This subject will be informationally and experientially rich, beginning with a contemporary assessment 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 subject 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 experience some happiness and perhaps some self-transformation.
- 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.
- Critically examine early Indian and Tibetan 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, and may have value today.
- Critically evaluate the Buddhist concept of the “Great Physician,” both in the early period and today, together with important aspects of Buddhist practice that may have a role in the health of the modern world.
- Increase your understanding of the “modern health system,” with its great benefits but also major shortcomings, and identify significant unmet needs, particularly in minority or disenfranchised groups; identify and comment upon such issues from your own experience and reading.
- Analyse the way “spirituality” benefits those in life or illness or facing mortality, and those who interact closely with them.
- Critically analyse contemporary individual, social and global “health” concerns, their origins, impact and possible solutions, and examine the way Buddhist teachings might address these.
- Assessment 1: Critical review of a short article related to health and wholeness (10%, due week 2)
- Assessment 2: Oral presentation and summary of reflective journal on actual experience with different health practice (20%, due week 4)
- Assessment 3: Report on issues related to health practice (30%, due week 6)
- Assessment 4: Research paper on claims made of a health-related practice (50%, due week 10)