Course Syllabus

Buddhism began in a remote corner of the Indian subcontinent some 2500 years ago, and has over the course of its history spread to nearly every corner of the world. Not only has Buddhism shaped the thought, culture, and consciousness of Asia, however, it has also influenced the West in significant ways. This course is an exploration into the rich history, the doctrines and practices, and the various manifestations of the Buddhist tradition. Buddhism has always been culturally and historically embedded, and therefore we shall approach Buddhism from several different angles - historical, cultural, ritual, philosophical, and artistic - in an attempt to comprehend the religion in all of its diversity. We will begin with an investigation into the social and religious context of 5th century BCE India out of which the Buddha emerged, and then progress to an exploration of Buddhism’s philosophical basis in the early teachings of the Buddha in India, and the various important interpreters of these teachings. We will then turn to an investigation of the early social and religious structure of the Buddhist community, and trace the changes in this community - and the changes in the Buddha’s original formulation of his teachings - as Buddhism spread out from India, to Nepal and Tibet, to Sri Lanka, Burma, and Thailand, to China and Japan, and eventually to Europe and America.

Goals, Objectives, and Requirements

Discussion Guidelines

Required Readings:

  • Jacob N. Kinnard, The Emergence of Buddhism (Fortress) (links provided)
  • Thomas Kasulis, Zen Person, Zen Action (Hawaii)
  • There is also a collection of required readings that are linked in each assignment.

Course Summary:

Date Details Due