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Department of the Study of Religions

MA Traditions of Yoga and Meditation

Overview

Mode of Attendance: Full Time or Part Time

Who is this programme for?:

The thematic components and cross-regional perspectives typically suit students with the following interests and/or aspirations:

  • Experienced practitioners of yoga and meditation who wish to gain a deeper understanding of the historical and cultural contexts that shaped their traditions.
  • Students with a background in psychology seeking to gain knowledge of meditation and mindfulness for their clinical work.
  • Students planning to pursue further research which may involve, at a subsequent stage, the acquisition of a doctoral degree and a career in higher education.
  • Students seeking to pursue a career or professional activity for which advanced knowledge of the yoga and meditation traditions of Asia is required.
  • Students who wish to pursue the academic study of these traditions as a complement to their personal experience.

This MA offers an in-depth introduction to the yogic and meditational techniques and doctrines of India, Tibet, China and Japan within the historical and cultural context of their formation. Furthermore, it explores the nature of spiritual experience that arises from yoga and meditation through a cross-cultural, inter-regional perspective.

Classes are held three evenings per week with Full-time and Part-time Study Available.

The thematic, but inter-regional, focus of this MA programme promotes the academic study of the different traditions through the deployment of a wide range of regional perspectives. Its core unit explores the methodological foundations at the heart of yoga/meditation practice. The specialist components integrated within this MA are organised to serve as platform for further (MPhil/PhD) graduate research; the more general components of the programme provides those students who do not intend to pursue doctoral research with an advanced introduction to the physiological dynamics, doctrinal foundations, history, regional context and theoretical presuppositions that shaped the traditions of yoga and meditation. The programme thus offers students (a) advanced knowledge of the background to, and understanding of, yoga and meditation, from their origin in ancient India to their apex in mediaeval Japan; (b) advanced skills in research and writing on topics that pertain to yoga/meditation, drawing on both primary sources (in translation) and secondary sources; (c) advanced skills in presentation and communication of their knowledge of the topics covered in the lectures.

This MA is taught through evening classes, typically running between 18.00h and 20.00h on weekdays, at the SOAS Russell Square Campus in Central London.

The reading materials connected to all four courses of this MA programme are largely disseminated through online resources. Essay submission takes place either in hard copy or electronically.

Structure

The five courses required of this degree are listed below. They are a combination of 0.5 unit (half year) and 1 unit (full year) taught courses and a dissertation.

Programme Specification

Teaching & Learning

Teaching & Learning

Students are required to follow taught units to the equivalent of three full courses and to submit a dissertation of 10,000 words. All courses in this MA are assessed through a combination of short and long essays. An overall percentage mark is awarded for each course, based on the marks awarded for individual assessment items within the course. The MA may be awarded at Distinction, Merit or Pass level in accordance with the common regulations for MA/MSc at SOAS.

The MA ‘Traditions of Yoga and Meditation’ is designed both as an end qualification in itself and as a platform preparing students for more advanced graduate work. 

Programme Learning Outcomes
Knowledge
  • Students will learn how to assess data and evidence critically, locate and synthesise source materials, critically evaluate conflicting interpretations and sources, use research resources (library catalogues, journal databases, citation indices) and other traditional sources.
  • Subject specific skills, for instance, text analysis, comparative investigations, interpretation of art-historical evidence, familiarity with the study of the traditions of yoga and meditation as a field of critical enquiry in its various regional and historical contexts.
  • Aspects of literature in the study of yoga and meditation with its manifestations in philosophy, religion, iconography and history, as well as the impact of these traditions on religious societies.
Intellectual (thinking) skills
  • Students should become precise and cautious in their assessment of evidence, and to understand through practice what documents can and cannot tell us.
  • Students will develop the capacity to discuss theoretical and epistemological issues in an articulate, informed, and intellectual manner.
  • Students will learn to become precise and critical in their assessment of scholarly arguments and to question interpretations, however authoritative, in order to reassess evidence for themselves.
  • Students will learn to present complex theoretical arguments clearly and creatively.
  • Students will acquire both theoretical and regional expertise in order to develop and apply self-reflexive approaches to the issues raised by the cross-cultural study of yoga and meditation traditions.
Subject-based practical skills

The programme aims to help students with the following practical skills:

  • Academic writing
  • IT-based information retrieval and processing
  • Presentational skills
  • Independent study skills and research techniques
  • Reflexive learning
Transferable skills

The programme will encourage students to:

  • Write concisely and with clarity.
  • Effectively structure and communicate ideas (oral and written).
  • Explore and assess a variety of sources for research purposes.
  • Work to deadlines and high academic standards.
  • Assess the validity and cogency of arguments.
  • Make judgements involving complex factors.
  • Develop self-reflexivity.
  • Develop an awareness of the ethical complexity of representational practices.
  • Question the nature of social and cultural constructs.

A Student's Perspective

I feel that the thorough and systematic teaching provided by SOAS has given me not only a good knowledge of Sanskrit but also skills in critical thought, linguistic and socio-political analysis and communication that will give me something unique to offer to a graduate employer.

Andrew Werner