Religious Studies 440/540 Buddhist Scriptures, CRN 16129/16130, Fall 2018

Buddhist Scriptures: Zen, Pure Land, and Associated Developments in East Asian Context

This course examines the sacred scriptural traditions of East Asian Buddhism with a focus on Chinese and Japanese Zen, Pure Land Buddhism, and associated developments. This course will closely examine the definition of "scripture" which in East Asian came to mean not only sutra, the teachings of the Buddha, but also commentaries by various masters and other genres. This examination will cover a wide range of themes against the backdrop of social and historical developments, including the development of sectarian traditions, cultural and national identity, gender and race. The seminar format includes lecture, student presentations, and discussion.


1. Attendance: Required. Students can have one unexcused absence without penalty. Each class missed thereafter without prior permission will result in 1/2 grade penalty for the course grade.

2. Short exams: There will be two short, in-class exams, based on materials from the readings, lectures, and course web site.

3. Medium papers: There will be two medium-length papers (3-4 pages) based on topics that will be provided by the instructor.

4. Presentation: Students will make a presentation on the readings for one of the section meetings. The presenter should not summarize the reading but should use the presentation to discuss why the selected ideas/passages in question are important for understanding the reading and proceed to explain as well as raise questions about these ideas/passages.

The primary purpose of these presentations is to launch the discussion, not to demonstrate breadth of knowledge or to lead the discussion. Each presenter will prepare a handout with 2-3 questions and brief, corresponding quotations from the readings. More detailed instructions are provided on the course web site.

5. Final paper: Each student will hand in a final paper of 10-12 pages double-spaced (A longer final paper of 12-15 pages will be required for those who have registered for REL540. Suggested topics will be provided. Students may choose to create their own topics with the consent of the instructor. In the case of the latter, a one-paragraph description of the topic must be submitted by email to the instructor one week prior to the due date.

6. Late policy on written assignments: Three grace days total will be allotted excluding the final paper and summaries for which no extensions will be given. For all other written assignments, a cumulative total of three late days will be allowed without penalty. Thereafter, each late day will result in a two-point deduction from the course grade. Weekends are not counted against the grace days.


Required Texts (Additional texts will be assigned for those taking REL540.)

1.     Shinmon Aoki, Coffinman: The Journal of a Buddhist Mortician (Anaheim, CA: Buddhist Education Ctr, 2002).

2.     Natalie Goldberg, A Long Quiet Highway (New York: Bantam Books, 1994).

3.     Robert Thurman, trans., The Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti: A Mahayana Scriptures (University Park, PA: Penn State University, 2003).

4.     Taitetsu Unno, trans., Tannisho-A Shin Buddhist Classic (Honolulu: Buddhist Study Center, 1996).

5.     Course Pack, Religious Studies 440/540 Buddhist Scriptures, Fall 2018.

Course Reader - REL440/540 Buddhist Scriptures, Fall 2018

Click on selected titles for summaries.

1.     Peter Harvey, An Introduction to Buddhism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990) 9-26.

2.     Buddha-Dharma: New English Edition (Berkeley, CA: Numata Center for Buddhist Translation, 1987) 17-21, 27-32, 502-505, 548-573.

3.     Richard Hayes, "A Buddha and His Cousin," in The Psychology of Mature Spirituality, ed. Polly Young-Eisendrath and Melvin Miller (London: Routledge, 2000), chapter 2.

4.     Donald Lopez, Jr., The Heart Sutra Explained: Indian and Tibetan Commentaries (Albany: SUNY Press, 1988), 3-9, 19-20.

5.     Robert A. F. Thurman, trans., The Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1983) xi-x, 1-5, 24-33, 56-63, 73-77.

6.     Luis Gomez, The Avatamsaka-Sutra, in Yoshinori Takeuchi, ed., Buddhist Spirituality (NY: Crosseroad, 1994) 160-189.

7.     Thomas Clearly, trans., Entry into the Inconceivable: A Translation of the Gandavyuha, the final book of the Avatamasaka Sutra (Boston: Shambhala, 1989), 1-8, 49-59, 187-201.

8.     Yoshiro Tamura, "The Ideas of the Lotus Sutra," in George Tanabe, ed., The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press), 37-51.

9.     Leon Hurvitz, trans., Scripture of the Lotus Blossom of the Fine Dharma (NY: Columbia University Press, 1976) ix-xv: 49-64, 195-201.

10.   Hisao INAGAKI, The Three Pure Land Sutras: A Study and Translation (Kyoto: Nagata Bunshodo, 1994) 3-18 ("Outlines of the Three Sutras," "The Source of the Three Sutras); 106-114 (Shan-tao); 235-243 ("The Larger Sutra on Amitayus"); 317-327, 347-350 (The Sutra on Contemplation of Amitayus). Summary 2007.

11.   Mark Unno, "Key Ideas - Nagarjuna and the Thought of Emptiness," "Key Ideas: Taitetsu Unno, 'Philosophical Schools: San-lun, T'ien-t'ai, and Hua-yen'" 1-3.

12.   Taitetsu Unno, "Philosophical Schools-San-lun, T'ien-t'ai, and Hua-yen" in Buddhist Spirituality, ed. by Takeuchi Yoshinori (New York: Crossroad, 1993) 343-365. Summary 2-T'ien-t'ai

13.   Heinrich Dumoulin, Zen Buddhism: A History-India and China (NY: Macmillan Publishing, 1984) 7-11, 85-94, 123-141. Summary 2

14.   John McCrae, Shen-hui and the Teaching of Sudden Enlightenment in Early Ch'an Buddhism, in Sudden and Gradual Enlightenment (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press), 227-259.

15.   Philip Yampolsky, trans., The Platform Sutra of Hui-neng (NY: Columbia University Press, 1967) 80-81, 125-153. Summary 2 Summary 2007.

16.   William LaFleur, "Chapter 2 In and out of the Rokudo," in his Karma of Words-Buddhism and the Literary Arts in Medieval Japan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983) 26-59.

17.   Mark Unno, "Philosophical Terms in the Zen Buddhist Thought of Dogen."

18.   Norman Waddell and Masao Abe, trans. "Shobogenzo Genjokoan," by Dogen Kigen, The Eastern Buddhist 5:2 (10/1972) 129-140. Summary2. Summary 3. See also Unno Notes.

19.   Norman Waddell and Masao Abe, tr. "Shobogenzo Bendowa," by Dogen Kigen, The Eastern Buddhist 4:1 (5/1971) 124-157.

20.   Kosho UCHIYAMA, Refining Your Life: From the Zen Kitchen to Enlightenment, trans. Tom Wright (New York: Weatherhill, 1983) vii-xiv, 3-19.

21.   Mark Unno, "Pure Land Buddhism of Honen and Shinran" 1-2.

22.   Mark Unno, "The Nembutsu of No-Meaning and the Problem of Genres in the Writings and Statements of Gutoku Shinran," The Pure Land 10-11 (12/1994) 1-9. Summary 2

23.   Mark Unno, "The Nembutsu as the Path of the Sudden Teaching," unpublished paper presented at the 7th IASBS Conference, 1-7.

24.   Rita Gross, Buddhism after Patriarchy (Albany: SUNY Press, 1990), 29-54.

25.   Lori Meeks, Hokkeji and the Reemergence of Female Monastic Orders in Premodern Japan (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2010) 250-300.

26.   Barbara Ruch, "The Other Side of Culture in Medieval Japan," in The Cambridge History of Japan-Vol. 3 Medieval Japan, ed. Kozo YAMAMURA (NY: Cambridge University Press) 500-511.

27.   Paula Arai, "Soto Zen Nuns in Modern Japan: Keeping and Creating Tradition," Bulletin of the Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture 14 (Summer 1990) 38-51.

28.   Kate Wheeler, "Bowing, Not Scraping," in Buddhist Women on the Edge (Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 1996) 57-67.

29.   Shosan Victoria Austin, "Suzuki Sensei's Spirit," in Buddhist Women on the Edge 209-216.

Weekly Schedule - REL440/540 Buddhist Scriptures


(CR = Course Reader. Thus, CR3 = Course Reader Article 3; RT = Required Text. Focus readings in asterisks* )

Week 1, 9/26: Background of Buddhism: Indian Sutras I

Week 2, 10/03: Indian Sutras II

Week 3, 10/10: Indian Sutras III; Chinese Philosophical Adaptations Short Exam A in class.

Week 4, 10/17: The Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti: Early Chinese Chan/Zen Paper I due in class.

Week 5, 10/24: Medieval Japan I: Zen Master Dogen

Week 6, 10/31: Medieval Japan II: Pure Land Buddhism of Shinran Paper II due in class.

Week 7, 11/07: Contemporary Zen, a Jewish American Woman: Natalie Goldberg Short Exam B in class.

Week 8, 11/14: Contemporary Pure Land: Coffinman

Week 9, 11/21: Research Assignments

Week 10, 11/28: Concluding Lecture/Discussion Final Paper due in class.


Additional Bibliography for REL540 Graduate-Level Credit

·       Amstutz, Galen. Interpreting Amida : history and Orientalism in the study of Pure Land Buddhism Albany : State University of New York Press, c1997.

·       Andreasen, Esben. Popular Buddhism in Japan: Shin Buddhist religion & culture. Honolulu : University of Hawaii Press, c1998.

·       Bodiford, William. Soto Zen in medieval Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, c1993.

·       Buswell, Robert, ed. Chinese Buddhist Apocrypha. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, c1990.

·       Faure, Bernard. The Rhetoric of Immediacy : a cultural critique of Chan/Zen Buddhism. Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, 1991.

·       _____. Visions of Power : imagining medieval Japanese Buddhism; translated from the

·       French by Phyllis Brooks. Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c1996

·       Hansen, Chad. A Daoist Theory of ChineseTthought : a philosophical interpretation. New York : Oxford University Press, 1992.

·       Heisig, James and Maraldo, John, eds. Rude Awakenings: Zen, the Kyoto School, & the Question of Nationalism. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1995.

·       Ketelaar, James. Of Heretics and Martyrs in Meiji Japan: Buddhism and Its Persecution. Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c1990.

·       McRae, John. The Northern School and the Formation of Early Chan Buddhism. Honolulu : University of Hawaii Press, c1986.

·       Meeks, Lori. Lori Hokkeji and the Reemergence of Female Monastic Orders in Premodern Japan (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2010).

·       Tanaka, Kenneth. The Dawn of Chinese Pure Land Buddhist Doctrine : Ching-ying Hui-y_an's Commentary on the Visualization sutra. Albany : State University of New York Press, c1990.

·       Teiser, Stephen. The Ghost Festival in Medieval China. Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c1988

·       _____. The Scripture on The Ten Kings and the Making of Purgatory in Medieval Chinese Buddhism. Honolulu, HI : University of Hawaii Press, c1994.

·       Victoria, Brian. Zen at War. New York: Weatherhill, 1998.