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Spring 2018: A Buddhist Approach to Development - GDS 3113

Title

Spring 2018: A Buddhist Approach to Development - GDS 3113

When

Wed. Jan 17, 2018 - Tue. May 1, 2018 (15 weeks)
Every Monday, Wednesday from 5:00 PM to 6:45 PM

Where

Rotunda Room 150

Buddhism takes an ethical and practical view of how individuals and societies can develop toward greater equity, sustainability, and satisfaction. In this course we will investigate the Buddhist view of development practices in developed and developing countries, with a focus on modernization and the market economy. We will also look at development programs in Buddhist societies—Bhutan, Thailand, and Sri Lanka. But we will focus on personal growth and development, questioning our own places in the world and what possible directions our lives may take given this body of knowledge and perspective. This is a practical exercise in which we will explore development through Vipassana meditation and the literature that has come from the application of Buddhist thought to development issues of peace, human rights, sustainability, consumption, conservation, and change, to name but a few of the topics to be addressed.
 
Why learn Vipassana meditation? We often are not fully conscious of the choices and actions we take. Many of us do not know how our minds function from moment to moment. A Buddhist approach to development entails a view encompassing not only the choices in means and ends to programs and projects, but also the motivations and intentions of everyone involved. This includes us. We will learn Vipassana meditation as the vehicle for evaluating our personal roles in the development processes. This activity is like a laboratory section of a science class; we will be our own laboratory setting for the inspection of ideas concerning growth, consumerism, environmental impact, ethnocentricity, sustainability, and the like. I am interested to show you how the conditions of the development process on a global level are also played out in the personal choices we make. I want you to learn to be mindful of your thoughts and actions, and the possible consequences. This is not merely a self-help exercise that finds popularity in today’s culture; it is, as the Buddha described, a cultivation of the mind—mental development.
 
Finally, we might ask ourselves the question that Denis Goulet asked in 1968, “Development for What?” 
 
* 4 credits
 
Instructor Cliff Maxwell (cam4z@virginia.edu)