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Course Information

Instructor Info:Ryan Joo
Office Extension x5589
TA Info:Francesco Passalacqua
Term: 2013S
Meeting Info: Wednesday
02:30 PM - 05:20 PM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 108

When discussing Buddhism, why is it that westerners often project a romanticized and idealized image of Buddhism unfounded in Asian history? For instance, why do we imagine Tibet as a place of mysticism, simplicity and inner peace, while remaining completely ignorant about Tibetan history, geography, political systems, foreign relations and/or social customs? In addition, what do Buddhist mindfulness meditation and western psychotherapy have in common? How do Buddhist therapists practice different methods such as ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy) and MBCT (mindfulness based cognitive therapy for depression)? While drawing on various recent studies on Buddhist modernity, Orientalism, western psychology, globalization, the course will explore two related areas of emerging fields in modern Buddhism. 

Evaluation Criteria:

This course has six requirements. All must be successfully completed in order to receive a final evaluation (or grade) for this course.


1. Attendance and Participation: I expect students to come to class on time and to attend all scheduled class meetings. Feeling “under the weather” is not a valid reason for missing class, but serious illness is. If you have to miss a class due to serious illness, religious observance, or family emergency, you must make every effort to contact the instructor and inform him of your absence prior to the class. You should also bring a doctor’s note or other official document to your instructor. Otherwise, it will be counted as an absence. Under normal circumstances, students who miss more than one class will not receive an evaluation (or grade above C-). Keep in mind that when you miss a class, it becomes your responsibility to contact your classmates or instructor to find out about the announcements and class discussion that you missed. 


The reading for each week will be approximately 150 pages on average. I expect students to complete the reading assignment before coming to each class, and to be ready to take an active role in the discussion. Class participation is an important part of the course requirements.


2. Weekly Online Reflection Papers: Each week, students must post a weekly online reflection of 250-400 words and one discussion question to the discussion board of our course website by Tuesday 10:30 PM. You should do the readings carefully and articulate what you have understood to be the key issue and recurring themes of the assigned readings. It should not, however, be a simple summary or paraphrasing of the readings, which will be evaluated negatively. All writings should be free of spelling and grammatical errors, and should be written in a formal writing style.


Students are encouraged to read their classmates’ reflections and leave at least two short comments (50-80 words each) each week. Your fellow classmates’ reactions to your reflection are meant to stimulate your own thoughts about the assigned readings. Your short comments on your classmates' reflections can be posted as late as 12:30 PM on Wed. This is a crucial component for the success of our class, and a student who fails to post more than two weekly reflections or short comments will not receive an evaluation (or grade above C-).  


3. One Research Paper: Students will be asked to write one long substantial research paper for this class. The research paper (10 pages) can focus on any of the three topics covered in this class. Your research paper should be emailed directly to by May 8th2:30 PM. Keep in mind that late papers will not be accepted, and plagiarism is strictly prohibited.


Plagiarism is the presentation of another person’s ideas or words as your own, without acknowledging the source.  Plagiarism is a serious offense, and can result in No Evaluation for the course or even disciplinary withdrawal from the College. As you write your papers, you must be sure to cite your sources thoroughly and correctly, whether you are quoting directly or paraphrasing.  Ignorance of plagiarism is not an excuse.  If you are ever uncertain as to whether doing something is technically plagiarism, please ask your instructor and read the Ethics of Scholarship webpage on the Hub. []


You should also consult with writing reference manuals for correct citation and bibliographic formats, including for citing Internet sources. If you think that you will benefit from receiving outside help, please contact one of the three teachers at the WritingCenter and make an appointment to see him/her.



4. Class Presentations: During this semester, you will be paired with another student and invited to make 30-40 minute long presentations to the rest of the class. Presenters are expected to survey the assigned readings and articulate some of the key issues in our readings while posing two or three questions for the discussion. Students will have lots of latitude as far as what and how to make their presentation, although the use of multiple media (e.g. Power Point, YouTube, film, photo, music, bodily demonstration, drawing, map, handout, etc.) is strongly recommended. Your group will be evaluated not just on the content of your presentation but also on the effectiveness of your teaching performance. Therefore, try to meet with your group early and make your presentation as interactive, creative and intellectually stimulating as possible.


5. Portfolio: Students should maintain their own portfolio, keeping all work done for this course. This portfolio should contain 1) your self-evaluation and 2) 7-8 exemplary printed copies of your online. Please hand in your complete portfolio in our last class, May 1st 2:30 PM. Your final paper should be emailed directly to by 2:30 PM, May 8thNo portfolio or the final paper will be accepted after the due date.


6. Policy on Cell Phone and Laptop Computer Usage: As a courtesy to your instructor and classmates, please turn off your cell phone for the duration of the class. If your phone rings, you have to bring cookies for everyone to share in the next class. Unless it is directly related to the class presentation, you should also disable your wifi connection and refrain from using the Internet, as it can distract both you and your classmates. 

Additional Info:

Text Books and Articles

Students are required to purchase six books for this course. They are available at the Amherst Bookstore (8 Main St. Amherst, MA)

  • Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha (New York: Bantam Book, 2003)
  • Russ Harris, ACT Made Simple (Oakland: New Harbinger, 2009).
  • Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, Jon Kabat-Zinn, The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness (New York: Guilford Press, 2007)
  • Mark Epstein, Psychotherapy without the Self: A Buddhist Perspective (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008)
  • David L. McMahan, The Making of Buddhist Modernism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008)
  • Donald Lopez, Prisoner of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1999)