will earn 24 credits each semester, 48 credits in a year.
3) Each credit will translate into 15 hours, making it 90 hours per paper. Of these, 60 hours will be covered by lectures and the balance half will be counted towards preparation, homework, library work, assignments and student seminars.
4) Each semester will comprise about 15 weeks. Of these, two weeks will be taken up in final and mid-semester exams.
a) To develop a strong corps of research scholars who are equipped with the requisite skills and knowledge base about recent advances in the field of Buddhist Studies.
b) To offer the curriculum in a manner that enhances creative, conceptual and analytical abilities in the student.
c) To encourage an approach that facilitates meaningful interaction between academics and society at large.