Eastern Thought: Buddhism


PHIL / REL 3500-001 (download syllabus doc) Fall Semester 2007

MWF   11:00-11:50 Palmer Hall  2470

Nita de Oliveira, Ph.D. Office: Scott Hall 3012

Phone: 419-530-4517 Office Hours: MF 8:30-11:00 or by appointment

Email: [email protected]


TA: Nik Monnin (SH 0125) Office Hours: Tu Th 12:00 - 2:00


Course Website: http://www.geocities.com/nythamar/buddhism.html

Personal Website: http://www.geocities.com/nythamar/nita.html

Summer 2008: PHIL 3750 Social and Political Philosophy


Summer 2008: PHIL 2200-021 Introduction to Philosophy

African-American Liberation Philosophy

Yudit Greenberg at UT : Thursday March 27 - Libbey Hall 2:30 pm



Course Description:



[3 hours] An examination of major philosophies of Asia and the Far East, their specific concerns and their relevance to contemporary problems. Non-Western multicultural course. In this course we will be exploring the philosophical contributions of Buddhism, esp. Zen-Buddhism, to a dialogue between Western and Eastern religious and philosophical traditions.


Required Texts:


Suzuki, Daisetz Teitaro. An introduction to Zen Buddhism. New York: Grove Press, 1991.


Suzuki, Daisetz Teitaro. Essays in Zen Buddhism. New York: Grove Press, 1986.


Further Reading / Reserved Materials (Library):


Buddhism: A concise introduction. Ed. Huston Smith and Philip Novak. New York: Harper, 2003.

Buddhism in the modern world: Adaptations of an ancient tradition. Edited by Steven Heine. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

The Koan: Texts and contexts in Zen Buddhism. Edited by Steven Heine, Dale S. Wright
Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Clack, Beverley and Brian R. Clack. The philosophy of religion: a critical introduction. Cambridge: Polity Press ; Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 1998

Davies, Brian (Editor). Philosophy of religion: a guide to the subject. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1998.

Eckel, Malcolm David. Buddhism: Origins, Beliefs, Practices, Holy Texts, Sacred Places. 2002.

Peterson, Michael, William Hasker, Bruce Reichenbach and David Basinger, Editors. Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings (Paperback). Oxford University Press, 2006.

Yandell, Keith E. Philosophy of Religion: A Contemporary Introduction. Routledge Contemporary Introductions to Philosophy (Net Lib)


Grading Policy:

Grades are based on point accumulation throughout the semester. There are 3 Homeworks (Short Essays) worth 10 points each and 2 Midterm (Multiple-Choice Exams) worth 15 points each. One of the Homeworks might be replaced by a Class Presentation. NO LATE ASSIGNMENTS WILL BE ACCEPTED, unless they are accompanied by evidence of a medical emergency (e.g., signed doctor’s note) or death in the family (e.g., funeral program). Make-up exams will be given only to those students who inform me of their emergency by email on the day of the exam. The cumulative final exam is worth 40 points, so as to make up 100 points:


30 points = Homework

30 points = Midterm Essays

40 points = Final Exam

100 total points


Final grades for the course are based on the following scale:


93-100 pts. = A 77-79 pts. = C+

90-92 pts. = A- 73-76 pts. = C

87-89 pts. = B+ 70-72 pts. = C-

83-86 pts. = B 60-69 pts. = D

80-82 pts. = B- 59 and below = F


Academic Honesty:

Neither plagiarism (i.e., presenting the written work of another as one’s own) nor cheating (i.e., providing answers to exam questions or receiving exam answers from another) will be tolerated. Any academic dishonesty will be disciplined according to the guidelines in the University of Toledo student handbook.



If you need special accommodations to attend my class, please notify me immediately. Your need for special accommodations, including special testing requests, will need to be documented by the Office of Accessibility, located at 1400 Snyder Memorial.


Reading Assignments & Class Structure:

Make sure to prepare all the readings before the date given. The reading assignments are usually short and hopefully pleasant. Homework is turned in at the beginning of class on the day it is due. There will be audiovisual presentations (DVD, online videos) and oral presentations. In-class final exams will take place during the last week of semester exams.

For Homework # 1, due on Feb. 6, you can write a Short Essay (1-2 pages) to address the 2 related questions "What is Buddhism?" and "What is Zen Buddhism?" by resorting to the vocabulary, glossary, key terms and concepts that we used thus far. The Midterm # 1, on Feb. 8, will cover the key concepts listed on the glossary below.

For Homework # 2, due on Feb. 29, you can write a Short Essay (1-2 pages) to address the question "How does one attain Enlightenment?" by resorting to the vocabulary, glossary, key terms and concepts that we used thus far, esp. from your readings of Suzuki's texts, such as "Essays in Zen Buddhism," Essays II and III. You may focus on or refer to conceptions such as Nirvana, Bodhisattva, Buddhahood, non-dualism, and no-self to corroborate your argument.

For Homework # 3, due on Apr. 18, you can write a Short Essay (1-2 pages) to address any topic related to your readings of Suzuki's texts, without repeating yourself, such as "the use of language and/or logic," "rationality," "meditation," "poetry," "mysticism" or any other topic you might want to explore in Zen Buddhism.
For the MIDTERM #2,on Apr. 23, you should be ready to cover all the key concepts listed on the glossary below (multiple-choice exam).


Class Participation

Class participation is essential. That includes class attendance (75%) as well as active involvement in all phases of the class.


Class Schedule:



7: Introduction: What is Buddhism? Religion, Philosophy or Way of Life ?

9 - M.D. Eckel, DVD Lectures, 1: "Buddhism as a World Religion"

11- Suzuki, An introduction to Zen Buddhism, chapter I

14 - M.D. Eckel, DVD Lectures, 2: "The Life of the Buddha"

16 - Suzuki, Essays in Zen Buddhism, Essay I

18 - Suzuki, An introduction to Zen Buddhism, chapter II

21 - No Class (Martin Luther King Day)

23 - M.D. Eckel, DVD Lectures, 3: "All is Suffering"

25 - Suzuki, Essays in Zen Buddhism, Essay II (part 1, p. 39-59)

28 - M.D. Eckel, DVD Lectures, 4: "The Path to Nirvana"

30 - Suzuki, An introduction to Zen Buddhism, chapter III



1 - Suzuki, Essays in Zen Buddhism, Essay II (part 2, p. 60-86)

4 - M.D. Eckel, DVD Lectures, 5: "The Buddhist Community"

6 - Homework #1 & Review

8 - MIDTERM #1

11 - M.D. Eckel, DVD Lectures, 6: "Mahayana Buddhism—the Bodhisattva Ideal"

13 - Suzuki, An introduction to Zen Buddhism, chapter IV

15 - Suzuki, Essays in Zen Buddhism, Essay II (part 3, p. 86-117) Lankavatara Sutra

18 - M.D. Eckel, DVD Lectures, 7: "Celestial Buddhas and Bodhisattvas"

20 - Suzuki, An introduction to Zen Buddhism, chapter V

22 - Suzuki, Essays in Zen Buddhism, Essay III (pt I-III)

25 - M.D. Eckel, DVD Lectures, 8: "Emptiness"

27 - Suzuki, An introduction to Zen Buddhism, chapter VI

29 - Homework #2 & Review



3-7 No Class (Spring Break)

10 - M.D. Eckel, DVD Lectures, 9: "Theravada Buddhism in Southeast Asia"

12 - Suzuki, An introduction to Zen Buddhism, chapter VII

14 - Suzuki, Essays in Zen Buddhism, Essay III (pt IV-VII)

17 - M.D. Eckel, DVD Lectures, 10: "Buddhism in Tibet"

19 - Prof. Susan Purviance / Shin Buddhist Fellowship of Toledo
Hongaku Jodo - Compassionate Lotus
An introduction to Zen Buddhism, chapter VIII

21 - Suzuki, Essays in Zen Buddhism, Essay IV (pt I-III)

24 - M.D. Eckel, DVD Lectures, 11: "Buddhism in China"

26 - Suzuki, An introduction to Zen Buddhism, chapter IX
YouTube: Bodhi Zendo
YouTube: Zen Mind in Japan

28 - Suzuki, Essays in Zen Buddhism, Essay IV (pt IV-VII)

31 - M.D. Eckel, DVD Lectures, 12: "Buddhism in Japan"

Spring Summer Fall Winter and Spring
CNN on Chinese-Tibetan crisis
CNN: Richard Gere on Tibet crisis
You Tube: Another Look at the Tibet crisis



2 - Film "Dalai Lama" (1)/ Suzuki, Essays in Zen Buddhism, Essay V (pt I-IV)


You Tube: Buddha Amitabha

7 - Suzuki, Essays in Zen Buddhism, Essay V (pt V-IX)

9 - Film "Dalai Lama" (2)

11 - Suzuki, Essays in Zen Buddhism, Essay VI (pt I-IV)

14 - Suzuki, Essays in Zen Buddhism, Essay VI (pt V-IX)

16 - Suzuki, Essays in Zen Buddhism, Essay VII (pt I-V)
You Tube: Zen Buddhist Monastery

18 - Homework #3 & Review

21 - Suzuki, Essays in Zen Buddhism, Essay VII (pt VI-XIII)

23 - MIDTERM #2

25 - Suzuki, Essays in Zen Buddhism, Essay VIII
R. Gere Discovering Buddhism
Ten Ox-herding Pictures


FINAL EXAM: Friday May 2, 10:15-12:15


Suggested & Related Links:


Wikipedia Buddhism Portal

Buddha Net

Sacred Texts of Buddhism

Wikipedia entry on Zen Buddhism

Zen Buddhism Virtual Library

Shin Buddhist Fellowship of Toledo

Hongaku Jodo - Compassionate Lotus

Wiki entry on Tibet crisis

Chagdud Gonpa Brazil

Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche

John Hick on Buddhism

J. Hick's definition of religion

Some thoughts about religion, religions and the religious

Philosophy of religion

You Tube: Zen Buddhism and Western Society

You Tube: Buddhism in America

You Tube: Zen Buddhism in Japan

You Tube: A Zen Buddhist priest in Japan

You Tube: Zazen Buddhist Meditation

You Tube: Buddhist Enlightenment

Philosophy Dept - UT

What is Philosophy ?

Religious Studies at UT

Program in Law and Social Thought - UT

Nietzsche, Foucault, and the Death of God

Nietzsche's Genealogy of Modernity

Jean-Paul Sartre's Existential Phenomenology of Liberation

Paul Ricoeur’s Revelatory Hermeneutics of Suspicion

Dialectic and existence in Kant and Kierkegaard

Husserl, Heidegger and the Transcendental Problem of Signification

Heidegger and Heraclitus

Edmund Husserl's Phenomenology of Meaning

Jean Calvin's Philosophical Anthropology

Rawls’s Normative Conception of the Person

Social Justice, Secularization, Democratization (Research Project)

Transcendental-Semantic Perspectivism (Research Project)

The Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights (Research Project)

Reformed, Catholic, Jew: An Experiment in Self-Identity

Philosophy Soccer (Monty Python)

Wikipedia Glossary of Key Terms and Concepts in Buddhism

Three Jewels / Triple Refuge :
Buddha: Awakened; a Buddha; also, the Buddha Siddhartha Gautama.
Dharma: Often refers to the doctrines and teachings of the faith, but it may have broader uses.
Sangha: "association," "assembly," "company" or "community" of Buddhist monks and nuns, teachers and practitioners.

Four Noble Truths:
1. The Truth of Suffering
2. The Truth of the Origin of Suffering / Attachment (desire)
3. The Truth of the Cessation of Suffering (Nirvana)
4. The Truth of the Path to the Cessation of Suffering

Karma: lit. "action." The law of cause and effect in Buddhism.

Mahayana: "Great Vehicle." A major branch of Buddhism practiced in China, Tibet, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and Taiwan. Main goal is to achieve buddhahood.
Theravada: lit. "words of the elders", The most orthodox branch of Buddhism, practiced in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand).
Zen (Chinese, Chan): a school of Mahayana Buddhism notable for its emphasis on practice and experiential wisdom - particularly as realized in the form of meditation known as zazen - in the attainment of awakening. As such, it de-emphasizes both theoretical knowledge and the study of religious texts in favor of direct individual experience of one's own true nature.

Bodhisattva: one with the intention to become a Buddha in order to liberate all other sentient beings from suffering.

Nirvana (Pali, Nibbana): Extinction or extinguishing; the cessation of suffering; ultimate enlightenment in the Buddhist tradition.

Samsara: The cycle of birth and rebirth; the world as commonly experienced.

Sutra: Scripture; originally referred to short aphoristic sayings and collections thereof.

[Midterm # 2]

Amitabha (Jap., Amida): Lit. "The Buddha of Infinite Light". The main buddha of the Pure Land school, but is popular in other Mahayana sects as well.

Arhat: lit. "the Worthy One", A living person who has reached Enlightenment. The pursuit of nirvana for one's own sake, in contrast with the bodhisattva ideal.

Bodhicitta: The motivation of a bodhisattva. The mind of awakening cultivated by the bodhisattva.

Emptiness (Shunyata): the absence of identity in things, a fundamental teaching of Mahayana Buddhism.

Hinayana: lit. "inferior vehicle", A coinage by the Mahayana for the Buddhist doctrines concerned with the achievement of Nirvana, that preceded the reform movement of the "Great Vehicle."

Koan: A story, question, problem or statement generally inaccessible to rational understanding, yet may be accessible to Intuition.

Mandala: a sacred circle used in Tantric Buddhist ritual; a term used to refer to various objects. It is of Hindu origin, but is also used in Buddhism. In the Tibetan branch of Vajrayana Buddhism, they have been developed into sandpainting. In practice, mandala has become a generic term for any plan, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically, a microcosm of the Universe from the human perspective.

Non-duality: a way of speaking about the doctrine of emptiness in Mahayana Buddhism. In Buddhist philosophy, relates to no-self, (in Pali, anatta), "the absence of separate self", "meaning non-selfhood, the absence of limiting self-identity in people and things."

Prajna (Sanskrit) or panna (Pali): usually translated as "wisdom," "understanding," "discernment," "cognitive acuity," or "know-how." In Buddhism, it especially refers to the wisdom that is based on the direct realization of the Four Noble Truths, impermanence, dependent origination, not-self, emptiness, etc.

Pure Land: is a broad branch of Mahayana Buddhism and currently one of the most popular schools of Buddhism in East Asia, along with Zen. It is a devotional or "faith"-oriented branch of Buddhism focused on Amitābha Buddha.

Satori: Awakening; understanding. A Japanese term for enlightenment (Zen Buddhism).

Sila: usually rendered into English as "behavioral discipline", "morality", or ethics. It is often translated as "precept". It is an action that is an intentional effort.

Tantra: Esoteric religious practices, including yoga, mantra.

Vajrayana: lit. "diamond vehicle", The third major branch, alongside Hinayana and Mahayana.

Zazen: Sitting meditation as practiced in the Zen School of Buddhism.

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