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Reading Buddhist Scriptures


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Asian Studies. Please, contact the student advisor or Prof. Dr. Silk, if you are interested in taking this course, but NOT a student admitted to the MAAS programme.


Buddhist ideas and ideals have been, from the earliest days of the tradition, transmitted, orally or in writing, in the form of ‘scriptures’. Although most were originally composed in Indian languages, Pali, Sanskrit or a form of Middle Indic, these scriptures have subsequently been transmitted in a variety of languages, including Chinese and Tibetan. Since the modern study of Buddhism began about 150 years ago, some of these works have been translated into English as well. In this course, we will read some selections of Buddhist scriptures, in translation and according to student capacities in an ‘original’ form as well. We will try to understand how these works function as literature, and what we can learn by paying careful attention to them in many dimensions.

Course objectives

Students will gain an appreciation of the range of Buddhist scriptural forms of expression, familiarity with major themes and deepen their understanding of how to read literary works the conventions of which differ so much from those more familiar to us.



Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Attendance and informed participation are obligatory. Classes missed for a good reason (to the discretion of the instructor and to be discussed BEFORE the class takes place) will have to be made up with an extra assignment. Being absent without notification can result in a lower grade or exclusion from the term end paper and a failing grade for the course.

Course Load

Class meetings 2 hr x 13 weeks = 26 hrs
Individual presentation: 10 hrs
Readings: 70hrs
Paper: 34hrs
TOTAL 140 hrs

Assessment method

Assessment shall be through:
1) In class participation: 20%
2) Presentation: 30%
3) Paper: 50%. The instructor will read and comment on 1 draft of the paper if and only if it is turned in by the deadline.
There is no ‘resit’ possible for class participation or presentation. If a resit is necessary for the paper, an entirely new topic must be approved, and there is no opportunity for feedback.



Reading list



Students are required to register through uSis .

Not registered, means no permission to attend this course. See also the ‘Registration procedures for classes and examinations’ for registration deadlines and more information on how to register.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs



All Buddhism related courses

At BA-level
Fall Semester
Buddhist Art
Introduction to Buddhism
Japanse religies en boeddhisme
Iconography of South and Southeast Asia

Spring Semester
Architecture: The Temple and the Stupa
Chinese Buddhism
Tibetan Buddhism
Tibet: State and Society
Indian Philosophy
Buddhism and Modern Chinese Literature
Elective: Buddhism and Violence

At MA-level
Reading Buddhist Scriptures

Students with disabilities

The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accommodations can be made in time conform the abovementioned protocol.

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations).