About the Author
Denise Cush is Emeritus Professor of Religion and Education at Bath Spa University, having retired after 29 years there in 2015. Her roles during this time included leading and teaching Study of Religions and Philosophies and Ethics, teaching within Education Studies, and teacher training for both primary and secondary RE. Before that she taught Religious Studies (including Buddhism at A level and A/O level) as well as Religious Education for nine years at St. Mary’s RC Sixth-form College in Middlesbrough. She has an MA in Theology from Oxford University, a PGCE in RE with Science as second subject from Westminster College, Oxford, an MA in Religious Studies from the University of Lancaster (where her dissertation focused on Buddhism in Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism in the West, employing historical, textual and ethnographic methods), a PhD in Religious Education from the University of Warwick, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Uppsala. She was a member of the Commission on Religious Education 2017-18, and Deputy Editor of the British Journal of Religious Education from 2011-2018. Publications include Buddhism, a still much-used textbook (Hodder, 1994), the Routledge Encyclopedia of Hinduism (2007), Celebrating Planet Earth, a Pagan/Christian Conversation (Moon, 2015) and many others on Religious Education.
Denise was brought up within a Roman Catholic family and attended Catholic maintained schools in the North East. She identified as Catholic (of a liberal, post Vatican II, ‘preferential option for the poor’, ‘justice and peace’ tendency) for the first 30 years of her life, including teaching in a Catholic Sixth-form college. Since then she has resisted labels, and identifies as non-binary in relation to the religious/non-religious construct, though has sometimes called herself a ‘positive pluralist’, acknowledging the influence of several religious and non-religious worldviews on her personal worldview. She has never identified as Buddhist although she acknowledges the influence of Buddhist ideas and practices, among others, on her personal worldview. The factors affecting her interpretations of Buddhism are her position as ‘a sympathetic outsider’, visits to Sri Lanka, Japan and Nepal, a partner who spent a month living as a novice in a Thai monastery, friends and colleagues who belong to Theravada and Tibetan traditions, and interactions with many different Buddhist communities in the UK. She first decided to study Buddhism (and Hinduism) at MA level, mainly because of the contrast with the Christianity of her upbringing and Theology degree, and probably also because of the positive image ‘Eastern’ religions had in 1970s alternative youth culture. She has continued to campaign for the inclusion of Buddhism in religious studies curricula (as well as Paganism, Humanism, Jainism, Rastafari and other smaller groups) because of a commitment to whomever and whatever is neglected, marginalised, or different. No doubt however class, gender, whiteness, sexual orientation and personal experience also affect her perspective. The conclusion of her 1994 A level textbook emphasised the partial, provisional and flawed nature of any attempt to summarise a tradition, but also the value of such an attempt if it helps a little in developing knowledge and understanding.