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Buddhist Ethics: Śāntideva’s Introduction to the Practice of Awakening 


Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to BA students in Philosophy.

BA students enrolled in the Global and Comparative Perspectives track must have successfully completed their first year, and at least 10 EC’s of the mandatory components of the second year, including Language of Thought, and Concepts of Selfhood.

Students enrolled in the BA Filosofie must have successfully completed their first year, and at least 10 EC's of the mandatory components of the second year, including Comparative Philosophy, and Philosophy of Mind.


The eighth century CE Mahāyāna Indian Buddhist monk Śāntideva’s Introduction to the Practice of Awakening (Bodhicaryāvatāra: abbreviated BCA) is widely recognized as a literary, religious and philosophical masterpiece. The purpose of this course is to examine the text as a work of moral philosophy. After a brief introduction to the text, we begin by considering advantages and drawbacks of classifying Śāntideva’s thought as a particular kind of Western normative theory. The course continues with selections of contemporary scholarship examining a number of topics treated within the BCA, including Śāntideva’s discussion of the relation between selflessness (anātman) and altruism; his account of virtue and well-being; the question of free will and moral responsibility; and finally, whether the bodhisattva path is overly demanding. Throughout the class, space will be left for collaborative investigation of the aspects of Śāntideva’s text which we find particularly compelling.

Course objectives

This course aims to:

  • introduce students to Śāntideva’s Introduction to the Practice of Awakening as a work of philosophy;

  • train students to analyze its philosophical importance.

Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:

  • the philosophical importance of Śāntideva’s Introduction to the Practice of Awakening, both in its historical context and for contemporary philosophical research.

  • secondary philosophical literature on Śāntideva.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • write papers on the topic.


The timetable is available on the following website:

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Course load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours = 280 hours

  • Attending seminars: (13 x 3 hours): 39 hours

  • Preparing for seminars/studying literature: 141 hours

  • Research and writing papers: 100 hours

Assessment method


Two papers and class participation


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of several subtests:

  • Midterm paper: 40%

  • Final Paper: 40%

  • Participation and presentation: 20%


The resit consists of one examination for all parts at once, consisting of a paper. The mark for the resit replaces all previously earned marks. Class participation and completion of practical assignments such as the oral presentation is a mandatory requirement for taking the resit. Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination cannot take the resit.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • Syllabus and course announcements.

Reading list

Literature will be made available through Blackboard at the start of the course.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetables for courses and exams.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. S.E. Harris


Not applicable.