Tradition and Change

Subject Overview

The subject is intended as a comprehensive survey of Buddhism from its early beginnings to the present day. It aims to give students an insight into the origins and the spread of Buddhism across Asia and beyond.

The subject will familiarize students with the rich spectrum of Buddhist traditions and schools of philosophy and give an overview of their developments from the early beginning till the present day. Special attention will be given to the rich variety of Buddhist practices, particularly to meditation.

The lectures will provide a comprehensive survey of tradition and change in Buddhist thought and practices throughout the history, while specific topics (such as politics, gender issues, society and environment in Buddhist context) will be investigated through film viewing, seminars, group discussions and projects.

Exploration of various facets of Buddhism will provide an opportunity for deeper appreciation and understanding of Buddhism as a living tradition, which is expanding fast beyond Asia and becoming a transnational religion of the 21st century.

Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of the beliefs, world-views and practices underlying the principal Buddhist traditions, including Theravada, Mahayana and Tantric Buddhism.
  • Critically evaluate and reflect on the rich spectrum of doctrines and practices which have developed throughout the history of Buddhism in its many schools, from the early Indian Buddhism to the global religion of the 21st Century
  • Understand and situate the role and function of Buddhism in a variety of cultures of Asia through exploration of various social aspects such as gender roles, class and politics.
  • Critically analyse fundamental historical conditions involved in the continuation and change in Buddhism, focusing on the functions of the Sangha and lay practitioners in Buddhist cultures of Asia and beyond.
  • Develop an ability to understand the wide range of profound transformations and new paradigms arising from modern Buddhism such as engaged Buddhism, and new approaches to ethical and environmental issues.
  • More generally, foster in students’ attributes such as critical thinking, problem solving, cultural and historical appreciation, interdisciplinary perspective, scholarship, and oral and written communication skills

Subject Structure

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

Week 1: Pre-reading of prescribed texts
Week 2: Digital Intensive Classroom (5 days x 8 hrs/day)
Weeks 3 – 5: Submission of assessments online



Nan Tien Institute (NTI) is a private, not for profit, government accredited higher education provider offering studies in the areas of Buddhist studies, health and wellbeing, within an environment that incorporates contemplative education.

NTI offers postgraduate programs in Applied Buddhist Studies, Health and Social Wellbeing, Humanistic Buddhism, and Mental Health as well as customised Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programs and special interest subjects across the areas of meditation, mindfulness and health.

In accordance with the current restrictions our campus facilities are closed. You can continue to study online and our virtual library services remain available. Our academic and student services staff are online and by phone to assist you. Please stay safe.