Welcome to LTWL 136: Socially Engaged Buddhism: Ecologies, with Professor Richard S. Cohen.

Few words in the English language have as strong an emotional resonance or as lasting a pull on the imagination as the word “home.” To have a home is to have sustaining roots; it is to be sheltered, safe, at least for a moment, from the stormy world. To be home is to belong, loved as you are for whom you are. To be homeless, by contrast, is to be adrift, uncertain, unsafe. And to destroy one’s own home would seem the height of madness.

I start with these familiar cliches because “ecology,” in its etymological meaning, is literally the study of home. The word ecology was first coined in 1873 to describe a science of the relationship among organisms, as well as between organisms and their physical environments. Given this origin, it makes sense that we often associate the subject of ecology with that of environmental studies or sciences.

And indeed, this course, Socially Engaged Buddhism: Ecologies, will have a lot to say about contemporary Buddhist engagement with the nature and the natural environment. But we will do so in the context of a consideration of “home,” focusing especially on the planet Earth as our human home. What images, symbols, stories, doctrines, ethics, and practices does Buddhism use to imagine a socially and spiritually healthy way of living on this planet? How are Buddhists ambivalent about the life of the home? And how are they reverent?

The class meets on Tuesday / Thursday from 3:30 – 4:50 pm, in Lit 326.

Please consult the upper tabs for information that normally would appear on a printed syllabus: a course description, schedule of readings, information on class policies, grading, and assignments, and my office hours and email. I strongly recommend that you read through all these pages at the beginning of the quarter.

Also please note that you will need a password in order to access the Online Readings as well as the Assignments. I will give you this password in class.