Programs and courses in Buddhist Studies exist on all three campuses of the University of Toronto. On the St George (downtown Toronto) campus, undergraduate and graduate courses in Buddhist Studies are taught through the Department for the Study of Religion, which has a Buddhist Studies Major and a Buddhist Studies Specialist program for undergraduates, as well as language courses and field study programs. At the graduate level, Buddhist Studies is one of the Department’s fields of study. The University of Toronto Mississauga campus, west of the city, courses in Buddhist Studies are taught in the Department of Historical Studies. At the University of Toronto Scarborough campus, east of the city, courses in Buddhist Studies are taught in the Global Asia Studies program in the Department of Historical and Cultural Studies.
St George courses, 2016-17
Religion Courses (Undergraduate)
RLG206H (Winter) – Buddhism
The development, spread, and diversification of Buddhist traditions from southern to northeastern Asia, as well as to the West.
RLG246H (Winter) – Karma and Dharma in Indic Tradition
A comparative study of the development of ethical perspectives in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, concluding with a discussion of contemporary moral issues.
RLG372H (Winter) – Tibetan Buddhism
A survey of the various schools of Tibetan Buddhism, focusing on differences in both theory and practice, with readings of Tibetan texts in translation and ethnographic studies of Buddhist practice in Tibet.
RLG376H (Fall) – Buddhism in South and Southeast Asia
The course serves as an introduction to one or more Buddhist traditions still living or historically documented in South and Southeast Asia, ranging from ancient and medieval Buddhism to Buddhist modernities and including Buddhism in its local Theravada variants. Themes will vary by year; consult the departmental website for this year’s course description.
RLG462H (Winter) – Newar Religion
An academic legend recounts that if you ask a Newar whether he is Hindu or Buddhist the answer is yes. The course deals with the problem of how to study religions which coexist and compete with each other creating shifting coordinates of religious identification from the perspective of one specific Nepalese community.
RLG468H (Winter) – The Buddhist Canon
This course examines the historical development of the Buddhist canon across Asian traditions, including the transmitted Buddhist canons of South, Southeast, and East Asia. The course will explore the central role of the canon within Buddhist institutional history, as well as its centrality in the field of Buddhist studies. In addition, the course will emphasize the role of extra-canonical finds in the study of Buddhist traditions, and provide the basic tools and methods necessary for original research on Buddhist textual traditions across Asia.
RLG260H (Fall) & RLG263H (Winter) – Introduction to Sanskrit
The first semester of an introduction to Classical Sanskrit for beginners. Students build grammar and vocabulary, and begin to read texts in Sanskrit. Complete beginners are welcome. Two sections of the course will be offered: an on-campus class meeting and an online section via live webinar participation. The final exam will require attendance on the St. George campus, or in another authorized exam centre.
RLG359H (Fall) & RLG350H (Winter) – Intermediate Sanskrit
Review of grammar and the development of vocabulary with a focus on reading simple narrative prose and verse.
RLG411H (Fall) – Buddhist Narratives
Advanced reading in Sanskrit.
RLG474H (Winter) – Sanskrit Readings
This course will have students read choice pieces of South Asian literature. While tackling a text in simple Sanskrit from a major literary tradition, Buddhist or Hindu, and discussing it’s content and context, students will learn strategies for translating and interpreting Sanskrit literature.
RLG261H (Fall) & RLG263H (Winter) – Introduction to Classical Tibetan
An introduction to Classical Tibetan language for beginners. Development of basic grammar and vocabulary, with readings of simple texts. This is an online course. Lectures will be delivered via the web and mandatory tutorials will require live webinar participation. The final exam will require attendance on the St. George campus, or in another authorized exam centre.
RLG469Y (Full Year) – Readings in Tibetan
Advanced readings in Tibetan literature using Tibetan language.
RLG401H (Summer) – Himalayan Borderlands
In May of 2016, a group of students and two faculty traveled to Sikkim, in Northeast India, to study local histories and pilgrimage practices in the Himalaya. Many of the region’s mountains, lakes, forests, rivers, and caves are associated with Buddhist and other histories and as such are important pilgrimage sites for local peoples. After visiting Buddhist monasteries in Darjeeling and Gangtok, including the project’s host monastery Lingdum, they traveled throughout West Sikkim to visit a series landscape features, such as caves, rocks and lakes, that are historically attested in Tibetan texts and that are present-day pilgrimage sites for Sikkimese people. Read more about this program at Encounters in Sikkim. This field program has been generously sponsored by a grant from the Dean’s International Initiatives Fund at the University of Toronto, and The Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation Centre for Buddhist Studies and it is a joint program with University of Toronto Outdoors. The program will run again in May 2017.
Art History Courses
FAH368H1 – Encounters: Art Within and Beyond East Asia
Artistic production moved fluidly within and beyond East Asia. To understand the artistic world of East Asia, this course probes phenomena that may include Buddhist art, art of conquest dynasties, Chinoiserie, art of the Pacific Rim, film, and contemporary art.
FAH406H1 – Cross-Cultural Issues in Ancient Art Beyond Greece and Rome
When cultures collide, they assimilate, they exchange, they transform, and they develop, and there seems to be a pattern of recognizable centres of power around which artistic tradition often revolves. This has caused the conventional understanding of certain flowering of artistic heritage as a product of cross-cultural influences. This course is a seminar style survey that explores these fascinating amalgams of artistic traditions that lie at the Eastern outskirts of the Hellenistic world throughout the roman Period, from Bactria to India, and with a heavy focus on the Buddhist art of Gandhara, reaching out along the Silk Road. As the title suggests, the class aims at a renewed framework that re-evaluates the role of the Ancient West, which has been absent since the heavily Eurocentric scholarship from the early 20th century. It also aims to familiarize students with current theoretical issues surrounding cross-cultural studies as it pertains to the visual arts, touching upon modern postcolonial theories of space.
Courses on the Mississauga campus, 2016-17
RLG206H5 – Introduction to Buddhism
The teachings of the Buddha and the development, spread, and diversification of the Buddhist tradition from southern to northeastern Asia.
RLG370H5 – Topics in Buddhism
A detailed study of selected aspects of Buddhism.
RLG371H5 – Buddhist Thought
The course deals with the historical development of doctrines and controversies pertaining to the most important schools of Buddhist thought up to the end of the first millennium CE. It discusses the relationship of reason, belief and practice while giving a closer look at Buddhist positions on specific philosophical questions.
RLG373H5 – Buddhist Practics and Institutions
The course will help understand the historical importance of alms giving and devotion in Buddhism and will look at different traditions of meditation. It will also introduce to the literature of monastic discipline and confront it with both archeological remains of Buddhist institutions and their political and economic role today.
RLG374H5 – Buddhist Literatures
The course looks at popular Buddhist educational storytelling, courtly dramas, Buddhist poetry or the life-histories of the buddhas, bodhisattvas and Buddhist holy men and women. It reflects on how popular motifs, aesthetic styles and literary media have helped transport Buddhist doctrines across various times, regions and languages.
RLG470H5: Advanced Topics in Buddhism: South and Southeast Asian Royalty
By asking how concrete historical Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim royal families have performed their king- and queenship thanks to both their piety and their glam-factor, we will try to understand the aesthetics and semiotics of royal pageantry, the material culture of courtly temple ritual, the role of patriarchy, militarism, nationalism, and modernity, the politics of marriage, the intellectual and institutional preoccupations with doctrine, practice, and the royal mission, as well as the interface of religious aura and celebrity culture.
Courses on the Scarborough campus, 2016-17
GASB33H3 – Global Buddhism in Historical and Contemporary Societies
This course is designed to provide students with a basic introduction to the Buddhist religious tradition. The Buddhist tradition has spread worldwide from its origins in India and become one of the most influential religious traditions in the world. This introductory course examines the impressive growth of Buddhist culture, literature, doctrine, philosophy, devotional, and ritual practice. This course is open to all students interested in a broad, thematic introduction to the Buddhist religious tradition.
GASC33H3 – Critical Perspectives on Global Buddhism
This course critically examines different aspects of Buddhism in global context.