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Department of the Study of Religions

History and Doctrines of Indian Buddhism

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Full Year
This course focuses on the history and teachings of the three main forms of Indian Buddhism: Sravakayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana. The exposition of Buddhist teachings strives to deal in equal measure with Buddhism as a religion and as a philosophical system. The doctrinal and philosophical issues are discussed within the context of the historical developments of Indian Buddhism.  

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

The primary objective of this course is to provide students with a comprehensive survey of the history and doctrines of Indian Buddhism.

Upon the completion of this course, students should acquire a clear and sound understanding of Indian Buddhism as a whole, in particular of its historical developments, principal scriptures, and fundamental doctrines and practices. 

Students should also become acquainted with the works of the chief Indian masters who made substantial contributions to the systematisation of Buddhist doctrines. Viewed as a whole this course should provide students with an adequate body of knowledge, relevant research skills, and bibliographical references to pursue postgraduate or independent research on practically any topic relating to Indian Buddhism, or to apply the acquired knowledge and skills within the context of any career that requires such knowledge and skills.

Scope and syllabus

The course progresses along the following stages: 

  • historical overview, scriptures, Buddha's biography, early Buddhist teachings and schools
  • Mahayana doctrines and schools;
  • Vajrayana theory and practice;
  • rituals;
  • meditation;
  • pantheon. 

After completing the exposition of Indian Buddhism, two lectures provide an overview of the spread of Buddhism beyond India. The aim of these lectures is to demonstrate how the different Buddhist traditions beyond India are rooted in Indian Buddhism, and how Indian Buddhism has been adapted, transformed and enriched by indigenous cultures of Asia such as those of Central Asia, China, Japan, Tibet, Nepal, and the lands of South East Asia.

Method of assessment

Coursework: One 3,000 words essay (20%);One 4,000 words essay (30%);One oral presentation (worth 10%);One two hour exam paper (40%).