Fall 2021 - HUM 331 D100

Special Topics in Asian Religious Traditions (4)

Class Number: 4457

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Fr 4:30 PM – 8:20 PM
    HCC 2205, Vancouver

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units.



Studies a specific Asian religious tradition through the cultural and historical contexts that structure religious meaning. Students may repeat this course once for further credit under a different topic. Breadth-Humanities.


This seminar will begin with an introduction to Buddhist philosophy and ethical thought through reading two texts. The first, compiled in the third century BCE, is the Dhammapada found in a collection of texts within the Pali Buddhist canon known as the Khuddaka Nikāya (Minor Collection). It is one of the most accessible ancient sources of Buddhist insight into Buddhist teachings (Buddhadhamma) and deals frequently with Buddhist insights into ethical conduct. The second text, also from Theravadin (“Teachings of the Elders”) tradition, is written by Thai academic and Theravadin monk, Phra Prayudh Payutto. his book is a broad introduction to Buddhist teachings. It addresses topics such as “What is Life,” “What is the Nature of Existence,” and “How Should We Live Our Lives?” Despite being an “introduction,” this is a dense and challenging work that sheds light on the foundations of early Buddhist philosophy as the basis for ethical action.

During the second half of the term, we will discuss and open up debate on a wide range of contemporary ethical challenges (e.g. euthanasia and suicide, abortion and contraception, sexual identity, sexual equality, social justice, ethics of economics, attitudes toward the natural world). We will use Peter Harvey’s book for this purpose as he draws directly upon his reading of Theravadin primary texts, written in Pali, to inform detailed discussions of ethics in relation to current controversies and problems. Throughout the seminar series we will also draw frequently on the ancient Vinaya, a collection of rules of discipline for monks and nuns that continue to shape the lives of those devoted to a Buddhist way of life.


  • Attendance 10%
  • Participation 10%
  • Paper Proposal 20%
  • Paper (3,000-4,000 words) 35%
  • Reflection Paper 15%
  • Canvas Discussion 10%


Late assignments will be accepted with permission from the instructor on a case by case basis. If late submission is approved, a 2% penalty per day is incurred until the assignment is submitted.



Peter Harvey, An Introduction to Buddhist Ethics: Foundations, Values and Issues (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).

Phra Prayudh Payutto, Buddhadhamma: Natural Laws and Values for Life, trans. Grant A. Olson (State University of New York Press, 1995).

Acharya Buddharakkhita, trans., Dhammapada: The Buddha’s Path of Wisdom, (Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddha Dharma Education Association, 1985). Free E-Book Download from:


Additional sources will be available online.


Registrar Notes:


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Teaching at SFU in fall 2021 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with approximately 70 to 80 per cent of classes in person/on campus, with safety plans in place.  Whether your course will be in-person or through remote methods will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes.  You will also know at enrollment whether remote course components will be “live” (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous).

Enrolling in a course acknowledges that you are able to attend in whatever format is required.  You should not enroll in a course that is in-person if you are not able to return to campus, and should be aware that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the fall 2021 term.