“Who is the Buddha?” resources
Here you can find all the resources created as part of the 2022-23 “Who is the Buddha?” project, run by Dr Naomi Appleton (Edinburgh) and Dr Christopher V. Jones (Cambridge) as part of their AHRC-funded project “Comparative Buddhology in Indian Narrative Literature”.
The resources comprise:
Six recorded webinars from early 2022 with accompanying powerpoint files that include additional notes, links and resources.
A bank of worksheets on a range of related themes, including primary sources (images and text summaries/translations) with accompanying notes, and suggested discussion questions.
Feedback on the resources is welcome – please contact email@example.com
More will be added during the first half of 2023.
Each pdf document contains an introduction, one or more primary sources, suggested discussion questions, and further readings.
The Buddha: Historical Figure or Literary Character?
In this opening session we explore some of the stories told about the Buddha’s life, and how they relate to both Buddhist teachings and evidence about the Buddha’s time. We learn about his quest and his teaching career, and the importance he holds for the Buddhist community.
Powerpoint file including additional resources and notes: Who is the Buddha – SESSION 1 – Historical Figure or Literary Character
The Buddha as Philosopher
The Buddha is often presented as a great philosopher who understood the human condition and offered philosophical solutions to it. In this session we explore fundamental teachings ascribed to the Buddha and the assumptions that underpin them. What sort of problems did the Buddha seek to solve, and did he use philosophical approaches to solve them?
Powerpoint file including additional resources and notes: Who is the Buddha – SESSION 2 – The Buddha as Philosopher
The Buddha as Social Reformer
There is a long tradition of conceptualizing the Buddha as a critic of social conventions who engaged productively with kings. Certainly “engaged Buddhist” movements emphasise the need to work within the world to alleviate suffering, distinct from pursuit of one’s own personal salvation. We look at how Buddhist literature presents the Buddha’s dealings with society and politics, and the continuing history of Buddhism’s relationship to worldly power.
Powerpoint file including additional resources and notes: Who is the Buddha – SESSION 3 – The Buddha as Social Reformer
The Buddha in Buddhist Practice
What is the role of the Buddha in the practices of Buddhists? Many Buddhists have images of the Buddha in their homes or temples, or visit places associated with his life. Pilgrimage sites boast enshrined relics of the Buddha, maintaining his bodily presence in the world. Buddhist traditions of meditation focus on visualising the Buddha’s qualities, or even oneself as a buddha now. In this session we explore some practices with the Buddha at their heart, and shed light on the Buddha as somewhere between teacher, saviour, deity, and idealised state.
Powerpoint file including additional resources and notes: Who is the Buddha – SESSION 4 – The Buddha in Buddhist Practice
The Buddha among Buddhas
The person we refer to as “the Buddha” has always been understood as one of many. The term “buddha” means “awakened one” and can be applied to other great teachers in past and future times, as well as – in some Buddhist traditions – to similarly illustrious figures in worlds other than our own. Some Buddhist traditions aim at audiences becoming buddhas themselves. So what does it mean to be a buddha, and are they all the same?
Powerpoint file including additional resources and notes: Who is the Buddha – SESSION 5 – The Buddha among Buddhas
The Buddha in Modern Britain
The Buddha is very visible in modern Britain, both in forms of Buddhism that have taken root here, and as a “brand” appropriated by western consumers. In the latter role he appears in everything from garden ornaments to yoga studios, from T-shirt slogans to mindfulness colouring books. How did the Buddha become known to UK audiences? What does he mean in the UK marketplace, and how do Buddhists feel about it? In this final session we explore the Buddha’s journey to the West, and the diverse ways in which we might encounter him.
Powerpoint file including additional resources and notes: Who is the Buddha – SESSION 6 – The Buddha in Britain