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Health as Buddhist Practice

Subject code ABS923
Lecturer Dr Jonathan Page
Delivery mode Online, live
Duration  10 weeks
Next start date Visit timetable

Subject Overview

This subject begins with an exploration of the notion of “Health as Buddhist Practice as Health”, reflecting the spiral pattern of open spiritual engagement.

The various modern categories of health, happiness, illness, wellness and cure will be considered first, both individually and socially, before reviewing life in the historical Buddha’s time. Both the pervading philosophies and practices concerning life, illness and treatment (Ayurvedic, Shamanistic and similar) at that time, together with relevant Buddhist suttas will be presented. The Buddhist understanding of medicine will also be covered, including illness in the physical, psychological and spiritual domains, and the Five Aggregates. The belief in the Buddha as “The Great Physician”, the appearance of the Vejjavatapada (the doctors’ oath) and the various health-related items within the Vinaya Pitaka will be analysed. The course will also cover aspects of spiritual health, namely the related concepts of the Three Characteristics of Existence, teachings related to Birth, Life and Death, the soteriological exegesis of Samsara and the Four noble Truths (Tasks), including the Eightfold Path, Karma, Dependent Arising, the evolution of Bodhicitta and the Bodhisattva, and teachings on happiness.

The deficiencies and dilemmas of modern biomedical healthcare, despite “evidence-based care”, will be presented, together with the emergence of effective Buddhist insights and principles, notably a broad spectrum of mindfulness-based interventions, which are subject to ongoing research. Increasingly, mindfulness and a variety of meditational approaches are being taught to the “well” and the suffering, to children, students, stressed or depressed adults, employees (notably health professionals, the police, the military) and to the elderly.

There will be presentations of the experience of seriously ill people to demonstrate the vital role of Dharma-informed treatment. There will be frequent opportunities to practice meditation, of various styles, partly guided, to develop some stress-management, self- understanding and self- compassion, to cultivate happiness and self-transformation.

 

Learning Outcomes

  1. Develop an understanding of one’s “self”, particularly one’s health, experiential and emotional qualities, history, inner world, reactivity to the outer world and sense of potential for transformation in various domains.
  2. Interpret relevant health-related terminology and reflect on one’s personal views in relation to such terminology.
  3. Critically examine early Indian approaches to health and illness including associated concepts, the various treatment systems and assessment that followed, as well as how Buddhist approaches may have differed.
  4. Critically evaluate the Buddhist concept of the “Great Physician”, both in the early period and today, together with important aspects that may have a role in the modern world.
  5. Analyse the way “spirituality” benefits those in life or illness or facing mortality.
  6. Critically analyse contemporary health concerns and examine the way Buddhist teachings might address these.

 

Assessments

  • Assessment 1: Review essay on short article (10%)
  • Assessment 2: Summary of reflective journal (10%)
  • Assessment 3: Assignment on issues related to health practice (30%)
  • Assessment 4: Research paper (50%)

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