Buddhist Philosophy

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 5 th 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.

Course Goals:

  1. to acquaint you with the basic history, beliefs and practices of the Buddhist tradition
  2. to familiarize you with key Buddhist concepts
  3. to help you think critically about the differences between various Buddhist sub-traditions and schools
  4. to expose you to some of the key debates and disputes within historical and contemporary Buddhism

Course Objectives:

  1. You will gain an understanding of Buddhist history, philosophy, and practices.
  2. You will learn about the commonalities and differences between different Buddhist traditions.
  3. You will learn about the position of women in different Buddhist traditions.
  4. You will be introduced to Buddhist art, be able to identify its key characteristics, and understand how these function within different Buddhist contexts.

Course Requirements

Grades will be based on the quality and consistency of your posts. This includes both your initial substantive post, and your responses to your peers.

Late posts will not be accepted. Seriously. The forums are places for conversation and interaction. Once the other students have left ‘the room,’ there is no point in posting. So don’t do it.

By the end of Week Eight, you will submit a 1000 word (maximum) evaluation of your postings for the course, along with the grade you believe you deserve. Although I will reserve the final decision in this matter, I will very heavily weigh your own evaluation of your written participation in the course in assigning you a final grade.

If you are not satisfied with your grade (or my evaluation of your evaluation), you have the option to write a "final" essay of 1500 words, which will be due on 8 March.

Incompletes and Pass/Fail are not offered for this course

Throughout the quarter, we will have weekly discussions which will compose a large part of our engagement with each other in this online learning space. For these discussions to be meaningful conversation spaces, we all need to take responsibility for consistent and substantial participation. Instead of grading discussions based on number of words posted or on frequency, I will assess discussions based on the degree to which you substantially engage in the conversation each week. Over the course of a conversation, substantial engagement means:

Each post need not do all of these things, but your overall participation in each conversation should demonstrate all of these components. You might have several short posts and a handful of longer posts in a week or you might have only a few strategic substantial posts. Either way, your overall participation in each conversation will be evaluated for substantial engagement. The goal of this discussion design is to encourage and reward interchange, so post often and engage each other with meaningful questions that open to other questions.

Structure of Discussions

There will be three questions each week; please choose one to be your primary discussion topic. I will provide hashtags (e.g. #art, #women, #whymatter) for each of these areas of inquiry in the discussions. You will indicate your focus each week by tagging your posts with the provided hashtags somewhere in your post. If you get overwhelmed by the large volume of posting in a week's discussion, you can filter the discussion posts using the discussion search feature with a given hashtag to see only the posts related to that topic or text, read those and add your own posts with the same hashtag to extend the conversation. These hashtagged areas of inquiry offer students a way to self select into smaller pockets of conversation amidst the larger course discussion. So, if you choose to focus on one hashtag in a given discussion, we expect you to follow the conversation stream on that tag and to incorporate these posts into your contributions to the conversation. Please feel free to read and engage beyond the area of inquiry you choose as a focus for a given discussion.

Remember that the point of all of this is to create a lively, productive conversation.

Your weekly posts will be assessed as complete/incomplete. To receive a "complete" assessment, you need to engage the assigned material and offer up your own critical, thoughtful response to that material as it pertains to the prompts. You can still receive an incomplete even if you have posted the required number of times: if you have not engaged the material, or you have offered only a cursory or superficial response. Length is not the primary issue here; depth is what you should strive for.

Required Readings :

Jan 10, 2019ThuWeek One - Introductiondue by 06:59AM
Jan 17, 2019ThuWeek Two - The Life of the Buddha and the Doctrinal Foundations of Buddhismdue by 06:59AM
Jan 24, 2019ThuWeek Three - The Sangha and The Laitydue by 06:59AM
Jan 31, 2019ThuWeek Four: So Where Are We Now?due by 06:59AM
Feb 08, 2019FriWeek 5 - The Continuing Presence of the Buddha and the Rise of the Mahāyāna (Gathering Days)due by 08:00PM
Feb 14, 2019ThuWeek Six - Doctrinal Complicationsdue by 06:59AM
Feb 21, 2019ThuWeek Seven: Zendue by 06:59AM
Feb 28, 2019ThuWeek Eight: Tantradue by 06:59AM
Mar 07, 2019ThuWeek Nine - Buddhism in the Modern Worlddue by 06:59AM
Mar 10, 2019SunSelf Evaluationdue by 06:59AM
Mar 16, 2019SatFinal Essaydue by 05:59AM