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Introduction to Buddhism



Contrary to what the course description mentioned earlier and to what uSis shows, there are NO seminars for this course. The course exists of one 2-hours lecture per week and self-study.

Admission requirements



This course provides a general introduction to Buddhism, as a religious system, set of philosophies and doctrines, and cultural force. The study of Buddhism also provides an excellent opportunity to approach basic human questions of an entirely general type. The course surveys the historical background of Buddhism from its Indian origins through its development and spread—eventually also outside Asia—by means of lectures, reading in primary sources in translation, and secondary studies.

Course objectives

Through this course you will gain familiarity with: basic historical information about Buddhism; Buddhist cosmology; the major movements of ideas and practices in Buddhism; the major forces acting on Buddhism; the major sources for the study of Buddhism.

During the course and writing assignments, you will actively reflect on the nature of Buddhist authority and its sources; regionalism and its effects; the culture dynamics of the emergence and so-called ‘spread’ of Buddhism in Asia and beyond; the relation of non-modern forms of Buddhism to modernization movements and Buddhist Modernism; the phenomenon of Global Buddhism; what happens when Buddhism is framed in terms of ‘religion’, as an object of Religious Studies; relation of Buddhist contemplative expertise and psychology or psychotherapy; how traditional Buddhist goals sit with late modern worldviews and self-understandings; the place of Buddhism in life; and the tensions that are resolved or brought out by Buddhist thought and practice. The approach of the course is entirely non-confessional, meaning that we aim to look as objectively as possible at Buddhism as an object of study.



Mode of instruction

  • Lectures.

Course Load

  • 2 Contact hours/week (2hs class): 13×2hs: 26 hours

  • Readings (540pp., of which 70pp. cursory): 82 hours

  • Preparing 8 weekly summaries of readings (1A4): 12 hours

  • Preparing for midterm & final exam: 1×8 & 1×12hs: 20 hours
    Total: 140 hours

Assessment method

  • Written examination with essay questions (we) for both midterm (1Q) and final exam (2Qs): 80%

  • Hand in at least 8/10 summaries: 20%

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher. Students getting a 5.49 (=5) or lower for the total course, can take a resit replacing the 80% of both exams.

The course is an integrated whole. The final examination and the assignments must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.



Reading list

  • Buddhism: The Illustrated Guide, edited by Kevin Trainor (ISBN 0195173988, paper, Oxford University Press).

  • The Heart of Understanding by Thich Nhat Hanh (ISBN 0938077112, paper, Parallax Press, 1988).


Students are required to register through uSis. To avoid mistakes and problems, students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “Act.nbr.”.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Studeren à la carte.


Dhr. Dr. H.W.A. Blezer


Students with disabilities

The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accomodations can be made in time conform the abovementioned protocol.

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations).