Spotlight on a Course: Buddhism and the West

Gesshin Claire Greenwood  |  December 14, 2021

This spring, the Institute of Buddhist Studies will be offering a staple of our Buddhist Studies curriculum, taught by Dean Scott Mitchell: “Buddhism and the West.” It is scheduled to be offered in person, at our campus, Thursdays 2:10pm-5pm.

This course surveys the history of Buddhist traditions in the West. Beginning with 19th century colonial contact and Asian immigration through 21st century global exchanges, it explores the various ways that Buddhists, Buddhist communities, and Buddhist ideas have come to and developed in Western contexts.

Weekly assignments will include readings on colonialism, modernity, Shin Buddhism and the BCA, racism and resistance, Buddhist art and literature, mindfulness and secularism, and more.

Scott Mitchell is the Dean of the Institute of Buddhist Studies and the author of Buddhism in America: Global Religion, Local Contexts. He specializes in American Buddhism and has been  been teaching this course for over 15 years. Remarking on his enduring interest in this topic and this course he explains, “There’s been such an explosion of scholarship over the last decade on Buddhism outside Asia. So there’s always something new to bring to the table, engage with students and think through some of the issues that impacting people today. The class often feels very “live” because even though it’s primarily a history course (and we spend a lot of time discussing the past), it has direct relevance on topical and timely issues.”

For a taste of the course material and Dr. Mitchell’s teaching style, check out this recording of his talk “Jōdō Shinshū and the Making of American Buddhism.”

The cost of this course for auditors is $825. Senior auditors are eligible for a discounted fee of $415. Non-degree students can sign up for this class by emailing our Registrar at through January 28.