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Introduction to Buddhism


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 through Asia, through lectures, reading in primary sources in translation and secondary studies.
Topics which may be included:

  • General Introduction: Issues and Problems

  • The Buddha’s life

  • The Shape of the Universe and Our Place in It

  • Basic doctrine: Non-self; dependent origination; emptiness

  • The Nature of Death and What to Do About It

  • Buddhist monasticism

  • Other Ways of Being Buddhist

  • Chan/Zen

  • The Spread of Buddhism

  • Buddhism in Society (aka the “real” world)

  • Summing Up and Coming to Terms with Buddhism

Course objectives

Through this course you will gain a familiarity with basic chronological / historical information about Buddhism, Buddhist cosmology, the major movements of ideas and practices in Buddhism over time, the major forces acting on Buddhism over time, the major sources for the study of Buddhism, and think about questions such as the nature of authority, and its sources, regionalism, and its effects, and the place of religion in life, and the tensions brought out by religious thinking. 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.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

Attendance is not obligatory for lectures. The conveners do not need to be informed in case of missed classes. Information and knowledge provided in the lectures greatly contribute to the subsequent courses of the programme and their contents will be part of the examination. In order to pass the course, students are strongly advised to attend all sessions.
MANDATORY discussion section: 1 hour per week, to enroll in the course students MUST also enroll in a discussion section, attendance at which is required.

Assessment method

  • Written examination with essay questions for both midterm (3Q x 1A4; 30%) and final exam (5Qs x 1A4; 60%);

  • Submission of written weekly summaries: 10%

  • Final Re-sit: 5Q on entire course.
    In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher. Students will be able to do the re-sit as described above.
    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

The booktitles and / or syllabi to be used in the course, where it can be purchased and how this literature should be studied beforehand.
The Heart of Understanding by Thich Nhat Hanh
Buddhisms: An Introduciton, by John Strong


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory (both lecture and workgroup).
General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar. * For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Vrieshof


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 accommodations 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).