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Introduction to Buddhism


Admission requirements



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 opportunity 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.
Topics which may be included:

  • General Introduction: Issues and Problems

  • The Buddha’s life

  • The Shape of the Universe and Our Place in It

  • Basic doctrine: Non-self; dependent origination; emptiness

  • The Nature of Death and What to Do About It

  • Buddhist monasticism

  • Other Ways of Being Buddhist

  • Chan/Zen

  • The Spread of Buddhism

  • Buddhism in Society (aka the “real” world)

  • Summing Up and Coming to Terms with Buddhism

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.


The timetable is available on the website

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture
    Attendance is not obligatory for lectures. The conveners do not need to be informed in case of missed classes. Information and knowledge provided in the lectures greatly contribute to the subsequent courses of the programme and their contents will be part of the examination. In order to pass the course, students are strongly advised to attend all sessions.
    MANDATORY discussion section: 1 hour per week, to enroll in the course students MUST also enroll in a discussion section, attendance at which is required.

Course Load

  • 2 Contact hours/week (2hs class) for lecture: 13×2hs: 26 hours

  • 1 hour mandatory discussion section per week: 13 x 1 : 13

  • 8 weekly summaries of readings (1A4): 12 hours

  • Readings (540pp., of which 70pp. cursory): 66 hours

  • Preparing for midterm & final exam: 1×9 & 1×10hs: 19 hours

  • Examinations (midterm and final) 2 x 2 hours: 4 hours
    Total: 140 hours

Assessment method

  • Written examination with essay questions for both midterm (3Q x 1A4; 30%) and final exam (5Qs x 1A4; 60%);

  • Submission of written weekly summaries: 10%

  • Final Re-sit: 5Q on entire course.
    In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher. Students will be able to do the re-sit as described above.
    The course is an integrated whole. The final examination and the assignments must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.


Blackboard will be used for:
*readings on blackboard and through library or online

Reading list

The booktitles and / or syllabi to be used in the course, where it can be purchased and how this literature should be studied beforehand.
The Heart of Understanding by Thich Nhat Hanh
Buddhisms: An Introduciton, by John Strong


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory (both lecture and workgroup).
General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Dr. G.F. Forgues