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University of Manitoba
Department of Religion

Religion 020.283


Time: Tues/Thurs. 1:00 - 2:15 Dr. Kate Blackstone
Room: Term I, 202 Isbister; Office: 331 Fl Argue
Term II, 241 U College Hours: Tues/Thurs. 2:30 - 4:00
6 Credit Hours Phone: 474-6277


This course surveys the complexity and diversity of Buddhism(s) throughout Asia and in the West. The approach of the course is socio-cultural and the focus is on transformations in Buddhist thought and practice as it entered differing cultural regions. After establishing the foundations of Buddhism in the first term, we will turn to a thematic study of contemporary issues facing the multiple Buddhisms in the world and their various responses.

Required texts:

Robinson and Johnson. The Buddhist Religion, 4th ed. Wadsworth Pub. Co, 1997.
Strong, John. The Experience of Buddhism: Sources and Interpretations. Wadsworth Pub. Co, 1995.

Course Requirements:
  1. 20 weekly written responses to required readings worth 1% each, of no more than 1 page in length, to be submitted in class on Thursdays. 
20 %
  • A short essay (5-6 pages) based entirely on primary sources (see Strong) due at the end of Term I. 

  • * there will be a peer evaluation exercise as part of this assignment.

    15 %
  • A long research essay (12- 15 pages) focussing on contemporary issues due at the end of Term II. 
  • 25 %
  • A class presentation on research concerning a contemporary Buddhist group or issues current to particular Buddhist groups (about 15- 20 min.) to be presented towards the end of Term II. The topic for the presentation may be the same as that chosen for the major essay.
  • 10 %
  • A final examination of material covered in the class. Essay questions to appear on the exam will be handed out on the last day of classes. 
  • 30 %

    100 %

    Course Objectives and Rationale for Requirements:

    The primary goal of this and every course I teach is to enable students to participate actively in their own learning process. To the extent possible, this class will operate as a seminar with a major emphasis on discussion and debate. I will lecture as necessary, however, the onus is on students to arrive prepared for class, with the assigned materials read and the writing assignments complete. If we adhere to these guidelines, class assignments should fulfil the following objectives:

    1. Course content. By the end of the course, students should have gained a thorough knowledge of Buddhism and its diversity. Accurate reporting of the facts of Buddhism and the distinction between fact and interpretation is an essential component of all the requirements, but the exam is the primary mode of assessing comprehension of course content.
    2. Critical thinking skills. The ability to read and critically assess both the scholarship and the apologetics of Buddhism is essential to successful academic performance. We will develop this skill over the whole course through the weekly writing assignments, class discussions, and the essays.
    3. Research and writing skills. Another essential skill developed through practice and consistent evaluation. I will hand out guidelines for essay preparation as the course progresses. Also, I am always open to discussion about all aspects of research and I welcome students wishing me to read preliminary drafts of their essays.
    4. Professional skills. With costs of university escalating, employability is a pressing issue for many students. Our course addresses this issue by involving the development of teamwork, problem-solving, verbal and written abilities and the critical assessment of peers, all of which are identified as valuable work-place skills by a variety of employers.
    Percentage-letter grade relation:
    A+ A B+ B C+ C D F
    95 - 100 86 - 94 80 - 85 71 - 79 65 - 70 56 - 64 50 - 55 0 - 49


    Academic Dishonesty

    To plagiarise is to take ideas or words of another person and pass them off as one's own. In short, it is stealing something intangible rather than an object. Obviously it is not necessary to state the source of well known or easily verifiable facts, but students are expected to acknowledge the sources of ideas and expressions they use in their written work, whether quoted directly or paraphrased. This applies to diagrams, statistical tables and the like, as well as to written material. To provide adequate documentation is not only an indication of academic honesty but also a courtesy which enables the reader to consult your sources with ease. Failure to do so constitutes plagiarism. It will also be designated plagiarism and/or cheating if a student submits a term paper written in whole or in part by someone other than him/herself, or copies the answer or answers of another student in any test, examination, or take-home assignment. 

    Plagiarism or any other form of cheating in examinations or term tests (e.g., crib notes) is subject to serious academic penalty (e.g. suspension or expulsion from the faculty or University). A student found guilty of contributing to cheating in examinations or term assignments is also subject to serious academic penalty.

    Policy on Late Submissions

    Essays and assignments are due at the end of class on the date stipulated. Those submitted late without prior arrangement or medical documentation will be subject to a lateness penalty of 2% per day. Essays more than two weeks late will not be accepted without medical documentation. 

    If you know you will need an extension for any reason, please make arrangements with me well in advance of the due date. Poor time management will not be accepted as an excuse for late essays, but I will meet with you to discuss strategies for managing your time that should help you to meet deadlines.

    Lectures and Course Schedule

    All readings for the first term are in the course texts, Buddhist Religion and Experience of Buddhism. Students should read the background materials from the Buddhist Religion for Tuesday classes and prepare the written assignments on the basis of Experience of Buddhism for Thursday classes. Tuesdays will follow more of a lecture format while Thursdays will be set aside for discussion. I will provide questions to guide the written assignments, but strongly encourage you to explore your own questions on the basis of these readings.

    Class for Term II will follow the same format as Term I, though the focus will shift to the complexities of Buddhism in the modern world. Readings will be drawn from books and articles placed on reserve in Dafoe and will comprise a mix of primary and secondary sources. Students are encouraged to return to the selections in Strong, Experience of Buddhism, to reread the texts from the perspective of modern transformations in Buddhism. Class presentations will begin in February and will be scheduled for Thursday classes.

    Term I

    India and Beyond: a Sketch of Origins and Early Diversity

    Sept. 9 Introduction Buddhist Religion, Introduction
    Sept. 14-16 The Buddha: Life and Times Buddhist Religion, Ch. 1 

    Experience of Buddhism, Ch 1 intro, 1.3, 1.4, 1.7

    Sept. 21-23 Sangha: Monasteries Ståpas and Saints Buddhist Religion, Ch. 2

    Experience of Buddhism, Ch 2 intro, 2.1.1, 2.1.4, 2.1.6, 2.2.2, 2.3.1, 2.4.2, 2.5.1

    Sept. 28-30 Dharma: Contested Tales  Buddhist Religion, Ch. 3

    Experience of Buddhism, Ch 3 intro, 2.6.3, 3.2.1

    Oct. 5-7 Doctrine and Disput-ation: Mahàyàna Buddhist Religion, Ch. 4

    Experience of Buddhism, Ch 4 intro, 4.1, 4.3.1, 4.4

    Oct. 12-14 Buddhas, Buddhas Everywhere: Mahàyàna cont. Buddhist Religion, Ch. 5

    Experience of Buddhism, Ch 5 intro, 5.1, 5.2.1, 5.3, 5.4.3

    Oct. 19-21 Magic, Ritual and the University: Vajrayàna Buddhist Religion, Ch. 6

    Experience of Buddhism 5.5 to end

    Oct. 26-28 The Politics of Canon: Sri Lanka Buddhist Religion, Ch. 7

    Experience of Buddhism, Ch 6 intro, 6.1.1, 6.3, 6.5.1, 6.5.2, 6.5.3

    Nov. 2-4 Merchant Monastics: the Silk Road Buddhist Religion, Ch 8.1

    Excerpts from the Si-Yu-Ki

    Nov. 9-11 Early Empires: Buddhism in China Buddhist Religion, Ch 8.2-8.7

    Experience of Buddhism, Ch 8 intro, 8.1.1, 8.2.1, 8.7

    Nov. 16-18 Latter Day Empires: Buddhism in Japan Buddhist Religion, Ch. 10

    Experience of Buddhism, Ch.8.1.2, 8.3-8.4, 8.6, 8.9

    Nov. 23-25 Magic and Mystery: Buddhism in Tibet Buddhist Religion, Ch. 11

    Experience of Buddhism, Ch. 7 intro, 7.1, 7.3, 7.5.1, 7.5.2, 7.9

    Nov. 30 Essay 1 Draft due for peer evaluation exercise
    Dec. 2- 7 Review  
    DEC. 7 ESSAY 1 DUE


    Term II Buddhism(s) in the Contemporary World 

    Note: * indicates a primary source, which should comprise the focus of the weekly assignment. Not all weeks include a primary source, however, so you will have to write your answer on the basis of the reading for the week.
    Jan 4-6 Colonialism and the Construction of B’sm  Stephen Batchelor, "Eugene Burnouf: The Construction of Buddhism" in The Awakening of the West. Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1994, pp. 227-271.

    *Edwin Arnold, Light of Asia. Wheaton, Ill: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1969 (rpr. 1879), pp. 36-52; 107-112.

    Jan 11-13 Scholars’ Responses  Charles Hallisey, "Roads Taken and Not Taken in the Study of Buddhism," in Curators of the Buddha, ed. Donald Lopez, Jr. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1995, pp. 31-66.
    Jan 18-20 Sri Lanka: Colonial Encounters  R & J. 7.4, 7.4.1, 7.5; Strong 6.4

    George Bond, "The Theravada Tradition and the Background of the Buddhist Revival," in The Buddhist Revival in Sri Lanka. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1992 (rpr. 1988), pp. 11-44.

    Jan 25-27  Sri Lanka: "Protestant Buddhism"  Strong 9.1

    Richard Gombrich and Gananath Obeyesekere, "Protestant Buddhism" in Buddhism Transformed. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988, pp. 202-240.

    *excerpts from Dharmapala to be handed out in class.

    Feb 1-3 Sri Lanka: Buddhists in a War Zone  Strong 6.1.1, 6.8.3

    George Bond, "Conflicts of Identity and Interpretation in Buddhism," in Buddhist Fundamentalism and Minority Identities in Sri Lanka, ed. Tessa Bartholomeusz and Chandra de Silva. Albany: SUNY, 1998, pp. 36-52.

    *A.T. Ariyaratne, "Sarvodaya Shramadana’s Approach to Peacebuilding," in Buddhist Peacework, ed. David Chappell. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1999, pp. 69-77.

    Feb 3 Oral Presentations begin and will continue on Thursdays until the end of term.

    Feb 8-10

    Japan: Empire Building  excerpts from Joseph Kitagawa, Religion in Japanese History. N.Y.: Columbia University Press, 1990, pp. 199-236; 290-297.
    Feb 15-17 Mid Term Break ENJOY
    Feb 22-24 Japan: Constructing Buddhism  Robert Sharf, "The Zen of Japanese Nationalism" History of Religions 33/1 (1993), pp. 1-43.
    Feb 29- Mar 2 Japan: New Religions  Jane Hurst, "Nichiren Shoshu and Soka Gakkai in America," in The Faces of Buddhism in America, ed. Charles Prebish and Kenneth Tanaka. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998, pp. 80-97.

    *excerpts from SGI web pages.

    Mar 7-9 Western Encounters  R & J, Ch. 12

    Stephen Batchelor, "a thai forest tradition grows in england" Tricycle 3/ 4 (Summer 1994): 39-44.

    *Tim Ward, "How Big is a Stick?" in What the Buddha Never Taught. Toronto: Somerville House Publishing, 1990, pp. 21-36.

    Mar 14-16 West: Buddhism Redefined -- FWBO  Philip Mellor, "Protestant Buddhism? The Cultural Translation of Buddhism in England" Religion 21 (1991): 73-92.

    *Interview with Sangharakshita, Tricycle 5/2 (Winter 1995): 37-40.

    *Stephen Batchelor, "Buddhism Without Beliefs" Tricycle 6/3 (Spring 1997): 18-23.

    Mar 21-23 West: Buddhist Counter-culture  Stephen Prothero, "Introduction," in Big Sky Mind: Buddhism and the Beat Generation, ed. Carole Tonkinson. N.Y.: Riverhead Books, 1995, pp. 1-20.

    Tricycle Survey and Rick Fields, "A High History of Buddhism" Tricycle 6/1 (Fall 1996): 44-58.

    Strong 9.3

    Mar 28-30 West: New Age Buddhism  Donald Lopez, "new age orientalism: the case of tibet" Tricycle 3/3 (Spring 1994): 37-43.

    Jan Nattier, "Visible & Invisible: Politics of Representation in Buddhist America" Tricycle 5/1 (Fall 1995): 42-49.

    April 4-6 Review 
    April 6 ESSAY 2 DUE

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