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Unit information: Buddhist Psychology and Mental Health in 2021/22

Unit name Buddhist Psychology and Mental Health
Unit code THRS30067
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Gethin
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Religion and Theology
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

In recent decades Buddhist 'mindfulness’ techniques have been adapted as interventions in the treatment of mental illness and as coping mechanisms. The unit focuses on the Buddhist background, examining the Buddhist map of the mind and body as articulated in ancient Indian Buddhist systematic thought (Abhidharma), one of the most sustained attempts to map the workings of the mind in pre-modern thought. The unit considers the distinctive Buddhist analysis of the body, mental states, the processes of perception, dream, sleep, death and rebirth, and how these relate to the workings of karma, theories of the unconscious, and the ethics of violence and sex. The unit concludes by considering Buddhist views in relation to modern understandings of ‘mental health’, materialism (the equivalence of mind and brain), and the secularizing of Buddhist ideas and practices by appeal to the authority of medicine and neuroscience.Students will submit two 500-word blogs, one related to something they have presented, the other related to others’ presentations.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a detailed knowledge and critical understanding of Buddhist theories of mind and body;
  2. Apply this understanding to the development of modern mindfulness-based interventions and contemporary notions of the mind and mental health;
  3. Discriminate and evaluate competing perceptions of Buddhist psychology and notions of the mind and mental health;
  4. Identify and evaluate pertinent evidence in order to develop a cogent argument;
  5. Demonstrate skills in textual analysis, argumentation, and critical interpretation, using evidence from primary texts and secondary sources;
  6. Communicate understanding of a topic in an informal or conversational style.

Teaching Information

Classes will involve a combination of long- and short-form lectures, class discussion, investigative activities, and practical activities. Students will be expected to engage with readings and participate on a weekly basis. This will be further supported with drop-in sessions and self-directed exercises with tutor and peer feedback.

Assessment Information

1 x 2000 words portfolio (formative) [ILOs 1-6] 1 x 3000-word summative essay (100%) [ILOs 1-5]


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. THRS30067).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.