Buddhist Traditions

This course examines the historical development of Buddhism from its origins in South Asia in the 6th to 5th century BCE, through the transmission of the teachings and practices to East Asia, Southeast Asia, and Tibet, to contemporary transformations of the tradition in the modern West. In the first third of the course, we focus on the biographical and ritual expressions of the historical Buddha’s life story, the foundational teachings attributed to the Buddha, and the formation and development of the Buddhist community. In the second third, we examine the rise of the Mahayana, the development of the Mahayana pantheon and rituals, and the spread of Mahayana in East Asia. In the final third, we explore the Theravada tradition in Sri Lanka and Thailand, then Tantric Buddhism in India, Tibet, and East Asia. We close the course with an overview of Buddhism in the modern West.