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RST-401-20, Top: Religion: Buddhism (FA15)

INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Wakoh Shannon Hickey  

SCHEDULE/DAY/TIME: T1/Monday/6:00 – 8:45 pm, 08/31/2015-10/19/2015

Greetings! I'm your professor for RST 401-20, Buddhism. I'm looking forward to introducing you to a topic I love, and to learning more alongside you this semester. Because seven weeks is very little time to cover a tradition that spans 2500 years and many cultures, I've decided to focus on Buddhist diversity in Baltimore. You will learn some basics of Buddhist history and doctrine, and the varieties of modern Buddhism present in the United States. We'll visit a number of Buddhist communities in Baltimore, which represent different strands of this rich tradition. 

I don't think any religious tradition can be understood very well if one approaches it only from the neck up and at arms length in a classroom; religions are embodied phenomena that must be experienced. So you'll have opportunities to explore different Buddhist practices, such as sitting, walking, and working meditation, precepts, chanting, making offerings, dedicating merit, and/or cultivating lovingkindness for oneself and others. You can observe and/or participate to whatever extent you feel willing and able: there is no penalty for choosing simply to observe, and you will never be asked or expected to adopt any particular Buddhist (or other religious) practice or point of view. I will, however, ask you to visit at least three different sites outside of class, as a group or on your own, so you can see how Buddhism differs from culture to culture. Opportunities will be available every day of the week, so you can fit them into your schedule as needed.

I am still developing the syllabus and schedule, and I will assemble a Joule site with many resources. But I have been (and currently am) in California dealing with a family emergency, so I'm a little further behind than I would prefer to be at this point in August. However, I can tell you that we will use the following book as our primary text:

Buddhism in America, revised and expanded edition

Columbia University Press  (July 3, 2012)

  • ISBN-10: 0231159730
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231159739 

Please purchase it ASAP and read the Introduction and Part 1 before we meet on August 31. We will begin our conversation there. For the first two weeks we'll cover basic Buddhism; then we'll spend about three weeks learning about different Buddhist traditions; and we'll conclude by exploring different issues in modern Buddhism, such as gender equity, social engagement, and inter-religious dialogue. I will provide supplemental readings as we go. We'll do a lot of discussion and you'll do some writing. I'll teach you methods for reading and writing more efficiently and effectively, for observing unfamiliar religious groups respectfully, and for asking better and better questions. Caveat: it is not possible to pass any course I teach without seriously engaging with the readings. I will do my best to keep them manageable, but please plan your schedules accordingly.

I look forward to seeing you soon! There is still space in the class, so please invite your friends to join us! I promise it'll be thought-provoking and fun.