“Studying, reflecting, meditating”—these three activities form the backbone of authentic Buddhism, and this is how we’ll approach this integrative class on Buddhist Philosophy & Religion. The class will serve as a general overview of the foundational Buddhist teachings of the various traditions, as well as an introduction basic meditative practice. Participants should leave with not only the theoretical knowledge of “what Buddhism is,” but also the practical knowledge of “how Buddhism works”—along with an ability to use those lessons in their daily lives.
The files and documents of the distance modules are available online. If there is sufficient interest, each distance module also offers a live webinar for questions and answers.
Module 1: Basic Buddhist Principles (RELI) · Distance Module May/June 2020
Module 1 of this series on Buddhist Philosophy and Religion is devoted to presenting the basic religious principles, logical foundations, and spiritual goals of Buddhism. The ultimate aim of religious and contemplative Buddhist practice—liberation from a world of suffering through complete “awakening”—is discussed, along with the foundational “how”s and “why”s of the Buddhist worldview.
Module 2: History of Buddhist Thought (RELI+PHIL) · Distance Module
How did Buddhism develop in India? When and how was it transmitted to Tibet? In this module, we explore the basics of Buddhism through the lens of history, along with the essential aspects that define Buddhist thought. We also cover the basics of consciousness and perception: How does reality “work” from the Buddhist perspective?
Module 3: Buddhist Traditions & Belief (RELI) · 9 – 10 October 2020
(Minimum attendance of six students). We’ll discuss topics of reincarnation, metaphysics, and ethics of Buddhist belief, as well as how these ideas pertain to the spiritual path of the practicing Buddhist. In particular, we’ll cover the essential points of Tibetan Buddhism, as well as briefly explore the other various schools (Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana).
Module 4: Indo-Tibetan Schools of Sutra & Great Exposition (PHIL) · Distance Module
In module 4, we delve deeply into the “Sutra” school (Scripturalism, Skt. Sautrāntika) and the “Great Exposition” school (Realism, Skt. Vaibhāṣika) of the Indo-Tibetan tradition. The goal of this module is to discuss the similarities and differences of these philosophies. In particular, we will investigate these systems with respect to their “ground, path, and result”—what are the logical conclusions to the philosophical systems that they propose?
Module 5: Indo-Tibetan Schools of Mind-Only & Middle Way (PHIL) · Distance Module
In module 5, we consider in detail two schools found within the traditional Indo-Tibetan tradition: the “Mind-Only” school (Idealism, Skt. Cittamātra) and the Middle-Way school (Skt. Mādhyamika). Our goal is to discuss the similarities and differences of these philosophies. In particular, we will investigate these systems with respect to their “ground, path, and result”…
Module 6: Grounds & Paths to Enlightenment (RELI) · Distance Module
Here, we will discuss the goal of Buddhist spiritual practice—enlightenment. We will delve into in-depth detail of the ways and means to liberation and transformation according to the various “paths” and “vehicles” of Buddhism. We discuss the ‘antibodies’ with respect to Buddhist theories on psychological transformation, along with the role of renunciation on the Buddhist path, and the gradual progress that makes enlightenment possible for the individual practitioner.
Module 7: Emptiness (RELI+PHIL) · 11 – 12 June 2021
(Minimum attendance of six students). Held as one of the pinnacle insights of Buddhist thought, this module is devoted to the profound Buddhist theory of “emptiness” (Skt. śūnyatā, Tib. stong ba nyid)—that all existing phenomena are devoid of objective, inherent, independent existence. One of the goals of this module is integrating theoretical investigations of emptiness with contemplative practices in order to deepen our understanding of the topic.
Final exam & presentation of diplomas · 4 July 2021
A Note on Secular Education
TCA follows H.H. the Dalai Lama’s lead in defining “secular” education as ethics and education based on the range of humanist philosophy and spiritual traditions found worldwide. As much as possible, courses at TCA are taught independent of Buddhist faith and religion, and are open to anyone and everyone, no matter their background or religious affiliation. The intention of the course is to give students new perspectives on our common human experience by presenting authentic Buddhist knowledge.
The study program of BPR, Buddhist Philosophy & Religion, is inspired by the vision of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, whose ardent wish is to modernize & secularize the cultural knowledge & heritage of the Indo-Tibetan Nalanda tradition. The curriculum, developed in collaboration with CUTS in Varanasi by Ven. Geshe TenDhar, is based on this tradition, which is held by many Buddhists to be a living, un-broken lineage stretching back to the historical Buddha himself.