In this essay, you will be considering how the elements of Buddha’s Eightfold

Sep 1, 2021 | social science / philosophy


In this essay, you will be considering how the elements of Buddha’s Eightfold Path and the basic ideas Rahula gives us about Buddhism or the nature of Buddha’s teaching might be applied to the information in the documentary “Doing Time Doing Vipassana,” a documentary that explores an experiment in which vipassana meditation was taught in India’s Tihar prison.  The question to write on is: 

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Can it be argued that all eight parts of the Eightfold Path and some ideas from Rahula’s introductory chapter on Buddha/Buddhist ideas show up in one way or another in this documentary?  What, if anything should we learn from the experiment in Tihar?  Give reasons in support of your position.  Why might someone else reasonably disagree and how would you respond?  (50 pts.)

For the first part of this essay (35 pts.) you need to consider whether all eight parts of the Path show up in some way and I suggest the following method of proceeding (note that here I am talking about method; I am not outlining what you should include as I did in the question on Frankl):

  • The first step would be to gain a basic understanding of what each aspect of the Path requires and how it affects dukkha for the individual and others.  (Personally, I would make a list or chart that I could refer to in watching the documentary.)   Review your notes on the first chapter of Rahula's book so that those are fresh in your mind as well.
  • Watch the documentary, noting specific things that seem relevant or important (also note the time at which they occur in the documentary so that you can go back and check on them later and/or cite them if needed).  After watching the whole thing, reflect some more.  For some parts of the Path, the application is obvious.  For others, you may need to think more creatively. 
  • It is important to watch the whole documentary.  Some of you might be tempted to quit halfway through thinking, “I have enough.”  If you do that, you will miss some important possibilities from the later part of the film.

For the second part of the essay (15 pts) which covers what, if anything, we should learn from the documentary as well as an objection and response, I recommend putting together your argument and letting it sit a day or two and then revisiting it.  (Actually I recommend doing this with the entire exam and anything you write for this class.) 

  • Does your essay clearly make the points you want it to make?  Does it need more explanation?  
  • Does it over-explain (i.e., does it spend too much time on relatively obvious points or talk so much about a couple points that there is no room for others)? 

In this essay, the main bulk of the essay should be the first part.  I would expect the second part to be about one-fourth of the essay, perhaps a bit less.

As with the Frankl essay, give citations in the way described for the Trump essay.  The difference will be that to refer to a place in the documentary, just indicate in parentheses the time when it occurred.  So, (34:12) would indicate that whatever you were referring to occurred at 34 minutes and 12 seconds.   


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