SOAS University of London

China & Inner Asia Section, Department of East Asian Languages & Cultures

Buddhism in Tibet

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2020/2021
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Taught in:
Term 1
The content of this module covers four areas of instruction. The first segment, taking primarily a historical approach, focuses on Indian Buddhist developments that came to influence the Tibetan Buddhist culture. Particular attention will be given to Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism and to the phases in which these found their way into Tibetan religious culture.

The second segment deals with Tibetan ritual practice and addresses such topics as ritual structures, ritual typologies, initiations, consecrations and the Tibetan Buddhist pantheon.

The third area of study centres around Tibetan Buddhist doctrines. It examines, in some detail, the formation and identity of the various schools and assesses their respective literary contributions to Tibetan Buddhist thought.

In the fourth segment, emphasis will shift to the socio-political sphere, investigating the impact of Buddhism on Tibetan society, in particular with reference to institutional monasticism. Each of these segments will include analyses of some of the more salient features of the Buddhist culture of Tibet, including the practice and concepts of meditation, re-incarnation, spiritual lineage, guru-disciple relationship as well as the social and political manifestations of religious government.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

This module aims to provide a comprehensive introduction to Tibetan Buddhism. 

On successful completion of the module students:

  • will have acquired a sound foundation in the historical, doctrinal and sociological dimensions of Tibetan Buddhism;
  • will be equipped with a basic knowledge of the various Buddhist traditions of Tibet, their history, doctrinal differences and manifold socio-political spheres of influence;
  • will understand the close links that existed between the religious and political
    authorities in traditional Tibetan society, which continue to inform Tibetan
    understanding of the relationship between secular and religious power.

In addition, by shedding light on the close links that existed between the religious and political authorities in traditional Tibetan society, students will have become sensitised to the religious and political issues that affect the relationship between the current Tibetan authorities and their counterparts in the People Republic of China.


Total of 10 weeks teaching with 2 hours classroom contact per week consisting of a 2 hour lecture.

Method of assessment

An essay of 3,000 words to be submitted on Friday, week 1, in the term following teaching (80%); a book review of 750 words (20%).   


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules