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RELS521 Readings in Buddhist Texts

A critical study of a selected Buddhist text or texts. Provides an introduction to the methods appropriate to the study of ancient texts.

This paper seeks to introduce advanced students to the diversity of texts, textual practices, and textual communities in Buddhist Asia. Although there is a famous Buddhist maxim that states "you should burn your books before crossing the ocean to Nirvana", Buddhist nuns, monks, and lay thinkers have been composing texts copiously for over two thousand years. First we begin with a serious reflection on the thing we call a "text". We will look at the physical features, socio-historical context, intended audience, life of the composer, and the worlds created in the text and in the reader/listener. Next we will consider Buddhist education and how students of Buddhism come to know their literature. Then we will focus on the oral composition of texts and the types of textual communities that create, teach, ritualise, worship, and sustain particular textual works.

Our intention is not only to think about what the texts are "about", but also what they "do" and how they are "treated" in a particular community in a particular place and time. From there we move on to look at one particular set of texts - the cosmological texts, particularly the Traibhumikatha and related texts on cosmology, hells, heavens, and protective texts to ensure favourable births. We will trace how these texts have been translated, taught, ritualised, worshipped, and transformed over the past two millennia. Our goal will be to hear the cacophony of voices in Buddhist texts and textual communities. These voices are varied and many. They create new persons and new realities and force us to reflect upon our own.

Paper title Readings in Buddhist Texts
Paper code RELS521
Subject Religious Studies
EFTS 0.2500
Points 30 points 30 points
Teaching period(s) 1st Non standard period (4 February 2019 - 19 June 2019), 1st Non standard period (4 February 2019 - 19 June 2019)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $2,007.00
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $5,250.00

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Limited to
Limited to: MA
Contact

Dr Elizabeth Guthrie-Higbee: elizabeth.guthrie-higbee@otago.ac.nz

Teaching staff

Professor Justin McDaniel (University of Pennsylvania)

Professor McDaniel works on Lao, Thai, Pali and Sanskrit literature, art and architecture, and manuscript studies. His first book, Gathering Leaves and Lifting Words (2008), won the Harry Benda Prize. His second book, The Lovelorn Ghost and the Magic Monk (2011), won the Kahin Prize. He has received grants from the NEH, Mellon, Rockefeller, Fulbright, PACRIM, Luce, and the SSRC, among others. He is the co-editor of the journals Buddhism Compass and Journal of Lao Studies and Associate Editor of the Journal of Asian Studies. He has won teaching and advising awards at Harvard U, Ohio U and the University of California and has won the Ludwig Prize for Teaching at the University of Pennsylvania. He was named a Guggenheim Fellow in 2012 and a fellow of Kyoto University's Centre for Southeast Asian Studies in 2014. He is the editor of four books on Asian Manuscript Cultures, Buddhist Biographies, Buddhist Ritual, and Thai rare book and manuscript collections. His new book, Architects of Buddhist Leisure (2016), is a study of modern Buddhist architecture in across Asia.

Teaching Arrangements

This paper will be taught as an intensive course. Students (including distance students) will be required to complete preparatory reading and then be present on campus in Dunedin for a week of intensive seminars (11-16 February 2019). Assessment will be completed during the course of the first semester.

Textbooks

To be advised

Graduate Attributes Emphasised

Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Information literacy, Research.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this paper, learners will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an informed understanding of key concepts and major themes within the text(s) studied
  • Discuss critically the context of origin, history of transmission and reception of the text
  • Outline the traditional methods of exegesis of the text and its place within the wider canon of Buddhist literature
  • Critically analyse the doctrinal stance of the text and its relation to other Buddhist traditions and to Buddhist practice
  • Assess the secondary literature on the text and evaluate the different approaches to the text in contemporary scholarship
  • Demonstrate that they have acquired the basic methodological skills to undertake independent research on Buddhist texts, working on primary sources

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Timetable

1st Non standard period (4 February 2019 - 19 June 2019)

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

1st Non standard period (4 February 2019 - 19 June 2019)

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

A critical study of a selected Buddhist text or texts. Provides an introduction to the methods appropriate to the study of ancient texts.

Buddhist monastic law codes (Vinayas) are undoubtedly the most important literary sources for understanding how Buddhism was not only meant to be practised in India some time around the turn of the Common Era, but also for how it was actually practised. Despite their importance, these texts are commonly read only superficially and uncritically, in part perhaps because we already “know” from modern traditions and our own preconceived and often hopelessly romanticized notions how Buddhist monks and nuns are supposed to live the religious life.

The aim of this seminar is to increase students’ familiarity with both the content and structure of canonical Indian Buddhist monastic law codes and how scholars have utilized such texts in order to improve our understanding of various aspects of Buddhist monasticism in India including but not limited to socio-economic realities and the development of legal traditions. Students will be required to read not only passages from canonical texts (in translation), but also commentaries thereon and scholarly articles which engage with this material.

Students will develop a critical awareness and appreciation for the scope of material found in Indian Buddhist monastic law codes, a familiarity with recent scholarship in Buddhist Studies in general and Vinaya Studies in particular, critical reading and thinking skills, and basic research skills.

The paper will be taught by Visiting Professor, Shayne Clarke, an associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies, McMaster University and leading authority on Buddhism and Buddhist law.

Paper title Readings in Buddhist Texts
Paper code RELS521
Subject Religious Studies
EFTS 0.2500
Points 30 points 30 points
Teaching period(s) 1st Non standard period (24 February 2020 - 12 February 2021), 1st Non standard period (24 February 2020 - 12 February 2021)
Domestic Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for 2020 have not yet been set
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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Limited to
MA
Contact

Associate Professor Benjamin Schonthal

Teaching staff

Associate Professor Benjamin Schonthal

Teaching Arrangements

This paper will be taught as an intensive course. Students (including distance students) will be required to complete preparatory reading and then be present on campus in Dunedin for a week of intensive seminars (10-19 February 2020, 2-4:50pm). Assessment will be completed during the course of the first semester.

Textbooks

To be advised

Graduate Attributes Emphasised

Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Information literacy, Research.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this paper, learners will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an informed understanding of key concepts and major themes within the text(s) studied
  • Discuss critically the context of origin, history of transmission and reception of the text
  • Outline the traditional methods of exegesis of the text and its place within the wider canon of Buddhist literature
  • Critically analyse the doctrinal stance of the text and its relation to other Buddhist traditions and to Buddhist practice
  • Assess the secondary literature on the text and evaluate the different approaches to the text in contemporary scholarship
  • Demonstrate that they have acquired the basic methodological skills to undertake independent research on Buddhist texts, working on primary sources

^ Top of page

Timetable

1st Non standard period (24 February 2020 - 12 February 2021)

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

1st Non standard period (24 February 2020 - 12 February 2021)

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