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Reading Buddhist Scriptures (ResMA)


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Asian Studies (research) or another relevant Research MA. Students from other departments are kindly referred to the course description of the regular MA course.


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.


See timetable of Asian Studies

Mode of instruction


Attendance and participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to attend all sessions. The convenors need to be informed without delay of any classes missed for a good reason (i.e. due to unforeseen circumstances such as illness, family issues, problems with residence permits, the Dutch railways in winter, etc.). In these cases it is up to the discretion of the convener(s) of the course whether or not the missed class 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 exams and a failing grade for the course.

Course Load

Class meetings 2 hr x 13 weeks = 26 hrs, with an extra 6 hours for students of the Research MA (in a form to be discussed)
Individual presentation: 60 hrs
Readings: 98 hrs
Paper: 90 hrs
TOTAL 280 hrs

Assessment method


Assessment shall be through:

  • In class participation

  • Presentation

  • Paper


  • In class participation: 20%

  • Presentation: 30%

  • 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.

Exam Review

Students may request an oral elucidation of the assessment within 30 days after publication of the grade.



For the Research MA students additional readings will be determined by the convener at a later stage taking into account the students’ fields of interest. Extra sessions will be organized to discuss this extra literature.

Reading list


For the Research MA students additional readings will be determined by the convener at a later stage taking into account the students’ fields of interest. Extra sessions will be organized to discuss this extra literature.


Students are required to register through uSis. To avoid mistakes and problems, students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “Act.nbr.”. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Registration à la carte or contractonderwijs

A la carte nor contractonderwijs is possible for this course.


J.A. Silk


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)