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

Unit name Buddhist Psychology and Mental Health
Unit code THRSM0105
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
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

Since the 1970s mindfulness based interventions (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy) have become an accepted way of treating certain types of mental illness. Such therapeutic interventions derive from Buddhist meditative techniques. The unit initially focuses on systematic Buddhist psychology as articulated in the Abhidharma traditions (fourth century CE), perhaps the most sustained attempt to map the workings of the mind in pre-modern thought. We examine the distinctive Buddhist understanding of the emotions, the processes of perception, dream, sleep, death, rebirth, and how these relate to the workings of karma and the ethics of violence, theft, sex, and lying. We then move on to consider Buddhist views in relation to modern western views, focusing on the notion of ‘mental health’, materialism (the equivalence of mind and brain), and the secularization of Buddhist ideas and practice by the appeal to the authority of medicine and neuroscience.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have

(1) developed a detailed knowledge and critical understanding of traditional Buddhist psychology;

(2) an in-depth understanding of how it has informed modern mindfulness-based interventions and relates to contemporary notions of the mind and mental health;

(3) demonstrated the ability to analyse and evaluate competing perceptions of Buddhist psychology and notions of the mind and mental health;

(4) demonstrated the ability to identify and evaluate pertinent evidence/data in order to illustrate/demonstrate a cogent argument.

Additionally (specific to level M), students will be expected to

(5) display high level skills in evaluating, analysing, synthesising and critiquing images and ideas.

(6) apply existing analytical strategies to new evidence with flexibility and creativity

(7) demonstrate the capacity for independent research

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

One summative essay of 5000 words Measures ILOs 1-7


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. THRSM0105).

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.