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Susan M. Darlington (Section 01)
(Offered as RELI 161 and ANTH 213). For many, the predominant image of Buddhism is a religion focused on the next life and relieving suffering through meditation practice. Yet the majority of Buddhists in the world use the religion to create meaning in their immediate lives, guiding them through practical problems and life cycle changes. This course examines the role of Buddhism in rural life in Asia and Buddhist communities in the United States. We will ask how Buddhist communities work, including the roles of monastics, lay spiritual leaders, and lay people. Numerous rituals structure elements of rural life, from life cycle rites, particularly funerals, to New Year celebrations, to planting and harvesting ceremonies. In many rural communities, Buddhist practices and rituals intersect with other belief systems, including animism, Brahmanism, Confucianism, and Shintoism, depending on the location. Cases from across the Buddhist world will provide empirical examples through which we can study how people interpret and practice the religion. Topics include Buddhist agriculture in Thailand, Japan, and the United States; how funerals inform daily life in rural Cambodia; and the question of vegetarianism in Tibet. In the process, students will be introduced to basic Buddhist concepts, diversity within Buddhist schools of thought, and how Buddhism has evolved as a lived religion in specific social contexts.
Spring semester. Visiting Professor Darlington.