RELIGION 1758 / HDS #3516
FALL 1990

M.David Eckel
Center for the Study of World Religions


The course will focus on three major genres of Mahayana literature in translation: sutras or the word of the Buddha, biographies of Buddhist saints, and poetic presentations of the path to enlightenment. The course is designed to give students who have already had an entry-level course in Buddhism a chance to broaden their knowledge of the Mahayana sources and grapple with some of the more important interpretive issues in contemporary Buddhist scholarship.


Week 1 (September 20) Introduction and preliminary remarks about the development
     of Mahayana literature

Part I: Mahayana Sutras

Week 2 (September 27) The Lotus Sutra: the Prototype of a Mahayana Scriptural Text
     Reading: Hurvitz, trans., Scripture of the Lotus Blossom of the Fine Dharma

Week 3 (October 4) The Development of the Perfection of Wisdom Literature
     Reading: Conze, trans., The Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines.

Week 4 (October 11) A Variation on the Model of a Perfection of Wisdom Sutra
     Reading: Thurman, trans., The Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti

Weeks 5 and 6 (October 18 and 25) Other Important Scriptural Collections Reading:
     during these two weeks the class will be divided into teams and asked to explore
     a number of different, lesser-known canonical texts and report on their contents.

Part II: Biographical Literature

Week 7 (November 1) The biography of the Buddha
     Reading: Conze, Buddhist Scriptures, Part 1.

Week 8 (November 8) The Indian Tantric saints
     Reading: Mark Tatz, "The Life of Maitrigupta," and other readings to be assigned.

Week 9 (November 15) A Tibetan biography
     Reading: Lhalungpa, trans., The Life of Milarepa.

Part III: Path Literature

Week 10 (November 29) Bhavaviveka's Verses on the Essence of the Middle Way
     Reading: Eckel, The Empty Throne: A Philosopher's Vision of the Buddha.

Week 11 (December 6) Candrakirti's Presentation of the Middle Way
     Reading: Huntington, The Emptiness of Emptiness.

Week 12 (December 13) Santideva's Presentation of the Bodhisattva Practice
     Reading: Matics, Entering the Path to Enlightenment.

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