If you have wanted to learn more about Buddhism, but, lacking an accessible and authoritative resource, simply put it on the back burner, you are in luck. Harvard University has just made a great course on the religion available online for free.
Money is often what most deters us from following through with something we’ve always wanted to do, whether that be travel or education. These two specifically are held to high standards for their ability to transform and improve lives, yet when it comes to education, at least, there is no doubt that the college debt crisis has reached an all time high. In the United States, for instance, student loan debt has tripled to $1.23 trillion.
This number makes learning just to learn and not to start a career seem almost silly, and certainly a luxury few can afford, but this disassociation from learning to enrich as opposed to get rich is a modern tragedy, making Harvard University’s decision to make a great course on Buddhism available online for free so noteworthy.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re in college, thinking about college, or have already been to college: There’s something incredibly empowering about educating yourself on something simply because you find it interesting; because you want to expand your knowledge; because… it’s FREE!
The “Buddhism Through Its Scriptures” course at Harvard has been archived, meaning it is no longer interactive, but all of its rich lecture and supplemental materials are available for your learning pleasure upon registration. Taught by Professor Charles Hallisey from Harvard’s Divinity School, who is also the Yehan Numata Senior Lecturer on Buddhist Literatures, the introductory course was created to fit the needs both of a total novice of the religion as well as a more seasoned practitioner. The 4-week course is designed to be done over 6-1o hours per week of your time.
Professor Hallisey says he hopes the course will reach people of “diverse backgrounds” in order to “interact constructively around topics that too often divide us.” His philosophy is just as inviting as the idea that the course is free: Rather than impart the “right” interpretation of Buddhist scriptures, he hopes the course gives people the tools to practice open-mindedness, which in turn will teach them to accept and understand different perspectives.
In his syllabus, Hallisey further elaborates on his unique approach to teaching the course on Buddhism, saying:
When we turn to the Buddhist heritages for help in answering some questions that we bring to the study of Buddhist scriptures, we open ourselves to the possibility of not only learning about Buddhism, but also learning from Buddhism. This openness to learning from Buddhists is not in the sense of saying that a Buddhist interpretation is automatically the “right” interpretation. Rather, it is to see that Buddhists themselves have thought about many of the same questions that we bring to Buddhist scriptures, and many of the same questions that we have about ourselves, as persons, and about this world in which we find ourselves.