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Consciousness in Buddhism


Admission requirements

Admission to one of the following programmes is required:

  • MA Philosophy 60 EC: specialisation Global and Comparative Philosophy

  • MA Philosophy 120 EC: specialisation Philosophy in World Traditions


This seminar explores articulations of consciousness in East Asian Buddhist philosophy with particular focus on the Yogācāra doctrine of Consciousness-only (San. Vijñaptimātra, Ch. Weishi, K. Yusik, J. Yuishiki). Tracing the debates between Yogācāra thinkers and their interlocators (Theravada, Madhyamaka, Huayan, Chan, Pure Land) in India and East Asia, we will explore whether we can describe Yogācāra philosophy as a phenomenology in Buddhist terms, how Yogācāra thinkers expand our notion of intentionality, how they enrich our understanding of self-knowledge and knowledge of other minds, how they employ the notion of emptiness to explain mind-world relationship, what kind of moral universe they have outlined, and eventually how they serve as sources of inspiration for Buddhist modernism.

Course objectives

This course aims to:

  • explore theorizations of consciousness and mind in Buddhist philosophy;

  • introduce students to the innovative development of Buddhist philosophy of mind;

  • analyze philosophical materials in East Asia.

Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:

  • buddhist analyses of consciousness, experience, and mind;

  • philosophical debates among thinkers across time and place;

  • how thoughts on consciousness are integral parts of people’s worldview.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • engage in comparative studies of consciousness and mind;

  • familiarize themselves with different forms of phenomenology;

  • critically analyze ideas and notions presented in primary and secondary resources;

  • develop skills in academic writing and cross-cultural communication.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Assessment method


  • Final essay

  • Presentation

  • Attendance and participation in course discussion


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of several subtests:

  • Final essay: 55%

  • Presentation (to be further explained in the syllabus): 35%

  • Attendance and participation: 10%


Resit will consist of an opportunity to resubmit the final semester paper that was not sufficient.
The grades for other exam components (presentation, attendance and participation) remain in place.
Students who have obtained a satisfactory overall grade for the course cannot take the resit.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Required readingsto be announced.
An online course reserve shelf will be available through Leiden University Library.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number, which can be found in the timetables for courses and exams.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. J. Li


Not applicable.