Bibliographic Resources Relevant to Teaching Buddhist Studies
(Updated December 23, 2019. All abstracts are taken from the publications cited. Please let us know if you know of other relevant resources!)
General Teaching Theory and Practice
Becker, L. and P. Denicolo (2013). Teaching in higher education. London, Sage.
Brookfield, S. D. and S. Preskill (2005). Discussion as a way of teaching: tools and techniques for democratic classrooms San Francisco Jossey-Bass.
Godfrey, P. C., et al. (2018). “Addressing Students’ Mental Health in a ‘Sustainable Societies’ Class: A Collective Case Study in Intersectional Compassionate Pedagogy (ICP) ” Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice 6(3, Special Issue on Compassionate Pedagogy).
On an average college campus, about 41.6 percent of students are suffering from anxiety and 36.4 percent from depression. We do not think we can address student’s mental health challenges without also talking about power/oppression in the classroom. What we present here is a case study of our attempts at intersectional compassionate pedagogy (ICP) that focused on creating authentic intimate connections and community as our pedagogy.
Harland, T. (2012). University teaching: an introductory guide. New York, NY, Routledge.
Moore, A. (2012). Teaching and Learning: Pedagogy, Curriculum and Culture London, Routledge
Teaching Religious Studies
Alles, G. (2010). The study of religions: the last 50 years. The Routledge Companion to the Study of Religion. J. Hinnells. New York, Routledge: 39-55.
American Academy of Religion (1999-2003). Spotlight on Teaching Archives. Religious Studies News.
Derrida, J. (2005). The Future of the Profession or the Unconditional University (Thanks to the “Humanities,” What Could Take Place Tomorrow). Deconstructing Derrida: Tasks for the New Humanities. P. P. Trifonas and M. A. Peters. New York, Palgrave Macmillan: 11-24.
Elliott, S. S. (2014). Reinventing religious studies: key writings in the history of a discipline, Routledge.
Hart, D. G. (1999). The university gets religion: religious studies in American higher education. Baltimore, Md, Johns Hopkins University Press.
Juergensmeyer, M. Teaching the Introductory Course in Religious Studies: A Sourcebook.
Lehrich, C. I. (2015). On Teaching Religion: Essays by Jonathan Z. Smith, Oxford Scholarship Online.
Martin, L. H. (2001). Academic Study of Religions during the Cold War: A Western Perspective. The Academic Study of Religion during the Cold War: East and West. I. Doležalová, L. H. Martin and D. Papoušek. New York, Peter Lang Publishing: 209-223.
Ramey, S. W. (2006). “Critiquing Borders: Teaching About Religions in a Postcolonial World.” Teaching Theology & Religion 9(4).
In a postcolonial environment, our students will encounter multiple representations and diverse followers of various religions outside the classroom. Students need to think critically about the representations of all religions and recognize the humanity of all people. Too often, students leave courses discussing one or more world religions with an idealized view of other religions that draws strict boundaries around the components of each religion. Bringing postcolonial thought into introductory and survey courses highlights the diversity within each lived religion and encourages students to critique those strict borders and all representation of religions. Based on continuing experiments with critical theory in undergraduate classes, the six strategies presented here use the diversity of lived religions to promote critical analysis of representations of religions. These strategies move beyond the rejection of common representations by introducing set theory as an alternative framework that students can use to theorize about the complexity within religions.
Smart, N. (2013). History of Religions. Reinventing Religious Studies: Key Writings in the History of a Discipline. S. S. Elliott. Durham, United Kingdom, Acumen Publishing Limited: 46-50.
Sullivan, H. P. (1970). The History of Religions: Some Problems and Prospects. The Study of Religion in Colleges and Universities. P. Ramsey and J. F. Wilson. Princeton, Princeton University Press: 246-279.
World Religions and Introductory Courses
DeAngelis, G. (2016). Teaching Buddhism in the World Religions Course—Challenges and Promise. Teaching Buddhism: New Insights on Understanding and Presenting the Traditions T. Lewis and G. DeAngelis, Oxford Scholarship Online.
Gary DeAngelis shares his insights on how a nonspecialist has come to adopt a holistic conceptualization of Buddhism and how this approach can inform and enrich a world religions survey course. By organizing a “first course” on religion to convey the nature of belief and practice of the full sample of adherents, students will more easily relate to the humanity of those they are learning about. Just as it is essential to do so in teaching Buddhism, so too will a survey course benefit from this commitment to both popular and elite practitioners. Doctrines such as anatman, prajna, karma, nirvana must be seen in their full context. The chapter also relates the insights of the author traveling to Asian religious sites and doing participant-observation at temples and other holy sites in India and Japan; also described is the content of the survey course. He concludes that the methodology emphasis in introductory courses should be to lead students to see what it means to be a Buddhist, Hindu, or Muslim.
DeTemple, J. (2012). “Home is My Area Code: Thinking About, Teaching, and Learning Globalization in Introductory World Religions Classes.” Teaching Theology & Religion 15(1).
There has been significant and growing interest in teaching religious studies, and specifically world religions, in a “global” context. Bringing globalization into the classroom as a specific theoretical and pedagogical tool, however, requires not just an awareness that religions exist in an ever‐globalizing environment, but a willingness to engage with globalization as a cultural, spatial, and theoretical arena within which religions interact. This article is concerned with the ways that those of us interested in religion employ globalization in the classroom conceptually and pedagogically, and argues that “lived religion” provides a useful model for incorporating globalization into religious studies settings.
Locklin, R. B., et al. (2012). “Teaching World Religions without Teaching “World Religions”.” Teaching Theology & Religion 15(2).
Tomoko Masuzawa and a number of other contemporary scholars have recently problematized the categories of “religion” and “world religions” and, in some cases, called for its abandonment altogether as a discipline of scholarly study. In this collaborative essay, we respond to this critique by highlighting three attempts to teach world religions without teaching “world religions.” That is, we attempt to promote student engagement with the empirical study of a plurality of religious traditions without engaging in the rhetoric of pluralism or the reification of the category “religion.” The first two essays focus on topical courses taught at the undergraduate level in self‐consciously Christian settings: the online course “Women and Religion” at Georgian Court University and the service‐learning course “Interreligious Dialogue and Practice” at St. Michael’s College, in the University of Toronto. The final essay discusses the integration of texts and traditions from diverse traditions into the graduate theology curriculum more broadly, in this case at Loyola Marymount University. Such confessional settings can, we suggest, offer particularly suitable – if somewhat counter‐intuitive – contexts for bringing the otherwise covert agendas of the world religions discourse to light and subjecting them to a searching inquiry in the religion classroom.
Patton, L. L., et al. (2009). “Comparative Sacred Texts and Interactive Interpretation: Another Alternative to the “World Religions” Class.” Teaching Theology & Religion 12(1).
In this article we argue for an introductory course in the study of religion that proceeds through interactive interpretation as a responsible form of comparison. Interactive interpretation proceeds provisionally, and encourages students to formulate new questions of the materials instead of making final categories about the materials. We use examples from a typical classroom to show how we work with three pedagogical principles: (1) critical reading; (2) pluralism within religious traditions as well as between religious traditions; and (3) the use of the working hypothesis as a tool in analyzing religious texts. We also make an argument for textual reading as a form of living intellectual practice, which can work alongside of, and not in opposition to, other approaches to the study of religion, such as ethnographic or historical approaches.
Shoemaker, T. D. (2019). “World religion and fake news: A pedagogical response in an age of post‐truth.” Teaching Theology & Religion 22(4).
This article describes a pedagogical response to teaching world religions courses in a post‐truth age. The course assignment and its application, utilized in both online and in‐person formats, bridge student academic pursuits with religious traditions, require students to engage with source‐based journalism, and extend beyond the classroom into many of the contemporary politics encroaching upon the humanities fields. Related to the first, the objective of the assignment is for students to discover that religiosity permeates multiple sectors, both private and public, corresponding with student career paths. As a result, students discover that religion is relevant to their academic pursuits and that they must consider the possibilities of how religion might integrate with their career choices. Regarding the second objective, the assignment develops student digital media literacy skills as a form of civic education that challenges the current political attacks on journalism and factuality. Last, this exercise acknowledges the realities facing many humanities programs across the country and offers this assignment as a way of engaging with those issues within the classroom. See as well, published in this issue of the journal, three short companion essays by Sarah L. Schwarz, Jonathan R. Herman, and Harshita Mruthinti Kamath, each of which analyzes this pedagogical strategy for their particular teaching contexts.
Teaching Buddhism, General
Berkwitz, S. C. (2004). “Conceptions and Misconceptions about “Western Buddhism”: Issues and Approaches for the Classroom.” Teaching Theology & Religion 7(3).
This article responds to the exponential growth in academic textbooks on Western or American Buddhism by arguing that popular trade books written by Buddhist teachers in the West make more effective tools for teaching and learning about the growth of Buddhism in western societies. The use of such texts in the classroom provides students with opportunities to exercise critical thinking and permits instructors to avoid conveying misleading interpretations about the practice, thought, and identities of Buddhists in North America and Europe. The pedagogical advantages of using what could be described as primary sources on Western Buddhism include promoting active learning techniques, muting the differences drawn between convert and ethnic Buddhist communities, and encouraging students to become aware of and refrain from Orientalist approaches towards describing and knowing the religious and/or cultural Other. A list of practical suggestions for classroom exercises using trade books written by Buddhist teachers is provided at the end.
Borchert, T. and I. Harris (2016). In Defense of the Dharma: Buddhists and Politics. Teaching Buddhism: New Insights on Understanding and Presenting the Traditions T. Lewis and G. DeAngelis, Oxford Scholarship Online.
Thomas Borchert and Ian Harris argue forcefully that it is time to discard the notion that Buddhism in history was ever disconnected from the politics of the polities in which it existed. Alluding to recent reformists and militant Buddhists in Burma, Thailand, and Sri Lanka, and to monastic nationalists in Tibet, the chapter demonstrates how these are the modern expressions of an ancient tradition dating back to Ashoka. In studying Buddhism, attention to the political is absolutely essential: this is not because all Buddhists are inherently political, but rather because the religion is a social form inhabited by people. Embedded in human relations, Buddhists in community (sasana) have since the faith’s origins interacted with all types of rulers, kings, governments, and states. They have been patrons, enemies, and allies with these “secular” powers; with but a few exceptions, the Buddhist tradition was never truly distinct or separable from social institutions or influential political figures.
Brown, A. (2016). “We Can Do No Less”: Buddhism and Social Justice. Teaching Buddhism: New Insights on Understanding and Presenting the Traditions T. Lewis and G. DeAngelis, Oxford Scholarship Online.
Scholar-activist Anna Brown draws upon her own experience as a Zen practitioner advocating engaged Buddhism. She discusses the empowering richness of the tradition in critiquing the causes of suffering in the modern world; and the chapter very evocatively conveys how recent Buddhist teachers such as the monk Ghosananda, and non-Buddhists such as the Jesuit priest Daniel Berrigan share fundamental perspectives, and provide deep and lasting inspiration to those seeking to sustain a commitment to social justice. In this chapter, the author discusses the practices, experiences, and stories that focus primarily on the affirmation Buddhist-centered activism, and how it can support “staying put,” and building community. Also building on her deep engagement with Christian leaders committed to social justice, the author concludes with a brief discussion of the practice of gratitude.
Cabezón, J. I. (1995). “Buddhist Studies as a Discipline and the Role of Theory.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 18(2): 231-268.
Fenn, M. L. (2002). Teaching Buddhism by Distance Education: Traditional and Web-Based Approaches. Teaching Buddhism in the West: From the Wheel to the Web. V. S. Hori, R. P. Hayes and J. M. Shields. New York, RoutledgeCurzon: 197-211.
Gómez, L. O. (1995). “Unspoken Paradigms: Meanderings through the Metaphors of a Field.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 18(2): 183-230.
Gray, D. B. (2016). Teaching Tantric Buddhism in an Undergraduate Classroom Context. Teaching Buddhism: New Insights on Understanding and Presenting the Traditions T. Lewis and G. DeAngelis, Oxford Scholarship Online.
The study of tantric Buddhism in the Euro-American academic world has grown immensely over recent decades, with new research on its origins in ancient India, its development in Nepal and Tibet, and then its evolution in China and under the Shingon school in Japan. The instructor covering Buddhism faces a host of difficult questions about how to introduce and convey this esoteric Buddhist tradition: Is it appropriate to introduce the typical undergraduate to teachings and initiation practices that are not routinely revealed to a typical Buddhist from Nepal or Tibet? Can any individuals who are not grounded in the teachings and meditation practices of Mahayana Buddhism be expected to grasp the symbolic and coded meanings in tantric Buddhism? How to handle the exposure of students to images of deities and saints in sexual embrace? David Gray presents a useful overview of how this tradition is now understood by its historians and reflects on how esoteric or Vajrayāna Buddhism can be most effectively taught in the undergraduate classroom.
Greider, B. (2002). Academic Buddhology and the Cyber-Sangha: Reesarching and Teaching Buddhism on the Web. Teaching Buddhism in the West: From the Wheel to the Web. V. S. Hori, R. P. Hayes and J. M. Shields. New York, RoutledgeCurzon: 212-234.
Grimes, R. L. (2002). Zen and the Art of Not Teaching Zen and the Arts: An Autopsy. Teaching Buddhism in the West: From the Wheel to the Web. V. S. Hori, R. P. Hayes and J. M. Shields. New York, RoutledgeCurzon: 155-169.
Gross, R. M. (2016). Teaching Buddhist History to Buddhist Practitioners. Teaching Buddhism: New Insights on Understanding and Presenting the Traditions T. Lewis and G. DeAngelis, Oxford Scholarship Online.
Rita Gross eloquently explores the classroom conundrums of a historian of religion who teaches in a “Dharma Center” who has as a dharma teacher had to deal with issues of literalism and fundamentalism. In this role, she must address Western Buddhist disciples for whom the modern academic’s critiques of supernaturalism conflict with the sacred texts such as the Heart Sutra and a lineage’s venerable narrative traditions. The author’s exploration focuses on her attempts to teach what she calls “an accurate and non-sectarian history of Buddhism” in Buddhist contexts, or “Buddhist history for Buddhist practitioners.” A central preoccupation is the role of traditional stories and understanding the miraculous events, Mahayana doctrines, or geography (Mt. Meru) they contain. The chapter concludes that our assignment is to contemplate what these stories could mean, to “decode” them sympathetically, rather than to use them as proofs for a philosophical position or to cling to them as descriptions of empirically occurring former events.
Heine, S. (2016). Rethinking the Teaching of Zen Buddhism. Teaching Buddhism: New Insights on Understanding and Presenting the Traditions T. Lewis and G. DeAngelis, Oxford Scholarship Online.
Steven Heine takes the nonspecialist reader through topics that have proven to be problematic in the history of Westerners teaching Zen Buddhism. The Western impression of Zen that began with D. T. Suzuki and was expropriated by the Beat movement in the 1950s has little to do with history of belief and practice in China, Japan or Korea. The “Zen” of the West has come to the point of Orientalist caricature and cliché in popular Euro-American societies. This chapter provides information about the context of Zen in the Edo period (1600–1869) that aims to dispel the stereotypes: the meteoric rise of the Zen school had much to do with death rituals and medicines; Zen monastic training in zazen (Soto) and koans (Rinzai) is not like the “anything goes” of the Beats but more like joining the Marine Corps; and most Zen masters in the century before World War II were proponents of nationalism and imperialism, not compassionate detachment.
Hori, V. S. (2002). Liberal Education and the Teaching of Buddhism. Teaching Buddhism in the West: From the Wheel to the Web. V. S. Hori, R. P. Hayes and J. M. Shields. New York, RoutledgeCurzon: 170-196.
Hori, V. S., et al., Eds. (2002). Teaching Buddhism in the West: From the Wheel to the Web. New York, RoutledgeCurzon.
Hu, H.-L. (2016). Deconstructing Fixed Identity Categories and Cultivating Appreciation for Diversity. Teaching Buddhism: New Insights on Understanding and Presenting the Traditions T. Lewis and G. DeAngelis, Oxford Scholarship Online.
Hsiao-Lan Hu discusses the effective integration of Buddhism into courses focusing on feminism and cultural diversity. The chapter develops the assertion that Buddhism and feminism can flow together fruitfully in college classrooms, since the Buddhist deconstruction of the self is quite consonant with the diversity-oriented feminist analyses on social construction. Moreover, teaching diversity-oriented feminist critiques closely mirrors the Buddhist ideal of wishing and working for the welfare and happiness of “all sentient beings.” Further, classroom teaching using gender pedagogy feminist critiques in and about Buddhism alongside other Asian religions is particularly useful in introducing the concept of multiple ethnicities and nomadic identities. This is because diverse Asian traditions are often intertwined and do not demand exclusive membership or claim exclusive authority. In courses informed by this methodology, Hu argues, students can emerge oriented to live in a society where diversity can no longer be neglected.
Ingram, P. O. (2016). History of Buddhist–Christian Dialogue. Teaching Buddhism: New Insights on Understanding and Presenting the Traditions T. Lewis and G. DeAngelis, Oxford Scholarship Online.
Paul Ingram describes the major figures involved in three interdependent forms of Buddhist–Christian dialogue: conceptual dialogue, socially engaged dialogue, and interior dialogue. Conceptual dialogue focuses on areas in which Buddhists and Christians compare and contrast theological and philosophical formulations of the ultimate reality, human nature, suffering, and theodicy; the result has been focused on what each might appropriate from one another, and how to do this in practice. Socially-engaged dialogue has generated deep interest in communities taking action on issues of social, environmental, economic, and gender justice; since these issues are systemic, global, and interconnected, they are not religion-specific. Among major figures discussed are Thomas Merton, Thich Nhat Hanh, and the Dalai Lama. Finally, dialogue in the human struggle for liberation that Buddhists and Christians share opens an “experiential common ground” that enables them to hear one another and be mutually transformed in the process. Interior dialogue emphasizes practice traditions—meditation and centering prayer.
Jackson, R. R. (2016). Teaching Nāgārjuna. Teaching Buddhism: New Insights on Understanding and Presenting the Traditions T. Lewis and G. DeAngelis, Oxford Scholarship Online.
Roger Jackson summarizes the state of scholarship on the writings and thought of great and historically important Mahāyāna philosopher Nāgārjuna. The chapter moves through historical issues on the philosopher and the literary and legendary sources bearing on his historical location; it turns to an exhaustive overview of writings attributed to him, with special focus on the analysis of the Madhyamakakārikā and its various English translations. Insights and strategies for teaching Nāgārjuna, his concept of shunya, and the Madhyamaka school follow: a contextual consideration, that locates his philosophical approach versus various Hindu schools of thought; focusing on intra-Buddhist controversies, primarily with the Yogācāra school’s theories of consciousness; a comparative approach that dialogues with modern Western physics, Japanese philosophers, Zen, and comparative mysticism; and the use of a contemplative approach involving Buddhist meditation. The chapter also covers the tradition of Nāgārjuna’s Indian disciples such as Candrakirti and several major interpreters in Tibet such as Atisha.
Jenkins, S. (2002). Black Ships, Blavatsky, and the Pizza Effect: Critical Self-Consciousness as a Thematic Foundation for Courses in Buddhist Studies. Teaching Buddhism in the West: From the Wheel to the Web. V. S. Hori, R. P. Hayes and J. M. Shields. New York, RoutledgeCurzon: 71-83.
Keown, D. (2016). Teaching Buddhist Bioethics. Teaching Buddhism: New Insights on Understanding and Presenting the Traditions T. Lewis and G. DeAngelis, Oxford Scholarship Online.
Damien Keown shares his expertise in Buddhist ethics to identify the perspectives and issues that the tradition brings to bioethics. Since the field of bioethics is dominated by Western approaches, there is no alternative to using concepts and resources that Western analysts have developed. A course on Buddhist bioethics must bring together three fields using different methodologies: Buddhism, ethics, and science. Since most students have little background in any of these, the instructor must teach the basics of all three before specific issues in bioethics can be raised. The author’s experience has shown that it is through engaged participation that students best grasp the doctrinal meanings (karma; rebirth) and implications of ethical choices. Morality is grasped in action as students clarify and apply their values to cases (abortion; bioethics); the use of role-playing can assist in this as well as prepare them for discussion of issues with others whose views they may not share.
Lanci, J. R. (2013). “Bridging the “Great Divide” in Undergraduate Religion: An Experiment in Faculty/Student Collaboration.” Teaching Theology & Religion 16(2).
Undergraduate students today often enroll in introductory religious studies or theology classes because they want the time and space to reflect on their personal spiritual questions. Such a motivation can clash with the faculty’s desire to introduce students to rigorous academic study of their field. Barbara Walvoord has proposed four “voices” that students may develop that will assist both student and faculty to cross this “great divide.” This essay explores the ways in which a course based in engaged pedagogical theory and practice – in this case, problem‐based learning – can provide an effective space for students to “find their voices,” take control of their own learning, and fulfill both their own and their professor’s expectations.
Lewis, T. (2002). Representations of Buddhism in Undergraduate Teaching: The Centrality of Ritual and Story Narratives. Teaching Buddhism in the West: From the Wheel to the Web. V. S. Hori, R. P. Hayes and J. M. Shields. New York, RoutledgeCurzon: 39-56.
Lewis, T. (2016). Conveying Buddhist Tradition through its Rituals. Teaching Buddhism: New Insights on Understanding and Presenting the Traditions T. Lewis and G. DeAngelis, Oxford Scholarship Online.
Todd Lewis’s chapter provides a historical overview of the many forms of Buddhist ritualism. He argues that these practices were a part of the tradition from its origins. Drawing on early canonical sources demonstrating the Buddha’s support of “this worldly” well-being for householders, the chapter provides a survey of the myriad rituals that have defined the life of Buddhism across its Asian diaspora. These range from fortnightly full and no moon monastery assembly days (uposatha); monastic prdination and monsoon rain-retreat; pilgrimage traditions to rituals at stupas; and they include Buddhist versions of Indic rituals merit making; fasting (vrata); image creation, dedication, and worship (puja); festival processions (ratha yatra), and cremation. It concludes with the suggestion that instructors wishing to convey the history of Buddhist tradition need to have students read praxis texts along with philosophical treatises, understand the institutional foundations of the tradition by reading about the sangha’s rituals, and delve into well-documented ethnographic case studies of specific communities and their ritual traditions.
Lewis, T. and G. DeAngelis, Eds. (2016). Teaching Buddhism: New Insights on Understanding and Presenting the Traditions Oxford Scholarship Online.
López, D. (1998). Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.
Mattis, S. (2002). Introducing Buddhism in a Course on Postmodernism. Teaching Buddhism in the West: From the Wheel to the Web. V. S. Hori, R. P. Hayes and J. M. Shields. New York, RoutledgeCurzon.
Park, O. H. (2002). Moving Beyond the ‘ism’: A Critique of the Objective Approach to Teaching Buddhism. Teaching Buddhism in the West: From the Wheel to the Web. V. S. Hori, R. P. Hayes and J. M. Shields. New York, RoutledgeCurzon: 57-70.
Prebish, C. (2016). When the Iron Bird Flies: Seeking Western Buddhism in the Classroom. Teaching Buddhism: New Insights on Understanding and Presenting the Traditions T. Lewis and G. DeAngelis, Oxford Scholarship Online.
Charles Prebish provides an extended and instructive history of the development of Buddhism in the Western world, indicating his own pioneering work to document and define this new and growing field in Buddhist studies, and then design courses to cover it. The two main Buddhist groups in the West who have created institutions, Asian immigrants and Westerners, are highlighted. The former have transplanted monastery temples similar to their home countries; the latter have focused almost exclusively on establishing meditation centers drawing on indigenous teachers, and spiritual traditions, from the various Theravāda, Mahāyāna, and tantric lineages. The author points out how there has been little connection between these primary communities. The chapter includes extended discussions of the development of undergraduate classes over three decades, and concern with course organization, content, and possible readings. There is also an especially extensive and useful bibliography.
Prebish, C. S. (2002). Buddhist Studies in the Academy: History and Analysis. Teaching Buddhism in the West: From the Wheel to the Web. V. S. Hori, R. P. Hayes and J. M. Shields. New York, RoutledgeCurzon: 17-38.
Queen, C. (2016). Teaching Engaged Buddhism in Uncertain Times. Teaching Buddhism: New Insights on Understanding and Presenting the Traditions T. Lewis and G. DeAngelis, Oxford Scholarship Online.
Christopher Queen shares his experiences teaching Engaged Buddhism, a major modern development that has resonated with Americans, and especially undergraduate students who increasingly do service learning as part of their education. The chapter outlines the history of Buddhist reform and social engagement in Asia beginning with Bhimrao Ambedkar’s work promoting conversion to Buddhism among Dalits in India and Thich Nhat Hanh’s opposition to the war in Vietnam. The author discusses his own efforts to introduce engaged Buddhism as a subject in undergraduate courses and the evolution of content and reading choices. The chapter concludes with a detailed presentation of his discovery of effective paper topics, the place of meditation, useful films, field trips, and readings. The chapter concludes that coursework including engaged Buddhism offer students a chance to see the Dharma in challengingly new ways.
Reynolds, F. E. (2002). Teaching Buddhism in the Postmodern University: Understanding, Critique, Evaluation. Teaching Buddhism in the West: From the Wheel to the Web. V. S. Hori, R. P. Hayes and J. M. Shields. New York, RoutledgeCurzon: 3-16.
Reynolds, F. E. (2004). “Teaching Buddhism in the Postmodern University: Understanding, Critique, Evaluation.” Teaching Theology & Religion 4(1).
A contemporary liberal education in the humanities and social sciences should introduce students to the serious exploration of various kinds of worlds that human beings articulate and within which they live. Teachers in Buddhist studies can make a significant contribution by offering courses that focus attention on distinctively Buddhist worlds that are directly relevant to postmodern interests and concerns. These courses should also be designed to empower students with the kind of interpretive skills that are needed in a postmodern environment to generate viable modes of sympathetic understanding, convincing forms of critical analysis, and the capacity to formulate and defend responsible personal and social judgments. This article is a revised version of the keynote lecture given at a McGill University conference on “Teaching Buddhism: The State of the Art,” October 8–10, 1999.
Sasson, V. R. (2016). Conveying Buddhism in the Classroom: Working with Assumptions on Family and Children. Teaching Buddhism: New Insights on Understanding and Presenting the Traditions T. Lewis and G. DeAngelis, Oxford Scholarship Online.
Vanessa Sasson’s chapter summarizes the wealth of recent scholarship on the neglected topic of the place of family, children, parenting, and enculturation in the history of Buddhism and in the experience of Buddhist householder communities. Demonstrating how modern monastics do not live isolated from their home communities and families, the author connects modern insights with recent textual Vinaya studies oindicating that this was true in unexpected ways in ancient and later Indian Buddhism. The chapter then describes the challenges faced in handling ethnocentric student preconceptions about Buddhism (i.e., that it is not for children). The chapter documents the need for a historical imagination that includes the reality that all Buddhist communities are filled with families and that there are all kinds of traditions that include those families as practitioners. Recent research on this theme is outlined.
Siderits, M. (2016). Teaching Buddhism as Philosophy. Teaching Buddhism: New Insights on Understanding and Presenting the Traditions T. Lewis and G. DeAngelis, Oxford Scholarship Online.
Mark Siderits shares many insights about the method and effective themes he has found useful in teaching Buddhist philosophy, both on its own and in comparative courses, with the non-philosopher instructor in mind. Although he counsels collaboration with trained philosophers, he also warns against the practice of philosophers reading into the Buddhist tradition theories and arguments familiar from Western philosophy but which are not actually to be found there. The chapter notes that in trying to develop a sense of what the Buddhist philosophers were up to and how they argue and define logic; it underlines that one should not confine one’s attention to Buddhist philosophical texts. Buddhist philosophy arose in India in constant dialogue with philosophers defending the views of the “orthodox” (Brahmanical) schools, especially Nyāya, Mīmāṃsā, and Sāṃkhya. To gain a much clearer perspective on Buddhist theories and arguments, and central ideas such as karma, rebirth, they must be placed in the context of centuries-long conversations between these philosophical traditions.
Sponsel, L. E. and P. Natadecha-Sponsel (2016). Buddhist Environmentalism. Teaching Buddhism: New Insights on Understanding and Presenting the Traditions T. Lewis and G. DeAngelis, Oxford Scholarship Online.
The cultural resources of Buddhist doctrine and the specific actions that Buddhists have taken to address environmental issues is the subject of the chapter by Leslie E. Sponsel and Poranee Natadecha-Sponsel. Given that environmental problems are rampant from the local to the global (e.g. climate change; pollution; deforestation), Buddhists around the world have turned in various ways to their religion and its resources to solve these problems. The authors point out that there are elements of ecology and environmentalism in the Buddha’s teachings. The chapter outlines the principles of Engaged Buddhism environmentalism that have developed in recent decades in Asia as well as in the West. It then reviews a variety of ways that these principles and history can be the focus of undergraduate experiential learning. Instead of discussing Buddhist environmentalism only through the interpretation of sacred texts, this chapter surveys the subject more broadly referring to institutional practices and recent activism initiatives.
Waldron, W. (2002). An End-run round Entities: Using Scientific Analogies to Teach Basic Buddhist Concepts. Teaching Buddhism in the West: From the Wheel to the Web. V. S. Hori, R. P. Hayes and J. M. Shields. New York, RoutledgeCurzon: 84-94.
Waldron, W. S. (2016). Teaching Yogācāra Buddhism Using Cognitive Science. Teaching Buddhism: New Insights on Understanding and Presenting the Traditions T. Lewis and G. DeAngelis, Oxford Scholarship Online.
William Waldron creatively conveys how recent ground-breaking studies in the cognitive sciences can be related to analyses in the Yogācāra (or Cittamatra) school of Mahāyāna philosophy. This new field in Western science provides ready entrée into the main ideas of the second major school of Indian Mahāyāna Buddhism, Yogācāra (“Practitioners of Yoga”). Yogācāra was classically formulated in third to fifth century C.E. India, but ultimately influenced all later schools of Mahāyāna Buddhism in India, Tibet, China, Korea, and Japan. Yogācāra’s comprehensive and complex sets of doctrines have until quite recently made it the most impenetrable and misunderstood of Indian Buddhist schools. But it is possible to use ideas from modern cognitive science to make Yogācāra more accessible and comprehensible. Yogācāra displays a level of conceptual sophistication regarding consciousness and a historically self-reflective awareness. Its method of analysis—searching for impersonal patterns of interaction—has parallels in the basic scientific concern with causality.
Willis, J. (2016). Teaching Buddhism in the Western Academy. Teaching Buddhism: New Insights on Understanding and Presenting the Traditions T. Lewis and G. DeAngelis, Oxford Scholarship Online.
Jan Willis candidly reflects on the challenges faced by a professor who is also a “scholar-practitioner” teaching in the modern secular university; she identifies problems, boundaries, and opportunities such a scholar should consider. Her discussion conveys common classroom challenges and guides the reader through the design and topics of two classes she often offers: an Introduction to Buddhism and a seminar on Tibetan Buddhism that covers the tantra tradition. The multi topic focus includes covering doctrine, popular narrative, and ritual practice. Candidly describing her experience of being a chela of Lama Thubten Yeshe in her formative years, and the kinds of reactions she has gotten from other scholars teaching in the field of religious studies, the author explains how she sought to construct her courses creatively and authentically, discussing assignments and useful films, while clearly defining her academic goals.
Zsolnai, L. (2016). Buddhism and Economic Development. Teaching Buddhism: New Insights on Understanding and Presenting the Traditions T. Lewis and G. DeAngelis, Oxford Scholarship Online.
Laszlo Zsolnai’s contribution complements the environmentalism chapter by reviewing the classical ideals of Buddhist ethics regarding “true human needs” and recent efforts to articulate alternative economic models. The author provides a systematic treatment of modern Buddhists who have rejected building societies on the economics of environmental and human exploitation. The chapter argues that Buddhist Economics urges individuals not to multiply human desires but to simplify them to be closer to the minimum material comfort, which includes enough food, clothing, shelter, and medicine. In a consumerist economic system, wanting less would bring substantial benefits for the person, for the community, and for nature as a whole. Buddhism recommends moderate consumption and directly aims at changing one’s preferences through meditation, analysis, and moral reflection. The author surveys the writings of both Asian and Western economic theorists seeking to apply Buddhist teachings such as karma and suffering to contemporary economies and the quest for sustainability.
Place-based Learning and Study Abroad
Beames, S. and M. Brown (2016). Adventurous learning: a pedagogy for a changing world New York, Routledge.
Jarow, E. H. R. (2002). The Peripatetic Class: Buddhist Traditions and Myths of Pedagogy. Teaching Buddhism in the West: From the Wheel to the Web. V. S. Hori, R. P. Hayes and J. M. Shields. New York, RoutledgeCurzon: 107-118.
Mitchell, K. (2015). “The Immersion Experience: Lessons from Study Abroad in Religion.” Teaching Theology & Religion 18(1).
This paper discusses strategies I employed during seven years of teaching within a study abroad program focusing on religion. This year‐long program traveled to four Asian countries and included immersion experiences in monasteries, ashrams, and other religious institutions. I identify four principles and discuss accompanying exercises that guided my teaching: (1) Accept and observe anxiety. Inability to understand is a sign that direct and deep contact is taking place. (2) Educate about education. Help students to see the aims, assumptions, and context of the teaching strategies religious practitioners employ. (3) Make it practical. Devise exercises that students can do and do well and that do not demand synthetic, systematic comprehension even as a goal. (4) Stop making sense. Build pauses and breaks into the train of reflection on the meaning of experience. These spaces give room for the shifts in the ways of learning that study abroad demands. This essay is published alongside of six other essays, including a response from John Barbour, comprising a special section of the journal (see Teaching Theology and Religion 18:1, January 2015).
Oldstone‐Moore, J. (2009). “Sustained Experiential Learning: Modified Monasticism and Pilgrimage.” Teaching Theology & Religion 12(2).
This article outlines a template for sustained experiential learning designed to provide a context for learning the affective and performative as well as intellectual power of religion. This approach was developed for a traditional academic framework, adapting pedagogies developed for experiential learning, aesthetic training, and study abroad, and draws on personal experiences of teaching East Asian religions. The approach integrates intellectual learning with out of class experience to stimulate and enrich the highly personal and often significant questions that may arise upon studying religion and encountering religious practices both in and out of the classroom.
Experiential Education in Buddhist Studies
Barnard, G. W. (2004). “Meditation and Masks, Drums and Dramas Experiential and Participatory Exercises in the Comparative Religions Classroom.” Teaching Theology & Religion 2(3).
In an effort to create a context in which my students might have the opportunity to touch, and to be touched by, the richness, texture, and power of different religious worlds, I have experimented throughout the years with a wide variety of experiential and participatory exercises in the classroom. For example, the students and I (at times with the assistance of an invited expert practitioner) have drummed, danced, gone on shamanic journeys, made masks, done tai chi and hatha yoga, performed dhikr, engaged in mythic psychodramas, practiced different styles of meditation, and so on. In this paper, I examine some of the difficulties and rewards of utilizing these techniques within a university setting. I also explore some of the ways in which a willingness to incorporate these types of exercises into the classroom challenges several current academic pedagogical assumptions.
Garrett, F. (2018). “Engaged pedagogy through role‐play in a Buddhist studies classroom.” Teaching Theology & Religion 21(4).
Lelwica, M. M. (2009). “Embodying Learning: Post‐Cartesian Pedagogy and the Academic Study of Religion.” Teaching Theology & Religion 12(2).
This paper explores the concept and practice of “embodied pedagogy” as an alternative to the Cartesian approach to knowledge that is tacitly embedded in traditional modes of teaching and learning about religion. My analysis highlights a class I co‐teach that combines the study of Aikido (a Japanese martial art) with seminar‐style discussions of texts that explore issues pertaining to embodiment in the context of diverse spiritual traditions. The physicality of Aikido training makes it an interesting “case study” of embodied pedagogy and the lessons it offers both teachers and students about the academic study of religion. Ultimately, the questions and insights this class generates illustrate how post‐Cartesian pedagogies can expose, challenge, and correct epistemological assumptions that contribute to one‐dimensional views of religion and that fail to address our students as whole persons. A final part of the paper considers other possible venues for embodying teaching and learning in the academic study of religion.
McGuire, B. (2019). “Analogous activities: Tools for thinking comparatively in religious studies courses.” Teaching Theology & Religion 22(2).
This article discusses an experiential teaching method that uses secular activities that are simple, accessible, and analogous to religious practice in order to facilitate comparative religious study. These “analogous activities” – for example, social rituals, stillness, yoga, a social media fast, singing, nonviolent communication, and mindfulness meditation – provide a third point of reference that allows students to pivot between their understanding of religion and those of practitioners and scholars of religion. Experiential learning can be quite successful if deliberately sequenced to allow students to encounter a series of interpretive frameworks and structured with prompts and parameters that encourage reflection and critical analysis of their experience. In my course engaging in analogous activities not only impacted students’ understanding of Asian religions, but also led them to question two previous assumptions: first, that religious beliefs were more important than religious practices, which is particularly problematic in regards to Asian religious traditions that place more emphasis on orthopraxy than orthodoxy, and second, that religion was something separate from one’s everyday or lived reality.
Waterhouse, D. (2002). Buddhism and the Teaching of Judo. Teaching Buddhism in the West: From the Wheel to the Web. V. S. Hori, R. P. Hayes and J. M. Shields. New York, RoutledgeCurzon: 119-140.
Wotypka, J. (2002). Engaging Buddhism: Creative Tasks and Student Participation. Teaching Buddhism in the West: From the Wheel to the Web. V. S. Hori, R. P. Hayes and J. M. Shields. New York, RoutledgeCurzon.
American Academy of Religion (2019). “Contemplative Pedagogy and the Religious Studies Classroom.” Spotlight on Teaching.
Bach, D. J. and J. Alexander (2015). “Contemplative Approaches to Reading and Writing: Cultivating Choice, Connectedness, and Wholeheartedness in the Critical Humanities.” The Journal of Contemplative Inquiry 2(1).
Barbezat, D. P. and M. Bush (2014). Contemplative Practices in Higher Education: Powerful Methods to Transform Teaching and Learning. San Francisco, John Wiley & Sons.
Coburn, T., et al. (2011). “Contemplative Pedagogy: Frequently Asked Questions.” Teaching Theology & Religion 14(2).
Contemplative Pedagogy is a new and sometimes controversial pedagogical practice. Faculty often have basic questions about how to implement the pedagogy in their classrooms, in addition to questions that challenge the educational value and appropriateness of the practice. Assembled here are the most frequently asked questions about Contemplative Pedagogy, with responses from six contemplative professors, each from a different institutional and philosophical location. The respondents are founding members of the Contemplative Studies Consultation of the American Academy of Religion. The diversity of views expressed by the respondents invites the reader to see that there is no single theory or praxis of contemplative pedagogy.
Columbia University. “Contemplative Pedagogy.” from https://ctl.columbia.edu/resources-and-technology/resources/contemplative-pedagogy/.
Corrigan, P. T. (2013). “Attending to the Act of Reading: Critical Reading, Contemplative Reading, and Active Reading.” Essays in Reader-Oriented Theory, Criticism, and Pedagogy 63.
Fisher, K. M. (2017). “Look Before You Leap: Reconsidering Contemplative Pedagogy.” Teaching Theology & Religion 20(1).
This paper presents a critique of a set of teaching strategies known as “contemplative pedagogy.” Using practices such as meditation, attentive listening, and reflective reading, contemplative inquiry focuses on direct first‐person experience as an essential means of knowing that has historically been overshadowed and dismissed by an emphasis on analytical reasoning. In this essay, I examine four problematic claims that appear frequently in descriptions of contemplative pedagogy: (1) undergraduate students have a kind of spiritual hunger; (2) pedagogies focused on cognitive skills teach students only what, not how, to think; (3) self‐knowledge fosters empathy; and (4) education needs a new epistemology centered on spiritual and emotional, rather than intellectual, experience. I argue that these claims underestimate the diversity of undergraduate students, the complexity of what it means to think and know, the capacity for self‐knowledge to become self‐absorption, and the dangers of transgressing the boundaries between intellectual, psychological, and religious experiences. [See as well “Response to Kathleen Fisher’s ‘Look Before You Leap,’” by Andrew O. Fort and Louis Komjathy, published in this issue of the journal.]
Grace, F. (2011). “Learning as a Path, Not a Goal: Contemplative Pedagogy – Its Principles and Practices.” Teaching Theology & Religion 14(2).
What is contemplative pedagogy and how is it practiced in Religious Studies classrooms? Contemplative pedagogy cultivates inner awareness through first‐person investigations, often called “contemplative practices.” Contemplative teaching practices range widely: silent sitting meditation, compassion practices, walking meditation, deep listening, mindfulness, yoga, calligraphy, chant, guided meditations, nature observation, self‐inquiry, and many others. Since narrative is a mode of instruction prevalent in contemplative literature, the article includes first‐hand reflections from students and a narrative account of how an initially skeptical professor came to incorporate contemplative teaching methods into her courses. It expands from the personal narratives to highlight the work of many contemplative professors in the field. These real‐life examples are put into the context of recent publications on shifts in higher education and meditation research. The article seeks to demonstrate the power of contemplative teaching to fulfill many hopes for liberal arts learning. Of particular importance is its emphasis on interior qualities of lifelong impact, such as self‐knowledge and ethical cultivation.
Hart, T. (2004). “Opening the contemplative mind in the classroom.” Journal of transformative education 2(1): 28-46.
Haynes, D. (2005). “Contemplative Practice and the Education of the Whole Person.” ARTS: The Arts in Religious and Theological Studies 16(2).
Montclair State University. “Contemplation’s Pedagogical Role.” from https://www.montclair.edu/faculty-advancement/current-development-programs/contemplative-pedagogy-program/.
Shapiro, S. L., et al. (2016). Toward the integration of meditation into higher education: A review of research, The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society.
Simmer‐Brown, J. and F. Grace, Eds. (2011). Meditation and the Classroom: Contemplative Pedagogy for Religious Studies. Albany, SUNY Press.
Zajonc, A. (2009). Meditation As Contemplative Inquiry: When Knowing Becomes Love. Massachusetts, Lindisfarne Books.
Zajonc, A. (2013). “Contemplative pedagogy: A quiet revolution in higher education.” New Directions for Teaching and Learning 2013(134): 3-94.