Introduction to Buddhism

This course provides a general overview of Buddhism as it developed across 2500 years within diverse socio-cultural contexts. After starting the course with a basic thematic and historical introduction, we will proceed to look at a wide range of Buddhist religious texts, ethical and philosophical teachings, and meditative techniques, including those of Theravada, Mahayana, Zen and Tibetan Tantric traditions. We also will be raising questions about Buddhism’s role in the contemporary world, both in traditional Buddhist countries and in the West. To answer these questions, we will read the writings by prominent activists and thinkers of the “socially engaged” Buddhism, look at the connections between Buddhism and modern ethics, psychology, and spiritual practice, and attend to the Buddhist analysis of the predicaments of contemporary society.