The Buddhist Tradition

This is a course from a previous year. View the current courses
Lecture, Open—Year

This course is an in-depth exposure to the religious tradition, known in the West as “Buddhism,” in all of its incredible historical and cultural diversity. In the first semester, the course will focus on the evolution of Buddhist doctrines, practices, and institutions in India, from the origins of the religion as a group of “world-renouncing” ascetics through the development of large, state-supported monastic communities and the emergence of the major reform movements known as Mahayana and Tantra. It also treats the Buddhism of two regions of the world—Southeast Asia and the Tibetan plateau—where the respective traditions have been most self-consciously concerned with maintaining precedents inherited from India. The second semester of the course focuses on the Buddhism of East Asia (China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam), where new branches of the tradition such as Tiantai, Huayan, Pure Land, and Zen developed and flourished under the influence of Chinese culture. Because the first semester is a self-contained unit, students may consider taking only that part of the course. The material covered in the second semester is designed to complement that of the first semester, but the second semester is also a self-contained unit that students may take even if they have not taken the first.