Buddhism has over twenty-five hundred years of history and has taken root, in one form and another and at one time or another, in virtually every country in Asia. In more recent times, it has found a niche in Western nations as well.
This class aims at giving the students an overview of basic Buddhist doctrine, an introduction of the history of its development in India, China and Tibet and a discussion of certain related religious topics, such as religious experience and asceticism. This class will be divided into three parts, namely, early Buddhism in India, Mahayana Buddhism in China and Tantric practice in Tibet. Each of the three parts will be dealt with in the above mentioned doctrinal and historical perspectives. Though this class is primarily a survey class of Buddhist practice, there will be sessions of class addressing specific issues of Buddhist practice. It is considered to be beneficial for the students to dive deeper into certain areas of the vast array of social and cultural phenomena that have clustered in the course of time around a figure called the Buddha. The purpose of doing so is to portray somehow more precisely the thoughts and actions of the large segment of human race who have called themselves Buddhists.
15% to 20% of the class time will be used to have a class discussion on the assigned reading. Several school organized field trips to religious places of worship and Buddhist monasteries as a part of the class activities will provide the students with first hand experience of the living Buddhist practice.
By taking this course, for example, students should be able to analyze and interpret Buddhist religious texts, beliefs, and practices using standard scholarly methods and tools (competency a). For example, students should be able to analyze and interpret some Buddhist scriptures and scriptural passages. Students taking this course will also be able to demonstrate knowledge of the central ethical teachings and perspectives of Buddhism (competency e), e.g., the ethical teachings foundational to the “eightfold path”. Finally, students taking this course will be able to evaluate the religious perspectives of Buddhists (competency d) in light of what they learn about the teachings and practices that are foundational to Buddhism in its many forms.