Certificate in Sōtō Zen Buddhist Studies


The Certificate in Sōtō Zen Buddhist Studies is intended for two types of students: (1) IBS degree (MA, MBS, or MDIV) program students who wish to demonstrate substantive knowledge of Sōtō Zen history, teachings and practice; and (2) students from outside the IBS, particularly Sōtō Zen priests, lay and monastic teachers and students, who wish to enhance their engagement with the tradition and their communities through systemic graduate level study. Students will develop the ability to place critical scholarship in relationship to received teachings, mutually benefiting both the study and practice of Sōtō Zen Buddhism.

Learn more about our program here from current students!

Students who complete this program will:

  • Locate Sōtō Zen Buddhism within the larger history of Buddhism as a whole
  • Be able to articulate Sōtō Zen teachings, texts and practices, and texts in relationship to other Ch’an and Zen traditions both historically and in the contemporary world.
  • Be able to articulate the relevance of Soto Zen teachings and practices for and in contemporary settings.
  • Develop and apply critical reasoning and academic writing skills within a practice-based community

The certificate is overseen by the Program Advisor, Dr. Paula Arai.

This certificate can be completed concurrently with a degree program or fully online.

For students who are not currently enrolled in a degree program, the admissions requirements for this program are:

  1. Evidence (transcripts) of relevant prior study or coursework such as previous Buddhist Studies courses or a Bachelor’s degree (B.A.).
  2. Two letters of recommendation attesting to the applicant’s ability to do graduate-level work, familiarity with Buddhist thought and/or practice, and relevant prior study or experience.
  3. Statement of purpose (approximately 300-500 words) that includes (a) your reasons for pursuing graduate studies at IBS; (b) your specific academic interests and how they fit with the faculty and courses at IBS; (c) your personal or professional goals and how you see this certificate supporting them; (d) how your relevant academic background or prior experience prepares you for your proposed course of study at IBS.
  4. Non-refundable application fee: $15

Students admitted to a degree program who want to complete a concurrent certificate must petition for admittance into a certificate program. Please contact the Registrar for the applicable form.

Start your online application today!

Program Requirements

Students must complete a total of six, 3-unit courses within three years to complete the certificate. (In-degree program students may complete the course requirements within the timeframe of their degree program; in-degree program students may substitute other courses for the Buddhist traditions sequence.)

Required courses include:

  • Buddhist traditions of South Asia (HRHS 1515)
  • Buddhist traditions of East Asia (HRHS 1518)
  • Zen Buddhism (HR 3040)
  • Readings in Mahayana Texts (HR 3017 or HR 8317) when subject is a Zen text

Recommended courses include:

Final paper should be topic relevant to Sōtō Zen Buddhist Studies

  • Topics in Buddhist Practice (HRHS 8454)
  • Topics in Zen Buddhist Thought (HRPH 8488)
  • Ritual, Practice and Ceremony in Buddhism (HR 1570)
  • Buddhism in the West (HR 2850)
  • Topics in Japanese Religion (HRHS 8450)
  • Buddhist Ethics (HRCE 3002)
  • Chinese Buddhist Philosophy (HRPH 3006)
  • Topics in the Buddhist Traditions of East Asia (HRPH 3242)
  • Topics in the Buddhist Traditions of Japan (HRHS 4540)
  • Topics in Japanese Religion (HRHS 8450)
  • Other courses with Director’s approval