Title / Content Area: Ways of Being Buddhist in South Asia: Past and Present

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Title / Content Area:

Ways of Being Buddhist in South Asia: Past and Present

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Developed by:

Amy Hyne & Alia Hasan-Khan, South Asia Institute, University of Texas in Austin

Grade Level:


Essential Question:

In what ways has Buddhist culture left its mark on local political systems, landscapes, and customs over the course of its development and spread? How do Buddhist beliefs and forms of expression, such as art, dance, architecture, vary within South Asia? What can Buddhist material culture tell us about the lives and cultures of those involved in its construction?

Contextual Paragraph:

Buddhism has around 376 million followers in the world today, making it one of the world’s major religions. Buddhism started in India around 2,500 years ago, and is now practiced by people all over the world. Teaching on Buddhism in the West is often limited to an overview of Buddhism as a system of religious beliefs and practices. Students are introduced to the founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha); they learn about his disdain for worldly goods and attachments, his enlightenment, his teachings, and the initiation of his first disciples. They may also be introduced to the different schools of thought, which have different rituals, practices, and geographies. Theravada Buddhism, for example, is practiced mainly in Southeast Asia, whereas Mahayana Buddhism (developed sometime around 1st century CE) spread to China, Mongolia, Tibet, and as far as Vietnam, Korea, and Japan. (For a good introductory resource on Buddhism see the following volume: Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction by Damien Keown (Oxford University Press, 2013).

This resource set assumes prior knowledge of these foundational topics, and examines in closer detail the dynamics of the spread of Buddhism from India outward, with special focus on the diversity of Buddhism within South Asian countries. Rather than presenting students with a timeline of events, this resource set encourages students to think about how the actions and motivations of individuals determine the course of history. To this end, students critically consider the roles of historical and modern Buddhist figures. It also teaches them how to analyze material culture (manuscripts, photographs, inscriptions and architecture, for example) to reveal how Buddhist ideas and practices spread from person to person and region to region. Students are challenged to step beyond the idea of Buddhism as religious belief and consider how Buddhism is reflected in cultural practices, events, social roles, and everyday life.

Annotated Resource Set (ARS)

Resource Set

Map of China-India Border

Monograph on Buddha Sakyamuni’s Birth-Place in the Nepalese Tarai

Lamas and prayer flags

Lamas blowing gyalings at temple door

Final Examination for Lamas

Studying the art of religious painting

This map, from 1963, shows a detail of the area of Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, Assam, Northern India, and Pakistan. The territory just East of India, here labeled Pakistan, became Bangladesh in 1971. Buddhism has flourished in all of these places in different periods throughout history.

A German archeologist, Anton Fuhrer, is credited with discovering the birthplace of Buddha in what is now Nepal. This monograph published in 1897 chronicles his discovery.

There are two kinds of prayer flags in Tibetan Buddhism, vertical and horizontal. These vertical ones represent victory over an adversary, whereas horizontal ones that are usually strung between two objects in a high place are used as a blessing.

Music plays an important role in Buddhist temples. These oboe-like instruments, called gyalings, are used during prayer to summon good deities and provide a focus for meditation.

Lamas are the most senior monks in Tibetan Buddhism. They have usually achieved mastery of meditation and sacred rituals. Monks and nuns are required to obey more than 200 rules, covering everything from relations with other people, to the food they eat and the clothes they wear.

Young boys studying religious painting in Sikkim. The figure shown in the painting is a bodhisattva, an enlightened buddha who helps teach others how to escape samsara, the cycle of death and rebirth.

description: china-india border

description: monograph on buddha birthplace

description: lamas and prayer flags

description: lama blowing

description: exam for lamas

description: studying religious painting







Young girl praying in front of big Buddha

Monk burns effigy of evil

Woman turning prayer wheel in front of stupa

Webcast of Dr. Kendall and Hope Cooke giving presentation on Sikkim

Webcast of the Natasinh Dancers & Musicians

Chapter on Buddhism from edited volume Great Religions of the World

This is an image from 1969 of a young girl, Kimu, praying in front of a giant Buddha statue at the Lachung Monastery in northern Sikkim.

Tibetan New Year is celebrated in the festival of Losar, which takes place in the first full moon of January. This ritual is performed to frighten away any evil spirits that have appeared in the previous year.

When the Buddha died, his remains were spread over many places in India. Large, dome shaped structures called stupas were built around these and they became sites of pilgrimage for Buddhists.

Dr. Alice Kandell was the photographer of this collection from Sikkim, India. She was a close friend of Hope Cooke, the former Queen of Sikkim.

The Lao Natasinh Dance Troupe of Iowa is a group of Lao dancers and musicians trained in the Natasinh style of performance. The genre includes court music for royal ceremonies and the classical dance-drama based on the Ramayana, as well as music and dance performed for social and ritual occasions.

Published in 1912, this is a collection of studies on world religions. The section on Buddhism (pp. 33–52) was written by a pioneer of Buddhist studies in the west, T.W. R Davids It will be useful for advanced high school students, for teachers seeking an introduction to major topics, and as an example of how Buddhism was discussed in Western academic circles in the early 20th century.

description: young girl praying

description: monk burns effigy

description: woman in front of stupa







“One Million Pagoda Charms” (East Asian Buddhism)

Buddhist procession bringing new rice to the Temple of the Tooth, Kandy, Sri Lanka

Street leading to Dalada Malagawa – the Temple of the Sacred Tooth, Kandy, Sri Lanka

Sikkim, Gangtok, early Buddhist script written on palm leaves

Conservation of the Gandhara Scroll

Images of Hinduism and Buddhism

This miniature pagoda and these strips of prayers are an example of how relics of texts can function in similar ways to relics of bodies. Between 764 and 770, the Empress Shtoku ordered the Buddist prayers (dharani) to be printed and placed in "one million" tiny wooden pagodas as a memorial to the dead and distributed to monasteries throughout Japan.

Relics of the Buddha are housed in stupas, which become important pilgrimage places for Buddhist monks, nuns, and lay people. This temple in Sri Lanka (formerly called Ceylon) is believed to house a tooth of the Buddha. Pilgrims believe that they can acquire merit for themselves and their families by visiting and making offerings to the Buddha’s relics at these stupas.

This is an 1895 photograph of the pathway leading to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth, an important Buddhist reliquary monument in Kandy, Sri Lanka. We know from inscriptions that as early as 150 BCE, monks, nuns, and lay people would donate money and goods at stupas in hopes of acquiring merit and attaining certain goals such as good health or supreme knowledge.

Photograph shows palm leaves with Devanagari and Bengali script, on exhibit at the Namgyal Tibetology Institute, Gangtok, Sikkim. Before printing was available, manuscripts (which were subject to decay) would be copied by hand by monks or scribes.

The Gandhara Scroll is one of several manuscripts recently unearthed in Afghanistan that contains the oldest known Buddhist writings to date. This resource is a three-page web article on the background, examination, and conservation of the scroll at the Library of Congress.

A print of an engraving by Henry Winkles (1800–ca. 1860), this image shows the Buddha, the Hindu god Vishnu, and various Hindu ascetics. A good piece for challenging students to think about religious syncretism in India. Also invites comparison of Buddhist and Hindu modes of representation, and analysis of colonial impressions of those representations.

description: yakumanto dharani

description: &w film copy neg.

description: igital file from intermediary roll film copy

description: igital file from original

description: he gandhara scroll in an open box.

description: &w film copy neg.







A Country Study: Bhutan

A Country Study: Sri Lanka

A Country Study: Nepal

Death, Rebirth, Being Human in Tibetan Buddhism (webcast)

Tibetans in Exile

Tibetan Buddhist Wheel of Life

This resource provides an outline of the history of Bhutan, and links to documents describing the manner of arrival of Buddhism in this country and the mixing of Buddhism with local Bon religion.

This links to an outline of the history of Sri Lanka. Relevant sections discuss the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and its subsequent development.

This resource provides an abbreviated outline on the history of Nepal. The section on Buddhism is limited, but the information on interaction between Nepal and neighboring regions is useful for understanding the spread of cultures and ideas in the region.

In this talk, Frances Garrett considers images of dying, the afterlife, and rebirth, and notions of human embodiment and personhood, in Tibetan Buddhism. He argues that the use of knowledge about dying and birth in Buddhist meditation compels us to revise our understanding of the categories of medicine and religion.

This resource set, available through the Library of Congress partner site, the American Folklife Center, examines the conflict between Tibet and China, and documents the practices, beliefs, and struggles of Tibetan communities living in exile.

One in a series of images that help students compare views of the cosmos from different parts of the world, this image depicts the Wheel of Life of the Tibetan Buddhists. The six realms of existence are all held in the grasp of the Lord of Death.

description: http://wwp.greenwichmeantime.com/images/time/asia/bhutan.jpg

description: http://www.mapsofindia.com/neighbouring-countries-maps/maps/india-srilanka.jpg

description: http://i.infoplease.com/images/mnepal.gif

description: heel of life







Bill Text of the 107th Congress (2001–2002), S. CON.RES 30

Bill Text of the 104th Congress (1995–1996), S.RES.169

Asian Historical Architecture, Kathmandu, Nepal

Asian Historical Architecture, Bodh Gaya, India

Asian Historical Architecture, Bamiyan, Afghanistan

Asian Historical Architecture, Taxila, Pakistan

A bill condemning the destruction of pre-Islamic statues in Afghanistan by the Taliban regime. Among them was a pair of 1,600-year-old 175-foot-tall and 120-foot-tall statues carved out of a mountainside at Bamiyan, one of which is believed to have been the world's largest statue of a standing Buddha.

A bill expressing the sense of the Senate welcoming His Holiness the Dalai Lama on his visit to the United States. Expressing the sentiment that Tibet is recognized by the U.S. as a sovereign nation, this bill touches on human rights violations in the area and the destruction of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and artifacts by the People’s Republic of China.

A photographic survey of Asia's architectural heritage with background information, maps, and virtual tours. Geographical limits correspond to areas heavily influenced by Buddhism or Hinduism.

KATHMANDU, NEPAL: Site of 14th century Bodhnath Stupa, the largest stupa in Nepal, and the Svayambhunath Stupa, the oldest in Nepal.

A photographic survey of Asia's architectural heritage with background information, maps, and virtual tours. Geographical limits correspond to areas heavily influenced by Buddhism or Hinduism.

BODH GAYA, INDIA: Site where the Buddha attained enlightenment.

A photographic survey of Asia's architectural heritage with background information, maps, and virtual tours. Geographical limits correspond to areas heavily influenced by Buddhism or Hinduism.

BAMIYAN, AFGHANISTAN: The location of the famous silk-road Buddhist sculptures, probably built around the 5th century, which were destroyed in 2001.

A photographic survey of Asia's architectural heritage with background information, maps, and virtual tours. Geographical limits correspond to areas heavily influenced by Buddhism or Hinduism.

TAXILA, PAKISTAN: Site of Dharmarajika Stupa, a 2nd century monument built by Ashoka, a famous Emperor who converted to Buddhism and helped its spread across South Asia.

description: http://www.michaelandersongallery.com/images/large/bodhnath-pano-npn.jpg

description: http://www.orientalarchitecture.com/india/bodhgaya/photos/mahabodhi-bodhgaya02.jpg

description: http://www.orientalarchitecture.com/afghanistan/statewide/photos/bamiyan02.jpg

description: http://viewpakistan.com/taxila.jpg











Foundations Annotations

Curriculum Connections

Social Studies, World History, World Geography

Curriculum Standards

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Social Studies

§113.18. Social Studies, Grade 6

(2)  History. The student understands the influences of individuals and groups from various cultures on various hjstorical and contemporary societies. The student is expected to: (A) identify and describe the influence of individual or group achievements on various historical or contemporary societies such as the classical Greeks on government and the American Revolution on the French Revolution; and

(B) evaluate the social, political, economic, and cultural contributions of individuals and groups from various societies, past and present.

(15)  Culture. The student understands the similarities and differences within and among cultures in various world societies. The student is expected to: (A) define culture and the common traits that unify a culture region; (B) identify and describe common traits that define cultures; (E)  analyze the similarities and differences among various world societies

(17)  Culture. The student understands relationships that exist among world cultures. The student is expected to: (D)  identify and define the impact of cultural diffusion on individuals and world societies; (E) identify positive and negative impacts of cultural diffusion.

(18)  Culture. The student understands the relationship that exists between the arts and the societies in which they are produced. The student is expected to: (A) explain the relationships that exist between societies and their architecture, art, music, and literature; (D) identify examples of art, music, and literature that have transcended the boundaries of societies and convey universal themes such as religion, justice, and the passage of time.

(19) Culture. The student understands the relationships among religion, philosophy, and culture. The student is expected to: (B) explain the significance of religious holidays and observances such as Christmas, Easter, Ramadan, the annual hajj, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, Diwali, and Vaisakhi in various contemporary societies.

(21)  Social studies skills. The student applies critical-thinking skills to organize and use information acquired through established research methodologies from a variety of valid sources, including electronic technology. The student is expected to: (A) differentiate between, locate, and use valid primary and secondary sources such as computer software; interviews; biographies; oral, print, and visual material; and artifacts to acquire information about various world cultures; (B)  analyze information by sequencing, categorizing, identifying cause-and-effect relationships, comparing, contrasting, finding the main idea, summarizing, making generalizations and predictions, and drawing inferences and conclusions.

§113.42. World History Studies

(1) History. The student understands traditional historical points of reference in world history. The student is expected to: (B) identify major causes and describe the major effects of the following events from 500 BC to AD 600: the development of the classical civilizations of Greece, Rome, Persia, India (Maurya and Gupta), China (Zhou, Qin, and Han), and the development of major world religions;

(3)  History. The student understands the contributions and influence of classical civilizations from 500 BC to AD 600 on subsequent civilizations. The student is expected to: (A)  describe the major political, religious/philosophical, and cultural influences of Persia, India, China, Israel, Greece, and Rome, including the development of monotheism, Judaism, and Christianity

(15)  Geography. The student uses geographic skills and tools to collect, analyze, and interpret data. The student is expected to: (B)  analyze and compare geographic distributions and patterns in world history shown on maps, graphs, charts, and models.

(23)  Culture. The student understands the history and relevance of major religious and philosophical traditions. The student is expected to: (A)  describe the historical origins, central ideas, and spread of major religious and philosophical traditions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, and the development of monotheism

(25)  Culture. The student understands how the development of ideas has influenced institutions and societies. The student is expected to: (A)  summarize the fundamental ideas and institutions of Eastern civilizations that originated in China and India

(26)  Culture. The student understands the relationship between the arts and the times during which they were created. The student is expected to: (A)  identify significant examples of art and architecture that demonstrate an artistic ideal or visual principle from selected cultures

(29)  Social studies skills. The student applies critical-thinking skills to organize and use information acquired from a variety of valid sources, including electronic technology. The student is expected to: (C)  explain the differences between primary and secondary sources and examine those sources to analyze frame of reference, historical context, and point of view; (F)  analyze information by sequencing, categorizing, identifying cause-and-effect relationships, comparing, contrasting, finding the main idea, summarizing, making generalizations and predictions, drawing inferences and conclusions, and developing connections between historical events over time

(30)  Social studies skills. The student communicates in written, oral, and visual forms. The student is expected to: (A)  use social studies terminology correctly; (B)  use standard grammar, spelling, sentence structure, and punctuation; (C)  interpret and create written, oral, and visual presentations of social studies information; and (D)  transfer information from one medium to another.

§113.43. World Geography Studies

(5)  Geography. The student understands how political, economic, and social processes shape cultural patterns and characteristics in various places and regions. The student is expected to: (A)  analyze how the character of a place is related to its political, economic, social, and cultural elements.

(16)  Culture. The student understands how the components of culture affect the way people live and shape the characteristics of regions. The student is expected to: (B)  describe elements of culture, including language, religion, beliefs and customs, institutions, and technologies; (C)  explain ways various groups of people perceive the characteristics of their own and other cultures, places, and regions differently.

(17)  Culture. The student understands the distribution, patterns, and characteristics of different cultures. The student is expected to: (B)  describe major world religions, including animism, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Sikhism, and their spatial distribution; (D)  evaluate the experiences and contributions of diverse groups to multicultural societies.

(18)  Culture. The student understands the ways in which cultures change and maintain continuity. The student is expected to: (C)  identify examples of cultures that maintain traditional ways, including traditional economies.

Content & Thinking Objectives

Content Objectives Objective 1: Students will describe some of ways in which Buddhism is incorporated into the varied cultures of its practitioners.

Objective 2: Students will learn about various mediums, such as music, dance, painting, and architecture, through which Buddhists express their religion.

Objective 2: Students will be able to identify South Asian countries where Buddhism is practiced and will be able to describe some aspects of Buddhism in those places.

Objective 3: Students will become familiar with some political conversations and events related to Buddhism in modern South Asia.

Objective 4: Students will be able to describe the role of stupas in Buddhism and will learn about practices associated with relics of the Buddha.

Thinking Objectives Objective 1: Students will be challenged to think critically about the interactions between religious practice, culture, and politics.

Objective 2: Students will develop strategies for interpreting material culture (art, manuscripts, inscriptions, architecture) as a primary resource in historical research.

Objective 3: Students will consider the diversity of practice and belief within South Asian Buddhist cultures, which will help them develop strategies for understanding other major world belief systems.

Inquiry Activities & Strategies

  1. Buddhism and Politics: Congressional Bill Comparison & Discussion – Divide your students into small groups and ask them to read the two congressional resolutions from the resource set. Ask them to consider the following questions with their peers: What are the possible motivations behind each of these bills (humanitarian, political, religious, etc.)? Who are the major players? Do they endorse Buddhism? Condemn other religions? If so, how? What does it mean to have “freedom of religion” and how might this concept relate to the events discussed in the bills? What responsibility does a modern nation state have, if any, to protect and maintain its historical artifacts and monuments? Is it possible to distinguish between “religious” artifacts and “cultural” artifacts? If so, how? After the students have had time to prepare, bring the group together to share and discuss. (Note: The resource “Tibetans in Exile” will provide students and teachers with a more in-depth background of the conflict leading up the resolution regarding the Dalai Lama. The Asian Historical Architecture resource set has a section on Bamiyan that provides images and background information).

  2. If Walls Could Talk: Architecture Analysis Activity – Using the links to the Oriental Architecture site from the research set, show students the slides and discuss the background of these major Buddhist sites. Ask the students to compare the sites and identify the consistencies and differences in style. Ask them to consider how the values of the region, religion, and culture are reflected in the architecture. Consider the height of the monuments, the placement of sculpture and inscription, and the layout of the property, and ask them to reflect on what kinds of issues (audience, reach, function) might have been considered in the designing of these monuments. For example, did they need to house monks? Were they built according to local styles in order to appeal to local communities? Do certain aspects seem more decorative than functional? After the discussion, ask students to take some time to design a monument. A simple drawing will work, but if you have more time consider allowing your students to sketch the design on paper, and then attempt to build the monument with modeling clay, construction paper, popsicle sticks, and/or any art supplies you have available. Alternatively, assign the task as homework and have students bring their monument the following day. Ask them to write a brief summary discussing their monument, including its purpose, its imagined location in space (in a city, on a hill, etc.), and the reasons for their design choices. Ask them to discuss how their process of design and final product compares with those of the Buddhist monuments from the research set and those of their peers. The goal of this activity is to teach students about Buddhist architecture, while also teaching them to think critically about the localized human motivations and efforts behind the building of monuments more generally.

  3. Annotated Map Activity - Give students a large blank map of South Asia at the beginning of the unit. Ask them to fill in the map as they learn about the different countries, labeling and briefly describing important Buddhist cities and sites that they learn about, and tracing with dotted lines the spread of Buddhism from one region to the next. (A blank map of South Asia can be downloaded from: http://geography.about.com/library/blank/blxasia.htm)

  4. Photograph Activity – Ask students to analyze a photograph from the research set. Can they identify the region? What kinds of clues might help them to do this? What kinds of clothes are the people wearing? What kinds of activities are depicted in the photographs? Who is performing them? Ask them to interpret what they think is going on in the photograph. After, ask the students to share their impressions. What strategies did they use? What stereotypes about Buddhism in Asia were revealed during the course of this activity? Ask students to be self-reflective and consider what experiences of their own might have contributed to their impressions.

Assessment Strategies

  1. Triple Entry Journal – Before beginning the unit on Buddhism, ask students to create a journal. They can use a report cover or folder for this, or alternatively a journal can be made by stapling 10 sheets of 8.5” x 11” binder paper between an 18” x 24” sheet of construction paper. Their first entry should be completed before starting the unit. In this entry they should list or discuss anything that comes to their mind when they think of Buddhism. Ask them to write anything they have previously learned or heard about Buddhism or Buddhists. For example, do they know: where Buddhism started; who Gautama Buddha is; where Buddhism is practiced today; what Buddhists believe? Ask them also to write any stereotypes they have heard about Buddhism or Buddhists. The second entry in the journal will be their notes on the unit. Ask students to take notes about what they learn from the resource set, lectures, and discussions, and also ask them to note any questions that arise from the materials. Allow students to share their questions and discuss with the class. The final entry in the journal will be a personal reflection on the unit. Ask students to reread their initial entry and reflect on how their understandings of Buddhism have changed as a result of the unit. What, if anything, surprised them about Buddhism? What was the most interesting aspect of the unit for them? This type of assignment will allow teachers to assess both the content learned and the students’ ability to reflect on the content.

  2. Divide the class into groups and assign each group a different South Asian country (Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, India, Pakistan). Have each student select and research a particular artifact from that country that demonstrates how Buddhism interacts with the local culture in some way. Students can select an image, a newspaper article, a monument, a local festival or holiday, a piece of legislation, a conflict, a form of art, music, or dance. For example, students might choose to study Tibetan prayer flags, or prayer wheels, or mandalas. They might select a type of instrument used in Buddhist ritual (such as the gyaling or bells) and discuss the history of this instrument in their particular context. If students would like to choose a work of art or sculpture, they can consult the following websites for ideas: http://www.asianart.org/ and http://www.metmuseum.org). Have the students prepare a presentation for the class with each student briefly describing and analyzing their artifact. Have them try to answer the following questions: What is your artifact and how does it reflect Buddhist belief, practice, or customs? How does it reflect the country of its origin? What is its purpose? When was it created and by whom? Alternatively or in addition, you can ask students to turn in a research paper on their artifact or topic.

Other Resources

Web Resources

http://asiasociety.org/education A website for K-12 educators maintained by the Asia Society that has extensive materials and information for teaching about Buddhism.

http://edsitement.neh.gov/ Sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, this website has a substantial library of lesson plans, including a handful on South and East Asian Buddhism and the history of the Buddha. They also have a link to a PBS program on the Buddha.

http://www.discoveryeducation.com Offers a lesson plan on Buddhism and the Dalai Lama.

http://www.bessqld.com/ A website that has lesson plans and printouts that teach through Buddhism and about Buddhism. The developers of this site are interested not only in spreading Buddhist teachings, but in instilling in students what they consider to be Buddhist values. As such, this website is an interesting source for understanding how the spread of Buddhism continues through different types of media in non-Asian countries.

http://www.asianart.org/ This is the website of the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco with additional images and references for the study of Buddhism in South Asian art.

http://teachindiaproject.org/ This website provides resources and lessons plans on India which seem to be geared towards South Asian communities in the diaspora. Their mission statement: The Mission of the Teach India Project is to provide educators with tools and resources for global awareness and multicultural education and to give parents of the Indian Diaspora a cultural literacy resource so that we may work together to deepen children’s understanding of the world.

http://www.crl.edu/area-studies/samp From the website: “The South Asia Microform Project (SAMP) seeks to acquire and maintain a readily accessible microform collection of unique materials related to the study of South Asia. Materials are collected both through the project’s filming efforts and through the purchase of positive copies of materials filmed by other groups, institutions, and companies.” Some of the items available digitally will be useful, though many items will need to be ordered through inter-library loan.

Secondary Sources


Carrithers, Michael. Buddha: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).

Gethin, Rupert, trans. Sayings of the Buddha. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). This is a very accessible book that contains translations of early Pali texts. The selections present the teachings of the Buddha and the development of the sangha, the Buddhist monastic community.

Harvey, Peter. An Introduction to Buddhism: Teachings, History, and Practices. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Keown, Damien. Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).

Strong, John. Relics of the Buddha. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004). This book, though written primarily for an academic audience, contains important discussions surrounding the relics of the Buddha and the practices associated with their preservation, installment in stupas, and worship.

Wheeler, Robert Eric Mortimer. Early India and Pakistan: To Ashoka. (Rev. ed.) New York: Praeger, 1968.


Over the past 20 years or so scholars of Buddhism have had to seriously reconsider the origins of one of the most pervasive forms of Buddhism, Mahayana (or, “The Great Vehicle”). Though textbook companies are increasingly sensitive to the new findings in scholarship on Buddhism, misunderstandings about the earlier history of this branch are still quite common. For a discussion of these issues, see the two following articles:

Harrison, Paul. “Searching for the Origins of Mahāyāna: What are We Looking For?” in The Eastern Buddhist 28, no. 1, (1995): 48-69.

Silk, Jonathan A. “What, if Anything, is Mahāyāna Buddhism? Problems of Definitions and Classifications” in Numen, Vol. 49, No. 4 (2002), pp. 355-405.

Teaching with Primary Sources - Annotated Resource Set

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