Theravadin Universities - practitioners' point of view

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom
vitellius
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Theravadin Universities - practitioners' point of view

Postby vitellius » Tue Jul 14, 2009 10:41 am

I was looking through curricula of "Theravadin" Universities and Buddhist Studies courses, e.g.:
http://ibc.ac.th/en/files/Recommended%2 ... tudies.pdf
http://ibc.ac.th/en/files/MA%20Curriculum%20website.pdf
http://www.arts.pdn.ac.lk/pali/ba_inter_external.htm
http://www.myanmar.gov.mm/Perspective/p ... ud5-98.htm
http://www.arts.pdn.ac.lk/pali/ma_mphil.htm

To my opinion there are more things useful for a Theravada practitioner that could be studied in such Universities.

I would like to ask you - what should be taught in your "ideal" Theravadin University?

As for me, apart from Pali and canon study, these should be:

Buddha's teaching as preserved in non-Theravada schools. Knowledge of Classical Chinese, Sanskrit and Prakrits is needed to study Buddha's words as preserved in canons of other Early Buddhist schools. Such study may result in better understanding of delicate aspects of Buddha's Dhamma.

Anatomy and medicine basics - for better understanding of how human body functions, what changes in it with practice and how to maintain oneself healthy. Asubha-sannya practice may also benefit :)

Neuroscience and Psychology - for better understanding of processes happening in mind and mutual enrichment with modern science.

Psychotherapy - as taught in various schools, including practice of it. I read about a western monk who disrobed after 10 years of monkhood. The reason of his disrobing was that he underwent a psychological seminar where he "progressed more than during all years of his Buddhist practice". So it's better to study psychotherapy beforehands to get what it may give and to recognize it's limitations :) Jack Kornfield says that "meditation doesn't do it all for most practitioners", and psychotherapy may be useful for managing troubles of daily life. My humble opinion somewhat differs: knowledge of psychotherapy helps to tune Buddhist practice in the way that prevents psychological problems from appearing and also sometimes helps to understand principles of practice. Monks and teachers-to-be may also learn something for counseling their students.

Context of Buddha's Dhamma. Buddha has learned arupa jhanas from [proto-]Samkhya teachers and taught to people of Vedic and samana background. Jain and original Patanjali's Yoga systems of practice seem to be very similar to Buddhism, but something must be wrong in them! :) So, from studying astika (Vedic, Hindu) and nastika (Jain, Ajivika, Charvaka) texts and systems of practice one may benefit in two ways: first, more precise understanding from knowing background of teaching (what this words meant to those who were addressed) and second, more precise understanding from recognizing differences of Buddhism from resembling but not similar teachings. For studying such materials one needs to develop possession of Indo-Arian languages up to some level.

Cultural and Social Anthropology, Systems of Ethics and related subjects. For understanding social context of religion.

Languages of Theravadin countries. Burmese and Thai are most requested, less needed are Lao, Sinhala, Mon, Khmer. Myanmar particularly seems to be land of well-developed practitioners unknown yet in the West just because they don't have "western" students, and there is no one to translate their teachings in English. Limiting oneself only to teachings available in English or other European languages seems to be quite unwise.

Other systems of spiritual development. Knowledge of practice of other Buddhist schools, Indian schools, Hesychasm, Sufi tradition, Chinese traditions, Greek Philosophy etc. helps better understanding principles of practice.

More meditation practice. Meditation practice as taught by different teachers. In University context, one compulsory yearly at-least-one-month-long retreat at a monastery or center of student's choice would be fine.

What else?

Individual
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Re: Theravadin Universities - practitioners' point of view

Postby Individual » Tue Jul 14, 2009 4:41 pm

I think it's good when they're privately funded, but I oppose theocracy-like policies in places like Thailand, where one religion receives favor or even direct financial support over another.

I like your list, but I would add: biology (especially neurobiology and genetics), advanced mathematics, physics (especially nuclear and quantum physics) and economics.
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Re: Theravadin Universities - practitioners' point of view

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Jul 14, 2009 11:58 pm

Individual wrote:I think it's good when they're privately funded, but I oppose theocracy-like policies in places like Thailand, where one religion receives favor or even direct financial support over another.

I like your list, but I would add: biology (especially neurobiology and genetics), advanced mathematics, physics (especially nuclear and quantum physics) and economics.


Why?

I can sort of understand neurobiology and some quantum physics but don't know your reasoning for the rest?

I would like to see some sort of gradual level (from basics ie level 1to PHD ie level 8 I have posted the levels roughly on another thread I started) structured learning to be developed for both on and off campus. I think what is available at present is good for certain levels or schools but could be improved.
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vitellius
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Re: Theravadin Universities - practitioners' point of view

Postby vitellius » Wed Jul 15, 2009 9:50 am

Individual wrote:I think it's good when they're privately funded, but I oppose theocracy-like policies in places like Thailand, where one religion receives favor or even direct financial support over another.


Yes, and Theravada Buddhist Missionary University in Myanmar gives an example of Soviet-like bureaucracy:
http://burmalibrary.org/docs/ITBMU.htm
But that was 11 years ago, and things might have changed.

But in some cases I guess state support might be good for Buddhism, like in early years of Burmese independence (6th Council, development of Vipassana movement).

Sri Lankan Universities seem to have a nice academic level, while International Buddhist College at Hat Yai ( http://ibc.ac.th/en/ ) looks more practitioner-oriented.

vitellius
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Re: Theravadin Universities - practitioners' point of view

Postby vitellius » Wed Jul 15, 2009 10:07 am

Here is the list of members of The Association of Theravāda Buddhist Universities:
http://atbu.org/memberuniversity

vitellius
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Re: Theravadin Universities - practitioners' point of view

Postby vitellius » Mon Jul 27, 2009 1:21 pm

Two more useful clusters:

Near-death experience and reincarnation studies, parapsychology - to be aware of modern attempts to research such aspects of Buddhism as rebirth and iddhi.
Group dynamics, non-violent communication, psychology of religion, psychology of "destructive cults" - to be able to build a healthy environment in meditation group / center / monastery.

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Re: Theravadin Universities - practitioners' point of view

Postby Mawkish1983 » Mon Jul 27, 2009 3:34 pm

My ideal university? It's all about physics. You really shouldn't leave physics out


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