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    Buddhist thinking about ideal political order including relationships between religion and state, monks and kings, morality and power, ethics and war, religious difference and the 'nation'. Buddhist political philosophy.

    Often imagined as a pacific, other-worldly religion, Buddhism has for a long time been involved in social and political struggles throughout Asia. In Sri Lanka monastic groups have been involved in nationalist politics. In Thailand, Buddhist monks have involved themselves with environmental activism. In Cambodia and Korea, Buddhist temples served as key sites for anticolonial mobilisation. This paper examines the links between Buddhism and politics in the colonial and contemporary periods.

    About this paper

    Paper title Buddhism, State and Society (Advanced)
    Subject Religious Studies
    EFTS 0.15
    Points 18 points
    Teaching period(s) Semester 1 (Distance learning)
    Semester 1 (On campus)
    Domestic Tuition Fees ( NZD ) $981.75
    International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.
    One 200-level RELS or RELX paper
    RELS 436, RELX 336, RELX 436
    Schedule C
    Arts and Music, Theology

    Professor Ben Schonthal

    Teaching staff

    Professor Ben Schonthal

    Paper Structure

    Topics covered include:

    • Buddhist kingship.
    • Buddhist political philosophy.
    • Buddhist secularism.
    • Buddhism and law.
    • Buddhism, race and nationalism.
    • Buddhist perspectives on war and peace.
    • Buddhist protest movements.
    • Buddhism and violence.
    • Buddhism, democracy and globalisation.


    • Class prep, peer engagement & online discussion 20%
    • Essay (incl. outline) 40%
    • Final exam (2 hours) 40%
    Teaching Arrangements

    One 2-hour lecture per week, plus fortnightly tutorials.


    All readings will be made available electronically.

    Course outline
    View sample course outline for RELS336
    Graduate Attributes Emphasised

    Communication, Critical thinking, Ethics, Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Scholarship, Self-motivation, Research
    View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.

    Learning Outcomes

    By taking this course students will gain:

    • A deep awareness of the differing ways in which Buddhists have imagined the ideal relationships between religion, politics, law and statecraft.
    • A strong understanding of how Buddhism has been interwoven in Asian society and politics in South, Southeast, East and Himalayan Asia. This includes a better understanding of Asian history and culture more generally.
    • A sophisticated knowledge of Buddhist approaches to important legal-political concepts such as democracy, secularism, justice, and law.
    • Awareness of the complex ways in which Buddhism has intersected with race, violence, nationalism, politics and other topics.
    • Direct experience in reading and analysing Buddhist texts in translation.


    Semester 1

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

    Semester 1

    Teaching method
    This paper is taught On Campus
    Learning management system


    Stream Days Times Weeks
    L1 Tuesday 15:00-16:50 9-13, 15-22


    Stream Days Times Weeks
    A1 Thursday 15:00-15:50 9-13, 15-16, 18-22
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