RELI 3420: Early Buddhism

Instructor: Dr. Melanie Coughlin

Course Format: Blended

Course Description:

Early Buddhism is not simply in the past. In this course, we discuss early Buddhist texts that are compiled in the Pali canon in three different but complementary ways. First, we read translations of primary sources from the Pali canon with the goal of describing the beliefs and practices of early Buddhists represented there. Second, we consider historical interpretations of the Pali canon to identify a range of interests motivating later Buddhist commentators. Finally, we trace the significance of the Pali canon for a striking variety of modern Buddhist claims to authenticity—and consider the variety of uses to which these claims are put! While participating in this general discussion, you will have the chance to develop your own individual area of interest and preferred method of study.

If you have questions about the course, feel free to contact the instructor at