This fall, the UA Department of East Asian Studies will introduce its new Buddhist studies minor.
Buddhism, one of the most ancient religions, continues to thrive across the globe. With more than 350 million adherents, Buddhism makes up approximately 6 percent of the world’s population, making it the world’s fourth largest religion.
Hoping to further educate Arizona students in the diverse and colorful cultures around the globe, the new Buddhist studies minor will be available for the 2015 fall semester.
The new minor will target students from a wide variety of disciplines to expand knowledge on what East Asian studies professor Jiang Wu describes Buddhism as — not just a religion but a cultured tradition.
With the new Buddhist studies minor, students will be able to gain better insight into other cultures and lifestyles that contribute to life around the world.
“This new minor will help the students appreciate the different cultures that have been influenced by Buddhism,” said Albert Welter, head of the Department of East Asian Studies, “and [it will] overall change how they look at the world.”
Students can take an assortment of different classes concerning Buddhism. From the introduction to East Asian Buddhism to Zen Buddhism, there is a wide variety of courses to choose from. UA students will also have the option to take classes pertaining to ancient, medieval and modern Japanese religion, as well as those pertaining to other East Asian countries.
While the program will not be available until the fall semester, students said they are excited for what the minor has to offer.
Florence Luna, a UA senior studying business economics and East Asian studies, with a minor in Mandarin, said she will also be adding the Buddhist studies minor to her repertoire. Luna said that with this minor, students can gain further knowledge in other cultures and have the opportunity to discuss topics they would not have been able to explore before.
“These new courses can open up a discourse to which there really is no right answer,” Luna said. “They are almost controversial. It allows us to look into the in-between and discuss the different perspectives of the world that we didn’t know before.”
Along with the minor, the East Asian studies department will feature the Buddhism Lecture Series. The lecture series is in conjunction with the UA Confluencenter. Lectures are free to the public and will be held at 4 p.m. in the Poetry Center’s Ruble Room.
Earlier this month, Welter presented the first lecture of the series, “Reading a Zen Classic: The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch.” In the following weeks, various UA professors will present their own lectures, with sociology professor Celestino Fernandez on “Happiness and Buddhism” on April 14 and Wu on “Religious Imagination in the World of Lotus Sutra” on May 5.
While this lecture series is not required to be enrolled in the minor, it complements the ideals that are to be taught in the Buddhist studies minor.
“This lecture series is for the public to better understand Buddhism, to make sure that Buddhist studies is for all,” Wu said. “In the lecture series, we are also able to present our research and studies to the public as well.”
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