Buddhist Japanese Course Trains Beginning Students to Read Complex Texts

Gesshin Claire Greenwood  |  August 2, 2021

This fall, IBS is excited to offer Buddhist Japanese I, the first of a four-course sequence. Students will begin with basic Japanese grammar and build up their skills and knowledge of kanbun (Chinese characters) to eventually tackle more complex Buddhist texts by the end of two years.

The four-semester sequence of online Buddhist Japanese courses is intended to help students develop crucial language skills, which could be used to further academic scholarship or personal engagement with key Buddhist texts. “Being able to read Buddhist scholarship in the original language is a vital skill,” says Dean Scott Mitchell. “We’re very excited that we’re able to start offering this class again, and hope to expand our language offerings in the future.”

Buddhist Japanese will be taught by Dr. Luke Thompson, who graduated from Columbia with a degree in East Asian Languages and Cultures. Dr. Thompson’s research focused on medieval Japanese Buddhist intellectual history, and he has taught Buddhist Studies courses at universities as well as in New York State prisons through the Bard Prison Initiative’s undergraduate degree program. Dr. Thompson says, “In my teaching I like to employ materials that are both edifying and enjoyable.  In this course, besides the Lotus Sutra and some academic texts, I plan to use some modern translations of medieval setsuwa and folktales, which are great fun to read (and often humorous) but also packed with Buddhist themes and symbolism.” 


Buddhist Japanese can be taken by special students and auditors as a standalone class, and it could also function as an elective course for degree and certificate students, such as those within the Sōtō Zen Certificate Program. Auditors (those who wish to take the class and not receive academic credit) can register for this course by emailing our Registrar at htagawa@shin-ibs.edu. More information about auditing and other enrollment options can be found here

The deadline to apply as an auditor for this course is August 5, and IBS instruction begins September 7th. The semester runs until December 16, and the class day is TBD. For more information on how to apply, contact our Registrar or visit our website