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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Divinity : Divinity

Undergraduate Course: Understanding Buddhism (Online/Blended-Learning) (DIVI07011)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Divinity CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 7 (Year 1 Undergraduate)
Course typeOnline Distance Learning AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryUnderstanding Buddhism will introduce ideas and practices found in ancient Buddhist traditions. It will show how these Buddhist practices developed in Asia and the West. There will be an analysis of how Buddhists have tackled contemporary issues, such as the eco-crises, race, gender, politics, and sexuality. It will suggest how Buddhism can be taught and understood in traditional and modern Buddhist societies, and how these ideas are important in the wider context of understanding religion.
Course description Academic Description:
Understanding Buddhism offers a comprehensive analysis of Buddhism so that learners can appreciate the diversity and complexity of Buddhism as a lived religion. It will show how there are a variety of Buddhist practices and that its core ideas can produce a diversity of ethical and practical outcomes in Buddhist and non-Buddhist societies. It will provide an historical overview of the origins and development of Buddhism in India and its spread through Asia. It will suggest that it is often simplistic to portray Buddhism as apolitical, removed from society, and in line with modern science. The course will tackle the Buddhist understanding of violence, race, gender, and sexuality. It will show how Buddhism has a complex history, with its ideas anticipating both ethically sound and more controversial involvement in Buddhist societies and culture.

Outline Content:
The course will begin with an introduction to the topics to be studied, and the nature of our analysis of Buddhism over the coming weeks. There will be a focus on challenging preconceived ideas about Buddhism. Buddhism will be studied as diverse, engaged in society, political, and sometimes controversial. The course will then explain Buddhism in ancient India. It will analyse how Buddhism emerged from its wider Indian religious and philosophical setting. There will be a focus on understanding the Indian and wider Asian context of Buddhist ideas and practices. There will next be a study and interpretation of the ways in which Buddhist ideas and practices became distinctive including an analysis of Buddhist ethics, Buddhist meditation, and Buddhist philosophy. Finally the course will show how Buddhism emerged in modern societies including encounters with colonialism, the commercial appropriation of Buddhism, and its relevance to discourses related to politics, violence, race, gender, and the eco-crises.

Student Learning Experience:
This blended learning course will be delivered through short lectures, group discussions, exercises and activities, and readings which will be set in advance of each weekly session. Students will be expected to come to each class having read the weekly reading and prepared any materials or exercises that have been set. If the student is taking the course for credit, there will be an assessed written exercise which will demonstrate that the learning outcomes have been achieved. The lectures on this course would be recorded for the blended learning cohort. Students who are not taking the course for credit may also undertake the written exercise and receive feedback if they wish, but this is not mandatory.

The course fee will be £200, in line with equivalent COL fee levels.

Days and times of sessions are envisaged to be: 6 evening classes from 6-8pm and 2 Saturday afternoon workshops from 1-5pm.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Students MUST NOT also be taking Buddhism in Global Contexts (DIVI08004)
Other requirements This course is not suitable for UG students in the School of Divinity, who should instead take Buddhism in Global Contexts.
Additional Costs The course fee will be £200, in line with equivalent COL fee levels.
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 100 ( Lecture Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 2, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 78 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 100% for assessed written exercise (a 2000 word essay, to be submitted following completion of the course)
Feedback There will be a formative feedback opportunity two weeks before the submission of the written exercise. This will take the form of a discussion about an essay plan.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Explain the history, doctrines, and practices of Buddhism.
  2. Identify the diversity of Buddhism across Buddhist cultures.
  3. Explain how Buddhism interacts with culture and society.
  4. Assess the importance of Buddhist ideas in contemporary societies.
  5. Identify how Buddhism can be controversial in terms of ethical conduct.
Reading List
Analayo, Bhikkhu. 2019. Mindfully Facing Climate Change. Massachusetts: Barre Center for Buddhist Studies.

Bartholomeusz, Tessa J. 2002. In Defence of Dharma: Just-War Ideology in Buddhist Sri Lanka. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Carrithers, Michael. 1996. Buddha: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Darlington, Susan M. 2012. The Ordination of a Tree: The Thai Buddhist Environmental Movement. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Fuller, Paul. 2021. An Introduction to Buddhism. London: Bloomsbury.

Gethin, Rupert. 1998. The Foundations of Buddhism Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gombrich, Richard F. 2006. Theravada Buddhism: A Social History from Ancient Benares to Modern Colombo. 2nd edn. London: Routledge.

Harvey, Peter, 2000. An Introduction to Buddhist Ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kawanami, Hiroko. ed. 2016. Buddhism and the Political Process. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

King, Sallie B. 2009. Socially Engaged Buddhism. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.

Keown, Damien. 1996. A Very Short Introduction to Buddhism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lopez, Donald S. Jr. ed. 1995. Buddhism in Practice. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press.

Strong, John S. 2008. The Buddha: A Short Biography Oxford: Oneworld.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - Commitment to lifelong learning
- Writing skills, including clear expression and citing relevant evidence
- Presentation skills, both oral and written, supported by appropriate technologies
- Communicate ideas and arguments clearly to other learners, orally and in writing
- Collaborate efficiently and productively with others in the process of learning and presenting conclusions. This includes those with a range of backgrounds and knowledge bases about religion.
KeywordsBuddhism,Religious Studies,RMPS
Course organiserDr Paul Fuller
Course secretaryMr Andre Johnson Hall E Vasconcelos
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