COOL CLASSES: “Advanced Topics in Buddhist Studies: The Lotus Sutra”

Professor Hank Glassman’s class focuses on the history of the Lotus Sutra, its influence on art, and its role in forming an understanding of Buddhist practice and salvation.

Class name: “Advanced Topics in Buddhist Studies: The Lotus Sutra

Taught by: The Janet and Henry Richotte 1985 Professor of Asian Studies Hank Glassman

Says Glassman about his class:
This is an advanced seminar on the Lotus Sutra, a Buddhist Mahayana text composed in India around the first and second centuries CE. It presents a radically different vision of the person and career of the Buddha and also redefines the soteriological goals for all believers. This text was rendered into Chinese by the great translator Kurmarajiva in 406CE, and it is English translations of this work (Miiaofa lianhua jing) that we will rely on in our class. Of course, those with access to the Chinese will certainly want to consult it.

In the class, we examine issues in the history of the text and its development, its influence on art and literature, and its role in forming an understanding of Buddhist practice and salvation in East Asia.

Glassman on why he wanted to teach this class:
This is an incredibly important and influential text. It is central to the development of Buddhist hermeneutics and also apologetics in China and, more broadly, in East Asia. It has fantastical and breathtaking imagery and memorable narrative — often in parable form — that became widely influential on literature and art.

Glassman on what makes his class unique in his department:
I teach different themes in different years under the rubric “Advanced Topics in Buddhist Studies.” There have been various ones, such as “Pure Land Buddhism,” “Esoteric Buddhism,” “Buddhist Visual Culture,” and so on. I offered a seminar on the Lotus Sutra once before in 2010, so it’s been a long time. The only other course on Buddhism in the Tri-Co this spring is “Intro to Buddhism.”