MWF 1-2P

This class will focus on the Newar Buddhist tradition of the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal. While in India itself Buddhism did not survive beyond the fourteenth century, it has persisted among the Newars till the present day in Nepal. This allows for the unique chance to study Indic Mahayana Buddhism (and the manifold forms of tantric practice it includes) “on the ground” as a vibrant and dynamic religious tradition that concretely shapes and structures the lives of people and the culture and society they inhabit, and that in turn is transformed by the adaptation to this culture and society. We will approach the Newar Buddhist tradition and the dynamics of adaptation by examining particular themes such as Buddhist monasticism and its interaction with the laity, the adaptation to the caste system, the cult of stupas and images, festivals of Buddhists deities, life-cycle rites of passage, the tradition’s narrative literature, etc. Particular attention will be paid to the complex relations between Newar Buddhism and the Hindu and the autochthonous religious traditions it coexists with. Another important topic will be the recent introduction of Theravada Buddhism to the Kathmandu Valley, and the impact of Buddhist modernism. The exploration of Newar Buddhism will be tied to other Buddhist and Indic religious traditions and their practice in society. In this way the class will not only make sense of a complex religious field, the Newar tradition of the Kathmandu valley, but also allow for more general insights into Indic Buddhism and how its functions in society. The treatment of the Newar Buddhist tradition will be brought to life by the extensive presentation of visual materials including documentaries, and rare and fascinating video footage. Instead of set books there will be an extensive reader, which will be available on the day that classes start at University Copy on 2425 Channing Way.

Fall 2012