Eastern Philosophy Spring 2002

Eastern Philosophy

"From the Buddha to Zen"

CSUS Spring 2002


Philosophy 4450 Dr. Andy Young

Section 001 ayoung@stan.csustan.edu

#21482 Office: 667-3215

3 units Secretary: 667-3216

Monday 6-9 p.m. Office Hours: M 4 - 6 p.m.

Room CX-102


This course will focus primarily on the development of Zen Buddhist thought. The course will begin with a brief introduction to the Hindu and Jain philosophies that formed the historical background to Buddhism in India. The course will then introduce the life and times of the Buddha, the historical development of Buddhism, and basic philosophical controversies and positions in Buddhist thought (including ideas such as impermanence, no-self, and emptiness).

After this introduction to Buddhism the course will narrow its focus to Zen Buddhist thought and practices, first through a general introduction by two highly respected founders of Zen movements. This will be followed by a careful retrospective reading of a few key historical figures in Buddhism. The course will end with an examination of attempts at cross cultural philosophy, in particular we will study passages from Nishitani, a mid-twentieth century Japanese thinker, well versed in both Zen and Western existentialist and continental thought. Again, we will be looking carefully at Nishitanis understanding of nothingness, comparing this to Buddhist concepts of emptiness and existentialist/postmodern concepts of nothingness and Ereignis.

Students will be given an opportunity to give a short presentation on a practical application of Zen principles (such as gardening, martial arts, archery, tea ceremony, motorcycle maintenance, and so on).

During the semester I hope to occasionally show films, and have invited guest lectures.

I will try to place course books on reserve in the library.


  • Continued development of critical thinking and philosophical writing abilities.
  • Continued development of abilities to ask and respond to thoughtful questions, and to perform in-depth philosophical analyses.
  • Gain an understanding of basic philosophical problems in East Asian thought, and specific Buddhist positions on these problems.
  • Gain an understanding of controversies within Buddhist thought.
  • Understand the influence of Buddhist thought on contemporary Western culture.
  • Crucially reflect upon your own philosophical perspective and life values after careful exploration of the problems and issues presented in Buddhist thought.


Exams: Three in-class written exams (dates listed in the schedule may change). Paper: One 4-6 page typed, double-spaced paper on a topic related to the practical application of Zen. Presentation: An in-class summary presentation of the content of the Paper. Participation: As a seminar course, much of the work in the course occurs in the weekly discussions, so your course grade may be adjusted up to half a letter grade, up or down, depending on the quality (and not necessarily the quantity) of your class participation. This includes reading material prior to class, and being prepared to discuss it intelligently.

I will be using the +/- grading system for this class. Plagiarism and/or cheating will result in failure of the course.


Introduction to Buddhism

Feb. 18 Introduction to Course and Brief Introduction to Hinduism (Film: Historical Roots of Hinduism) Selection of Term paper topic and directions for writing a philosophy paper. Feb. 25 Buddhism #1: The Life and Times of the Buddha (Film: The Little Buddha) Mar. 4 Buddhism #2: The Historical Development of Buddhism (an overview) (Film: A Separate Peace: (Selections)

Mar. 11 Buddhism #3: The Philosophies of Buddhism (Film: Kundun)


Introduction to Zen

Mar. 18 Thich Nhat Hahn, The Miracle of Mindfulness Mar. 25 Suzuki Roshi, Zen Mind, Beginners Mind (Film on Zen Students life)


Apr. 1 Spring Break

Historical Development of Zen Thought:

Apr. 8 Nagarjuna Apr. 15 Bodhidharma Apr. 22 Dogen (Selections for Moon in a Dewdrop) Apr. 29 Commentary on the Heart Sutra, Thich Nhat Hahn (Film: Selections for the Moyers Film on the Environment, Dalai Lama)

East Meets West

May 6 #1 Keiji Nishitani. Religion and Nothingness May 13 #2 Keiji Nishitani. Religion and Nothingness


Student Presentations

May 20 Week #1 May 31 Week #2 (Finals time)

Presentation and Term Paper

Texts: Bodhidharma. The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma. Translator, Red Pine. North Point Press, 1989. ISBN 0865473994 ($12.00 list) Course Packet (Nishitani and Dogen) (Estimate at $5.00) Koller and Koller: Asian Philosophies. 4th edition. Prentice Hall, 2001. ISBN 0130923850. ($43.00 list) Nagarjuna. The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way: Nagarjunas Mulamadhyamakakarika. Translator, Jay L. Garfield. Oxford University Press, 1995. ISBN 0195093364. ($17.95 list) Shunryu Suzuki. Zen Mind, Beginners Mind. Editor, Trudy Dixon. Weatherhill, 1988. ISBN 0834800799 ($9.95) Thich Nhat Hanh. The Heart of Understanding: Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra. Parallax Press, 1988. ISBN 0938077112 ($7.00 list) Thich Nhat Hanh. The Miracle of Mindfulnes: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation. Translator, Mobi Ho. Beacon Press, Inc., 1999. ISBN 0807012394 ($12.00 list)