R S 312 • Introduction to Buddhism
12:30 PM-2:00 PM
This course is designed to provide the student with a structural and historical overview of Buddhism through the examination of various schools, doctrines, biographical narratives, and contemporary ethical issues. The course will be divided into four major sections. 1. We will begin our study in India and look at the ways in which the contexts of post-Vedic civilization and orthodox Hinduism made Buddhism possible, and ask the following questions about Buddhism's founder: Who was the "historical Buddha?" What were the factors that led to his enlightenment, and how might we interpret it in terms of religious and philosophical meaning? What did the Buddha teach, and what didn't he? 2. We will study tandem developments in Theravada (also termed Orthodox or Southern) and Mahayana (Greater Vehicle) Buddhism and the spread of these two distinctive schools into Southeast and East Asia respectively. 3. We will study Vajrayana (Diamond Vehicle) Buddhism as it manifested in Tibet through a close reading of the biography of one of Tibet's greatest Buddhist teachers, poets, and mystics, Milarepa. 4. We will examine the peculiar relationship that Buddhism has had with the West and explore the various ways in which European and American societies have embraced Buddhism and made it their own. Throughout the semester, we will pinpoint and closely examine contemporary ethical and human rights issues in these various regions as we proceed.