Courses

BSTD 209: Buddhist Ethics

This course examines the relevance of the theory and practice of Buddhist ethics for today’s world. After an introduction to the historical, cultural and doctrinal foundations of Buddhist ethics, students investigate various applications of Buddhist ethics to perennial and particularly modern forms of suffering as articulated by contemporary Buddhist teachers and scholars. Special emphasis is placed on the question of how particular disciplines and practices informed by Buddhist ethical theory may be of benefit to non-Buddhists or in non-Buddhist institutional or cultural contexts.

BSTD 303: Yogācāra Thought

This course aims to build upon students’ previous acquaintance with Mahāyāna Buddhism by introducing them to recent scholarship on Yogācāra and through continuing study of foundational Yogācāra texts (sūtra, śāstra and commentary). Topics include: theories of the eight consciousnesses, three natures, emptiness, and the path; continuities and discontinuities between Yogācāra, Abhidharma and Madhyamaka; and scholarly debates about the relationship between theory and praxis in Yogācāra.

BSTD 304: Madhyamaka Thought

This course aims to build upon students’ previous acquaintance with Mahāyāna Buddhism by introducing them to recent scholarship on Madhyamaka and through continuing study of foundational Madhyamaka texts (sūtra, śāstra and commentary). Topics include: emptiness, two truths, Madhyamaka dialectics, relationship of Madhyamaka to other Indian Buddhist schools, and Tibetan views on the distinction between Svātantrika and Prāsangika Madhyamaka.

BSTD 308: Buddhist Philosophy in the Indian Philosophical Context

This course aims to provide students with a better understanding of the history of ideas and specific debates that shaped Buddhist thought in India. The first part of the course provides an overview of the Indian philosophical landscape, with a focus on the mutual influence and dialogue between Buddhist and non-Buddhist Indian schools (the six Vedic schools as well as Jainism and Cārvāka philosophy).

BSTD 403: Buddha Nature Thought

This course introduces the various ways that Buddha nature, or Tathāgatagarbha, is understood and expressed within the various Buddhist traditions. The ways that Tathāgatagarbha is envisioned (as a seed, as the fully perfected Buddha nature hidden by stains, as emptiness, and so forth) have a profound effect on the doctrine and contemplative practices of the various traditions. The relationship between Buddha nature thought and other currents of Buddhist thought, such as Yogācāra, Madhyamaka and tantra is considered.

BSTD 404: Buddhist Epistemology

This course aims to introduce students to Buddhist epistemology, beginning with its emergence in the greater Indian philosophical context and its development in dialogue with non-Buddhist schools, and culminating with its impact on Tibetan Buddhism. Topics studied include: pramāna (“instrument of knowledge”) theory, perception (sensory and yogic), inference, apoha (“exclusion” theory of meaning), realism and anti-realism, and the compatibility of Buddhist epistemology with Madhyamaka.

BSTD 101: Buddhist Traditions: History and Culture I

This course surveys the development of Buddhism in South and SE Asia. Through a primarily historical lens, students become familiar with the context within which Buddhism arose, and study critically the various developments and transformations of Buddhist institutions, doctrines and practices through the tradition’s evolution in its native land. This course also looks at the results of the migration of Buddhism into other areas of South East Asia.

BSTD 102: Buddhist Traditions: History and Culture II

This course examines the historical development of Buddhism in Central Asia, East Asia, and the Tibetan cultural region up to the present day, with an emphasis on investigating the ways in which Buddhism transformed and has been transformed by these distinct cultural, social and geographical contexts. This course also focuses on the further development of the essential academic skills acquired in BSTD 101, culminating with a research paper.

BSTD 205: Anthropological Study of Nepalese Religion

An investigation of the rich religious traditions of Nepal, with emphasis on the Kathmandu Valley. The course begins with an overview of Hinduism, with its diversity of symbols, beliefs and practices. The course identifies unifying elements, especially those relevant to Buddhism. The second part of the course focuses on Buddhism in Nepal, especially the unique form practiced by Newars, the indigenous people of the Kathmandu Valley, and the sole remnant of Sanskrit-based South Asian Mahāyāna Buddhism.

BSTD 206: Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism

This course provides an introduction to the history, doctrines, practices, and institutions of Buddhism as practiced in Tibet and related Himalayan regions. Students gain familiarity with basic features of the Tibetan tradition and with some of the main theoretical issues that have been raised in relation to that topic. Topics may also include Tibetan Buddhist art, literature, practices and customs, and are approached through various theoretical perspectives such as history, anthropology, ritual studies, literature and religious studies.

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