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Faculty of Religious Studies McGill University Fall 1999-2000 
260-344A Mahayana Buddhism
Birks 109; T Th 8:30-10, Birks 203

G Victor Hori
Office Hours MW 3-4
(514) 398-1347; czvh@musica.mcgill.ca 


The term, Mahayana, refers to a distinctive complex of philosophical ideas, religious practices and imaginative narratives which arose after, and in reaction to, the early period of Buddhism. Originating in India, Mahayana Buddhism spread into the East Asia culture sphere where, coloured by Confucianism and Taoism, it developed into the schools of T'ien-t'ai, Hua-yen, Pure Land, Ch'an (Zen) and others. Since Buddhism died out in India, the schools of Buddhism in China and their descendants in Japan and Korea remain to this day the modern representatives of Mahayana Buddhism. Mahayana Buddhism also entered Tibet where, under the influence of Tantrism, it evolved into the school we now know as Vajrayana. 

This course surveys both the philosophical concepts and some aspects of the narrative imagination of Mahayana Buddhism. It focuses particularly on the East Asian expression of Mahayana. The monastic institutions which developed under Mahayana Buddhism with their ritual and meditation practices are not studied in this course. 

260-252 Hinduism and Buddhism, 260-253 Religions of East Asia. 

1 Paul Williams, Mahayana Buddhism (London and New York: Routledge, 1989).
2 Coursepack

Both items are available at the McGill University Bookstore. The Coursepacks are stacked under the stairs separately from the regular textbooks. If none are immediately available, you can place an order for a Coursepack which is usually filled in a day or two.

Class participation

Students are expected to do the assigned readings and participate in class discussion. 10% of the final grade will be based on regular participation in class. 

Learning Cells

There are three Learning Cells during this course. Students will prepare a written assignment beforehand, engage in discussion groups on the day of the Learning Cell itself and submit the written assignment for grading. Grading is Double or Nothing: you must both participate in the Learning Cell and also submit a written assignment in order to get a grade. 

Translation Project

In the Translation Project, students will be asked to translate a Chinese text. A dictionary of Chinese characters, coordinated with the text, will be provided. Students submit two preliminary drafts during the term and a final draft at the end of term. See the accompanying explanation, "Translation Project."

Grade distribution
Class participation 10% 
Learning cell assignments 15% X 3 45% 
Translation project 45%
Draft 1: 20%, Draft 2: 20%, Final draft: 60% 
Total 100%

Graduate Students

Graduate students who wish to take this course for graduate credit should register under course number 260-687A. In addition to all the regular requirements of this course, graduate students must submit a research paper of approximately 5000 words and make a class presentation. Graduate students must select an appropriate research topic in consultation with the instructor by September 30, submit a research proposal with bibliography by October 12 and make a class presentation in the latter half of the course.

Research paper (approx. 5000 words), class presentation 40%
Learning cell assignments 10 X 3 30%
Translation project 30%
Total 100%
Due date
McGill University Senate regulations state "The due date for term work . . . shall be no later than the last date of classes." The last date of classes for Fall Term 1999-2000 is Dec. 3, 1999. Since there is no final examination in this course, no term work will be accepted after that date.


Sept. 2 Intro
Williams, Ch. 1 "Introduction"

Sept. 7, 9, 14, 16, 21 Prajnaparamita and Madhyamaka
Williams, Ch. 2 "Prajnaparamita," Ch. 3 "Madhyamaka" 

Frederick Streng, Selections from Appendix A: "Translation of Mulamadhyamakakarikas,"Emptiness: A Study of Religious Meaning (Nashville: Abingdon, 1967), ¤1. ¤12, ¤15, ¤17, ¤18, ¤22, ¤25 (pp 183-4, 197, 199-205, 209-210, 215-217 ) 

Class Handout: Heart Sutra

Sept 23 Learning Cell 1: Negation
Nagao Gadjin, "The Silence of the Buddha and its Madhyamic Interpretation,"Madyamika and Yogacara (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1991), 35-49.

The last two sentences of this article are:

Only through this negation of the world will the parlance with fellow men be recovered. From this consciousness of the utter powerlessness of man, the most profound Love towards humanity is born. 

This sentence connects two great themes in the Mahayana, the issue of whether language is capable of expressing wisdom (prajna), and the connection of wisdom with love and compassion. Explain what connects prajna, negation, silence and love.

Sept 28 Instruction on Chinese Translation Project

Sept. 30, Oct. 5, 7 Cittamatra
Williams, Ch. 4 "Cittamatra (Mind Only)"

Paul Griffiths, Appendix C "The Eightfold Proof of the Store Consciousness in the Abhidharmasamuccayabhasya"from On Being Mindless: Buddhist Meditation and the Mind-Body Problem (LaSalle IL: Open Court Publishing, 1986) 129-138.

Oct. 7 Submit First Draft Translation

Oct. 12, 14, Tathagatagarbha
Williams, Ch. 5 "The Tathagatagarbha (Buddha-essence/Buddha-nature)"

Yoshito S. Hakeda, tr., Excerpt from The Awakening of Faith, Attributed to Asvaghosha (New York: Columbia University Press, 1967) 36-46.

Oct. 21 Learning Cell 2
Garma C. C. Chang, tr. "The Lion's Roar of Queen Srimala" from A Treasury of Mahayana Sutras, (University Park and London: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1983) 363-386

Explain how the intrinsically pure mind comes to be defiled? When a practitioner engages in Buddhist discipline in order to attain pure mind, is the practice basically an arithmetical subtracting of defilements away from the remaining pure mind?

Oct. 26, 28 Mahayana in China
Oct. 26 J. J. L. Duyvenduk, tr. , Excerpts from Tao Te Ching (London: John Murray, 1954) 17-33, 40-41, 54-5., 108-9.

More Instruction on Translation Project 

Oct. 28 Williams, Ch. 6 "Hua-Yen--The Flower Garland Tradition ", Ch. 8 "Bodies of the Buddha"
Excerpts from Braitstein, Road to Nowhere (MA Thesis, McGill University, 1998)

Nov. 2, 4 Lotus Sutra
Williams, Ch. 7 "Saddharmapundarika (Lotus) Sutra and its Influences"

Chun-fang Yu, "Guan-yin: The Chinese Transformation of Avalokitesvara,"from Marsha Weidner, ed. Latter Days of the Law (Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas: University of Hawaii Press, 1994) 151-181.

Nov. 4 Submit Second Draft Translation 

Nov. 9, 11, 16 Bodhisattvas
Williams Ch. 9 "The Path of the Bodhisattva", Ch.10 "Faith and Devotion: the Cults of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas"

Nov. 18 Learning Cell 3 
Taitetsu Unno, Gratitude: Its Source and Power (Buddhist Churches of America, 1991)

In his treatment of Pure Land Buddhism, Williams touches on the question of whether Pure Land Buddhism ought be called Buddhism. He concedes that Pure Land Buddhism uses the terminology of Buddhism and has been effective as a form of mind training leading people to cease doing evil and learning to do good. Nevertheless he seems to want to say that Pure Land Buddhism is merely a "de facto Buddhism,"for it calls itself Buddhism (Williams 1989, 274-6). Unno's essay on "Gratitude"is typical of Pure Land spirituality. If this is a typical example, is Pure Land a form of Mahayana Buddhism?

Nov. 23, 25, 30 Early Madhyamika in China
Walter Liebenthal, tr., "Seng Chao, Part III ÔOn Prajna Not Cognizant'"from Chao Lun: The Treatises of Seng-chao (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1968) 65-80.

Richard H. Robinson, Excerpt from Ch. VI, "Seng-Chao"from Early Madhyamika in India and China (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1967), 123-135.

Dec. 2 Submit Translation Final Draft

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