Topics for Paper I, REL 440/540 Buddhist Scriptures

Due date: Thursday, Oct 20, in class.


1. Devadatta and Ajatasatru

Examine the story of Devadatta and/or Prince Ajatasatru as it relates to one or two of the scriptural sources we have read so far and Richard Hayes' interpretationn in his article "A Buddha and His Cousin." What does/do Devadatta and/or Ajatasatru tell us about karma and delusion as they relate to the development of Buddhism as a historical tradition?

2. Sacred Scripture and Emptiness

In the Buddhist sources we have read so far, there seems to be a tension between the wordless realization of emptiness and the expression of emptiness through words. Identify two or three passages from the primary sources we have read so far and discuss how Buddhists have argued that words can effectively express the wordless.

3. History, Myth, and Emptiness

One could argue that, in terms of time, history corresponds to form, emptiness remains unspoken, and myth provides the bridge between history (form) and emptiness. Discuss two or three cases of this from the scriptures we have read so far, examining some of the problems involved in trying to bridge history and emptiness through the use of myth (and its corresponding practices - such as those of the Pure Land schools and Chih-i's T'ien-t'ai).

4. Buddhas in Sutras

There is the historical Buddha Sakyamuni and then many other Buddhas that make their appearance in various sutras. Compare and contrast the characteristics and roles played by two buddhas in two different scriptural sources. Examine both similarities and differences.