2014 buddhist philosophy syllabus
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Antioch Education Abroad, Fall 2014
Instructor: Justin Whitaker
In Buddhist Philosophy we will take a critical look at some of the key aspects of the Buddhas teachings and
their interpretations through Buddhisms history. By critical here I do not mean a negative approach, but rather
a careful and systematic analysis. In fact in doing this we begin with a sympathetic approach, meaning that we
try to feel with (pathos+sun) the Buddha and his disciples or later writers. We need to put ourselves in their
place as much as we can (traveling to Bodh Gaya is a good start) in order to get a full sense of the meaning of
the terms and ideas being discussed.
We begin with what we hope are fundamental or universal questions like what is the nature of reality? what
is the meaning of all this? or what should I do to live a good life? As philosophers, we want to know what the Buddha and his later followers had to say about such things. We also start and end the course with
reflections on Buddhist ethics and the environment, as it is increasingly clear that this is an issue to which we
must respond with mindfulness and wisdom.
We will follow the schedule of the meditation course to some degree; however remaining focused on the Indian
philosophical groundwork that is found in later (in our case Zen and Tibetan) traditions. We will conclude with
the Keown text on Buddhist ethics, exploring a variety of Buddhist responses to contemporary issues and
student presentations based on their final paper in a conference-like style.
Evaluation (see below for grading rubrics):
Summer essay: 10 %
Attendance, participation, pop-quizes: 20 %
Presentation and paper: 20 %
Mid-term exam: 20 %
Final exam: 30 %
Evaluation SheetSummer essay (and final paper with consideration for your presentation)
1. Clear thesis, appropriate to assignment 5 6 7 8 9 10 2. Effective introduction 5 6 7 8 9 10 3. Essay is clearly and logically organized 5 6 7 8 9 10
4. Effective, vivid supporting material 5 6 7 8 9 10 5. Author uses clear, sophisticated sentences 5 6 7 8 9 10 6. Effective paragraphing w/ transitions 5 6 7 8 9 10 7. Essay is free from mechanical errors 5 6 7 8 9 10 8. Essay demonstrates proper English usage 5 6 7 8 9 10 9. Essay demonstrates insightful critical thinking 5 6 7 8 9 10 10. Effective conclusion 5 6 7 8 9 10 Grade & Comments:
(G) Gombrich, F. Richard: What the Buddha Thought. Oakville, CT: Equinox Publishing, 2009.
(K) Keown, Damien: Buddhist Ethics: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.
(H) Nhat Hanh, Thich: The Heart of Understanding: Commentaries on the Prajaparamita Heart Sutra. Berkeley,
Paralax Press, 1988. (the 20th anniversary edition is acceptable)
(WW) Wallace and Wallace: A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 1997.
(W) Williams, Paul, Anthony Tribe, and Alexander Wynn: Buddhist Thought. A Complete Introduction to the Indian
Tradition. London: Routledge, 2010. (1st edition is acceptable and page #s below will follow the 1st ed.)
(SB) Sourcebook of selected readings. (to be provided in India)
------------------------------- THERAVDA AND KEY PHILOSOPHICAL IDEAS -------------------------------
Friday, September 5 Overview of the class and some answers to how and why we study Buddhist
- (SB) John Stanley and David R. Loy: Introduction from The Bauddhadharma and the Planetary
Crisis, (2009), pp.3-14.
- (SB) Gross: Toward a Buddhist Environmental Ethic
Monday, September 8 Exploring the context of the Buddhas life and teachings.
- Paul Williams, et al.: The doctrinal position of the Buddha in context from (W), pp.1-40
- (SB) Kenneth K. Inada: The range of Buddhist Ontology
Wednesday, September 10 An outline of Buddhist thought, part 1: from the Four Noble Truths to karman.
- Paul Williams, et al.: Mainstream Buddhism: the basic thought of the Buddha from (W), pp.41-74
- (SB) Klma Sutta: To the Klmas (AN 3.65), Thanissaro Bhikkhu, trans.
Friday, September 12 An outline of Buddhist thought, part 2: from the universe of the Buddha to
- Paul Williams, et al.: Mainstream Buddhism: the basic thought of the Buddha from (W) pp.74-95
Monday, September 15 Reviewing the context of a central philosophical doctrine: karma.
- Richard Gombrich: Introduction, More about Karma, and Its Social Context, The Antecedents of the
Karma Doctrine in Brahminism, and Jain Antecedents from (G) preface-p.59
Wednesday, September 17 A second central philosophical idea: no-self (anatt/antman) and its positive
- Richard Gombrich: What Did the Buddha Mean by No Soul? and The Buddhas Positive Values:
Love and Compassion from (G) pp.60-91 (Assessing the Evidence pp.92-110 is optional)
- (SB) Douglas W. Shrader. Between Self and No-Self: Lessons from the Majjhima Nikya
- (SB) Sabbsava Sutta: All the Fermentations (MN 2), Thanissaro Bhikkhu, trans.
Friday, September 19 Analyzing the world/cosmology of the Buddha and the resulting doctrine of escape or
soteriology: the Middle Way of Dependent Origination. Also a look at the Buddhas
Philosophy of Language.
- Richard Gombrich: Everything Is Burning: The Centrality of Fire in the Buddhas Thought, Causation
and Non-random Process, and Cognition; Language; Nirvana from (G) pp.111-160
- (SB) dittapariyya Sutta: The Fire Sermon (SN 35.28), Thanissaro Bhikkhu, trans.
Monday, September 22 Into the mind of the Buddha himself, meta-analysis of the Buddha and his followers.
- Richard Gombrich: The Buddhas Pragmatism and Intellectual Style, and The Buddha as Satirist;
Brahmin Terms as Social Metaphors from (G) pp.161-192
- (SB) Tevijja Sutta: The Three Knowledges (DN 13), Maurie Walshe, trans.
Wednesday, September 24 Final thoughts from Gombrich and a look at the varieties of early Buddhism.
- Richard Gombrich: Is This Book To Be Believed? from (G) pp.193-201
- Paul Williams, et al.: Some Schools of Mainstream Buddhist Thought from (W) pp.112-130
----------------------------------- MAHYNA -----------------------------------
Monday, September 29 Entering the Mahyna, the Great Vehicle.
- Paul Williams, et al.: Perfection of Wisdom and Madhyamaka from (W) pp.131-152
Wednesday, October 1 Buddhist Idealism (?): Yogcra, the Practice of Yoga, a.k.a. Cittamtra, Mind-Only.
- Paul Williams, et al.: Yogcra and the Buddha-nature in India from (W) pp.152-166
- (SB) Begin Duerlinger on Vasubandhu
Friday, October 3 .
- (SB) Duerlinger, James. Vasubandhus Refutation of the Theory of Self translation and notes,
Monday, October 6 Gazing into Emptiness, the Heart of Wisdom
- Thich Nhat Hanh: Full book (H) pp.vii-54
Wednesday, October 8 - Review for exam (no new reading)
Friday, October 10 - MIDTERM EXAM
------ A MAJOR PHILOSOPHICAL DEVELOPMENT: NTIDEVA, THE PHILOSOPHER-POET ------
Monday, October 13 Introducing ntidevas world and vision.
- Alan Wallace and Vesna Wallace: Preface, Introduction, The Benefit of the Spirit of Awakening, The
Confession of Sin, and Adopting the Spirit of Awakening pp.7-37
- (SB) George Dreyfus, Meditation as an Ethical Activity
Wednesday, October 15 Futher into ntidevas work.
- Alan Wallace and Vesna Wallace: Attending to the Spirit of Awakening, Guarding Introspection, and
The Perfection of Patience from (WW) pp.39-76
Monday, October 20 Cultivating the Perfections.
- Alan Wallace and Vesna Wallace: The Perfection of Zeal and The Perfection of Meditation from
Wednesday, October 22 The final Perfection.
- Alan Wallace and Vesna Wallace: The Perfection of Wisdom and Dedication from (WW) pp.115-
- (SB) Luis O. Gmez: Emptiness and Moral Perfection
--------- CONTEMPORARY DEVELOPMENTS: ETHICS AND THE ENVIRONMENT ---------
Friday, October 24 What is Buddhist ethics?
- Damien Keown: Chapters 1-4 from (K) pp. 3-68
Monday, October 27 Applied Ethics, some cases.
- Damien Keown: Chapters 5-8 from (K) pp. 69-115
Wednesday, October 29 Wednesday, November 5 Student Presentations
Friday, November 7 FINAL EXAM