Spring 2019: A Buddhist Approach to Development — GDS 3113



Spring 2019: A Buddhist Approach to Development — GDS 3113


Mon. Jan 14, 2019 - Tue. Apr 30, 2019 (16 weeks)
Every Monday, Wednesday from 5:00 PM to 6:45 PM


Mondays at New Cabell Hall 115, Wednesdays at Wilson Hall 244

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 a Buddhist examination of development practice in both developed and developing countries, of modernization and the market economy; development programs in Buddhist societies—Bhutan, Thailand, and Sri Lanka; and 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, just  a few of the topics we will address. This course includes an additional hour for group meditation, film presentations, anonymous journal discussion, and final project planning.

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 in showing you how the conditions of the development process at 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 their 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.

Instructor: Clifford Maxwell (