Self and Belonging - Buddhism for Beginners

Course summary

  • Wed 04 Oct 2017 to Wed 06 Dec 2017
  • 2:00-4:00pm 10 meetings
  • Ewert House, Ewert Place, Oxford, OX2 7DD
  • From £199.00
  • 10 CATS points
  • Course code O17P625THW
  • +44 (0)1865 280892
  • Course ended

Self and Belonging - Buddhism for Beginners


A number of issues have been addressed in recent times concerned with how we behave with one another, how we live in changing times, and cope with the endless change in society around us. This course examines these questions carefully, and discusses the Buddhist path as a way to peace in the midst of change that is not denied, but integrated with a sense of belonging.  We will look at primary texts, modern practice and modern interpretations, to explore how an unusually modern and friendly understanding of the self is suggested by the way the texts deal with ethics, our relationships with others, such as friends, family and colleagues, and our interactions with the world. Each week we will take a short piece of text, with one modern interpretation, and find out how Buddhist psychology is applied and enacted.  There will be discussion too of art and artefacts as a way of communicating human psychology, and how they were intended to encourage us in our daily lives and dealings with others. So visual aids will be used, and there will be a visit to the Ashmolean for one session, to show Buddhist imagery as a kind of 'text' we can read now. No previous experience of the subject is needed.

Programme details

Term Starts:   4th October   

Week 1: The life of the Buddha: the middle way

Week 2: A sense of self: the importance of being true

Week 3: The way of ethics: an introduction

Week 4: The way of ethics: some new approaches

Week 5: The way of views: an introduction

Week 6: The way of views: some new approaches

Week 7: Art as a 'text': Ashmolean visit

Week 8: The way of mindfulness and meditation 1.

Week 9: The way of mindfulness and meditation 2.

Week 10: Overview

Background Reading:

Gethin R., Foundations of Buddhism

Keown, D., A Very short Introduction

Shaw, S., The Spirit of Buddhism

If you are planning to purchase books, remember that courses with too few students enrolled will be cancelled. The Department accepts no responsibility for books bought in anticipation of a course.

If you have enrolled on a course starting in the autumn, you can become a borrowing member of the Rewley House library from 1st September. If you are enrolled on a course starting in other terms, you can become a borrowing member once the previous term has ended.

Recommended reading

Education Library for the duration of their course. Prospective students whose courses have not yet started are welcome to use the Library for reference. More information can be found on the Library website.

There is a Guide for Weekly Class students which will give you further information. 

Availability of titles can be checked on SOLO, the library catalogue.


Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.

If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to do so.


Course fee: £199.00
Take this couse for CATS points: £10.00


Dr Emily Kilburn

Dr Sarah Shaw

Sarah, a fellow of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, lectures and writes on Buddhism. Emily has wide experience in adult education, and has just completed an Oxford DPhil in Religious Studies. Both have travelled widely in South and Southeast Asia.

Course aims

The aim of this course is to give an introduction to Buddhism that places it in our everyday lives and experiences.

Course Objectives

1. To introduce some key concepts of Buddhist principle.

2. To see some relationship with these in the problems we all face now.

3. To arouse an enjoyment of exploring Buddhism as a living tool.

Teaching methods

This class will work through a certain set pattern each session. The class will begin with a short talk on the main theme of the week. We will then, after questions, read in class a short piece of text, which we will discuss. Another, modern interpretation will be read that gives perhaps a different perspective. After the break, we will use audio-visual aids, powerpoints and various class exercises to find out more about the background to what we are discussing. We hope to use a variety of materials to help us find out more about Buddhism in practice.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

1. Describe the middle way and the eightfold path.

2. Feel more confident in approaching Buddhist readings.

3. Know about some contexts and ways Buddhist practice, meditation and mindfulness are enacted.

Assessment methods

Assessment methods will be either: Option A, and four short written pieces around the work and themes discussed in the class. These may be written in the first person, and may include material, for instance, from our Ashmolean visit or Option B, an essay of 1500 words, on a subject agreed with the tutors.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form.


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)