ASIA 308 /
Myth, Ritual, and Epic
in Ancient India
ESSAY 1 GUIDELINES & TOPIC:
Week 7: Early Buddhism
DEADLINE: Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020 [11.59PM]
This assignment asks you to write an analytic paper (approx. 900-1200 words), in which you will analyze
passages from narrative and poetic texts written by early Buddhists. The assignment will assess your ability to
analyze the texts that we are reading and to speak about the concepts that we are trying to understand through
this week’s reading materials. Don’t be shy to bounce ideas off of me – I’m happy to help!
Please choose ONE of the three topics below concerning how Buddhist writers used stories and poetry to
communicate their ideas about karma, liberation, compassion, renunciation, and the Buddha to both monastic
communities and lay audiences. (PDFs are provided separately). In a 900-12oo word essay (approx. 3-5 typed,
double-spaced pages), please write an essay that:
Explains your overall impression of the philosophical, religious, and cultural life of early Buddhist
monks, nuns, and lay communities in the post-Vedic period in India (c. 500-300 BCE). You may wish to
bring in ideas of power, identity, truth, violence, death, etc., that have been discussed in the course,
or ideas of your own that can be supported through the readings.
Walks the reader through the text-bundle that you have chosen, quoting and commenting on different
passages that you feel are significant for understanding the philosophical, religious, and cultural ideas
being developed in these texts, along with the importance that they might have had in the
historical/cultural context of the post-Vedic period (c. 500-300 BCE).
Connects the text to one or more of your required readings for this week, and to ideas discussed in the
video lectures. (You can use these ideas freely as public knowledge, please do not “cite” the videos as
sources!) BE SURE to read and use the INTRODUCTIONS and NOTES to each reading provided in the
text packets. These scholarly notes will help you understand the ideas and thoughts being presented in
the texts, and to understand the historical contexts in which they were impactful.
Please choose ONE of the following text-bundles to analyze:
(1) Selections from The Jātakamālā (Once the Buddha Was a Monkey) of Ārya Śūra (c. 300 CE)
[translated by Peter Khoroche, 1989]. The Jātakas are lively tales of the Buddhas previous births,
generally told by the Buddha himself to his disciples, and illustrating important moral and
religious teachings, not to mention political and social concerns of the early Buddhist community.
These Sanskrit versions of the tales were composed by a fellow named Ārya Śura sometime in the
fourth century, CE. They are shared within both Theravada and Mahayana traditions.
Included here are the following stories:
• 2. “Śibi”, which is about a selfless king,
• 6. “The Hare”, which explains why the moon has the mark of a rabbit,
• 10. “The Sacrifice”, which concerns animal sacrifice, and
• 24. “The Great Ape”, which is a karma tale about a man and an ape.
NOTE: Please be sure to read through Khoroche’s “Introduction” (provided as a separate PDF), as
well as his notes to the stories, that are placed after each story in the PDF.
(2) Selections from Therigatha: Poems of the First Buddhist Women – [Translated by Charles
Hallisey, 2015]. The Therigatha, or the “Elder Nuns’ Poems”, are the earliest (Theravada) Buddhist
texts composed by women – and indeed perhaps the earliest examples of women’s poetry in the
world, as they date to the time of the Buddha himself and shortly afterwards (c. 500-200 BCE).
These are written in the Pali vernacular, and in the Buddhist Canon, they are arranged by their
length – from single-verse poems to a full chapter-long poem. I’ve included a diverse number of
short poems as well as 2 longer pieces – a “40-verse poem” as well as the “Great Chapter”, which
has more of a narrative-structure.
NOTE: Please be sure to read Hallisey’s “Introduction”, given as a separate PDF, and consult the
glossary and notes provided at the end of the PDF.
(3) Selections from Divine Stories: Divyāvadāna, Vols. 1-2 – [Translated by Andy Rotman, 2008/2017].
The Divyāvadāna is a compendium of Indian Buddhist stories that date to the early centuries of
the Common Era. These stories that illustrate Buddhist principles, monastic codes of behavior,
miraculous events, etc., but also sought to be really good stories that entertained the masses. They
have largely impacted the Mahayana tradition, and spread throughout Asia. I’ve included here the
• 2. “The Story of Purna” – The poor son of a merchant and a slave girl struggles to rise up in
the social and political world, and eventually becomes a Buddhist monk.
• 20. “The Story of Kanakavarna” – A king who tries to keep his people alive during a famine
by distributing food, but is forced to give the last morsel to a buddha.
• 32. “The Story of Rupavati” – A woman who cuts off her own breasts to feed a desperate,
starving mother who is about to eat her newborn child.
NOTE: Please be sure to read Rotman’s “Introduction” to volume 1, which I’ve included as a
separate PDF. There are also notes for each story, along with a glossary of Buddhist Sanskrit terms,
which will be useful for you as you read the stories.
Essays should adhere to the following technical standards:
• the paper should be approx. 900-1200 words (3-5 pages), double-spaced, with 1-inch margins and using
12-point Times New Roman font (or equivalent). Please place page numbers at the bottom right hand
corner of the page.
Quotes and citations:
• All quotes must be cited. use parenthetical citations as follows:
For citing Buddhist textual passages: After a quoted passage, please put into parenthesis the
title of the text (Jatakamala, Therigatha, or Divyavadana), followed by the page number. For
“Just as I gladly gave both my eyes to him who only asked for one, and felt nothing but joy and
love, so may I in turn receive another eye,” (Jatakamala, p. 16).
For secondary sources (scholarly readings from our course): After a quoted passage, please
put into parenthesis the author’s last name, brief title, and page number: (Surname, “Brief
Title,” p. X). If the work is a book, put the title in italics; if it is an essay or article, put it in
quotes. For example:
“The major theme of the Jātakamālā is that of the virtuous ruler.” (Khoroche, Once the Buddha
Was a Monkey, xviii).
Other tips and guidelines:
• Please use “block indentation”, single-spaced, for quoted passages that are longer than 2 lines.
• Never put quotes in ITALICS. in fact, never use italics except for (a) titles of books or works, and (b)
non-English words (like arhat or dukkha).
o Let me repeat, “Never put quotes in ITALICS.”
• Please be sure to spell the names of authors, characters, etc. carefully, as sloppiness makes for poor
impressions, while caution leads to better insights!
• Please do not make a cover page – instead, place the following in the upper right-hand corner of the
Your Name, Student ID
Your CLEVER TITLE of the paper
ASIA 308 // ESSAY 1 (WEEK 7)
As you are only using in-class citations, no bibliography is needed. If you do cite a work that is not
included in our readings, please include provide a bibliographical reference to this work as a footnote.
You may use any recognized style (MLA, Chicago, etc.) that you prefer.
For prevention of plagiarism, and for ease in marking, you are asked to submit the paper online through
turnitin.com by the due date. To upload your paper, set up your personal account on turnitin.com, and then
sign up for following class:
TITLE: “asia 308 – 2020” |
CLASS ID: 26574586
ENROLLMENT KEY: sanskrit
You should then be able to upload your paper in PDF, DOC, or other standard formats within the assignment
called “ESSAY 1.”
A more precise rubric will be found in the turnitin.com grading report, but the basic principles are as follows:
Content Analysis (45%): Are you making strong claims about the messages, imagery, symbolism, literary
qualities, etc., found within the selected textual passage that you are asked to analyze? Are your claims backed
up by textual evidence?
Contextualization (35%): How effectively have you connected the selected passage to the issues and ideas found
in our weekly module (readings and videos) as part of making your claims/arguments? Are scholarly quotes/
citations relevant to the claims you’re making, and adequately explained?
Clarity/Mechanics (20%): Are your sentences clear and to the point, or is your writing convoluted and clunky,
and are there too many spelling/grammar errors? How well does your introductory paragraph give your reader
a signpost about the claims you are making? is there a logic or consistency in how you connect your
observations about this textual passage to your overall claims? Did you cite properly, according to the
instructions? did you follow the directions for formatting (font, margins, spacing, title, etc.)?
In each of these categories, you will be graded on how well you have performed, and the final grade will reflect
the following assessment of your performance:
EXCEPTIONAL (A+, 90-100): truly remarkable effort, demonstrates great skill in analyzing
textual content, contextualizing it within a cultural/religious milieu, and/or writing style
SUPERIOR (A, 80-89): strong effort, excellent development of evidence-based arguments,
shows cultural insights that are above expectations
GOOD (B, 68-79): demonstrated effort in textual analysis, contextualization, and writing skills,
but there is room for improvement in one or more domains.
ADEQUATE (C, 55-67): insufficient demonstration of effort, noticeable vagueness or
imprecision in writing skills, and/or noted deficiencies in textual analysis and establishing
POOR (D, 50-54): inadequate grasp of reading material and major problems in writing
(argumentation, analysis, contextualization, mechanics, style).
FAILING (F, 0-49): demonstrates no effort or competency, or there is evidence of academic
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