Japanese Buddhist Thought

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 2 or Year 3
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Religions and Philosophies

Module overview

This module explores ideas developed by the most influential systems of East Asia Buddhism, with specific attention to Japan. We will interrogate the ontological, epistemological and logical positions of the Tendai, Zen and Tantric traditions, considering the discrete terminology through which each school articulates its signification of reality, as well as the concerns and interpretations they shared. We will also engage in a critical appraisal of the way in which each tradition has been studied, in East Asia and in the West. Questions to be addressed include the relation between philosophical speculation and practice, the perception of reality, ideas of non-duality and immanence, the place of human beings.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  • LO1.   Identify the characteristis of Buddhist thought in East Asia, in particular Japan.
  • LO2.   Examine in-depth one philosophical question addressed by Buddhists in East Asia.
  • LO3.   Critically evaluate arguments across Buddhist Traditions
  • LO4.   Assess how Buddhist traditions have been studied and presented in East Asia and in                   the West.
  • LO5.   Critically analyse competing interpretative frameworks
  • LO6.   Synthesize information from a range of sources, make judgements based on appropriate evidence and communicate ideas.


Ten lectures, of one hour's duration each, over ten weeks; in addition to ten seminars, of one hour's duration each, over ten weeks.

Method of assessment

  • OR- Oral presentation, 15 minutes (10%)
  • AS1 - book review - 750 words - 10% of total mark for the module
  • AS2 - essay - 2,500 words - 80% of total mark for the module


Lucia Dolce

Suggested reading

  • App, Urs, The Cult of Emptiness: The Western Discovery of Buddhist Thought and the Invention of Oriental Philosophy , Rorschach: University Media, 2012.
  • Deal, William E., and Brian Ruppert, A Cultural History of Japanese Buddhism , Wiley-Blackwell, 2015.
  • Heisig, James W., Thomas P. Kasulis and John C. Maraldo, Japanese Philosophy: A Sourcebook , Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2011.











Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules