Syllabus & Schedule

PHIL 16 – Fall 2021 – 40294 – BCC Online

Instructor: Eric Gerlach –

Please email me to ask questions or set up a Zoom appointment if you want to talk.

Course Description: Welcome to Buddhist Philosophy, where we will study Buddhist thought in India, Tibet, China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam, as well as its place in the larger history of human thought and our world.  We will learn many concepts basic to Indian and Chinese philosophy, and cover several schools of thought, including a detailed discussion of Zen.

Course Material: For each week of the class, do the readings, which are free, online primary source material, the original texts, watch the videos and read the lectures, which you can do while I go through the lectures in the videos.

Assignments: There are no weekly assignments.  There are three essays due by the end of the course, two four-page papers (25% of your grade) and one longer eight-page paper (50% of your grade), emailed to  Focus on an idea we cover, clearly state and argue for your position with evidence, empathy, and examples from your life, history or fiction.  Address the thinker’s argument, present it point by point as best you can, and respond to it.  Use standard sized fonts, and at least 1.5 spacing, with normal margins, such that it doesn’t look like you’re trying to fool me in a way I don’t like.  If you wish to cite works, cite them as you mention them as author (year), such as Smith (2021).

We won’t have mandatory meetings on Zoom, as the class is asynchronous.  Please email me with any questions, or if you want to discuss the class or ideas we study, and I am happy to meet with you online.  You should zoom or email me before each paper to touch base if you can.

Office Hours: I will be available on Zoom for individual chats with students who email me and make an appointments.

Aug 26 – Introduction to the Class: Please watch the videos in the playlist about philosophy, the class and Eurocentrism.

Sep 2 – Read this entry on Hindu philosophy. & these lectures on Hinduism, Kanada, & Gautama.

Sep 9 – Read this entry on Jain beliefs and practices. & these lectures on the Charvakas, & Jains

Sep 16 – Read the Dhammapada, & these lectures on the Buddha & Dhammapada

Sep 23 – Read the Brahmajala Sutta, the Samannaphala Sutta, the Potthapada Sutta and the Mahasatipatthana Sutta of the Digha Nikaya, the Long Discourses of the Buddha & this lecture on the Long Discourses.

Sep 30 – Read the Edicts of Ashoka & this lecture on Buddhism in India

Oct 7 –1st EssayFor the first 4 page essay for the class, which you should start writing this week, I want you to consider the philosophical debates from ancient India that pitted Buddhism against many other positions.  According to the Vaisheshika and Nyaya schools, there is absolute truth and universal knowledge.  According to the Jains and Buddhists, there is no absolute truth but only particular perspective.  What do you find yourself agreeing with more, and why?  Are the two exclusive, inclusive, both or neither?  Please turn in your paper soon if you want to discuss your ideas with me and get feedback.  All three essays are due the final day of the semester, December 18th.

Oct 14 -Read this lecture on Buddhism in Tibet

Oct 21 – Read  the first ten chapters of the Diamond Sutra this lecture on the Chinese School of Names, and these on Buddhism in China, & Japan

Oct 28 – Read the Daodejing, as much of the Zhuangzi as you can. my favorite ancient philosophical text, & this lecture on Daoism

Nov 4 – Read Chapter 1 (p – 114) of Huineng’s Platform Sutra & this lecture on ZenBodhidharmaHuineng, & Mazu

Nov 11 – Read read and contemplate the koans & commentary of the Gateless Gate & this lecture on Zhaozhou & Linji

Nov 18 – Read this X & this lecture on The Blue Cliff Record, the Gateless Gate, & Zen Stories

2nd EssayFor the second 4 page essay, I want you to select a Zen koan that you think displays a particular insight or idea of Buddhism, and then reflect on what it means when applied to your own life and/or the current state of the world.

Nov 25 – Read this lecture on Dogen, & Hakuin

Dec 2 – Read this X & this lecture on Buddhism in Korea, Buddhism in Vietnam

Dec 9 – Read Nietzsche’s essay On Truth & Lies In A Non-Moral Sense, and Lyotard’s The Postmodern Condition, sections 1-5 & this lecture on Buddhism, Existentialism & Postmodernism

Dec 16 – Read as much of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations as you can & this lecture on Buddhism, Pragmatism & Wittgenstein

3rd Essay: For the final 8 page paper for the class, I want you to take an idea from the final three lectures and apply it to your life and/or the world, as you did for the second assignment.  What appeals to you or not about the idea, and how or why is it useful?


Grading Rubric: 100 – This is outstanding work, 90 – This is good work that shows you put thought and time in, but more could be put in, 80 – This is on the right path, but clearly needs a bit more, 70 – This is somewhat wrong and off, and 0 – 60 – You are clearly phoning it in before the telegraph.

Student Learning Outcomes:  Upon completion of this class, students will be able to do the following:  1. Describe anatta,anicca,dukkha,and Dependent Origination as foundational principles of Buddhist ethics.  2.Demonstrate an understanding of the principles of three Buddhist schools, to discriminate between three Buddhist traditions, and to understand foundation of Buddhist metaphysics and ethics.  3. Assess foundational Buddhist principles critically.  4. Describe role of Buddhism in the development of national and religious culture.  5. Apply Buddhist existential principles to the understanding of the nature of life and self.

General Student Requirements:  Students are expected to come to class prepared to ask questions and participate in discussions. All readings and assignments should be completed by the beginning of class on the day they are listed here. This class is run as a lecture/discussion course.  Students are responsible for all class material (even if they miss class). If you miss class, it is strongly advised that you ask a classmate for notes. It is your responsibility to ask if you missed something; it is not the instructor’s responsibility to remind you. Please read through the syllabus and plan ahead.

Plagiarism will not be tolerated. Plagiarists, intentional or inadvertent, will receive a zero on the assignment in question; repeat offenders will get an F for the course and will be subject to college disciplinary action. Students are encouraged to review plagiarism policies in the current Vista College catalog.  Attendance is mandatory. If you miss more than five classes, you will receive an F in the course. (Note: I do not distinguish between “excused” and “unexcused” absences; if you miss more than five classes, for any reason, you cannot pass the class.)

Disabled Student Program and Services (DSPS) are provided for any enrolled student who has a verified disability that creates an educational limitation that prevents the student from fully benefiting from classes without additional support services or instruction. Please let the instructor know if you require any support services or would like more information about DSPS.

This syllabus is subject to change at the discretion of the instructor. Any changes will be announced in class. Additional handouts of required readings may also be added.