Introduction to Religious Studies
This course examines the inner workings and external practices of religion, including various definitions of religion, how religion functions in the world through ritual, myth, and symbol. We will learn basic facts about several world religions, we will critically consider the development of religious studies as an intellectual discipline, we will explore a number of specific topics and issues in the academic study of religion, and we will consider some of these issues with reference to selected case studies.
This course meets the General Education Western Civilization and Culture (WC) requirement.
Introduction to Buddhism
This course examines the historical development of Buddhism from its origins in South Asia circa sixth to fifth century BCE, through the articulation of Buddhist teachings and practices in Southeast Asia, East Asia, and Tibet. We will consider contemporary transformations of the tradition in the modern day and the challenges these pose to our understanding of traditional Buddhism in Asia.
Over the course of our semester, we will focus on early, elite Buddhist doctrine and practices, the Theravada Buddhist tradition of Southeast Asia, Mahayana Buddhist doctrines, theories, and practices in both their scriptural representation and their lived expressions in East Asia, and we will explore Tantric Buddhist doctrine and theory in relation to the Buddhist traditions of Tibet. We will conclude our semester by considering modern developments and representations of Buddhism in the United States.
This course meets Liberal Arts (LIB) and General Education Non-Western Culture (NWC) requirements.
This course covers the historical development of Chan/Zen 禪, an East Asian variety of Buddhism that has established itself in contemporary American culture. We will specifically study the invention and growth of Chan Buddhism in China, the establishment and development of Zen in Japan, and the introduction and representation of Zen in the United States of America.
The basic methodological approach of our course will be a critical, post-modern historiography. This approach is applicable to the manner in which Chan/Zen Buddhists have persistently defined and redefined themselves through the construction and reconstruction of their history and it is applicable to the understanding and representation of the Zen tradition by modern scholars, apologists, and Western adherents.
This course is a survey of Tibetan Buddhism, sometimes referred to as “Vajrayana” or “Tantric Buddhism.” We will consider Tibetan Buddhism in relation to the socio-cultural history of late Medieval India and of the Tibetan Plateau and in relation to particular themes. These themes include, monastic institutions, reincarnate lama traditions, death and dying, and contemporary political issues. A theme that will run throughout our study will be the “image of Tibet” – the mythologization of Tibet, the Tibetan people, and their culture in the foreign imagination.
This course is an introduction to the history, practices, and worldviews of the Daoist tradition as it developed and took shape over Chinese history. Through both secondary scholarship and primary texts, we will learn the history of Daoism and the various social and cultural forces that have shaped its development. We learn about the views, practices, and goals of specific Daoist schools: the Celestial Masters (Tianshi 天師), Highest Clarity (Shangqing上清), Numinous Treasure (Lingbao 靈寶), and Complete Perfection (Quanzhen 全真). Throughout the semester we will also study certain topics and themes concerning the Daoist tradition. These include the formation of Daoist identity and community, Daoist material culture, the construction of sacred space in Daoism, and Daoist self-cultivation techniques.