LIBERAL STUDIES 131: EASTERN AND COMPARATIVE RELIGIONS


North Island College Winter 2021

Delivery Format: Digital Learning Scheduled (We will meet as a group via videoconferencing at least once a week.  You will be expected to spend an average of 5+ hours a week on the course yourself.)

Meeting Time: T, Th: 11:30 am - 12:50 pm

Office Phone:  334-5000, Extension 4024

Home Phone250-336-0238 

Web- Site for Course:  https://www.misterdann.com/contentsreligioneastern.htm 

E-Mail: dan.hinmansmith@nic.bc.ca


Course Description

This course combines an introduction to the religions of Asia with comparative analysis of some key organizing themes for the study of all world religions. It examines the origins and historical development, the sacred texts, the central tenets, the institutions, and the rituals of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Confucianism, Taoism and Shinto.  It also explores selected core concepts such as sacred space, sacred time, sacred rituals and sacred symbols in a comparative context that uses not only these seven eastern religions but also the Abrahamic tradition and other world religions as reference points.  Instruction will combine intensive reading, documentaries, on-line student discussion forums, and in-class presentations and discussion.


Texts

William Dalrymple, Nine Lives: In Search Of The Sacred In Modern India (London: Bloomsbury, 2009).

Gavin Flood and Charles Martin, trans., Bhagavad-Gita: A New Translation  (New York: W.W. Norton, 2012).

Glenn Wallis, trans., Dhammapada: Verses On The Way (New York: Modern Library, 2007).

Eleanor Nesbitt, Sikhism: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford, 2016).

  ***All four books are available for purchase at the NIC Bookstore.  The Nesbitt volume is also available as an e-book free from the NIC Library at the link provided above.

Optional Textbook:  I have decided not to include a textbook as one of the required LIB 130 readings.  Those who would like a basic textbook introduction to Eastern Religions as an extra reference may find the following volume helpful, though there is no expectation that you acquire this book:

Willard Oxtoby, ed., World Religions: Eastern Traditions (New York: Oxford).


Tentative Class Schedule

Week 1  (January 11-15)

Discussion Forum Contributions

The Swastika As Sacred Symbol


Reading Assignment

Browse extensively in Swastika As Sacred Symbol  Discussion Topic.


Listening And Viewing

"Reclaiming The Swastika," Documentary Archive, BBC World Service, October 24, 2014.  [28 mins.]


Letter Of Introduction

Complete Reflections Upon Entering The Course: Who are you? Where are you from? What are your interests? Why are you taking this course? How would you begin to make sense of your own thoughts about religion and religious studies? Do you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions as we start the course? Write two or three informal paragraphs for the second class of the semester to introduce yourself to me.


Week 2  (January 16-22)

Orientation For Week 2


Discussion Forum Contributions

Sacred Symbols Powerpoint


Reading Assignment

Browse extensively in Sacred Varanasi  Discussion Topic.


Listening And Viewing

  Listen to "Varanasi: A Living History," Encounter, ABC, November 2, 2013.  Give the program a couple of minutes to download.  The Varanasi documentary is also available on Soundcloud here.


Student Mini-Presentations

Sacred Symbols


Optional Extras

"Water Water Everywhere," BBC World Service, May 12, 1996.  (28 mins.)


Week 3  (January 23-29)

Orientation For Week 3


Reading Assignment

Browse extensively in  Of Elephant Gods, Monkey Kings And Sacred Cows  Discussion Topic.


Instructor Lecture

Essence Of Hinduism: "The Truth Is One; Sages Call It By Different Names"

Outline: The Essence Of Hinduism


Looking Ahead


***Tuesday, January 26:  Sacred Signs Guidebook And Powerpoint Due (10%)


Week 4  (January 30 - February 5)

Orientation


Discussion Forum Contributions

Nine Lives


Reading Assignment

William Dalrymple, Nine Lives: In Search Of The Sacred In Modern India.  London: Bloomsbury, 2009.


Week 5  (February 6-12)

Orientation For Week 5


Discussion Forum Contributions

Pandemic Playhouse: Faith Connections


Reading Assignment

Browse extensively in Hinduism In The News.


Listening And Viewing

"Faith Connections," 2013.  [117 mins.]


Optional Extras

Browse extensively in Hinduism: On-Line Text.

Kim Knott, Hinduism: A Very Short Introduction.  New York: Oxford, 2016.  This slender book offers a comprehensive introduction to Hinduism.  The link to the left opens up the NIC Library's e-text edition.  The librarian recommends using the PDF link at the permalink rather than downloading the digital file.

Browse extensively in Sacred Festivals In The News -- Hinduism.

Browse extensively in  Kumbh Mela  Discussion Topic.

Listen to at least one audio file and/or view at least one video file at Hinduism: Audio Links and Hinduism: Video Links


Looking Ahead


***Sunday, February 14:  Nine Lives Reading Response Due (12%)


***Family Day And Reading Break, February 15-21


Week 6  (February 22-26)

Orientation For Week 6


Discussion Forum Contributions

Bhagavad-Gita


Reading Assignment

Gavin Flood and Charles Martin, eds. and trans., Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation.  New York: W. W. Norton, 2012.


Listening And Viewing

"The Bhagavad Gita," Invitation To World Literature. [30 mins.]

  "The Bhagavad Gita," Heart And Soul, BBC World Service, July 18, 2011.


Optional Extras

  "The Upanishads," In Our Time, BBC Radio 4, November 8, 2012.


Instructor Mini-Lecture

The Bhagavad Gita: A Biography


Looking Ahead


Week 7  (February 27 - March 5)

Orientation For Week 7


Discussion Forum Contributions

Pandemic Playhouse:  The Buddha -- The Story Of Siddhartha


Reading Assignment

Browse extensively in Buddhism: On-Line Text.


Listening And Viewing

"The Buddha -- The Story Of Siddhartha," PBS, 2010.  [116 mins.]


Course Planning

Introduce Other Asian Religions Mini-Project

Introduce Comparative Religions Grid Assignment

Other Asian Religions Workshop


Looking Ahead


***Monday, March 1:  Journal-In-Progress Due (This check-in is ungraded but compulsory.  Failure to submit your Journal-In-Progress will lead to a lowering of your Journal grade later in the semester)


Week 8  (March 6-12)

Orientation For Week 8


Discussion Forum Contributions

Dhammapada -- Verses On The Way


Reading Assignment

Glenn Wallis, ed. and trans., Dhammapada: Verses On The Way.  New York: Modern Library, 2007.


Listening And Viewing

"Seven Wonders Of The Buddhist World," PBS (2012).  [74 minutes]


Looking Ahead


Week 9  (March 13-19)

Orientation For Week 9


Discussion Forum Contributions

Buddhism In The News


Reading Assignment

Browse in  Buddhism In The News

Browse in  Burma And Buddhism  Discussion Topic.

Browse in  Tibetan Buddhism In The News, Dalai Lama In The News


Optional Extras

Browse in  Buddha In The News; Buddhism Audio Links; Buddhism Video Links


Course Planning

Other Asian Religions Workshop


Looking Ahead


Week 10  (March 20-26)

Orientation For Week 10


Group Mini-Presentations

Shinto: The Way Of The Kami

Tibetan Buddhism: The Third Turning Of The Wheel

Jainism: The Way Of The Conqueror


Week 11  (March 27-April 1)

Orientation For Week 11


Reading Assignment

Browse extensively in  Jainism In The News

Browse extensively in  Shinto In The News

Browse extensively in  Confucianism In The News

Browse extensively in  Taoism In The News

Browse extensively in  Zoroastrianism In The News


Class Discussion

Comparative Religions Grid Workshop


***Thursday, April 1:  Comparative Religions Grid Due (18%)


Week 12  (April 3-9)

Orientation For Week 12


Discussion Forum Contributions

Sikhism In The News


Reading Assignment

Eleanor Nesbitt, Sikhism: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford, 2016.  The link to the left opens up the NIC Library's e-text edition of Nesbitt's book.  The librarian recommends using the PDF link at the permalink rather than downloading the digital file.

Browse extensively in Sikhism In The News


Instructor Lecture

Essence Of Sikhism -- The Way Of The Disciples

Outline:  Essence Of Sikhism


Optional Extras

Browse extensively in Sikhism Video Links

Browse extensively in Sikhism Audio Links


***Sunday, April 11:  Journal Due  (35%)


Evaluation

Reflections On Entering The Course 1%

Sacred Signs Mini-Assignment

10%

Nine Lives Mini-Essay

12%

Other Asian Religions Mini-Assignment

10%

Comparative Religions Grid

18%

Journal 35%

Class Participation

14%

a)  Reflections On Entering The Course (1%)

Who are you? Where are you from? What are your interests? Why are you taking this course? How would you begin to make sense of your own thoughts about religion and religious studies? Do you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions as we start the course? Write two or three informal paragraphs for the second class of the semester to introduce yourself to me.


b)  Sacred Signs Mini-Assignment (10%)

You will engage in a comparative examination of at least three significant religious symbols.  The completed project will include both a written description and analysis of your chosen symbols and a Powerpoint presentation of 10+ slides that may be shared with your classmates.


c)  Nine Lives Mini-Essay (12%)

This assignment will be your written analysis (approximately 3 double-spaced pages) of William Dalrymple's Nine Lives: In Search Of The Sacred In Modern India.


d)  Other Asian Religions Mini-Assignment (10%)

You will work with a few of your classmates and engage in introductory study of one particular Eastern Religion:  Jainism, Shinto, Confucianism, and Taoism.  You will be responsible for writing up a summary and analysis of your research as a Journal Entry, but also will participate in an informal small-group presentation to your classmates.  The evaluation for this assignment will be based upon the combination of your own self-evaluation and the evaluation by your team members of your contributions to the group.


e)  Comparative Religions Grid (18%)

This exercise will ask you to engage in an in-depth comparative analysis of a select few world religions.


f)  Journal (35%)

The student Journal will be the most substantial assignment in this course.  It will represent your on-going engagement with the core class curriculum.  The focus of the Journal should be on analysis, interpretation, and commentary.  It should consist of a series of short writings of varying lengths about the course material.  I refer to these short writings as entries.  The purpose of the journal is to provide you with the opportunity for frequent thoughtful and analytical commentary upon course-related material.

I have provided you with two different options for the Journal: (1) The Regular Journal; or (2) The Note-Taking/Journal Combo.  These are described in detail on the Assignment Page of my web-site.  You should familiarize yourself with these two models and make a clear choice between the options at the beginning of the course.

It is expected that you work regularly on the Journal throughout the semester, writing in it on a weekly basis.  You will only need to hand in the Journal to me twice, however.  You will submit your Journal-in-Progress to me through the Blackboard site not long after Reading Break.  I want to check to ensure that you are making good progress on the assignment and that we share a mutual understanding as to the nature of the assignment.  This check-in is ungraded but mandatory.  Failure to submit your Journal-in-Progress at this time may lead to a lowering of your Journal grade later in the semester.  You will then submit your entire semester-long Journal to me through the Blackboard site at the end of the course for an overall grade and evaluation.


g)  Class Participation (14%)

The Class Participation grade will be based on your contributions to both our videoconference discussion and the Blackboard Learn Discussion Forums ( https://learn.nic.bc.ca  ).  The Discussion Forums are identified in the Syllabus but then you will need to log onto the Blackboard site to offer your thoughts about the different topics.  The expectation for our class sessions is that you will have spent a few hours before each meeting studying that week's materials and that you come regularly to our meetings ready to offer thoughtful commentary upon the topics under discussion.  I take seriously your capacity to add to the learning of your fellow students and instructor, and expect you to strive to do that upon a consistent basis.  One measure of solid class participation will be your ability to demonstrate that you have read the required course books and then struggled to think about their larger implications in time for our seminar discussions on each of those.


WELCOME TO THE COURSE

 

 

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