SOAS University of London

Department of Religions & Philosophies, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

Theravada Buddhism

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2017/2018
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Full Year
The course will study the three refuges of Buddhism: 'Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha' from the Theravada perspective. The course will look at doctrine, history, literature and practice, interactions with politics, Engaged Buddhism, women in Theravada and Theravada in Britain .

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

The objective of this course is to explore the history and cultural manifestations of Shan Buddhism, in particular highlighting how it differs from other forms of Theravada Buddhism.

By the end of the course students should be able to demonstrate advanced knowledge of the following topics and to have explored in depth a specific feature of Shan Buddhism or a Shan text:

  • the conjectured histories of Shan Buddhism
  • Shan Buddhist authorities, including textual, spatial and personal
  • features of Shan religious identity
  • salient features of Shan doctrine
  • aspects of Shan Buddhist practices, including ordination patterns, role of temple, media of transmission, festivals, soteriological, transformative, merit-making, communal and apotropaic practices
  • the visual forms of Shan Buddhism, especially temple layout and architecture, sacred art and dress, etc.
  • the recent and current threats to the practice and preservation of Shan Buddhism

Scope and syllabus

The Syllabus will be along the following lines:

Week 1 The Shan region, myths of history, identity, localisation and links with the historical Buddha; problems of
regional history
Week 2 Specifics of Shan Buddhist doctrine
Week 3 The canonical corpus and the authoritative corpus of Buddhist literature in Shan.
Week 4 The religious week
Week5 The religious year
Week 7 Sacred space: the temple
Week 8 Sacred space: sacred geography and other forms of visual presence of the Buddha
Week 9 Ordination rituals and expectations of monks. Lay teachers. Opportunities for female renunciation.
Week 10 Recent threats to Shan Buddhist culture, recent responses
Week 11 Any outstanding topics/presentations, etc

Method of assessment

1book review (15%), 3-hour exam (50%), 1 oral presentation (10%), 1 essay (25%).

Suggested reading

  • Donald Swearer (1995) The Buddhist World of Southeast Asia, SUNY, Albany .
  • Frank E. Reynolds and Jason A. Carbine (ed.) (2000) The Life of Buddhism, University of California Press, Berkeley.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules