For this paper, I want you to pick an aspect of Buddhist practice and discuss the role played by Buddhist philosophical ideas in the development of that practice. The contemporary practice you select can be one we discuss in class (ex: feeding the dead, meditating in caves, or educating nuns), or it can be one your research on your own. In all cases, I want you to ask and answer the question: “How do Buddhist philosophical ideas inform and shape this particular practice?”
The goal of this paper is for you to explore how religious practices develop as philosophical are implemented in real-world situations. Depending on the particular practice you select, you may find that these philosophical ideas have played only a small role. Or you may find that the practice you select is driven almost entirely by Buddhist philosophical notions, with the cultural context playing only a minor part. Once again, more details will be provided in class.
Practice: something that people DO. For instance, spinning prayer wheels is a practice. So is meditating, and so is chanting.
Philosophical idea: something that people THINK. For instance, impermanence is a Buddhist philosophical idea. So are ideas about enlightenment, and so is karma. But meditating is not a philosophical idea (at least, if you think it is you need to be prepared to argue the point!).
As with your first paper, it is important that this paper maintains a critical perspective. That is, it is not enough to give me a bunch of details about some Buddhist philosophical idea and some form of Buddhist practice. Instead, you need to focus on analyzing what you uncover, so that the final paper represents your own original thought process. This analysis must then be crystalized in a clear thesis, or argument. You must, in other words, present your own argument / answer to the question “How do Buddhist philosophical ideas inform and shape this particular practice?”
The final paper should conform to normal academic standards, including: 12 point font, double spaced, 1 inch margins. Please make sure you cite your sources and include a bibliography (I prefer Chicago style, but if you prefer MLA that is acceptable as well). And you should definitely make sure you have a title.
Beyond these technical aspects, it is almost always best for you to follow traditional academic essay structure. This means that your essay should have an opening paragraph, with a clear thesis at the end of that opening paragraph (not somewhere else!) Then several paragraphs in the body, each of which makes a clear point in support of your overall thesis and each of which backs up that point with evidence. Finally, your paper should have a conclusion in which you recap the arguments made over the course of the paper, restating your thesis in the process.
You may find this structure constraining, or feel that you can do something more creative. Most of the time, however, attempts to modify this essay structure are not effective, so while I want you to be creative, I also want to encourage you to stick to this traditional format. If you feel like you have a really great idea for a paper organized in a different way, please feel free to write to me and explain your idea.
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