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The format for exams is short essay. You should not write more than 1 or 2 double-spaced pages
per essay. You will be given a choice of multiple essay prompts of which you must chose a
select number (for example, there may be 3 prompts of which you would be required to answer
2). Prompts will be disseminated on the morning of the exam and you must submit your essays
by 5:00pm that afternoon. A submission file will be created on CCLE. Please submit your exam
answers there. You may refer to your notes

, the lecture slides, and readings, but please do not
quote directly from the readings or lectures.

Study Tips:

You will not be required to remember precise vocabulary. So as long as you can convey
central concepts accurately, you will not be docked for misspelling or other such minor
mistakes. If you confuse one concept for another however, you will be docked.

Similarly, you should try your best to provide names when possible, but if you can convey
who you are talking about without doing so, this will suffice. If you do attempt to provide a
name, so long as you are in the ballpark and the grader can understand who you are referring
to, misspellings will not be docked for points.

The exam tests especially for your ability to synthesize information and provide an
explanation of why certain concepts, events, or people are significant. Rather than sweat the
minutiae, you should be looking for larger patterns or points of overlap throughout the
readings and lectures.

For example, if you are asked about the Four Noble Truths, you will not be expected to
give an exact definition of each truth and each step of the Eightfold Path. Instead you
should focus on how the Four Noble Truths function together comprehensively as a
model or method for reaching Nirvana. A question about the Four Noble Truths will
thus be more interested in your ability to convey the broader significance of this

A review of lectures and readings should make clear the broader themes that you should
be on the lookout for
l When studying, both lecture content and reading materials are fair game. It will be most
efficient if you focus first on lectures and use readings to sharpen your grasp on the concepts
discussed in lecture.

Some Study Questions:

What are some key events in the life story of Buddha? Why and how does the story attempt
to mark the Buddha as a special figure?

How does the Buddhist concept of karma differ from our contemporary concept of it? How
does karma relate to rebirth? What are some of the realms of rebirth?
l What is Nirvana? What is the path towards attaining Nirvana provided in Mainstream

What happens after the death of the Buddha? How do his disciples respond? How about lay
Buddhists? What are the sources of disagreement among the early Buddhist community after
the Buddha’s passing?

What is Mahayana Buddhism? What is the central figure of this tradition? In what ways does
Mahayana differ from Mainstream Buddhism and how in what way does it pose critiques
towards it?

Exams should be typed in a word processor and turned into the submission folder on CCLE •
Answer TWO of the following. Do not answer anymore or any less. The questions will be
based around a topic with several sub-questions. Answer ALL sub-questions in order to get
full credit.
• Partial credit may be assigned.
• Answers should be about 1 to 2 double-spaced pages. Under no circumstances
whatsoever should you write UNDER 1 page, or OVER 2.5 pages.
• You are free to consult notes, lectures, readings, and slides as you write. But please make
sure you are not copying anything verbatim from slides or readings. All answers must be in
your own words.
1. The Story of the Buddha What are some key events or features of the Buddha’s life that
are meant to indicate his nature as a “superior” being? How did the Buddha’s early life
influence his eventual decision to become a sage? What was the event that convinced him
to embark on his spiritual quest? Finally, briefly tell us why you think it is important to study
the Buddha’s life, even if it is not always possible to determine its many fantastical episodes
as actual historical fact (hint: See lectures for 10/6 and 10/8, Gethin reading on the Historical
2. Karma and Rebirth How does the contemporary concept of karma differ from the original
Buddhist concept? Please give a brief definition of karma in the Buddhist context. How is
karma related to rebirth? How is the “conundrum” of rebirth, especially as it relates to the
question of no-self solved (hint: Dependent Arising)? What are some realms of rebirth? What
is meant by the “destruction” of karma?
3. The Path to Awakening What is Nirvana? In your answer, be sure to describe both levels
of Nirvana (with and without remainder). How does the Buddha himself describe Nirvana?
What was the program that the Buddha laid out for his disciples to follow in order to achieve
it (please explain with reference to the Four Noble Truths)? What are some examples of
practice that may help one achieve awakening?
4. Buddhism After the Buddha What was the crisis that befell the Buddhist community after
the Buddha’s death and how did they solve this problem (hint: why was the first council
convened? Think also of the fact that Buddhist canon emerges out of this gathering)? How
did lay people respond to the death of the Buddha, that is, how did they fill in the void left by
his absence? What gave rise to the earliest schisms in the Buddhist community? What gave
rise to the early mainstream schools and what role did the abdhidharma play?
5. Mahayana Buddhism What are the Three Vehicles and how do Mahayana Buddhists use
this model to critique Mainstream Buddhists? Who are the bodhisattvas and how does their
path differ from that of arhats (the Eightfold Path)? How else do Mahayana Buddhists
distinguish themselves from Mainstream Buddhism? You might think about doctrinal
differences such as the emphasis on emptiness, or ideological distinctions such as the
emphasis on compassion. Please be sure though to tell us how these Mahayana concepts
and ideas differ from an equivalent in the mainstream tradition.

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