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Teaching the introductory course on Buddhism

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For some time now, Buddhism has been entering the mind of western people. There has been increasing interest in it by teachers, scholars and laypersons. A vast scholarship on Buddhism has arisen as texts have been translated and extensively commented on. It has been taught in North American colleges and universities. Furthermore, the influence of Buddhism is discernible in modern art, poetry, popular culture, anti-culture as well as in the modern or the post-modern mind.

Nevertheless, it is very strange to see that there are a few books focused on "one who is enlightened." The importance of the Buddha, that is, the inwardness of Buddhism has been greatly neglected. Many teachers of Buddhism frequently have seen Buddhism as historically, sociologically or otherwise conditioned. Of course, one cannot simply ignore objective data, simply because Buddhism does have these objective conditions and consequences. However, the paper attempts to show that teaching Buddhism as one of the world religions is not merely duplication of what can be done in other academic departments, that there is an alternative way to teach Buddhism, and that the raison d’etre of teaching Buddhism must be other than these objective studies. The rest of the paper will attempt to describe the way I teach course on Buddhism.

(This paper originated from the essay originally presented at the conference on teaching Buddhism: ""The State of the Art"" held at McGill University, Montreal, Canada, in October, 1999. The current paper has been drastically adapted for the Second International Conference on Humanistic Buddhism, although it shares the spirit of the previous paper.)