Religions of India
Introduction
 
Introduction
This course will explore the major indigenous religions of South Asia with particular emphasis on shared concepts such as karma, the cycle of rebirth (samsara), and the transcendence of rebirth (nirvana/moksha). We will trace the evolution of Indian religion from its roots in the Vedas and the Upanishads through the development of Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, and Sikhism, and we will conclude with an examination of “inclusivistic” and “exclusivistic” approaches to religious pluralism in contemporary Indian thought.
10%  Class/BodhiBlog Participation
25%  Midterm Exam
20%  Contemplative Paper (due Thursday, February 15)
20%  Temple Visit Paper (due Thursday, March 1)
25%  Final Exam
You final grade will ultimately depend on my assessment of your performance in each of the above areas, though the following descriptions should provide you with a rough idea of the defining characteristics of students within particular grade ranges:

A-/A  Possesses a deep understanding of the major concepts and themes of the course.  The “A” student is able to consistently identify and explain key ideas in the primary sources, develop genuine insights into the broader significance of these texts, and demonstrate a high level of intellectual engagement in class discussions.

B-/B/B+  Demonstrates a serious commitment to the course (i.e. attendance and participation) and a strong grasp of the major concepts and themes but with less depth and/or consistency than the “A” student.

C-/C/C+  Demonstrates a reasonable effort to attend class and participate in discussions as well as a basic grasp of the course material.

D  Demonstrates a minimal commitment to the course and a weak grasp of basic concepts and themes.

F  Fails to demonstrate an acceptable degree of effort in the course through low attendance, inability to discuss basic concepts and themes, missed assignments and/or plagiarized work.

Class/BodhiBlog Participation
The Class Participation mark will be based on your ability to demonstrate that you have made a sincere attempt to read and understand the assigned material. All attempts to seriously engage the readings — from sharing your perspective on the material to simply asking a relevant question — will contribute to your grade. You can further enhance your grade by posting comments on a Blackboard discussion forum that I call the BodhiBlog (“the blog that leads to enlightenment”). Although your mark will ultimately depend on my subjective evaluation of the quantity and quality of your participation efforts, you may reasonably expect to receive at least a “B” if you attend class regularly, actively participate in class discussions, and post at least three comments on the BodhiBlog.

Midterm/Final Exams
The Midterm and Final Exams will each consist of three parts: (i) quiz-style questions (multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, true/false, etc.); (ii) “identify and state the significance” questions (at least one paragraph); and (iii) essay questions (three or more paragraphs). Additional details will be provided prior to each exam.

Contemplative Paper
Every term, the Department of Religious Studies hosts a number of “contemplative events,” each of which features a brief talk by an experienced practitioner of a particular tradition (religious or secular), followed by a meditative exercise and open discussion. During the term, you will attend at least one of these events and then write a 5-page paper (1250-word minimum) paper based on the experience. In addition to describing the event, your paper should explore the significance of the contemplative exercise with regard to one of the meditation traditions that we are studying in this course, such as the Buddha’s practice of mindfulness, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the path of Jnana Yoga described in the Bhagavad Gita, or the Tantric practice of Kundalini Yoga. Your paper should conclude with a reflection on the role of “contemplation” in Indian religion. Although you may use “first person” to discuss your subjective experiences at the contemplative event, your exploration of the meditation tradition should follow the more formal conventions associated with academic writing. Toward this end, your paper must include references to at least three “academic” sources (i.e. peer-reviewed books and journal articles, rather than non-academic websites) using either MLA (brackets with the author’s last name and page numbers as well as a bibliography at the end of the paper) or Chicago Style footnotes (with no bibliography required for this assignment). Please submit a Microsoft Word copy of your paper to Blackboard/Assignments. Essays that contain significant instances of plagiarism will receive a 0 and be reported to the Office of Academic Affairs in accordance with college policy.

Temple Visit Paper
To help you gain a more concrete understanding of Indian religion in practice, we will be visiting the Sri Venkateswara (a.k.a. Balaji) Temple on Saturday, February 17. (If you are unavailable on that day or wish to visit another Hindu temple, let me know and we’ll work out an alternate arrangement). After the temple visit, you will write a 5-page (1250-word minimum) reflection on your experience at the temple and how it relates to the concept of puja (rituals associated with devotional worship). Your paper should include a general summary of the temple visit as well as a detailed description of one of the rituals that you observed. You will then explore the significance of this ritual through references to at least three “academic” sources. Finally, your conclusion should explain how exploring this ritual enhanced your understanding of the role that puja plays in Indian religion. As with the Contemplative Paper, you may use “first person” to describe your experiences at the temple, but should otherwise follow the standard conventions of academic writing, including the use of either MLA or Chicago Style references. Please submit a Microsoft Word copy of your paper to Blackboard/Assignments. Essays that contain significant instances of plagiarism will receive a 0 and be reported to the Office of Academic Affairs in accordance with college policy.

Required Texts
Rodrigues, Hillary P. Introducing Hinduism. New York/London: Routledge, 2006. (IH)
Hawley, John Stratton and Vasudha Narayanan (editors). The Life of Hinduism. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006. (LOH)
Thompson, George (translator). The Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation. New York: North Point Press, 2008. (BG)
Nesbitt, Eleanor. Sikhism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2005. (S)

Office, Etc.
225 North Loomis Road, Room 23
Monday 4-5  ~  Tuesday 2-4  ~  Wednesday 3-4  ~  Friday 3-4  ~  Friday (Tea) 4-5
Phone: 630-637-5619

E-Mail: bhoffert@noctrl.edu
Home Page: http://brian.hoffert.faculty.noctrl.edu