LibrlSt 721: Special Topics in Liberal Studies
Anne Hansen, Assistant Professor of History, Comparative Study of Religion Program
List of Readings
Love and Attachment in Buddhist Literature
Martha Nussbaum, Love's Knowledge
Selections on love from Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Martin Luther King, Jr.
Paul's Letter to the Corinthians
Khaggavisana-sutta, Dhaniya-sutta, Metta-sutta from the Sutta-Nipata
Selections from Arya Sura, Once the Buddha was a Monkey
Selections from Saddharma Ratnavaliya
Himmalawa Saddhatissa, Before He was the Buddha
Chan Khong, Learning True Love
Thich Nhat Hanh, "Call Me by my True Names" and Cultivating the Mind of Love
Course DescriptionBuddhism has often been characterized in the West as a religious tradition that teaches an ethic of individual salvation, world renunciation, and detachment from ordinary family life. While many Buddhist writing extol the virtues of the solitary celibate life of the bhikkhu or monk, Buddhist literature contains an equally powerful examination of the ethics of attachment, social responsibility, friendship, and family life. Within this literature, it is the parent-child relationship-rather than romantic love, as in many Western works-that serves as the primary paradigm for love. This Buddhist inquiry into the nature of love and attachment tends to be expressed through narrative: stories that are widely known and enjoyed in Buddhist cultures and which come to serve as a medium for ethical reflection on the complexities and responsibilities involved in human relations.
In this course, we will begin by reading several important Western conceptions of love as a basis for comparison, and then turn to an examination of Buddhist narrative writings for their ethical treatments of love, relatedness, and attachment. We will ask and try to answer such questions as: How have Buddhists defined, understood, and experienced love? According to Buddhist perspective, how and why should human beings love? From a Buddhist standpoint, what ethical values, imperatives, ideas, and tensions arise from our relationships? How do our attachments to and treatment of others define us? How do Buddhist conceptions of love differ from traditional Western treatments of the topic? The texts we will read are drawn from a variety of Buddhist historical and cultural settings ranging from the earliest oral Buddhist texts composed in India to contemporary autobiography.
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