South Asian Buddhism

Subject code ABS941
Lecturer Dr Elizabeth McDougal
Delivery mode Online, live
On campus, live
Duration 10 weeks
Next start date Visit timetable

Subject Overview

A survey of Buddhism in South Asia from its origins in the fifth century BCE through its major developments across the subregions, including the appearance of early Mahāyāna schools and the eventual decline of a Buddhist presence in India. Through the lens of archaeology, historiography, and doctrine, the subject explores the emergence of early Buddhist schools, Madhyamaka and Yogācāra teachings, and the cross-pollination of sociopolitical forces that led to great cultural formations such as Sri Lankan, Newar and ancient Gandhāran Buddhism. The subject further looks at the resurgence of Buddhism in India in the 19th – 20th centuries, and the relevance of early Indian Buddhist tenets for contemporary mind sciences.


Learning Outcomes

  1. Further develop the skills to pose research questions, critically analyse relevant literature and prepare research papers (including oral reporting of research findings).
  2. Understand and discuss the tenets and principles of early Indian Buddhism, and their relevance for contemporary culture and mind sciences.
  3. Demonstrate a broad summary of knowledge of South Asian Buddhism with depth in a particular regional tradition, e.g., Sri Lankan, Newar or Gandhāran Buddhism.
  4. Give a critical and coherent account of the development of Mahāyāna thought and schools within the trajectory of South Asian Buddhism.




  • Assessment 1: Digital pilgrimage to a specific area of South Asian Buddhist history: in-class presentation (30%, due week 4)
  • Assessment 2: Reflective journalling on weekly readings (30%, due week 7)
  • Assessment 2: Research paper (including brief literature review) on an area of South Asian Buddhism (40%, due week 10)


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