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What is Buddhist Studies?

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Buddhist Studies, also known as Buddhology, is the academic study of Buddhism. The term Buddhology was coined in the early 20th-century by Estlin Carpenter – a Unitarian minister, to mean the “study of Buddhahood, the nature of the Buddha, and doctrines of a Buddha,” but the terms Buddhology and Buddhist Studies are generally synonymous in the contemporary context. According to William M. Johnston, in some specific contexts, Buddhology may be viewed as a subset of Buddhist Studies, with a focus on Buddhist hermeneutics, exegesis, ontology and Buddha’s attributes. Scholars of Buddhist Studies focus on the history, culture, archaeology, arts, philology, anthropology, sociology, theology, philosophy, practices, inter-religious comparative studies and other subjects related to Buddhism.

In contrast to the study of Judaism or Christianity, the field of Buddhist Studies has been dominated by “outsiders” to Buddhist cultures and traditions. However, Japanese universities have also made major contributions, as have Asian immigrants to Western countries, and Western converts to Buddhism.

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