Upcoming Courses


The Foundation of Buddhist Thoughts

The foundation of Buddhist thought is the Buddha’s teachings preserved in the extant Buddhist scriptures such as Pali Nikāya and Chinese Āgama. As Buddhism spreaded cross the vast and culturally-diverse regions of Southeast, Central, and East Asia, Buddhist thought evolved and expanded in order to meet the needs of these varied societies. Each Buddhist tradition highlights its own distinctive aspects of Buddhist thought accordingly. This course aims to give students a solid foundation in the early Buddhist doctrines so that they will have a better capacity to decipher the subsequent development of theories and doctrines by other Buddhist schools. This perspective provides the students with a clear road map of the progression of the Buddha’s teachings. The course includes the most fundamental teachings of the Buddha and critical terms and concepts of Buddhism, such as Dependent Origination, the Four Noble Truth, the Doctrine of Non-self, The Doctrine of Karma. These will be elaborated, and it will be shown how these teachings are interrelated doctrinally and practically forming a systematic whole. Dhammadipa Sak

Towards Ecumenical Buddhism

There are many Buddhist traditions around the world which can be categorized into three major traditions: Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. Each of these traditions claims the legitimacy of their teachings, directly passed down from the Buddha, which holds the supreme authority and is the purest form of Buddhism. This seminar will give students an understanding of the ideals of these three traditions by studying their cultural, ethnic, political, and scriptural contents. Based on the ideology of these traditions on their doctrines, they may more simply be classified into two: Bodhisattva Path and Arahant Path. The seminar will aim at helping the participants to identify similarities among them, to foster a clearer picture of the core teachings of the Buddha, and offers itself as one way among many of disclosing certain aspects of the field, possibly the missing link of each other to form a uniformity.

The seminar will be arranged into two parts, a discussion of the reading list and presentations. The readings and discussion will be organized to focus on the concept of the Buddha, monasticism, rituals, salient Buddhist norms such as emptiness, nirvana, perfect beings and even their possibly cultural or political influences on each on the emergence of Buddhism, to foster the understanding of core Buddhist teachings. Dhammadipa Sak

Ethnographies of Buddhism in Southeast Asia

A study of the ways in which contemporary Theravada Buddhist practice has been observed and analyzed in Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia by anthropologists and historians of religions.  Among the topics considered in relation to Buddhist traditions:  death rites, spirit cults, monastic ordination, social hierarchies, gender, and rites celebrating the efficacy of sacred texts.  Lecture and discussion formats.  John Holt

Dunhuang Studies

This year we will read ritual texts from the Dunhuang cache–yuanwen, zhaiwen, huanwen, etc–in the context of relevant archaeological finds. Paul Copp


DVPR 41700 – Readings in the Madhyamaka

This course will involve close philosophical attention to a representative range of Indian Madhyamaka texts. Dan Arnold

PQ – Some Sanskrit or Tibetan is expected, though there can be exceptions with consent of the instructor.



Buddhist Poetry in India

The substantial Buddhist contribution to Indian poetry is of interest for what it teaches us of both Buddhism and the broad development of Indian literature. The present course will focus upon three phases in this history, with attention to what changes of language and literary genre tell us of the transformations of Indian religious culture from the last centuries B.C.E. to about the year 1000. Readings (all in translation) will include the Therīgāthā, a collection of verses written in Pali and the most ancient Indian example of womens’ literature, selections from the work of the great Sanskrit poets Aśvaghoṣa, Āryaśūra, and Mātṛceta, and the mystical songs, in the Apabhraṃśa language, of the Buddhist tantric saints. Matthew Kapstein

Coherence in Chinese Philosophy: Confucius to Tiantai

This course will undertake a history of Chinese philosophy from its beginnings to the advent of Neo-Confucianism in the Song dynasty, focusing on the evolution of notions of “coherence,” eventually coming to converge around the concept of “Li” 理 as it plays out in Confucian, Daoist, Buddhist and hybrid traditions. Li will be viewed as a variable term indicating a subject-object Gestalt structured around dyadic bipolarities as generative of continuities with designated values and desires, as conceived variously by the various sub-traditions. The role played by this conception of continuity in logic and epistemology, as well as metaphysics and ontology, will be contrasted with philosophical conceptions rooted in traditions that dichotomize sameness and difference through conceptions such as universals, particulars, essences, substances, attributes, God, design, and truth. The course will consist of the close reading of the two-volume series, Ironies of Oneness and Difference, and Beyond Oneness and Difference. Brook Ziporyn

The Philosophies of the Yijing (Book of Changes)

A reading of the Yijing, its commentaries, and the uses to which it is put in Confucianist, Daoist and Buddhist traditions. Brook Ziporyn

Buddhist/Muslim Conflicts in Southeast Asia

The past 20 years have witnessed the rise of serious tensions and violence between Theravada Buddhists and Muslim communities in Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand respectively.  This course provides an analytical, diachronic and comparative overview of the various social, economic, political and religious dynamics that have contributed to the recent outbreak of these conflicts.  John Holt

Buddhist Scholasticism and its Practical Path Structures

It is always a question whether there is only one path (mārga) structure or many prescribed by the Buddha. The period of Abhidhamma and Abhidharma represent the historical stage when Buddhist scholasticism systematically formed. A foundational knowledge of the two traditions under the same umbrella as Śrāvakayāna (“Vehicle of Hearing” in contrast to Mahāyāna) will enable the participants to acquire an integrated perspective on the Buddhist development with regards to path structures. No prior acquaintance with the doctrines of either tradition is assumed.

The course will examine the fundamental path structure of Theravāda and Sarvāstivāda doctrines pertaining to spiritual praxis. Where appropriate, corresponding or parallel textual materials from the Yogācāra tradition will also be discussed with comparative studies. The course is designed to foster a clear and comprehensive understanding of the meditative system of both schools (Theravāda and Sarvāstivāda) and to provide clear perspectives on the development of the doctrines and practices in the diverse forms of meditative praxis found in Abhidhamma/Abhidharma sources. Reading in Chinese Abhidharma texts will be conducted if required. Dhammadipa Sak

Comparative Reading Pali and Chinese Buddhist Texts

Pāli language is the sole surviving Indic language used to document the Theravada Buddhist canon. Pāli is regarded by the Theravadin tradition as the language spoken by the Buddha himself, although linguistic scholars have argued that Pāli is only one of the many vernacular languages spoken in northern India during the middle period of Indian linguistic evolution.

This course is designed to provide a platform for the students to engage in reading selected Pāli suttas, commentaries, and literature. Students will be expected to analyze the sentence patterns and read sentences aptly. The selection of texts and literature will help the students develop their understanding of the core Pāli teachings. In addition, reading similar texts in ancient Chinese translated from probable Indic Languages between the 2nd and 11th centuries will provide participants a better sense of the transformation and contextualization of early Buddhist texts. The course provides the participants with skills in reading and comprehending Pali suttas and commentaries. The sessions will be highly focused on the discussion of the teachings and implications. Chinese parallels to the Pali texts will be given to read for comparative studies.

Basic knowledge of either Pali or Sanskrit is required. Dhammadipa Sak