Buddhist Theories of Mind

Subject Overview

This subject aims to introduce to students the philosophy of mind and consciousness and approaches to psychology in early Buddhism and Indian Mahayana Buddhism.

The focus of the subject will be on the Yogacara school of Mahayana Buddhism. However, as it is important for students to be familiar with pre-Yogacarin Buddhist thought, the subject will begin with an introduction to the conception of mind in early Buddhism. Then, both the thought of the Prajnaparamita Sutras and that of the Madhyamaka school will be taught.

Afterwards, the subject turns to the Yogacara school and focuses on various topics related to the notions of mind and consciousness, the psychology of freedom, rational psychology, and salient Yogacara and Madhyamaka features of Buddhist Tantric psychology.

This subject, through its in-depth and more specialised focus on the mind and its workings, builds upon knowledge covered in the foundational subject Introduction to Buddhism and complements the subject Buddhism and Psychoanalysis. Its rigorous coverage of the theoretical and philosophical underpinnings of Buddhist meditative practice makes this subject highly relevant to more applied subjects such as Mindfulness: Theory and Application, The Heart of Relationship: An Integration of Buddhism and Psychotherapy, and Buddhist Ethics: Ethical Challenges of the Modern World.


Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate critical knowledge of the Mahayana Buddhist philosophy of mind in relation to the Yogacara school and other schools in context
  • Engage in critical thinking concerning key philosophical and psychological concepts in Buddhism
  • Compare and contrast approaches to the understanding of mind and consciousness and critically reflect on related issues
  • Explore and develop a personal understanding of the interconnections between mind, philosophy, and meditation (and society)

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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