1. Contact Information
  2. Prerequisites
  3. Course Description and Credit Hours
  4. Required Texts
  5. Course Objectives
  6. Student Learning Outcomes
  7. Other Course Materials
  8. Outline Of Topics
  9. Exams and Assignments
  10. Grading Policy
  11. Policy on Missed Exams and Coursework
  12. Attendance Policy
  13. Notification of Changes
  14. Custom Sections
  15. Statements on Academic Misconduct
  16. Statement On Disability Accommodations
  17. Severe Weather Protocol
  18. Pregnant Student Accommodations
  19. Religious Observances
  20. UAct Statement


REL 209-001Fall 2019 | 3 Credit Hours


Dr. Steven Ramey

Contact Information

UA Campus Directory:

Office hours Thursdays 9-10 and 1-2

Everyone in this course is encouraged to come to my office hours. A professor's office hours are time set aside especially for discussions with students about the course or other issues. If those times are not convenient, you are also welcome to set up an appointment and/or contact me by phone (348-4218) or email (steven.ramey@ua.edu) for assistance. Please speak with me well in advance if you are having difficulties satisfactorily completing the course’s requirements on time or if you anticipate routine absences.  Although I cannot guarantee that reasonable accommodations can be made, speaking with me before a problem arises will greatly enhance our ability to address the situation in a way that is fair to your classmates and beneficial to you.


UA Course Catalog Prerequisites:

No prereqs found

Course Description

Course Description and Credit Hours

This course offers a survey of religious themes and movements related to Buddhism in various Asian countries and North America. The topics include historical narratives, interpretations of texts, transformations of rituals, diaspora and identity, nationalism and politics, and Buddhism in contemporary culture.

The course begins with the common representation of Buddhism, both the origins and concepts associated with Buddhism before complicating that common representation with additional stories of its origin and the complexity of activities and ideas associated with Buddhism. This semester, the course will particularly focus on practices in Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Japan, and Thailand, among other locations.

Required Texts

Required Texts from UA Supply Store:
  • KEOWN / (eBook) Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction (Optional)

Student Learning Outcomes

Students in REL 321 will be able to . . .

  1. Describe the basic elements and terms in common presentations of Buddhism.

  2. Complicate the origin stories and common presentations of Buddhism.

  3. Discuss the diversity and conflicting definitions among those who identify with Buddhism.

  4. Critically analyze academic representations of Buddhism.

  5. Develop effective written communication skills.

Other Course Materials

Additional readings will be available on Blackboard as PDFs.

Outline of Topics

The readings listed with each day should be completed before that day’s seminar. Assignments listed as Keown, DeVido, and McDaniel can be found in Damien Keown A Very Short Introduction to Buddhism, Elise Anne DeVido Taiwan's Buddhist Nuns, and Justin McDaniel The Lovelorn Ghost and the Magical Monk, respectively. When page numbers are given, the selection begins at the first heading on that page and ends at the first heading on the final page, unless the page number is followed by a ` that indicates the selection begins or ends without a heading.

Readings marked with ** will be available in the Additional Readings folder on the course’s Blackboard page.

Class session



Aug 22 Introductions

Aug 27 Critiquing Perspectives

McDaniel, pp. 1-10`

Keown chp. 1

Aug 29 Origins

Keown 2

Sept 3 Basic Concepts I

Keown 3

Sept 5 Basic Concepts II

Keown 4

Sept 10 Alternate Stories

**Almond "The Discovery of Buddhism"

Sept 12 Spread Through Asia

Keown 5-6

Sept 17 General Practices

Keown 7-8

Sept 19 Complications and Review

Sept 24

In-Class Test

Sept 26 Theravada

**Mitchell "Theravada"

Oct 1 Sri Lanka

**Blackburn "Buddha-Relics in the Lives of South Asian Polities"

Oct 3 China

** Yu "Sutra Promoting White Robed Guanyin"

**Welter "Buddhist Ritual and the State"

Oct 8 Nuns in Taiwan I

DeVido Introduction, chps. 1-2

Oct 10 Nuns in Taiwan II

DeVido chps. 3-4

Oct 15 Nuns in Taiwan III

DeVido chps. 5-6, Conclusion

Oct 17 Japan I

**Yusa "Arrival of Buddhism"

Oct 22 Japan II

**King "Awakening Stories of Zen Buddhist Women"

**Morrell "Muju Ichien's Shinto-Buddhist Syncretism"

Oct 24 Japan III

**Tanabe "Founding of Mt. Koya"

Essay on DeVido due

Oct 29 Modern Thailand I

McDaniel chp. 1, esp. 23-26, 53-71


Nov 5 Modern Thailand II

McDaniel chp. 2, esp. 72-81, 85-92, 109-120

Nov 7 Modern Thailand III

McDaniel chp. 3, esp. 121-125, 136`-141, 151-160

Nov 12 Modern Thailand IV

McDaniel chp. 4, esp. 161-167, 183`-208`

Nov 14 Modern Thailand V

McDaniel Conclusion

Nov 19 Tibet I

**Kapstein "Royal Way of Supreme Compassion"

**Rinpoche "2 Mantras"

Nov 21 Tibet II

**Lopez "Introduction" to Prisoners of Shangri-La

Nov 26 North America I

Essay on McDaniel due


Dec 3 North America II

** Cadge "New Organizations"

Dec 5 Conclusions and Review

Dec 13 Final Exam

Take Home Final due by 10:30 am

Exams and Assignments


For the Additional Readings posted on Blackboard (designated with ** before the reading in the schedule above), each student should post before the start of class on the Blackboard discussion board comments or questions related to the reading (about 1 paragraph worth). These comments may address a specific passage or an issue across the entire reading. Posts may involve an observation about the representation of a particular issue (power dynamics, social relations, gender, religious identification, etc.), questions that the readings raised that you want to discuss further, or connections with other assigned readings or class discussion. Each response is worth 20 points, with credit for a maximum of 6 responses out of the 10 days with Additional Readings.


Students will take one in-class test that will emphasize the terms, narratives, and representations of Buddhism generally, as presented and analyzed in the first portion of the course. The test will include both short answer and paragraph / short essay answers and will be given on September 24. Anyone who misses the test day (for reasons beyond their control) should contact the Professor as soon as possible to schedule a make-up. After September 30, any make-up scheduled will be taken as an oral examination rather than a written test.


Each student will write an essay of 4-5 pages that presents an overview and analysis of the argument and representation (or a portion of the argument and representation) in the required books Taiwan's Buddhist Nuns by Elise Anne DeVido and The Lovelorn Ghost and the Magical Monk by Justin McDaniel. Each essay should be written as formal academic papers, and they will be graded according to a rubric and further instructions provided in class. These essays are due on October 24 and November 26, respectively.


The final exam for this course will be a take-home exam and will be due at the time scheduled by the university, December 13 at 10:30 am.

Grading Policy

The course includes a total of 1000 points possible, distributed as follows:


Points possible (Total of 1000)

Attendance and Participation


Discussion Board Posts

6 @ 20 points each




Essay on DeVido


Essay on McDaniel


Take Home Final


Final grades will be based on the following ranges: 970-1000 = A+; 920-969 = A; 900-919 = A-; 870-899 = B+; 820-869 = B; 800-819 = B-; 770-799 = C+; 720-769 = C; 700-719= C-; 600-699 = D; 0-599 = F

All academic work must be the product of the scholar submitting it. Cheating will not be tolerated. Plagiarizing the work of someone else (quoting or summarizing another person’s ideas or intellectual labor without giving them credit through proper quotations, citations, and acknowledgment) is a serious offence. (See Academic Misconduct Policy linked below.)

Policy on Missed Exams and Coursework

Late submissions of any assignments will be penalized. Final papers must be submitted by the due date because of the necessity of submitting final grades.

Attendance Policy

The success of this course requires the contribution of all scholars. When you are absent, you miss an opportunity to learn from others, and they miss an opportunity to learn from you. More than 3 absences will significantly impact your attendance /participation grade. If the absences are beyond your control due to health or family reasons, let me know as soon as possible. The impact of such excused absences may be reduced. If you are late, please join the class as soon as possible without disrupting the learning experience. Habitual tardiness, however, is unacceptable and can be counted as an absence. You remain responsible for anything that you miss, including announcements.

Your positive participation in the seminar is also vital. Participation goes beyond the number of words someone speaks to include both their contribution to the overall class and their attentiveness. I expect everyone to speak up during classes. Be prepared to ask questions about the readings and class material and/or contribute your own ideas or analysis. Disruptive behavior or disrespect shown to others will not be tolerated.

Notification of Changes

The instructor will make every effort to follow the guidelines of this syllabus as listed; however, the instructor reserves the right to amend this document as the need arises. In such instances, the instructor will notify students in class and/or via email and will endeavor to provide reasonable time for students to adjust to any changes.

Statement on Academic Misconduct

Students are expected to be familiar with and adhere to the official Academic Misconduct Policy provided in the Online Catalog.

Statement On Disability Accommodations

Contact the Office of Disability Services (ODS) as detailed in the Online Catalog.

Severe Weather Protocol

Please see the latest Severe Weather Guidelines in the Online Catalog.

Pregnant Student Accommodations

Title IX protects against discrimination related to pregnancy or parental status. If you are pregnant and will need accommodations for this class, please review the University’s FAQs on the UAct website.

Religious Observances

Under the Guidelines for Religious Holiday Observances, students should notify the instructor in writing or via email during the first two weeks of the semester of their intention to be absent from class for religious observance. The instructor will work to provide reasonable opportunity to complete academic responsibilities as long as that does not interfere with the academic integrity of the course. See full guidelines at Religious Holiday Observances Guidelines.

UAct Statement

The University of Alabama is committed to an ethical, inclusive community defined by respect and civility.  The UAct website (www.ua.edu/uact)  provides extensive information on how to report or obtain assistance with a variety of issues, including issues related to dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault, sexual violence or other Title IX violations, illegal discrimination, harassment, hate or bias incidents, child abuse or neglect, hazing, threat assessment, retaliation, and ethical violations or fraud.