Buddhism on the Move


Course Objective

At the end of this seminar, the student is able to demonstrate:
• Knowledge
o Knowledge of Buddhism and particularly mindfulness and their emergence
on the global scene.
o A broad, bird’s eye view of the reception history of Buddhism outside
o Appreciation of the great regional and historical diversity of
o Detailed knowledge of a sample Buddhist theories and doctrines
(mindfulness and the tantric Buddhist maṇḍala scheme) that illustrate
the emergence of Buddhism on a global scene (and have invited the
hermeneutical marriage of convenience between Buddhism and psychology).

• Application of knowledge
o The ability to apply knowledge about Global Buddhism to other
contexts, times, and if possible also to comparable religious-cultural
developments (for instance the mainstreaming of mindfulness and yoga).
o To be able to identify various modernist and traditionalist, and
global and local forms of Buddhism, such as various forms of Buddhism
among migrants and local outside Asia.
o To be able to engage various current typologies of Global Buddhism and
its general characteristics in analysis.

• Insight
o Analytical insight into the culture dynamics that underlie the
mobility of religious and cultural ideas and systems, and particularly
the emergence of Buddhism and mindfulness on a global scene.
o Analytical insight particularly into the mainstreaming of mindfulness.
o Analytical insight into dominant and subdominant cultural forces in
emergent Buddhist systems and to be able to articulate these insights in
theoretical terms/models, such as theories on assimilation, invention of
tradition or framing of discourse.
o Analytical insight into the construction of religious history and the
logic and Realpolitik that underlies emic historio¬graphical strategies.
o Analytical insight into the history of the framing Buddhism in
psychological terms and its background and resonance in modern Asia.
o Familiarity with the complex relationships of psychological readings
of Buddhism, in view of Buddhist modernisation movements in Asia, and
the reception of Buddhism outside Asia.
o Understanding of the problematic nature of modernist-looking
categories such as ‘immediate experience’ in Buddhism and the implied
epistemic dissonances.

• Application of Insight
o Application of knowledge about Global Buddhism and particularly
mindfulness and insight into their emergence analytically to other
o Application of various theoretical models and analytical concepts in
thematic culture comparison, better to understand emerging Buddhist
o Based on discernment of the great diversity of Global Buddhism, to be
able to identify and contextualise them properly.

• Judgement
o To be able to critically examine and evaluate the great variety of
developments in Global Buddhism and to be able to contextualise these.
o To be able to handle in an informed manner categories such as
‘traditional’ and ‘modernist’, with sufficient discernment and care, and
apply them with both critical awareness and empathy.
o To be able to deal in a discerning manner with issues such as
legitimacy, authenticity, and normativity in Global Buddhism.
o The ability to discern and develop first and third person approaches
in academia.
o Analytical insight into how Buddhism appear “in the eye of the
beholder”: i.e., appreciation of the reflection of our own history of
religious ideas in the study and interpretation of foreign religious
systems, such as the rapprochement between Buddhism and psychology.

• Communication
o Basic academic skills in writing and debating, and in effectively
presenting of data, academic arguments, and research results,
individually and with peers, and being able to provide and receive peer

• Learning skills
o To be able to engage in selective reading in voluminous and varied
primary and secondary sources; for instance, the ability judiciously to
extract relevant data from chapters and articles that are written from a
variety of perspectives and theoretical framings and skilfully to manage
the distinction of primary doctrinal and narrative sources and secondary
sources that engage in description, analysis and reflection.

Course Content

Buddhism ‘On the Move’: Mindfulness and Global Buddhism

There always has been something truly international about Buddhism;
perhaps even more so today.
Buddhism may in fact be one of the very few common denominators within
that notoriously vague and somewhat orientalist notion “Asia”, which is
and always has been of tremendous importance and impact on the global
arena. More recently, Buddhism has also spread, far and wide, beyond
Asia, more often than not mediated through popular culture (e.g.,
Richard Gere), invading the privacy of our homes (the ubiquitous Buddha
statues) and even of our very minds (e.g., mindfulness) and has entered
officially sanctioned regimens of mental (self-)discipline.

This course addresses the question what happens when so-called Buddhism
‘spreads’ and becomes an international force: how does it spread and
what are the underlying culture dynamics—also in terms of social,
economic and political forces—and what local responses are provoked, if
Is ‘Buddhism on the move’ faithfully replicated in the process; does it
adapt to the logic of the receiving culture; and if so can we still
consider it Buddhism and what does that reveal about what is going on at
the ‘receiving end’? In this case study of the globalisation and
mainstreaming of mindfulness we explore the latter avenue, by way of
working hypothesis, and we are particularly interested in processes of
de-contextualisation and re-contextualisation, when mindfulness emerges
from countercultural folds into mainstream discourses.

While we shall strive to find focus in our seminar by asking what can we
learn from the case of the global rise of interest in mindfulness, this
course is open to inquiry and essays on all pertinent case studies from
Global Buddhism.

Teaching Methods


Method of Assessment

Summaries & reflection 20%, paper outline & thesis statement 20%, paper

Entry Requirements



See course outline on Canvas

Target Audience

This module is part of the Research Master and is an elective for all
other master students.

Additional Information

Attendance is mandatory, for at least 80% of the meetings.

Recommended background knowledge

Basic knowledge of Buddhism (may be resolved by reading task)

General Information

Course Code G_RMBOTM1
Credits 6 EC
Period P1
Course Level 400
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Religion and Theology
Course Coordinator dr. H.W.A. Blezer
Examiner dr. H.W.A. Blezer
Teaching Staff

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Seminar
Target audiences

This course is also available as: