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RELS227 Buddhist Thought

A comprehensive and critical study of the common heritage shared by all Buddhist traditions through examination of the development of Buddhist thought in the Theravāda Buddhist textual tradition.

The major components of Buddhist doctrine concerning the origin and nature of the world, the self and soteriology will be examined, as well as fundamental principles of Buddhist ethics and the practical consequence of Buddhist thought in relation to current issues such as the environment. Relationships between the state and the sasana (the Buddhist religion) will be examined from the point of view of Buddhist political theory. Each of these topics will be examined through the lens of the Pali Canon, the authoritative scripture for Theravāda Buddhism.

Paper title Buddhist Thought
Paper code RELS227
Subject Religious Studies
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Not offered in 2023 (Distance learning)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $955.05
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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36 points
RELS 327, RELX 227, RELX 327
Schedule C
Arts and Music, Theology
May not be credited together with RELS230 or 330 or RELX230 or RELX330 passed in 2010.


Teaching staff

To be advised when paper next offered.

Paper Structure
This paper is divided into six study units:
  • Finding a Teacher
  • Dependent Arising
  • Psychology and the Self
  • Buddhist Metaphysics
  • Buddhist Epistemology
  • Buddhist Society
  • Two written assignments (1,500 words) - 20% each
  • Online discussion - 10%
  • Three-hour examination - 50%
Teaching Arrangements
Campus: Weekly lectures
Distance: Online discussion

Required: John J. Holder (editor and translator). Early Buddhist Discourses (Indianapolis & Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, 2006)

Course outline
View sample course outline for RELS227
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Ethics, Self-motivation.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
  • The origin and early development of Buddhist Thought in India
  • The early sūttas that contain this material
  • The distinctive ideas and practices in these sūttas
  • The ability to locate and critically analyse the teachings in early Buddhist texts
  • The ability to research topics using academic texts, journals and other media
  • The ability to defend an argument using a variety of methods in writing

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Not offered in 2023

Teaching method
This paper is taught through Distance Learning
Learning management system