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Level 6

6AAT3901 Theravada Buddhism


The modules run in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand so there is no guarantee this module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary depending between years.

Credit value: 15
Module Tutor: Professor Kate Crosby
Assessment: One 2,500-word coursework essay (40%) and one two-hour examination (60%)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

Teaching pattern: one weekly two-hour class per week for ten weeks
Pre-requisites: none; however, this module is a natural continuation of 4AAT1901 Introduction to Buddhism and 5AAT2901 Buddhist Ethics

Sample Teaching Plan

  • Review of knowledge Maps: spread of Buddhism. Identification of Theravāda countries/regions. Key features of Theravada


  • Debates about the status of the Buddha in Theravada.
  • Buddha images. The Buddha as power, protection and authority.
  • Film: The birth of a Buddha


  • The Word of the Buddha: The Pali canon. Vernacular literature. Sermons and performance.
  • Kamma, Dāna and Morality, Transference of merit, Paritta.
  • Meditation. Purpose, variety. How politics can effect it.
  • Abhidhamma: What makes Theravada distinctive in terms of its understanding of the universe, the individual, the Buddha and Buddhist soteriology?


  • Ordination, Sangha and Society
  • Nuns and Women
  • Sangha and State, and Responses to Modern Issues, e.g. The Saffron Revolution, Tree Ordination

Past syllabus

Please find syllabus document available here for academic year 2015-16. Please be aware that the content of the syllabus will differ each year.

Additional course costs

This module includes a trip to a London Buddhism temple, which will require the students to cover the cost of a return public transport fare. 

Further information

Module aims

To provide students with:

  • an overview of the main features of Theravāda Buddhism, both historical and modern
  • as well as more in-depth understanding of the chief sources of religious authority, including texts, key practices, doctrines,
  • an opportunity to engage in debates concerning individual choice versus societal role, the way in which religion engages with and responds to political developments and institutions and the history of different aspects and traditions.
Learning outcomes

Generic skills

By the end of the course the successful student should be able to:

  • engage competently with primary and secondary sources.
  • summarise, evaluate and present ideas.
  • research, plan and deliver presentations and essays to specified deadlines.
  • appreciate non-western cultures and worldviews.

Course specific skills

  • Students should have gained an informed understanding of the history, institutions, doctrines, practices of Theravada Buddhism through study of Theravada in mainland Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka, and in the West.
  • Students will be able to identify the main practices and institutions of Theravada Buddhism.
  • Student will be able to recognise the main ways in which Theravada Buddhism become localised in the regions to which it has spread.
  • Students will be able to explain the how Theravada Buddhism has interacted with political developments.
  • Students will be able to analyse how Theravada Buddhism has responded to modern developments such as expectations of gender equality, globalisation, modernity, the cold war, environmental challenge, etc.
  • Students will be able to demonstrate an awareness of the methodological approaches used in the study of Theravada and themes pursued within those different approaches.
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