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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Divinity : Religious Studies

Undergraduate Course: Theravada Buddhism (REST10048)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Divinity CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course explores a major branch of Buddhism from its origins in 5th century BCE North India to its present-day manifestations in South and South-east Asia.
Course description Academic Description:
This course explores the branch of Buddhism known as Theraváda, which is prevalent in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, aiming to give students a thorough understanding of the major beliefs, practices and historical developments as well as allow more in-depth study of selected themes. The course covers the origins of Buddhism, the development of Theraváda as a distinct branch, the history of Theraváda, and key aspects of Theraváda Buddhist thought and practice. Students are expected to engage directly with primary sources, both textual and ethnographic, and to reflect upon the nature of these types of sources within the academic study of Buddhism.

Syllabus/Outline Content:
This course begins with the beginnings of Theraváda Buddhism, by exploring Theraváda representations of the life of the Buddha and traditional understandings of Theraváda history and identity. It then discusses key Buddhist ideas in their Theraváda formulations, the notion of scripture and the compilation of the 'P'li canon', monasticism as the basic Theraváda institution, meditation, ethics, ritual and devotional practices, and the role of Theraváda Buddhism in national identity and political debate. Throughout the course students are encouraged to explore variations in Theraváda perspectives, as well as to question both traditional and academic representations of Theraváda Buddhism.

Student Learning Experience Information:
The course has a two-hour class per week. The first hour is usually a traditional lecture format, albeit with interactive elements and an emphasis on student engagement with primary sources, whether in the form of text, film, image or sound. The second hour is a seminar discussion of the set reading for the week, which is provided in a course reader and consists of a mixture of scriptural extracts and ethnographic accounts. Students are expected to read the set seminar readings and produce a weekly short written response that gives a brief summary of the source, picks out one or two points of interest and raises a question for discussion. Students are also expected to follow up recommended readings relating to lecture themes. For essay 1 students must choose a primary text extract to research and write about, while essay 2 allows the students to study a key theme or question relating to Theraváda belief or practice in depth. Through all these activities students demonstrate their completion of the intended learning outcomes.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2019/20, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 22, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 1, Revision Session Hours 1, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 172 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 10 x weekly written commentaries on seminar readings as preparation for seminar discussion (100 words per week, except week 1 [1000 words] = 20%;
Essay 1 will be a source-response (or gobbet-based) essay, to be submitted by week 5. Students will choose from a selection of scriptural extracts and will assess the content, context and significance of the source. In addition to summative feedback, this early submission date will allow formative feedback for the longer second essay (2000 words = 30%);
Essay 2 will explore a key issue in Theravada history or practice, and is to be submitted by 2pm on the second Monday of the examination diet (3000 words = 50%).
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Describe the main Theravada beliefs, practices, and historical developments
  2. Interpret textual and ethnographic sources in the context of wider knowledge of Theravada Buddhism
  3. Assess the role of both textual and ethnographic sources in our understanding of the reception and practice of Theravada Buddhism
  4. Evaluate several key issues in Theravada literature, history, doctrine and practice using both primary and secondary sources
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsReligion,Buddhism,Theravada,South Asia,Southeast Asia.
Course organiserDr Naomi Appleton
Tel: (0131 6)50 8976
Course secretaryMs Katrina Munro
Tel: (0131 6)50 8900
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