SOAS University of London

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

R110 Introduction to Buddhism

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2020/2021
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Term 2

This course provides a basic introduction to Buddhism for those with no or little previous knowledge of the subject. It also provides an overview in preparation for the more advanced Buddhist courses that can be taken at later stages in the degree. It will explore the main doctrines and authorities, including scriptures, doctrines and ethics, practices and rites, societal and political roles, monastic life, art, the spread of Buddhism and persecution.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

By the end of this course a typical student should be able to do most of the following:

  • Locate the origins of Buddhism in its religious context.
  • Outline the spread of Buddhism beyond India.
  • Explain the fundamental concepts of Buddhist soteriology and relate these to traditional Buddhist practices.
  • Identify non-soteriological goals served by Buddhism and relate these to traditional Buddhist practices.
  • Discuss the principles underlying Buddhist ethics and give examples of the practical implications.
  • Describe the main scriptural authorities of Buddhism and discuss aspects of their content.
  • Identify a range of motivations underlying ordination.
  • Explain and analyse a variety of the roles performed Buddhist monks in different Buddhist societies.
  • Differentiate between aspects of one or more Buddhist traditions.
  • Demonstrate an awareness of some historical developments within Buddhism.
  • Discuss some of the above with reference to relevant primary and secondary sources.

Method of assessment

  • One 750 word essay plan (20%)
  • One 3,000 word essay (80%)

Suggested reading

  • Gethin, Rupert (1998) The Foundations of Buddhism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules