Units of Study

Full list of Buddhist Studies units

This section lists the active units in the Buddhist Studies Program. Units set out above are on offer in the current year; other units listed below may be offered in future years.

BDST1602 - Introduction to Buddhism
This unit introduces Buddhist traditions from their Indian origins to developments elsewhere in Asia, such as Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand and Cambodia, and Mahayana and Vajrayana (Tantric) Buddhism in Tibet, China, Korea and Japan. Students will study literary, philosophical, social, cultural, artistic and contemplative expressions of Buddhism, and are introduced to academic approaches within Buddhist Studies. Emphasis is laid upon understanding Buddhist writings and practices in larger doctrinal, historical and cultural contexts.

BDST2612 - Buddhist Meditation Practices
This unit critically examines the place of meditative practices within Asian and Western Buddhist traditions, introducing students to the social, cultural and historical contexts in which these practices emerged and developed, as well as their theoretical and doctrinal underpinnings. Issues explored include the notion of 'pure experience' and its relation to conceptuality and language, the role of ethics, and the relation between meditative practice and philosophical analysis. Methodological issues in the academic study of meditative experience will also be introduced.

BDST2613 - Zen and Chan Buddhism
This unit explores the thought and practice of Zen (Japanese) and Chan (Chinese) Buddhism. In the first part of the unit we examine the formation of Chan Buddhism in China. In the second half we focus on two major figures in the history of Japanese Zen (Dogen and Hakuin). We then turn to key transitions in the 20th century.

BDST2615 - Buddhism and Contemporary Issues
This unit compares Buddhist and contemporary theories of human agency. The three main topics covered are social ethics, complex systems (like social networks and ecosystems), and philosophies of mind. Traditional Buddhist concepts like karma, interdependence, and co-dependent arising are considered in comparison with contemporary theories on feedback loops and interaction as constitutive of phenomena. Drawing from current research, material for this unit may include studies of social engagement, environmental issues, economic systems, and cognitive science.

BDST2616 - The Buddha's Words
This unit introduces Buddhist texts and the ways they have been used, understood and interpreted. Beginning with the Buddha's discourses in India and their eventual composition in written form and transmission across Asia, it addresses the communication and function of Buddhist teachings in oral, textual and visual form, as well as Buddhist attitudes to language and representation. Students will study selected Buddhist texts in translation from a variety of genres such as philosophical treatises, commentary, poetry and narrative.

BDST3611 - Buddhist Philosophical Traditions
This unit provides a history of Buddhist ideas. It begins by introducing basic Buddhist teachings before moving on to their later philosophical systematization. Students are introduced to the assumptions of traditional scholasticism and the methods of comparative philosophy in exploring Buddhist approaches to such issues as selfhood, ethics, being and knowledge, and language and conceptuality. A key focus is on how ideas originally formulated in an Indian Buddhist milieu were later transformed and elaborated upon in Tibet, China and Japan.

Asian Studies units with Buddhist content

These units may be included towards a Buddhist Studies major.

ASNS2613 Chinese Thought
This unit offers students the opportunity to explore China's major traditions of philosophy and practice through English translations of key texts as well as authoritative secondary studies. The main foci of the unit include the following major areas: diversity and polemics in early Chinese thought, developments in Daoism, Buddhist thought and influence, and Neo-Confucian (Daoxue) thought.

ASNS2620 Classical Indian Philosophy
After a brief introduction to Indian religious thought the unit concentrates on the main currents in Classical Indian Philosophy and the schools which flourished between the third and twelfth century C.E. The focus of this unit will be on the ‘orthodox’ Hindu schools but extensive reference will be made to competing Buddhist and Jain ideas, particularly Buddhist Abhidhamma theory. Arguments concerning the nature of consciousness and the ontological status of the physical world, logic and epistemology, and theories of language will be covered.ASNS2623 India: Tradition into Modernity
This unit explores assumptions underpinning Indian thought and culture with specific reference to Indian religious traditions. In particular, traditional notions of the individual, authenticity, and the concept of dharma will be addressed through an exploration of social and political structures, gender and the family, and forms of artistic, literary and religious expression. A key focus will be on the continuity of tradition and its interaction with modernity and the implications this has for understanding today’s India.

ASNS2626 Religious Traditions of South Asia
This unit introduces themes in South Asian religions from the Indus Valley civilization onward. Attention is paid to the social and cultural contexts in which Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism emerged. Goddess traditions are discussed, as are concepts such as tantra, yoga and meditation, karma, rebirth and dharma. Texts such as the Bhagavat Gita and the Upanishads are also introduced. A focus will be on the implications of Classical India for an understanding of contemporary Asia, particularly South and Southeast Asia.

ASNS2627 India, China, Tibet: Cultural Relations
While India and China emerge as present-day superpowers, their historical inter-relations are not well-known. This unit provides an overview of cultural interactions between Indian and Chinese civilizations, especially as these have shaped Tibetan cultural identity. A key focus is upon how pre-modern cultural interactions with India and China provide ideological contexts within which Tibetan religious and cultural traditions and political institutions developed. This is undertaken in order to understand interactions between all three cultures on the current global stage.