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Handbooks Courses Units

RLM4070 - Buddhism: Society, Politics and Ethics

12 points, SCA Band 1, 0.250 EFTSL

Postgraduate Faculty of Arts

Leader: Ian Mabbett


Not offered in 2008


Ethical and social doctrines in early Buddhist texts and their implications for questions of politics in the light of the society of the time. Buddhist ethical doctrines and theories in the light of Western philosophical issues. The unit highlights selected issues of social concern such as human relationships and emotions, women and family, race, caste and identity orientations, equality, freedom and human rights, ethical issues pertaining to the environment, and death and dying.


Upon successful completion of this unit students will:

  1. Have acquired an understanding of the nature of Buddhism as the matrix of experience in several Asian countries.

  1. Have acquired an understanding of the variety within that experience.

  1. Be critically conversant with the conceptual and analytical issues relating to key Buddhist doctrines.

  1. Have worked with the conceptual complexities of 'religious culture'.

  1. Understand the nature of, and the religious and the social function of, the relationship between Buddhist monks and laymen.

  1. Have examined the implications of Buddhist doctrines for social and political relationships.

  1. Understand the impact of the impulse to asceticism which was part of the Buddhist agenda.

  1. Have engaged the inter-relationship between the material world and the aesthetic, spiritual and religious activities of the early Buddhist order.

  1. Have developed a capacity to analyse the processes which underpinned the construction of devotional and philosophical Buddhist texts.

  1. Will have developed the capacity to detect the resonances of language and code embedded in particular texts and their relationship to social context.

  1. Will be able to engage in critical discussion of texts in relation to the urban context of early Buddhist society.


Exercise (1000 words): 10%
Two research essays (3000 words each): 60%
Examination (2 hours): 30%

Contact hours

2 hours (1 x 2 hour seminar) per week


RLT4070, RLM5070

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