Buddhism: The Foundations - TH5001

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2020 to 2021.


This module will examine the main doctrines and practices of early Indian Buddhism as seen through the Theravada Buddhist canon and early Mahayana literature (in translation). The module will examine the figure of the Buddha and the central concepts and doctrinal themes in his teachings as represented in these materials, with particular attention paid to the philosophical, soteriological, and ethical ideas expressed within early Buddhist literature in the period 500 BCE to 800 CE, focusing on South Asian contexts.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 40

Method of assessment

Essay 1 (3,000 words) – 50%
Essay 2 (3,000 words) – 50%

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List

Gethin, R, (1998) The Foundations of Buddhism. Oxford: OPUS Books.
Gombrich, R, (2006) Theravada Buddhism: A Social History, 2nd Edition, Routledge.
Williams, P., (2008) Mahayana Buddhism. The Doctrinal Foundations, London; Routledge.
Harvey, P, (2012) An Introduction to Buddhism, Second Edition: Teachings, History and Practices, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Rahula, W, (1997) What the Buddha Taught. London: Oneworld Publications.

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

To outline, analyse and discuss the key doctrinal themes and practices related to the first millennium of Buddhist history in India and their development over time;
To understand the broad philosophical context in which early Buddhism developed in India;
To demonstrate an understanding of and ability to discuss the authority claims of Theravada and Mahayana forms of Buddhism and consider their relationship to early Buddhist thought;
To demonstrate a detailed understanding of fundamental Buddhist teachings as expounded by the Theravada and Mahayana literature of first millennium Buddhism.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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