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Tibetan Buddhism


Admission requirements



Tibetan Buddhism, both in its historical past and in the present, may seem to us as distant as almost anything we are ever likely to study, or as close as the neighborhood dharma group. Our semester of study will deal with its history of more than a thousand years, both in its mundane aspects (such as monastic structure, the place of Tibetan culture between the great civilizations of India and China, historical tensions between Church and State) and its philosophy and practice, how Tibetan thinkers approach the nature of the mind, how to develop the individual, and what it means to be human. This course also provides an excellent opportunity to approach basic human questions of an entirely general type, such as questions about the dynamic tension between the religious and the secular, spiritual concerns and political concerns, and about how issues of authority are mediated in societies.

Course objectives

Gaining an understanding of the basics of the history, philosophy and art and material culture of Tibetan Buddhism.



Mode of instruction

Lecture with extensive in-class discussion.

Course Load

  • Attendance: 26h

  • Readings and weekly summaries 70 h (readings partly used for essay)

  • Essay 2,000 words: 44h
    5 EC * 28 hours = 140 hours

Assessment method

  • Weekly summaries of the reading materials and participation in discussion: 20% of grade

  • Mid-term essay: 30% of grade

  • Final paper: 50% of grade

The mid-term essay will ask students to reflect briefly on a topic already discussed in class. The final paper is written in two stages: a first version, which will be commented on and a final version. Students who do not meet the deadline for the first version will lose the right to obtain comments and will only be graded based on their final version.

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of “5.50” (=6) or higher. There is no ‘resit’ possible for the weekly summaries/participation portion of the grade. A new version of the mid-term essay (30%) or the final paper (50%) may be written if the overall mark for the course is “5.49” (=5) or lower. If the mid-term essay and/or final need to be resat, an entirely different question must be addressed.

The course is an integrated whole. All assessments must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.


Students are requested to register on Blackboard for this course.

Reading list



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.”.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Studeren à la carte.


Dhr. Prof.dr. J.A. Silk


Other Buddhism related courses

At BA-level
Fall Semester
Anthropology and Buddhism in Asia
Buddhism through Stories
Buddhist Art
Culture of Tibet
Introduction to Buddhism
Japanse religies en boeddhisme
Virtue, Vice and Depravity: Buddhist and Contemporary Accounts
Iconography of South and Southeast Asia
Elementary Pali
Tibetan 1

Spring Semester
Architecture: The Temple and the Stupa
Chinese Buddhism
Tibet: State and Society
Sacred Biography in Buddhism and Jainism
Tibetan 2

At MA-level
Buddhism and Social Justice
Reading Buddhist Scriptures
Virtue, Vice and Depravity: Buddhist and Contemporary Accounts

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 accomodations 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).