Buddhism in the Modern World

Discipline: Religion Buddhism
Instructor: Waldron
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 0800
End: 0915
Field Work: Day 1 | Vietnam Download Syllabus

In this course we will explore the diversity of Buddhist traditions in modern world, both in Asia and the West. We will examine its transformation from pre-modern Asia to the modern, global era by focusing on several related themes: the role of Buddhism in political movements for national liberation, social justice and the environment; its complex relation with modern science and psychology; and its place in popular imagination.

Field Work

Country: Vietnam
Day: 1

In this field lab we will visit an important Vietnamese Buddhist institution in Ho Chi Minh City that reflects the multiplicity and synthesis of Buddhist traditions in modern Vietnam. The Tinh Xa Trung Tam, or Central Temple, is home to a recent hybrid Mahayana-Theravada tradition that is unique to Vietnam; we will have read about this in class. We will spend the first period receiving a formal introduction to the doctrines and practices that are specific to this Buddhist denomination, given by the Assistant Abbot of the Central Temple. We will spend the rest of the afternoon observing, noting, and analyzing the forms of religious observances and the variety of religious practitioners who visit the Central Temple, seeking to identify the various strands of Mahayana and Theravāda practice found in temple life and teachings. We hope to have afternoon tea with the local parishioners. We will finish the day with traditional Vietnamese dinner at a local restaurant, where we will discuss the day’s events.
Academic Objectives:
1. To discern and better understand the unique synthesis of Buddhist teaching and practice in Vietnam by observing sacred sites, daily rituals and monastic practice, and interacting with lay Buddhists as well as monastics 2. To gain a better appreciation of the fluidity of religious institutions and practices.