Social anthropologist Dr Nick Swann is the award leader for the MA Buddhist Studies. This part-time distance learning course is delivered by a small team of excellent scholars, including Dr Sarah Shaw and Dr Warren Todd.
How did you come to teach Buddhist Studies?
Through a love of Social Anthropology and what it can offer in helping to understand a ‘messy’ world.
What was the biggest learning curve?
Doing extended fieldwork in a Buddhist monastery in North India.
Tell us about your current research
I’ve been working on religion and the internet for a couple of years now; particularly the role of the imagination/ideation in making the internet a viable environment for religious activity by some groups – including, but not exclusively, Buddhist groups. Religions have always explored the uses of communication technology, and this is a fascinating time to research this. A publication will be forthcoming soon.
What are the best features of this course?
The MA is unique in several ways. The asynchronous distance learning format makes it very flexible for students anywhere in the world. The weekly online discussions (again, asynchronous) are always interesting – especially when a group is well-balanced in terms of its variety of expertise and background.
The practical ethics phase of the Buddhist Ethics module is usually enjoyable, as it at the real world implementation of Buddhist ethical principles. The same principle can be interpreted differently in different cultures, which often throws up surprises and challenges for students.
What to read before class...
Harvey, P. (2013) An Introduction to Buddhism: Teachings, History and Practices. This is a core text which is referred to throughout the course (but particularly in the first module).
Gethin, R. (1998) Foundations of Buddhism. This is both scholarly and accessible, and is very popular with students of all levels.