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PHL/REL 430/530
Office Hours: Wed 1:00-2:30
or by appointment
Professor: Dr. Jim Blumenthal
Hovland Hall 10 2 A
(Office) 737-8597
The Hist ory of Buddhist Philosophy
Course Description:
This course is designed to give students a detailed overview
of the major Buddhist philosophical thinkers and schools of
thought, the issues at stake1 and the role of philosophical
study and meditation in the larger Buddhist path. The
emphasis of this course will be on the philosophical
development of Buddhism in India, but we will additionally
look at how some of these ideas were interpreted and
integrated into the Buddhist traditions of Tibet, that
inherited them. Central issues in ontology 1 epistemology1
soteriology, and logic will be addressed. As we move
through the course we will parallel this study with an
examination of contemporary Buddhist thought by 2 0 th and 21s t
century Buddhist scholars and masters.
Course Goals:
In addition to introducing the major thinkers, schools of
thought, and trends in the history of Buddhist philosophy,
the additional goal of this course is to give students a
broader sense of role of philosophy and the meaning
philosophy plays in non-western traditions. Often degrees
in philosophy in American universities ignore non-Western
philosophical traditions and leave students thinking a
survey of Western philosophy is a survey of philosophy as a
whole. Thus a goal of this course is to take a step towards
filling that intellectual gap and demonstrating the
importance and some of the penetrating questions raised and
responded to in non-Western philosophical discourse. This
will go some of the distance in demonstrating an alternative
approaches to philosophical problems which might otherwise
be ignored.
By the end of the course, students should be able to:
1) Successfully engage the majority of topics, texts in
translation, and recent scholarship in the field;
2) Develop an ability to analyze Buddhist philosophical texts,
interpret Buddhist philosophical worldviews, and assemble
key Buddhist ideas.
3) Learn to articulate the philosophical viewpoints of key
Buddhist schools, and learn to differentiate them from
Western worldviews.
1) Graduate students will evidence these skills by leading a class discussion.
R eading Materials:
For All Stdents:
Skilton, Andrew. A Concise History of Buddhism. Birmingham,
England: Windhorse Publications, 1994.
Newland, Guy. Appearance and Reality: The Two Tru tbs In The
Four Buddhist Systems.
Ithaca, Snow Lion Publications,
Rabten, Geshe and Geshe Dhargyey. Advice From A Spiritual
Friend. Boston:
Wisdom Publications, 2001 .
Jackson, Roger and John Makransky. Buddhist Theology:
Critical Reflections by Contemporary Buddhist Scholars.
Surrey: Curzon Press. 2000.
Statement Regarding Students with Disabilities:
Accommodations are collaborative efforts between students, faculty
and Disability Access Services (DAS). Students with accommodations
approved through DAS are responsible for contacting the faculty
member in charge of the course prior to or during the first week of
the term to discuss accommodations. Students who believe they are
eligible for accommodations but who have not yet obtained approval
through DAS should contact DAS immediately at 541-737-4098.
Expectations for Student Conduct
Please review the Oregon State University code for student conduct,
If you have any personal issues arise
during the quarter which affect your ability to successfully
complete the course requirements 1 please notify me as soon as
possible so that appropriate arrangements can be made
whenever possible.
Course Requirements:
Regular Attendance and Participation:
Students are expected
to come to each class having read the assigned readings for
that period and be ready to discuss or ask relevant
Lectures and readings are complimentary, but
often I will lecture on materials not covered in the
In addition, the material for this course will
often be difficult and the ideas quite subtle, so class
lectures may help clarify confusing points in the readings.
Missing class will put you at a great disadvantage on the
Readin g Response Papers:
Each student will write two reading response papers based on the
assigned ''Discussion Readings '' listed below in the Weekly Schedule
beginning on Week 3. All papers must be 4-6 pages typed in 12 pt.
font. For each paper, choose an article that we are reading for
class discussion. A review paper will consist of two parts.
first part is a synopsis of the basic argument(s) made by the author
of the article. The second part will consist of your critical
analysis of the paper. Did you agree with the author 's arguments?
Why? Why not? Be sure to defend you own position with solid
evidence and reasoning. Unsubstantiated opinions don't hold any
weight in this forum.
You can choose to do these papers on any of the assigned
reading/discussion articles during the term that you want. If you
want to get the assignment done early, then you can do review papers
on the first assigned articles of the term. Review articles are DUE
review papers will be accepted late or after the class discussion has
begun. Part of the purpose is to get you to think seriously about
the articles before our class discussions. Each review paper is
worth 10 of your final grade for a total of 20%.
'Discussion Readings '' will be handed out the week prior to the
Reading Response Questions:
On the five remaining class days that you do not turn in a Reading
Response Paper, you must turn in Reading Response Questions. For
this assignment, simply TYPE two questions or comments that arose for
you in reading the "Discussion Readings1 1 for that week. NO
points, for a total of 10% of your final grade. No questions will be
accepted after the discussion has started .
There will be two exams, a mid-term and a final exam. The
mid-term exam will be in-class and consist of definition
questions, short answers and essays. I will pass out a
study guide for the mid-term exam the week before the exam.
The final exam will be a take-home exam comprised of several
essay questions. This will be handed out in class on the
ninth week of the term and be due no later than noon on the
Friday of the tenth week. You can turn it in to the
Philosophy Department secretary in Hovland 208. I will pick
up all exams from her on Friday, JUNE 4th at noon.
Each exam is worth 35% of your final grade .
Papers :
Mid-Term Exam
Final Exam
Review Papers
Review Quest
10% (Sx2%)
Weekly Schedule:
Beginning in week 3, after we all have some foundation in
Buddhist thought, we will have discussion days every
Thursday on assigned discussion articles. These are the
articles on which you will write your two Review Papers.
Discussion Readings are listed separately from regular
Week 1
re-Buddhist Religious Context of India, Sramana movement,
Buddha' s life story
Reading s : Skilton pp. 12-24
Buddha 1 s life (cont.), Basic Buddhist ideas: 4 Noble
Truths, 5 Skhandas, nirvana, etc.
Readings : Skilton pp. 25 -4 9 ,
Early Development of Buddhism in India, Buddhist Councils,
Schools of Thought, VaibhAsika (Great Exposition School)
Readings : Skilton 51-92,
Newland 7-24
Discus si on Readings : "Pref ace "
in Buddhist Theology. pp. ix-x.
by Roger Jackson and John Makransky
''Buddhist Theology: It's Historical Context''by Roger Jackson in
Buddhist Theology. pp. 1-13.
''Contemporary Academic Buddhist Theology: Its Emergence and
Rationale" by John Makransky in Buddhist Theology. pp. 14-21.
Week 4
Sautrantika (S"tra School), Yogacara/Cittamatra
Readi ngs :
(Mind Only
Newland 25-57, Skilton 93-113
Di scussi on Readi ng : Discussion Reading: "Buddhism with a
Samll 'b 1 , 11 '
The Five Moral Precepts, 11 and'
Buddhism and Non'
Violence'' by Sulak Sivaraksa.
Class Handout.
Week 5
Week 6 (Feb 9, 11)
Madhyamaka (Middle Way School), Buddhist Logic, Madhyamaka
debates (Nagarjuna, Buddhapalita, Bhavaviveka,
Chandrak¥rti), Sautrantika-Svatantrika-Madhyamaka and
Yogacara-Svatantrika- Madhyamaka
Readi ngs :
Skilton 115-119, Newland 59-73
Di scus,si on Readi ng : "On Essences, Goals, and social Justice: An
Exercise in Buddhist Theology" by John Dunne. In Buddhist Theology.
pp. 275-291.
(Middle Way Consequentialist School) ,
Readi ngs : ·Newland 75-97, Skilton 165-176.
Di scussi on Readi ng : ''Historical Consciousness as an Offering to the
Trans-Historical Buddha '' by John Makransky in Buddhist Theology. pp.
Week 8
Rang-tong {Self-Emptiness) vs. Shentong (Other-Emptiness),
Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen 1 Buddha Nature
Readi ngs : Handouts
Discussion Reading: ''Truth in Buddhist Theology '' by Jose Cabezon in
Buddhist Theology. pp. 136-154.
Week 9
Lo Jong (Mind Training Literature)
Reading: Geshe Rabten and Geshe Dhargyay,
Thought Transformation 1 1 xv-xvii, 5-137.
" A History of
Discussion Reading: "The Lack of Self: A Western Buddhist
Psychology" by David Loy in Buddhist Theology. pp. 155-172.
Week 10
Final Exam handed out March
9 th .
Lo Jong (Mind Training Literature)
Reading: Geshe Rabten and Geshe Dhargyay,
Thought Transformation 1 1 xv-xvii, 5-137.
"A History of
Discussion Reading:'
"Critical Synergy: The Context of Inquiry
and the Project of Buddhist Thought 1 1 in Buddhist Theology. pp.
FINAL EXAM Take home exam. Handed out Week 9 in class.
Due FRIDAY, JUNE 4th by 12:00. It can be handed into the
Philosophy Dept. Manager in HOVLAND 208 any time up until
June 4 th at noon.