Critical Issues in the Study of Buddhism - TH655

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2020 to 2021.


This module will examine classical and contemporary interpretations of Buddhist thought in relation to the issues of origins, gender, politics and colonialism. We will begin with a critical exploration of the usefulness of the designations 'Theravada' and ‘Mahayana,’ before examining early Buddhist literature (in translation) in its historical, social and philosophical context, paying close attention to the question of the relationship of early Indian Buddhism to Vedic Brahmanism, gender representations and the exploration of political themes in early Buddhist literature and history. The module will also explore the impact of colonialism on the emergence of modern Buddhism and the development of engaged Buddhism and Buddhist responses to the environmental crisis.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Method of assessment

Essay 1 (1,500 words) – 50%
Essay 2 (1,500 words) – 50%

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List

Derris K and N. Dummer (2007), Defining Buddhism. A Reader. London: Equinox
Lopez, D (2005), Critical Terms for the Study of Buddhism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
Moore, M. (2016), Buddhism and Political Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

Outline, critically analyse and discuss key themes and issues related to the historical and modern study of Buddhism;
Demonstrate a detailed and in-depth understanding of the philosophical, social and historical context of early Buddhism;
Demonstrate a detailed and in-depth understanding of early Buddhist teachings in relation to issues of gender, politics and society;
Outline and critically analyse contemporary interpretations of Buddhist teachings in relation to their longer historical development.


  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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