December 17, 2005

Thurman, Robert
[V2607] Buddhism: Indo-Tibetan

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

If an instructor can polarize students into 2 diametrically opposed camps, he must be doing something right. I personally feel that the class was awesome. This being said, I can fully understand the frustration of others with whom I talk about this class. Thurman does not think a linear fashion. The thought process of the class itself is tangential to say the least. If you can get past that, the result is rewarding as you glean very real insight into a culture that you may not know so much about.

Thurman is truly a character. Regardless of your politics (and he is very left of center) the discussions are humorous when they pertian to the modern state of affairs. He has attained expertise in the field and it shows in every lecture. He literally "wrote the book" so to speak.

The subject matter is exceedingly esoteric. Western thought does not encompass all that is taught in the class. Quite a bit of mental gymnastics are required to understand the concepts particularly in the latter half of the semester.

The second half of the semester is largely for naught.
There is no final per se but only a final paper.

If you do all the reading (no easy task) and are attentive in lecture, the midterm is no problem. Time management is crucial during it but the end result is generally positive if one focuses on what was learned.

The final paper, much like all other aspects of the class, is poorly defined. This is part of its charm though and you are able to write on anything you desire so as it pertains to Buddhism and Buddhist culture.

Anybody interested in the study of religion would enjoy this class. So too would those interested in Eastern philosophy. If you are taking this class for reasons of conversion rethink it. The class is sterile and academic and is not intended to be an impetus for conversion. The class is 100+ students, even at the end of the semester, effectively precluding the ability to meet people. Good class all around.

Workload:

Very heavy reading (200-400 pp. a week... I managed to do it all... not true of all); attend class, you might not think so but it helps during the midterm; final paper of considerable length... all are manageable