Buddhism and Modern Society

Subject Overview

The various schools of Buddhism teach systems of beliefs and practices based on the principles of change and interdependence.

This subject surveys how major Buddhist Schools today respond to contemporary issues and events around the world by adapting and reinterpreting the ancient doctrines to the modern world. This process is studied in both directions: how traditional Buddhist communities adapt to modernity and how Buddhist teachings are interpreted, reinvented or embraced.

The topics include Buddhist responses to globalisation, science and technology, economics, consumerism, workplace management, ethical leadership, bioethics, gender issues and environmental sustainability. This subject will provide an opportunity to discuss how Buddhists in East Asia, South Asia and the West can continue to grow the religion in the future.

Learning Outcomes

  • Analyse the application and relevance of Buddhist thought in today’s context and in relation to the current viewpoints of modern economics, politics, sociology and environmental studies

  • Analyse the influences of Buddhism in modern society, including mindfulness as well as the Buddhist perspective on globalisation and modern social issues

  • Investigate contemporary influences in Buddhist communities, including the role of women, Buddhist enterprises and social action

  • Explore and develop a personal understanding of Buddhism and the discipline of Buddhist studies

  • Develop the skills to pose research questions, investigate and analyse the literature, and present oral and written research reports

Lecture topics and class activities include

  • Overview of relevant Buddhist doctrines / Introduction to important new Buddhist movements

  • Buddhism and politics / Buddhism and globalisation (global Buddhism and local Buddhism in transformation)

  • Buddhism and economics (including consumerism)

  • Buddhism in the workplace (including the office and schools) / Ethical leadership

  • Buddhism and science / Buddhism and technology

  • Buddhism and environmental sustainability / Buddhism and bio-ethics

  • Buddhism and gender issues

  • Humanistic Buddhist values dealing with health and wellbeing, and social action (e.g. Humanistic Buddhism, Engaged Buddhism)

Subject Structure

This subject runs for five weeks, with the following structure:

Week 1: Pre-reading of prescribed texts
Week 2:  Five lecture days on campus (9am – 5pm)
Weeks 3 – 5: Submission of assessments online


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