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RELS326 Mahayana Buddhism

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The origins of Mahāyāna Buddhism in India, its spread to Tibet and East Asia and its relationship to other forms of Buddhism, including Theravada.

This paper examines the origins, the history and the main principles of Mahāyāna Buddhism in India, its spread to China, Japan and Tibet, and its relationship to other forms of Buddhism. We will then explore the origins and development of the main Mahāyāna texts and languages, such as the Perfection of Wisdom and Lotus sūtras and their influence on the Mahāyāna doctrines and the differences between Mahāyāna and Theravāda Buddhism.

There will be studies of the main concepts in these sūtras with special reference to doctrines such as Dependent Origination, the Bodhisattva ideal, Buddha nature, the Three Bodies of the Buddha, the three vehicles and Nirvana. The early history of Buddhism will be examined, such as how it separated into many sects: Chinese Buddhist Sects - Cha'an (Zen) and Pure Land - are both transmitted to Japan and Korea; the Nichiren sect has popularity in Japan and China and is based on the Lotus sūtras; Vajrayana Buddhism is spread into Tibet

Paper title Mahayana Buddhism
Paper code RELS326
Subject Religious Studies
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period(s) Semester 1 (Distance learning)
Semester 1 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $913.95
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $4,073.40

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Prerequisite
One 200-level RELS or RELX paper
Restriction
RELS 226, RELX 226, RELX 326
Schedule C
Arts and Music, Theology
Notes
May not be credited together with RELS230 or RELS330 or RELX230 or 330 passed in 2009.
Contact

Dr Lina Verchery lina.verchery@otago.ac.nz

Teaching staff

Dr Lina Verchery

Paper Structure

This paper is divided into six study units:

  • Early Indian Buddhism
  • Early Mahāyāna Buddhism in India
  • Early Mahāyāna scriptures
  • Mahāyāna schools in India
  • Transmission of Mahāyāna Buddhism to China
  • LaterMahāyāna scriptures
  • Mahāyāna devotionalism

The assessment at 300-level comprises

  • A 750-word outline of the essay 10%
  • A 3,500-word essay 40%
  • Online discussion 10%
  • A three-hour exam 40%
Teaching Arrangements
For on-campus students there are two 1-hour lectures per week.
Distance students participate in fortnightly discussions online.
Textbooks
Paul Williams. Mahāyāna Buddhism: the Doctrinal Foundations (London: Routledge, 2009)

A coursebook has also been developed for this paper.
Course outline
View sample course outline for RELS326
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Ethics, Research, Self-motivation.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
Knowledge:
  • The origins and early development of Mahāyāna Buddhism in India
  • The distinctive ideas and practices of Mahāyāna Buddhism
  • The different phases in the development of Mahāyāna Buddhism in Asia and the contribution it has made to the culture of the lands where it has developed
Skills:
  • The ability to analyse critically Mahāyāna Buddhist history and thought
  • 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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Timetable

Semester 1

Location
Dunedin
Teaching method
This paper is taught through Distance Learning
Learning management system
Blackboard

Semester 1

Location
Dunedin
Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system
Blackboard

Lecture

Stream Days Times Weeks
Attend
A1 Tuesday 14:00-14:50 9-13, 15-22
Thursday 14:00-14:50 9-13, 15-22

The origins of Mahāyāna Buddhism in India, its spread to Tibet and East Asia and its relationship to other forms of Buddhism, including Theravada.

This paper explores Mahāyāna Buddhist understandings of the human condition and its visions of human flourishing. We cover the origins, history, doctrinal developments and major practices of Mahāyāna Buddhism, including its relationship to Theravāda, from the first centuries of the common era to the present.

By engaging sacred texts from the Buddhist canon as well as poetry, literature, autobiography and film, we consider how Mahāyāna Buddhism has changed and evolved as it spread from India to Central and East Asia and, more recently, throughout the world.

Key themes include the question of suffering, the nature of compassion, training the emotions, and the place of imperfection within Mahāyāna Buddhist visions of enlightenment. Throughout, we consider the relevance of class material to our own views and experiences of the world.

Paper title Mahayana Buddhism
Paper code RELS326
Subject Religious Studies
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period(s) Semester 1 (Distance learning)
Semester 1 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for 2022 have not yet been set
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

^ Top of page

Prerequisite
One 200-level RELS or RELX paper
Restriction
RELS 226, RELX 226, RELX 326
Schedule C
Arts and Music, Theology
Notes
May not be credited together with RELS230 or RELS330 or RELX230 or 330 passed in 2009.
Contact

Dr Lina Verchery lina.verchery@otago.ac.nz

Teaching staff

Dr Lina Verchery

Paper Structure

This course is divided into five modules:

  • The Foundations of Early Indian Buddhism
  • Early Mahāyāna Buddhism in India
  • Mahāyāna Sūtras
  • Ritual, Practice, and Devotion
  • Transmissions and Transformations

The assessment at the 300 level comprises:

  • Weekly Reflections 20%
  • Essay 1 (2,000 words) 20%
  • Essay 2  (2,500 words) 25%
  • Exam (three hours) 35%
Teaching Arrangements
For on-campus students there are two 1-hour lectures per week.
Distance students participate in fortnightly discussions online.
Textbooks
Paul Williams. Mahāyāna Buddhism: the Doctrinal Foundations (London: Routledge, 2009)

A coursebook has also been developed for this paper.
Course outline
View sample course outline for RELS326
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Ethics, Research, Self-motivation.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
Knowledge:
  • The origins and early development of Mahāyāna Buddhism in India
  • The distinctive ideas and practices of Mahāyāna Buddhism
  • The different phases in the development of Mahāyāna Buddhism in Asia and the contribution it has made to the culture of the lands where it has developed
Skills:
  • The ability to analyse critically Mahāyāna Buddhist history and thought
  • 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

^ Top of page

Timetable

Semester 1

Location
Dunedin
Teaching method
This paper is taught through Distance Learning
Learning management system
Blackboard

Semester 1

Location
Dunedin
Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system
Blackboard

Lecture

Stream Days Times Weeks
Attend
A1 Tuesday 15:00-16:50 9-15, 17-22