Buddhism is a response to what is fundamentally an ethical problem -the perennial problem of the best kind of life for us to lead. The Buddha was driven to seek the solution to this problem and the associated ethical issues it arises. This course introduces students to explore whether an Asian religion such as Buddhism can shed any light on problems that the West has found difficult and controversial. The course applies Buddhist ethics to a range of issues of contemporary concern, including abortion, euthanasia, suicide, war, environmentalism, etc., and discusses the Buddhist response to ethical dilemmas confronting our modern societies. It also develops a careful, probing analysis of the nature and practical dynamics of Buddhist ethics in the particularities of different Buddhist traditions, and compare that against the Christian perspective. Since Buddhist ethics is an unfamiliar subject in the West, the course will take on various issues from a Christian perspective first as a point of departure. This allows students to examine the different ethical standards sparked from different religious orientations. Through such discussions, students will develop an in-depth understanding of the Buddhist moral teachings and how many of these ancient, Indian approaches could be modified and remained meaningful in our contemporary society. The class format will take on a variety of styles, including lectures, critical reading of canonical texts, academic works and films, exploring and examining the Buddhist principles in different contexts through class discussion, and the comparative reading of Buddhist ethics against the "norm" of Christian ethics in the Western world.
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