Mbs course Outline 13-14 (Updated on November 28, 2013) Centre of Buddhist Studies

BSTC6083 The Concept of Emptiness and Prajñāpāramitā Literatures

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The Concept of Emptiness and Prajñāpāramitā Literatures


Prof. L.R. Lancaster and Ven. Sik Hin Hung

Tel: 3917-2847

Email: buddhism@hku.hk

Schedule: 1st Semester; Friday 6:30 – 9:30 p.m./Sunday 2:30 – 5:30 p.m. (The course has special schedule, please refer to the detailed schedule below)

Class Venue: CPD-2.16, 2/F, Centennial Campus



Course Teacher

September 6, 2013 (Friday)


Ven. Sik Hin Hung

September 13, 2013 (Friday)

September 27, 2013 (Friday)

October 4, 2013 (Friday)

October 11, 2013 (Friday)

No class

October 18, 2013 (Friday)


Prof. L.R. Lancaster

October 20, 2013 (Sunday)


October 25, 2013 (Friday)


October 27, 2013 (Sunday)


November 1, 2013 (Friday)


November 3, 2013 (Sunday)


November 8, 2013 (Friday)


Ven. Sik Hin Hung

November 15, 2013 (Friday)

November 22, 2013 (Friday)

November 29, 2013 (Friday)- To be confirmed

Course Description

Emptiness is an important concept in Buddhist teaching. In the early canonical texts, the concept was often used in association with the teaching of the three marks of existent (impermanence, suffering and no-self) as a kind of practice for those on the path to arhathood. However, in the Mahayana texts, it is through the realization of the emptiness (sunyata) of phenomena that the Bodhisattvas develop the prajnaparamita or perfect wisdom.

This course will study and examine the concept of emptiness and follow its development from the early canonical texts like the Nikaya and Sutta Nipata to its blossoming in the prajnaparamita literatures like Astasahasrika, Heart Sutra and Diamond Sutra. The Chinese commentary on the Diamond Sutra by Mahasattva Fu of the Liang dynasty will also be presented so that students would see the relationship between of the concept of emptiness and its relationship Chinese Ch’an practices. The course will conclude with a brief introduction of the Nagarjuna’s philosophy of Madhyamaka.
Course Outline



Lesson I (Sept 6)

Why Emptiness?

A discussion on the relationship between the concept of emptiness and the ending of suffering from the perspective of the early Buddhist canonical texts

Lesson II (Sept 13)

Sunya and Sunyata, the meanings of empty and emptiness

Lesson III (Sept 27)

Proto- prajnaparamita : the Atthakavagga and the Parayanavagga of the Sutta-Nipāta and their relationship with the Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra 《大智度論》

Lesson IV (Oct 4)

The Heart of the Prajnaparamita Sutra

Lesson V (Oct 18)

“History of the Study of the Prajnaparamita”

Lesson VI (Oct 20)

“Subhuti Teaches: Who Listens?”

Lesson VII (Oct 25)

“Similes of Emptiness: Who Understands?”

Lesson VIII (Oct 27)

“Mara: Denial of Emptiness”

Lesson IX (Nov 1)

“Emptiness as Suchness: The Enlightenment of a Bodhisattva”

Lesson X (Nov 3)

“Finding Emptiness: Being like Sadaprarudita”

Lesson XI (Nov 8)

Diamond Sutra and its commentary by Mahasattva Fu of the Liang dynasty

Lesson XII (Nov 15)

Diamond Sutra and its commentary by Mahasattva Fu of the Liang dynasty

Lesson XIII (Nov 22)

The Madhyamaka Philosophy of Nagarjuna

Assessment ratio

100 % coursework with the following breakdowns:

(i) 2 Essays 100%

Reading List
Conze, Edward, The short Prajnaparamita texts; translated by Edward Conze Luzac & Co. Ltd., London, 1973

Harvey, Peter. An Introduction to Buddhism : teachings, history, and practices. New York : Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Gadjin M. Nagao, Tran. Keenan P. John. The Foundational Standpoint of Madhyamika Philosophy. New York: State University of New York Press, 1989
Sik, HH, "The Pearl of the Tripitaka, Two Vaggas in the Sutta-Nipata." in Buddhist and Pali Studies in Honour of the Venerable Professor Kakkapalliye Anuruddha, edited by KL; Karunadasa Khammajoti, 2009, Centre of Buddhist Studies, The University of Hong Kong, 417-28
Singh, J., An Introduction to Madhyamaka Philosophy. Delhi : Motilal Banarsidass, 1976.
Stcherbatsky, Th. The Central Conception of Buddhism. Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications, 1991.
Velez De Cea, Abraham (2005). Emptiness in the Pali Suttas and the Question of Nagarjuna's Orthodoxy. Philosophy East and West 55 (4):507-528
Yinshun: Investigations into Śūnyata. Zhengwen:Xinzhu (1984)
References and Internet Resources

Encyclopaedia of Buddhism, eds., Robert E. Buswell, Jr., Ed. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2003. 982 pp. 2 vols. This encyclopedia describes the Buddhist world view, basic teachings and practices of Buddhism, as well as its different schools and sects. This Encyclopedia needs subscription, so use it through HKU Electronic Recourses.

Encyclopedia of Religion. Lindsay Jones, Ed. 2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005. 10735 pp. 15 vols. This Encyclopedia needs subscription, so use it through HKU Electronic Recourses.

Encyclopædia Britannica Online. This Encyclopædia needs subscription, so use it through HKU Electronic Recourses.
Digital Dictionary of Buddhism, eds., Charles Muller. This is an internet based dictionary similar to Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms, by Soothill and Hodous, but has much more entries. If you know the Chinese Buddhist technical terms, but do not know how to translate it into English, please visit Muller’s DDB website address: http://www.acmuller.net/ddb/ Users can access the search function with the user ID of "guest" (case-sensitive, no quotes), leaving the password area blank allowing 20 searches in a 24 hour period. To search Sanskrit and other terms containing diacritics, type in the term in simple ascii.
A Dictionary of Buddhism, eds., Damien Keown. This Dictionary needs subscription, so use it through HKU Electronic Recourses.
Accesstoinsight. This is a website entirely dedicated to the teaching of Theravada Buddhism including the Pali Canon, Theravada text archive and sources. Most of the Pali texts are translated into English for free distribution. Website address: www.accesstoinsight.org/
Journal of Buddhist Ethics. This is a web based academic journal for free distribution. Web address: http://www.jbe.gold.ac.uk/
Taisho Edition of Chinese Tripitaka. If you can read classical Chinese and wish to refer to the original Chinese texts, please visit http://www.cbeta.org/index.htm. This website includes volumes 1-55 & 85 of Taisho Edition of Chinese Tripitaka.

Buddhist Digital Library and Museum. There is a good collection of academic articles some with full texts in both Chinese and English. It is a good place to relevant academic articles for your study. Website address: http://buddhism.lib.ntu.edu.tw/BDLM/

Buddhasasana. You can find many full text articles on Buddhism in English, but not all of them are academic so you have to be selective. The website address is: http://www.saigon.com/~anson/ebud/ebidx.htm
The Internet Sacred Text Archive. You can find the old texts of almost all major religions in the world in this site and you can also copy the full texts if you wish. For instance, you can find the Sacred Books of the East. Website address: http://www.sacred-texts.com/index.htm
Mahayana Buddhist Sutras in English. In this site you can find some popular Chinese Mahayana texts in English translation. Website address: http://www4.bayarea.net/~mtlee/
JSTOR The Scholarly Journal Archive. This Archive needs subscription, so use it through HKU Electronic Recourses. http://www.jstor.org/jstor

1 No detailed mathematical treatments will be taught; only concepts with numerous examples will be taught in order to cater for the dialogue between Buddhists and Scientist of the course. Therefore students of Arts and other background are very welcome.

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