Eastern Oregon University
College of Arts and Sciences
Course Syllabus

Number of Course: REL 321

Name of Course: Buddhism

Prerequisites: None

Course Description: An examination of the basic doctrines of Buddhism as they have developed over a 2500 year period in India, Tibet, Mongolia, China and Japan.

Credit Hours: 5

Time and place of the course: This course will be entirely online.

Instructor: David Komito will be your instructor for this course.  He is regularly active on the course Blackboard site Monday through Friday, but not on Saturdays and Sundays. Apart from those days, you can expect a response to discussion postings or emails within 48 hours at the most, usually more quickly.

The academic biography of the instructor is posted at http://www.eou.edu/rel


  1. Online lectures written by the instructor.
  2. Peter D. Santina: Fundamentals of Buddhism (available online at no charge)
  3. Geshe Sonam Rinchen: The Three Principal Aspects of the Path (to be purchased)
  4. Dalai Lama: A Talk for World Peace and Wisdom and Compassion (two videos available online at no charge)
  5. Tsongkapa: The Three Principal Aspects of the Path (available online at no charge)
  6. Christmas Humphreys and Wong Mou-Lam: The Sutra of Hui Neng, (Chapter 1) (available online at no charge)
  7. J.C. Cleary: “An Introduction to Pure Land Buddhism” (available online at no charge)
  8. Akira Kurosawa: Rashomon, a movie available as a free stream on YouTube, for purchase or rental from Amazon, rental from Netflix, free from Pierce Library, etc.

Introduction to Buddhism
Online Lectures

IMPORTANT NOTICE: A password is required to open all hyperlinks on this page. This password is posted in the course Blackboard site, and is available for students beginning on the first day of the term for which they have registered.

Preliminary: Blessing cyberspace

Weeks 1 & 2: The Individual Path (Hinayana or Theravada)

  • Lecture: Early agricultural cultures and nomadic invasions: the dynamic tension in the history of Asian religions
  • Lecture: The Individual Path: Hinayana/Theravada
  • Lecture: Buddhist origins: a systematic psychology for liberation

Week 3

  • Lecture: Buddha and His Enlightenment
  • Lecture: The Person and Selflessness, Rebirth and Liberation 

Week 4: The Great Path (Mahayana)

  • Audio lecture: the expansion of Buddhism; map.
  • Audio lecture: lineage.
  • Lecture: Buddhist universalism: interactions with Hinduism, Taoism and the Mahayana Buddhist envelopment of Asia
  • Lecture: The Emptiness of Persons and Things
  • Lecture: Contemporary Western Counterparts to the Madhyamika View

Week 5

  • Prologue: Recitation of the Heart Sutra
  • Lecture: Introduction to the Tibetan Mahayana "Graded Path to Enlightenment"
  • Lecture: Comments on the Poem and Textbook The Three Principal Aspects of the Path
  • Root text and commentary: Tsongkapa's The Three Principal Aspects of the Path

Week 6

  • Lecture: Tsongkapa's Teachings on Wisdom
  • Lecture: Stanza 9
  • Lecture: Stanzas 10 and 11
  • Lecture: "Designation" in the Commentary on Stanzas 10 and 11
  • Lecture: Self Cherishing and Self Esteem
  • Lecture: Commentary on Stanza 12
  • Lecture: Stanzas 12 and 13
  • Lecture: Concluding Comments on Tsongkapa's The Three Principal Aspects of the Path
  • Lecture: Why Persons and Things are Devoid of Inherent Existence

Week 7: The Great Diamond Scepter Path (Vajrayana or Tantrayana)

  • Lecture: Stanza 14
  • Lecture: The Focus of our Study of Meditation
  • Lecture: Manjushri and Tsongkapa
  • Lecture: The Imagination in Meditation
  • Lecture: Icons in Buddhism -- Becoming the Icon
  • Lecture: Indo-Tibetan Sculpture and Dance -- Iconic Incarnation

Weeks 8 & 9 : The Great Path of No Path

Weeks 10: The Great Devotional Path

  • Lecture: Pure Land Buddhism


Means of Assessment and Grading:

Ten short exams -- 89% of course grade.

Eight discussion board postings -- 8% of course grade.

One short essay – 3% of course grade.

Grades are based on 10 multiple choice and true/false exams, the short essay and 8 required discussion board postings (or class attendance for on-campus classes). You are not required to post to the discussion board on weeks that do not have a graded assignment. There are no opportunities for "extra credit." There is a short exam each week (each exam has from 8 to 10 questions) and will not take longer than 15 minutes to complete.  Exams do not require a proctor – they can be taken on any computer if the class is offered online but must be taken at the EOU Testing Center if the class is offered on campus.  Exams can only be taken between 1 AM on Friday and 11:55 PM on Saturday of the relevant week, with the exception of exam 1, which is available for all of week 1.

Exams are composed of multiple choice, multiple answer, matching and true/false questions -- mostly multiple choice or true/false. Some questions require a knowledge of basic facts -- these are relatively simple. Other questions are more difficult and require interpretation of what is being asked. In the case where interpretation is required there may be two 'good answers' but only one 'best answer'. In such a case you are to pick the best answer, as you will not get credit for a 'good answer' when there is a 'better answer' option.

The exams and the short essay (50 words minimum to 250 words maximum) are designed to assess the degree of your understanding of the course learning outcomes; that is why there are more difficult questions and less difficult questions on the exams. Learning the very basic concepts of Buddhism is not too difficult -- if this is your level of understanding, you will get a C grade. Learning to distinguish and use some of the more sophisticated concepts in Buddhism is difficult. If you demonstrate this capacity you will get an A grade. The grade of B indicates that you are somewhere in between the two. Thus, most exam questions ask you basic facts, and are relatively easy. But each exam also has a question or two which require thoughtful interpretation. It is these questions which will separate out the A, B and C performance.

Final grades are calculated as follows:

  1. minimum of 90 points = A grade
  2. minimum of 80 points = B grade
  3. minimum of 60 points = C grade
  4. minimum of 50 points = D grade
  5. below 50 points = Failing grade

General Education Category and Outcomes: Aesthetics and Humanities

  1. Learn and use the vocabulary, content, and conceptual knowledge in a variety of disciplines. (CONTENT KNOWLEDGE)
  2. Think clearly, critically, and effectively, taking into consideration purpose, audience, and occasion. (CRITICAL THINKING)
  3. An appreciation for aesthetic expressions of humanity and the ability to analyze texts. (AEH)

Additional Outcomes:

  1. know basic definitions for key Buddhist philosophical concepts and be able to distinguish one from another.
  2. be familiar with Buddhist perspectives on the idea of 'interconnectedness.' Students will demonstrate this familiarity through their ability to recognize or explain why Buddhists assert that the primary impediment to understanding this idea of interconnectedness is a fundamental human misperception about reality, which itself arises from a habitual misunderstanding of the nature of the self. Students will also be able to recognize or explain how understanding the actual nature of the self leads to understanding the actual nature of reality, and why the Buddha asserted that reality is an interconnectedness of all things and phenomena.
  3. be able to describe or distinguish Buddhist notions about what constitute responsible actions in an interconnected world.
  4. have developed an awareness of cultures other than their own; specifically the Buddhist cultures of India, Tibet, Mongolia, China and Japan, and be able to recognize how key philosophical elements in Buddhism affected these cultures.

Statement on Academic Misconduct:

Eastern Oregon University places a high value upon the integrity of its student scholars. Any student found guilty of an act of academic misconduct (including, but not limited to, cheating, plagiarism, or theft of an examination or supplies) may be subject to having his or her grade reduced in the course in question, being placed on probation or suspended from the University, or being expelled from the University—or a combination of these.   Please see Student Handbook at:http://www.eou.edu/saffairs/handbook/honest.html

Statement on Americans with Disabilities:

If you have a documented disability or suspect that you have a learning problem and need accommodations, please contact the Disability Services Program in Loso Hall 234. Telephone: 962-3081.

Syllabus Prepared By: David Komito

Date: July 13, 2014