nl en

Introduction to Buddhism


Admission reguirements



This course provides a general introduction to Buddhism as a religious system, set of philosophies and doctrines, and cultural force. The study of Buddhism also provides an excellent oppor¬tunity to approach basic human questions of an entirely general type. The course surveys the historical background of Buddhism from its Indian origins through its development and spread through Asia, through lectures, reading in primary sources in translation and secondary studies, and guided discussions. Attendance at the weekly one hour discussion is required.

Course objectives

Through this course you will gain a familiarity with basic chronological / historical information about Buddhism, Buddhist cosmology, the major movements of ideas and practices in Buddhism over time, the major forces acting on Buddhism over time, the major sources for the study of Buddhism, and think about questions such as the nature of authority, and its sources, regionalism, and its effects, and the place of religion in life, and the tensions brought out by religious thinking. The approach of the course is entirely non-confessional, meaning that we aim to look as objectively as possible at Buddhism as an object of study.


See the website

Mode of instruction

Hoorcollege, with required discussion section.

Assessment method

  • Schriftelijk tentamen / Written final exam with (short) essay questions

  • Written work and oral presentations in discussion section. (Work may be submitted in English or Dutch.)

Reading list

  • Buddhism: The Illustrated Guide, edited by Kevin Trainor (ISBN 0195173988, paper, Oxford University Press).

  • The Heart of Understanding by Thich Nhat Hanh (ISBN 0938077112, paper, Parallax Press, 1988).


Use of Blackboard will be made for this course, including the posting of readings (with the exception of two assigned books) as pdf files.


Registration via uSis is mandatory.

Aanmelding voor A la carte en contractonderwijs


Contact information

Firstly, with the study coordinator, Mw. Nicole van Os. Or else with the lecturer, Prof. Dr. Silk.



  1. General Introduction: Issues and Problems
    2-3. The Buddha’s life
    4-5. The Shape of the Universe and Our Place in It
    1. Basic doctrine: Non-self; dependent origination; emptiness
    2. The Nature of Death and What to Do About It
    3. Buddhist monasticism
    4. Other Ways of Being Buddhist
    5. Chan/Zen
    6. The Spread of Buddhism
    7. Buddhism in Society (aka the “real” world)
    8. Summing Up and Coming to Terms with Buddhism