Master of Divinity Degree (MDiv)

Maitripa College offers a robust, 72 credit minimum, three-to-four year Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree under the direction of Yangsi Rinpoche. The MDiv is a professional degree focused on a Buddhist approach to cultivating intellectual, spiritual, and professional skills in order to work as an agent of positive change in the world. Scholastic and contemplative training forms a stable foundation for skillfully enacting culturally- relevant wisdom and compassion. Candidates are prepared for a life of service and leadership in the non-profit sector and traditional chaplaincy roles within Buddhist, interfaith, or secular institutions and communities.

At the core of the degree curriculum are the three pillars of higher education at Maitripa – Scholarship, Meditation, and Community Service. The Master of Divinity degree is designed for students seeking a practical, in-depth, and critical understanding of Buddhist thought, with a strong emphasis on real-life application, both internally and in service to the community. The program couples meditative training and active service in community partnerships with a core philosophical curriculum designed to ground the student in Buddhist principles, logic, philosophical arguments, meditative techniques, and methodologies of the academic study of religion. The synthesis of this training and study informs personal and professional applications of Buddhist orientations to concepts of self and other, the wish to alleviate suffering, and interdependence at local and global levels.

In addition, the MDiv degree attends to the personal, scholarly, and pastoral competencies required for chaplaincy by offering a breadth of learning opportunities in canonical language and literature, religious history, pastoral care and counseling, and comparative religion. Particular depth will be cultivated in areas of philosophy, meditation practices and methods, Buddhist psychology, ritual and liturgy, spiritual formation, leadership and administration, and Engaged Buddhism.

Students may elect to complete a concentration in either Canonical Languages and Literature, or Spiritual Formation. The concentration in Canonical Languages and Literature trains students in Classical Tibetan from beginning to advanced levels, with both Tibetan and Western scholars, and includes courses with close readings of texts in translation. The Spiritual Formation concentration enables students to devote considerable focus to mentored meditation and retreat.

The MDiv degree has traditionally been an important credential for ministry as well as for employment as a chaplain in hospitals, hospice, prisons, the armed forces, and some schools or institutions. Students may qualify to apply to pursue national Board Certification as chaplains after graduation.

The program may be completed as a full- or part-time student. Full-time students must take a minimum of 7 credits per semester, and are eligible for scholarship funds.

Degree Concentrations

Students in the MDiv and MA degree programs may elect concentrations in either Canonical Languages and Literature or Spiritual Formation as a way of identifying areas of particular depth and training.

The concentration in Canonical Languages and Literature requires a minimum of four semesters of classical Tibetan coursework and four credit hours of coursework in close reading of a Buddhist text in translation. Courses which satisfy the literature requirement will be indicated in the course catalogue. Other canonical languages, such as Sanskrit or Chinese, also satisfy the language requirement when available.

Maitripa College is committed to training students in Classical Tibetan from beginning to advanced levels – from learning the alphabet to producing translations. Our mission and vision to develop an accredited Buddhist University offering higher education guided by the principles of the Buddhadharma requires that we also contribute to the preservation of Tibet’s rich textual traditions and increase their accessibility in the West. By learning to read and translate Tibetan, Maitripa students have the opportunity to receive the wisdom of these teachings directly in their original language, study with western and Tibetan linguists, learn to recite prayers and practices in Tibetan, and take advantage of the rare opportunity to read classic texts with a Geshe Lharampa and lineage holder, Yangsi Rinpoche. This is also exceptional preparation for pursuing doctoral studies and research in any area of Tibetan studies. Please see Classical Tibetan Language Studies at Maitripa College for more information.

The concentration in Spiritual Formation enables students to devote considerable focus to mentored meditation, both in the classroom and during structured retreat opportunities. Meditation and ritual practices that fulfill the minimum credits must demonstrate educational efficacy through mentorship, educational goals, and evaluation. Three meditation (MDT) elective courses (in addition to the minimum degree requirements for the MA or MDiv) must be taken, in which the course is designed to instruct students in practices for specific educational goals, including the cultivation of spiritual qualities or skills, gaining insight into philosophic concepts, or learning content. A minimum of one additional credit hour (100 hours of mentored meditation) must be earned through participation in retreat. Retreats may include on-site or residential Maitripa-sponsored retreats and, where approved and in consultation with Yangsi Rinpoche, may also include structured and supervised retreats to be completed by the student privately. In some cases, and with sufficient documentation, students may petition for limited recognition of retreats and practices completed in other lineages or at other centers.

Master of Divinity Learning Outcomes

Philosophy & Theology

Students will have a sophisticated understanding of the fundamentals of Buddhist philosophy, the issues at stake for Buddhist philosophers, and the approaches Tibetan and Western scholars take toward understanding this body of work. Students will be familiar with the history, authors, and texts significant in the development of Buddhist thought in India and Tibet.

Students will have an understanding of the doctrines of Buddhist thought as they are practiced in historical and contemporary Buddhist contexts, and in the evolving western traditions. They will demonstrate knowledge of the interaction of religious/spiritual experience and culture as it has played out historically in Buddhism, and gain facility with applying and integrating Buddhist resources within our multicultural society. They will be able to articulate a personal theology and have the ability to draw on Buddhist perspectives to nurture and support the development of a spiritual worldview (whatever it may be) in others with equanimity and respect.


Students will have solid awareness and fluency in the terminology of the vast corpus of techniques and practices of Buddhist meditation. Students will be able to identify appropriate meditation practices to combat specific psychological problems and apply them to their own minds. They will be able to communicate these techniques to others appropriately in both secular and religious contexts. They will be able to live from an understanding of self informed by introspection, and an understanding of others as informed by wisdom and compassion.

Community Service

Students will be able to assess community needs, develop strategies for meeting those needs, and actively work to bring concrete benefit to their communities through the practice of service in their communities. They will be able to integrate Buddhist concepts of compassion, patience, joyous effort, and so forth into their work, and communicate these concepts to others as strategies for service. Students will have the ability to draw on Buddhist perspectives to engage with their communities, identify and enhance its strengths, and become leaders and agents of positive change in our world.


Students will gain depth in Buddhist studies and practice and be able to use the tradition as a source of inspiration, wisdom, and spiritual rejuvenation for their work in the world. Students will demonstrate competencies in a breadth of complementary areas according to their educational and professional goals. Those students planning to pursue certification as chaplains, and exemplifying the requisite personal qualities and professional skills, will be prepared for Ordination and Endorsement while a student, and for Clinical Pastoral Education and completion of the certification process after graduation.

MDiv students need not identify as Buddhist, but must have a willingness to commit to study and practice Buddhism from an appreciation for the tradition as a source of wisdom and spiritual development and out of which they will be able to serve in the world.

Progress to Graduation: Maitripa College Masters of Divinity (72): Required & Recommended Courses

Note: Maitripa College faculty and staff are committed to periodic review and revision of this curriculum in light of new findings and methods in the fields of study, feedback from alumni and professionals, and faculty expertise. Maitripa College does not guarantee all courses will be offered as listed in the coming years. An individual student’s course of study will vary according to concentrations, language studies, pace of study, and elective options. For more information on courses and curriculum, please contact us at

No. course credits offered

PHILOSOPHY PILLAR: minimum 12 credits, includes:

REQUIRED: PHL301 Introduction to Buddhist Thought (2) Fall
PHL302 Foundations of Buddhist Thought: The Medium and Great Scope (2) Spring
PHL303 Madhyamaka Philosophy: Where is the Middle Way? (2) Fall
PHL304 Madhayamaka Philosophy: A Dose of Emptiness (2) Spring
PHL401 Vajrayana Philosophy (2) Fall
RECOMMENDED: PHL402 Vajrayana Philosophy (2) Spring
PHL331/332 Mindfulness & Compassion (2) Var.
PHLvar The Good Heart (2) Var.
PHL410 Tantric Ritual and Ethics (permission required) (2) Spring

MEDITATION PILLAR: minimum 10 credits, includes:

REQUIRED: MDT301 Introduction to Buddhist Meditation (2) Fall
MDT302 Techniques of Buddhist Meditation: The Medium and Great Scope (2) Spring
MDT303 Techniques of Meditation: Madhyamaka (2) Fall
MDT304 Madhyamaka Meditation: Preparation for Vajrayana (2) Spring
MDT401 Vajrayana Meditation (2) Fall
RECOMMENDED: MDT402 Vajrayana Meditation II (permission required) (2) Spring
MDT501 Lam Rim Retreat: The Small Scope (1) Fall
MDT502 Lam Rim Retreat: The Medium Scope (1) TBD
MDT503 Lam Rim Retreat: The Great Scope (1) TBD
MDT504 Lam Rim Retreat: The Great Scope II (1) TBD

SERVICE PILLAR: minimum 16 credits, may include:

REQUIRED: CST001 Who We Are & Who We Serve: Personal Theology & Foundations of Engagement (1) Fall
CST002 Compassionate Service: Building Bridges (3) Spring
ST005 Buddhist Chaplaincy I (3) Fall
RECOMMENDED: CST003 Compassionate Service: Wisdom and Method (3) Fall
CST004 Buddhist Ministry & Leadership: Building Spiritual Communities (3) Spring
CST006 Buddhist Chaplaincy II (3) Spring
CST121 Mindful Institutional Organization, Administration & Development  (1) Fall
CST122 Mindful Institutional Organization, Administration & Development  (1) Spring
CST131 Chaplaincy, Pastoral Counseling, and Contemplative Care as Service (2) Fall
CST132 Chaplaincy, Pastoral Counseling, and Contemplative Care as Service (1) Spring
CST142 Spiritual Leadership (1) Spring

THEOLOGY: minimum 12 credits, may include:

REQUIRED THL320 Buddhist Theology (2) Alt. Fall
THL 305 Engaged Buddhism (2) Alt. Spring
PHL450 Theories and Methods in the Study of Religion (2) Alt.Spring
HIS301 History of Buddhist Philosophy: India and Tibet (2) Alt. Fall
THL410 Buddhist Rituals, Ethics, Services, and Ceremonies (2) Fall
RECOMMENDED: THL xxx Comparative Religions (2) TBD
THL 421r Buddhist & Western Approaches to Pastoral Care & Counseling (1) Var.
THL600 Colloquia in Applied Buddhist Theology (1) Var.
FINAL PROJECT THL500 Final Comprehensive Paper (4) Spring
OPTIONAL: PHL501R Students must register for PHL501 to maintain residency in their program for each term that their comprehensive paper is in process.

GENERAL ELECTIVES: minimum, variable

Students may select non-required courses from the course catalogue and new courses as they are offered to build specific competencies or concentrations of study according to their educational interests and goals. Students planning to pursue national certification as Chaplains are advised to consider both breadth and depth of training, whereas those preparing for future graduate work are advised to maximize language study, for example. The number of total electives is variable and students are advised to generate an individual plan with their advisors. 

 Optional Concentration Areas


equivalent of 4 semesters of language classes plus 4 literature credit hours, OR equivalent of 6 semesters of language classes plus 2 literature credit hours, minimum, from the following possible courses:

TIB101 Introduction to Classical Tibetan Language (3) Fall
TIB102 Classical Tibetan Language II (3) Spring
TIB103 Introduction to Classical Tibetan Language (3) Summer
TIB110 Classical Tibetan Language Summer Intensive (103 + 203r) (6) Summer
TIB201 Intermediate Tibetan I: Bridge to Translation (2) Fall
TIB202 Intermediate Tibetan II: Bridge to Translation (2) Spring
TIB203R Classical Tibetan Grammar & Translation Methodology (4) Summer
TIB301R Seminar in Tibetan Translation (2) var.
TIB310R Topics in Translation: Genre and Method (3) Summer

All Tibetan language courses count towards concentration in Tibetan language and literature. Not all Tibetan language classes are guaranteed annually; please see Director of Programs for details. Tibetan 203R, 301R, and 310R require permission of instructor for enrollment, and may be repeated for credit. In addition to Tibetan language, students take two courses (four credits) that focus on the close reading of Tibetan text(s) in translation. Courses that count towards this requirement are indicated in the course catalog, and include but are not limited to:

PH 600 The Uttaratantra: The Nature of Mind (2)
PHL316 Stages of Meditation: Kamalashila’s Gom Rim in Theory & Practice (2)
PHL317 The Foundations of Mahayana Buddhism (2)
PHL321/323 The Good Heart (when course content focuses on text(s) in translation) (2)


Fourteen minimum credits in MDT, including those required for the degree, which must include a minimum of 2 credit hours of recognized retreat.

The Spiritual Formation concentration enables credit for practice-oriented coursework and retreat experiences. Students work with their academic advisor and the President to formulate retreat plans that ensure educational efficacy, mentorship, and evaluation. Retreats may be structured and offered by Maitripa College for group and/or individual practice, and, in rare circumstances, students may be able to petition for limited recognition of retreats in other lineages or under the supervision of other teachers with sufficient documentation. Please speak with your academic advisor and/or the Director of Programs for additional information.