Course Code
RELI 0300
Course Type
Subject Credit
Course Availability

This course provides students with a solid foundation in early Buddhist thought, covering the core teachings of the historical Buddha. The course begins with a consideration of the social and religious milieu of fifth century BCE India, against which such teachings as (for example) no-self and non-violence are properly contextualised and understood. Students will also gain a sense of the diversity of traditions within Buddhism and a sense of the enormity of the Buddhist canonical literature. In addition to the central teachings in metaphysics, this course explores the soteriological underpinnings of Buddhist teaching and gives students an opportunity to explore issues in moral philosophy from an alternative point of view.  

Sample Syllabus: 

  • The theory of no-self (an?tta): its context, coherence and purpose. 
  • Karma and Rebirth: literalistic vs. metaphorical interpretations.
  • Causes and Conditions in early Buddhism: the pervasiveness of change and the existential angst it engenders. 
  • Soteriology: competing conceptions of nirv??a.
  • Meditational Practices: the objective, methods and types of meditation (with a focus on early Buddhism).
  • The community of monks and nuns: the sa?gha as an institution, its formation and its rules.
  • Canonical literature: the P?li canon and the concept of word of the Buddha’ (buddhavacana).
  • Ahi?s? and Karu??: non-violence and compassion as the guiding principles of Buddhist ethics.