This course will explore the major indigenous religions of South Asia with
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
through the development of Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, and Sikhism,
we will conclude with an examination of “inclusivistic” and
approaches to religious pluralism in contemporary Indian thought.
10% Class/BodhiBlog Participation
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
25% Midterm Exam
20% Contemplative Paper (due Thursday, February 15)
20% Temple Visit Paper (due Thursday, March 1)
25% Final Exam
A-/A Possesses a deep understanding of the
major concepts and themes of the course. The “A” student is able
consistently identify and explain key ideas in the primary sources,
genuine insights into the broader significance of these texts, and
a high level of intellectual engagement in class discussions.
B-/B/B+ Demonstrates a serious commitment to
(i.e. attendance and participation) and a strong grasp of the major
and themes but with less depth and/or consistency than the “A” student.
C-/C/C+ Demonstrates a reasonable effort to
class and participate in discussions as well as a basic grasp of the
D Demonstrates a minimal commitment to the
a weak grasp of basic concepts and themes.
F Fails to demonstrate an acceptable degree of
in the course through low attendance, inability to discuss basic
and themes, missed assignments and/or plagiarized work.
Participation mark will be based on your ability to demonstrate that
made a sincere attempt to read and understand the assigned material.
attempts to seriously engage the readings — from sharing your perspective
material to simply asking a relevant question — will contribute to your
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
of your participation efforts, you may reasonably expect to receive at
“B” if you attend class regularly, actively participate in class
and post at least three comments on the BodhiBlog.
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
questions (three or more paragraphs). Additional details will be
to each exam.
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
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
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.
• 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)