Buddhism

The Cartesian Self and Buddhist Alternatives

Introduction

Descartes provides a classic example of a individual, substantialist conception of the self, and Buddhists deny precisely such a view.  Consequently, they present intriguing alternatives for students. Theravada Buddhist argue that there is no self, but that it is conventionally useful to talk as if there are selves.  Mahayana Buddhists frequently argue that there is no completely individual self, but there is a transpersonal self that we are all manifestations of.

Buddhism and Bad Desires

Introduction

This activity helps students provide their own evidence for Buddha's argument against desire.

Motivation

The Buddha's argument against desiring is a tough pill to swallow: this exercise makes it a bit more plausible.

Logistics

It is best to begin this as a solo activity and then have students share their answer in their group.

Texts / Connections

Relevant texts:

The Dhammapada

Why I am not a Buddhist

Introduction

This activity asks students to evaluate the argument against Buddhism's stance on desire presented in a poem by Molly Peacocke.

Background Information

Motivation

This activity helps students to critically evaluate a central argument in early Buddhism as well as see that arguments can be presented in many different forms.

Logistics

This is best done as a group activity, but could easily be done as a solo or pair activity, or even transformed into an essay question or essay assignment.

Freedom From Fear

Introduction

This essay assignment asks students to connect ideas they've learned from studying the Dhammapada to Aung San Suu Kyi's essay "Freedom from Fear."

Motivation

Western students may have associated Buddhism with Tibetan Buddhism - this activity helps them see Buddhism in a different context, and how it can be used as a means of resistance.

Logistics

This is best done as an essay assignment to give students proper time to think through the relevant connections.

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