The Contemplative Studies Postgraduate Programme is focused entirely on meditation. It aims to revisit our lifestyles and practices in a sustainable and conscious way by documenting and promoting the benefits of contemplative practice in different sectors of society, such as education, healthcare, work and personal growth. Over 200 hours of guided meditation practice lead students through six types of training, which include both traditional and modern approaches. Ideas from the fields of psychology and neuroscience offer a modern insight on meditation, while those from the fields of philosophy, sociology and history of religion help contextualise its practice within the Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Hellenistic and Islamic traditions. Students will acquire the tools needed to guide meditations for both individuals and groups, while developing the critical thinking skills required to tackle the cultural and ethical challenges linked to the spread of meditation in modern society.
The programme offers multidisciplinary competencies and cross-cultural perspectives on meditation, with emphasis on Buddhist contemplative practices. In particular, it covers modern meditative programmes for stress reduction, emotional balance and the development of various life-and soft-skills, as well as providing tools for introducing contemplative practices into various contexts in our society.
The programme is comprised of various kinds of classes and activities, both in person and online, taught by leading international experts in the field. In particular, there will be:
- Weekend programmes taking place at the University of Padua once per month (about one per month, Saturday and Sunday, in person).
- Meditation retreats at some of the most important Buddhist monasteries and meditation centres in Italy.
- Guided meditation sessions offered remotely on weekday evenings. These are aimed at promoting continuity of the practice and assisting participants in the assimilation of their contemplative experience. Students will be asked to dedicate 30-40 minutes to daily meditative practice, relating to the topics covered in each stage of the programme.
- Sharing and debate sessions scheduled on a regular basis to promote content integration and to encourage students to share their thoughts.
- Project work that will allow students to delve deeper into a contemplative training of their choice.
The programme helps students acquire sound theoretical knowledge and practical skills specific to the field of meditation, mindfulness and contemplative practices. It is also aimed at those who intend to implement these approaches in their profession, such as in the fields of care and education. Specifically, the programme:
- Develops multidisciplinary expertise useful in teaching meditation, mindfulness and other related practices;
- Explores programmes related to stress reduction, emotional balance and the development of soft- and life-skills, as well as various abilities that are also applicable to therapeutic settings, thus addressing physicians, psychologists, psychotherapists, nurses and other care professionals;
- Provides tools for introducing contemplative practices into pedagogical contexts and thus addresses educators and teachers at all levels; and
- Also addresses scholars, researchers, practitioners and teachers of meditation, as well as other figures dedicated to the study, application and diffusion of traditional and modern contemplative approaches.
AREA 1. TRADITIONAL APPROACHES TO CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICES
Intercultural Paths Between Philosophy and Mysticism
• Intercultural approaches to contemplative experience
• Similarities between philosophy and mystical experience in different cultural contexts; focus on: Christian mysticism, Kashmir Tantrism, and intersections between contemporary East and West spiritual experiences
Mysticism in Hellenism, Christianity and the Middle East
• Contemplative experience in ancient times and the Middle Ages; focus on contemplative practices between Ancient Greece and India and between Greek philosophy and late-antiquity Christianity, as well as in Neoplatonism, in ancient Eastern churches and in Medieval Christianity
Contemplative Practice and Mystical Experience in Sufism
• Sufism in the context of the Arabic-Islamic tradition
• The Sufi practice, past and present
Mystical-Ascetic Traditions in Hinduism
• Issues around contemplative practice in India, from its beginnings to Advaita Vedanta
Theravada Buddhism and Vipassana Meditation
• The philosophy of the Pali Canon
• A theoretical and practical approach to mindfulness meditation in the Pali Canon – TRAINING
• Vipassana – RETREAT
Mahayana Buddhism in India
• Historical and philosophical developments
• Theoretical, ethical and contemplative issues
Forms of Meditation in Tibetan Buddhism
• The purpose and methods of meditation
• Analytical meditation – TRAINING
• Stabilising meditation – TRAINING
Zen and Its Practices
• Central issues in Zen theory and practice
• Dogen’s philosophy
• Meditation on koans – TRAINING & RETREAT
• Zazen meditation – TRAINING & RETREAT
AREA 2. CONTEMPORARY APPROACHES TO CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICES
• The epistemological framework of Contemplative Studies
• Debate sessions to promote content integration
Contributions of Psychology to Contemplative Studies
• Psychology’s contributions to the topic of contemplative practices
• Psychological theories, research and challenges in the study of spiritual experience and self-perception in a relational and intercultural perspective
Neuroscientific Perspectives on the Contemplative Experience
• Implications and neural/somatic correlations in the contemplative experience
• Neuroscientific approaches to the religious experience
• The new religious movements: between religion and spirituality
AREA 3. APPLICATIONS OF CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICES
Mindfulness, Stress Reduction and Emotional Regulation
• A social-cognitive approach to mindfulness and its benefits
• Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction – TRAINING
• Cultivating Emotional Balance – TRAINING
Meditation Approaches to Develop Compassion
• Compassion, empathy and altruism: a comparison between Western psychology and Buddhism
• Compassion Cultivation Training – TRAINING
Applications in Education
• A theoretical and experiential approach to contemplative educational methods
Resources for Leading Group Meditation Practices
• Trauma-sensitive approaches
• Resources for leading group meditation practices
Our partnership with the Italian Buddhist Union provides qualified meditation trainers: masters and experts with vast experience in the contemplative traditions. It also allows the programme’s retreats to take place at monasteries and meditation centres. Finally, the Italian Buddhist Union provides ten scholarships (see FAQ section for award criteria).
With contributions coming from different disciplines, the emerging field of Contemplative Studies stands out for its multidisciplinary nature and peculiar methodologies, which integrate first-, second- and third-person approaches. The programme includes some of the field’s leading experts as lecturers and in 2024 will host an international conference as part of its seminar activities, which will be accessible to students. Thus, students are brought to the heart of the research and debates of Contemplative Studies, in direct dialogue with the top names in this new field.
- The Master in Contemplative Studies explained in a minute
- In this video you will have an overview of the programme’s educational contents directly from the faculty members who made this interweaving of professionalism, experience and disciplines possible.
- This playlist collects interviews with some of the programme’s faculty members and lecturers, in which they elaborate on the various aspects of the training.
The general ranking of merit for the academic year 2023/24 will be published on the Italian page of this Master according to the timing provided in the Call.
In the final stage of the training course, students are required to complete project work aimed at deepening their knowledge, meditation expertise and conduction abilities through advanced training in one of the meditation approaches covered during the two-year period.
Ten scholarships worth 1,393.40 Euro each (gross) have been made available to successful candidates. The criteria for their awarding are: resume (70 points), dissertation (20 points) and other publications (10 points); the motivation letter will be considered a complementary element in the evaluation of the curriculum vitae.
The scholarships will be disbursed automatically by the Department in order of merit after the enrolment phase; as such, those who pre-enrol do not have to do anything extra in order to apply. The scholarships will be awarded based on the selection criteria (see Selection Notice for details on award criteria).
After passing the final oral exam, the First-Level Programme Diploma “Contemplative Studies: Meditation from Ancient Traditions to Contemporary Age” will be awarded. Upon request, a certificate of educational activities, including successfully completed meditation trainings and retreats, will be issued for each student during the two-year programme. The training courses include: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Cultivating Emotional Balance (CEB), Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT), as well as traditional courses in the main forms of Buddhist meditation (Theravāda, Tibetan and Zen).
Remote activities will be conducted over Zoom, while downloadable educational materials and other distance learning functions will use the Moodle platform. All lectures (including those in person) will be recorded and will remain available for the entire two-year period.
The various course activities will primarily be based in classrooms at the University of Padua, via Venezia 12. In addition, retreats and other practice activities are planned at the following locations:
- Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa, via Poggiberna 15, 56040 Pomaia (PI);
- Sanbo-ji Tempio dei tre Gioielli, Loc. Pradaiolo 37, 43040 Pagazzano, Berceto (PR);
- Ist. Italiano Zen Soto Shobozan Fudenji, Bargone 113, 43039 Salsomaggiore Terme (PR);
- Centro Tara Cittamani, via Lussemburgo 4, 35127 Padova.
The programme is mainly comprised of in-person teaching hours (concentrated around weekends) and a smaller proportion of online hours (distributed around weekday evenings). For both activities, students are required to maintain a minimum 70% attendance rate (attendance will be taken for both in-person and remote lectures). In exceptional circumstances, it is possible to opt for the “synchronous online attendance,” which allows the students to remotely attend for up to a maximum of 20% of the theoretical activities for which in-person participation would be required.
Here are the teachers of the first programme:
International Teachers (Italian translation will be provided)
Gonzalo Brito Pons
John D. Dunne
Kenneth J. Gergen
Kiyozumi Ishii Seijun
Harold D. Roth
Saki F. Santorelli
B. Alan Wallace
Paolo Francesco Cottone
Maria Grazia Crepaldi
Nicola De Pisapia
Pier Luigi Lattuada
Mohammed Khalid Rhazzali
Carlo Tetsugen Serra
Mario Thanavaro Proscia
Elena Seishin Viviani