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Beginning and development of Buddhist education in Vietnam

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Doctor of Philosophy in Religious Studies


Guruge, Ananda W. P.
Long, Darui
Ware, Claude T.


No systematic examination of how Buddhist education began and developed in Vietnam has been hitherto attempted, to the best of my knowledge. The importance of tracing the history of Buddhism in general and Buddhist education in particular is enhanced by the fact that Vietnam is geographically the meeting point of the eastern expansion of Indian culture and the southern expansion of Chinese culture. These two significant cultures met and flourished in Vietnam.
Its study is an extremely urgent academic task because the few currently available sources could disappear due to the prevailing political and cultural developments, on the one hand, and the dispersal of scholars due to the Vietnamese Diaspora, on the other. In the ensuing chapters, the history of Buddhism and Buddhist education in Vietnam is reconstructed to the extent possible under the present conditions. Some of the conclusions are, therefore, tentative.

The basic hypothesis on which the research has been established: (1) Adequate data are gleanable from available resources, textual and oral, to reconstruct this history; (2) Such data and the recording of the experience of educated monastics could serve to understand the main features and challenges of Vietnamese Buddhist education; and (3) A history of Buddhist education thus reconstructed could be the basis for further examination of issues on which disagreements exist among scholars. The research adopted a combination of four approaches: (a) A desk research on primary sources in Chinese and Vietnamese; (b) A critical examination of secondary sources in Chinese, Vietnamese, English and French; (c) A phenomenological analysis of my personal experience as a Buddhist and student of Buddhism and the experiences of my immediate colleagues, friends and teachers; and (d) Validation of data through a field survey conducted with a questionnaire.

The result of this research is presented in eight substantive chapters. Following the opening Chapter outlining the methodology and the plan of the study, Chapter Two on the contextual background to Buddhist education examines (A) the culture and education of Vietnam before the advent of Buddhism, and (B) how Buddhism came to be introduced to Vietnam. An investigation into the earliest form of Buddhist education in Vietnam is taken up in Chapter Three and continued into Chapter Four with a detailed analysis of the development of Buddhist education up to 1975. Chapter Five surveys the information available on educational institutions and records the contribution made by pagodas in various parts of the country. Special attention is given in Chapter Six to the content of Buddhist education, which is presented historically under the three domains of educational objectives, namely cognitive, affective and skill-based. This analysis brings out most eloquently the richness of the substantive content which Vietnamese Buddhist education has inherited from its primary sources of inspiration and further developed through its own ingenuity. An equally significant observation results from Chapter Seven in which traditional methods of instruction are examined with reference to the experience of Vietnamese educators. Chapter Eight takes note of the large number of nationally famous educators and teachers, of both Thiê`n (Zen) and Pure Land traditions, whose literary and instructional contributions could be outlined. In doing so, special notice has been taken of the role which poetry played as a vehicle of spiritual and philosophical communication among them. Chapter Nine summarizes the substantial findings of the research and ends with a brief note on the present and future of Buddhist education in Vietnam.


Religious education
Buddhist history and education
Religious history and education
Vietnamese Buddhism
Vietnamese history and education

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University of the West



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