1) The relationship of early Buddhism to its ancient Indian religious background Some issues you may want to consider: What were some of the major social and religious concepts in Vedic culture? How were such concepts being transformed or challenged around the time of the Buddha’s life? What elements did early Buddhism accept, modify, or reject from Vedic culture and new religious teachings emerging within or against that culture? How did early Buddhism do so? What do you make of the changes? Do you agree with them? Why or why not?2) The story of the Buddha’s life and death and what they reveal about his teachings Some issues you may want to consider: What are some of the key episodes in the Buddha’s life story? What is the significance of these episodes? Do you see any contradictions (or apparent contradictions) among them? Or between them and other Foundational Buddhist teachings? How might these contradictions be reconciled? Or do you think that they can’t be reconciled—and if not, why not?3) Meditation in Foundational Buddhism Describe and analyze select Buddhist meditation practices in ancient Indian culture that we have encountered in the course teachings to date. Some issues you may want to consider: How would the practices be carried out? What purposes do they serve? How do the practices fit with other Buddhist teachings, such as the four noble truths or the eightfold path? What may be the relative merits and limitations of different meditation practices?
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