LIBERAL STUDIES 131: EASTERN AND COMPARATIVE RELIGIONS
North Island College Winter 2023
Meeting Time:T, Th: 10:00 - 11:20 am
MeetingPlace: Village AN2
Instructor: Dan Hinman-Smith
Office: Village G6
Office Hours: Tues. 11:30 am - 12:50 pm; Th 4:00 - 5:20 pm (You can either meet me in person in Village G6 or set up a video meeting on BlueJeans)
Office Phone: 334-5000, Extension 4024
Web- Site for Course:http://www.misterdann.com/contentsreligioneastern.htm
North Island College is honoured to acknowledge the traditional territories of the combined 35 First Nations of the Nuu-chah-nulth, Kwakwaka'wakw and Coast Salish traditions, on whose traditional and unceded territories the college's campuses are situated. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's final report calls for 94 actions toward restoring a balanced relationship between indigenous peoples and settler communities in this country.
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 and origins and historical development, the sacred texts, the central tenets, the institutions and 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, seminar discussion and lecture presentations.
**It is important that you acquire these books. They are available for purchase at the NIC Bookstore. Several copies of Nine Lives are available on Reserve from the Comox Valley Campus branch of the North Island College Library, while three copies of Wallis's translation of the Dhammapada are also at the library. I have also provided links to e-text editions below.
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).
William Dalrymple, Nine Lives: In Search Of The Sacred In Modern India (London: Bloomsbury, 2009).
Optional Textbook: I have decided not to have a required textbook in LIB 131. We will be using basic introductory materials from the Learn Religions web-site as one substitute. 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).
The Teaching Company has a 30-hour Great Courses lecture series, "The Great World Religions," that is available from the North Island College library. It features superb six-hour introductions to five major faiths, includingHinduism and Buddhism. These Audio DVDs can be borrowed from or listened to in the library.
By the end of the course, students should:
1) have a basic understanding of the central beliefs, traditions and rituals of Hinduism, Buddhism and the other major eastern religions;
2) be able to trace the history of the major eastern religions from their origins to the present day;
3) be able to identify, discuss, analyze and compare sacred texts and key individuals from the various eastern religions;
4) appreciate the complex interrelationships between the different eastern religions;
5) be able to highlight contemporary challenges and controversies that face each of the major eastern religions and to frame these issues in a broad context not limited to the present moment;
6) recognize the concepts and issues basic to the comparative study of religions, including theories as to origins, sacred time and space, myth, scripture, doctrine, law, symbols, and ethics;
7) be better situated for the lifelong comparative study of the history, philosophy and theology of the world's religion.
My Assumptions About This Course
That you are interested in world religion and eager to learn as much about it as possible in this course.
That it will be impossible to learn all that you would like to learn given the massive amount of relevant material and the time constraints involved.
That my job as instructor is to strike an appropriate balance between providing a common core curriculum and setting up structures that also allow you to study materials of personal interest.
That this course should help to set you up for future formal or informal study of world religion rather than being a survey that teaches you "all that you need to know."
That the success of this course will depend not just upon my efforts but upon your willingness to participate in the creation of a dynamic learning community through your own study and willingness to engage with your classmates.
Tentative Class Schedule
Tuesday, January 10
Thursday, January 12
a) Lecture: Sacred Varanasi
Browse extensively in Sacred Varanasi Discussion Topic.
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.
Letter Of Introduction
Reflections Upon Entering The Course: Write a short letter of introduction to me at the beginning of the semester. This should be at least 100 words in length and is designed to give me a beginning idea of who you are and how I might be serve you as a teacher, and to provide me with an opening snapshot of the class as a whole. It is also meant to encourage you to think about your own relationship with the study of religion. You need not use the following questions as cue, but they may be helpful. Who are you? Where are you from? How might you begin to describe your community and what life is like there if you've come to NIC from far away? What do you miss and what do you think would most surprise me if I were to visit your hometown? 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? Although this is not a graded assignment, I would appreciate it if you took several minutes writing a thoughtful introduction. If you are enrolled in more than one class with me this semester, a single letter of introduction will suffice, but do include some thoughts about religion and religious studies. If you have already taken a class with me, please update what you sent me before and send me a new letter of introduction.
Tuesday, January 17
a) Discussion: Swastika As Sacred Symbol
b) Video: "Faith Connections" (2013) [117 mins.]
Browse extensively inSwastika As Sacred Symbol Discussion Topic.
"Reclaiming The Swastika," Documentary Archive, BBC World Service, October 24, 2014. [28 mins]
Thursday, January 19
a) Discussion: Kumbh Mela
b) Finish Video: "Faith Connections"
Browse extensively in Kumbh Mela Discussion Topic.
Tuesday, January 24
a)Lecture: Essence Of Hinduism: "Truth Is One; Sages Call It By Different Names" (I)
Use the Hinduism On-Line Text to complete theHinduism Study Guide:
I have collected some resources from the Learn Religions web-site as a partial substitute for a course text. There are also some corresponding worksheets for Buddhism and Sikhism. The relevant web resources and the worksheets can be accessed from the On-Line Text section of the web-site. You will have a couple of weeks on your own time to complete each worksheet. Please don't just initially Google the answers -- you will not learn as much from that as from a very careful browsing of the Learn Religions web-site. Note that the Study Guides include number references to the appropriate Learn Religions page for each of the questions. We'll use the Study Guide as the basis for a small ungraded in-class quiz.
"World Religions: Hinduism," Faith Reason, January 16, 2011 [14 mins]: A thoughtful audio overview of Hinduism from Boston University professor Stephen Prothero.
Thursday, January 26
a) Discussion: Hinduism In The News
b) Discussion: Of Elephant Gods, Monkey Kings And Sacred Cows
Browse extensively in Hinduism In The News.
Browse extensively in Of Elephant Gods, Monkey Kings And Sacred Cows Discussion Topic.
Listen to at least one audio file and/or view at least one video file atHinduism: Audio Links and Hinduism: Video Links
Tuesday, January 31
a) Discussion: Bhagavad-Gita
b) Video: "The Bhagavad Gita," Invitation To World Literature (30 mins.)
c) [If Time] Possible Mini-Lecture: The Bhagavad-Gita -- A Biography
Gavin Flood and Charles Martin, eds. and trans., Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation. New York: W. W. Norton, 2012.
"Hinduism Through Its Scriptures," Harvard X, April 19, 2017. [5 mins]
"The Bhagavad Gita," Heart And Soul, BBC World Service, July 18, 2011.
"The Upanishads," In Our Time, BBC Radio 4, November 8, 2012.
Thursday, February 2
a) Lecture: The Essence Of Hinduism -- "Truth Is One; Sages Call It By Different Names" (II)
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. There is no expectation that you access this volume but I encourage you to do so if you have extra time.
"Hinduism: My Life, My Religion," BBC Learning Zone, September 16, 2015. [29 mins]
Browse extensively in Sacred Festivals In The News -- Hinduism.
Tuesday, February 7
a) Ungraded Hinduism Mini-Quiz (All the questions will be taken from the Hinduism Study Guide)
b) Video: "The Buddha -- The Story Of Siddhartha" (2010) [120 minutes]
***Hinduism Study Guide Due (This will not be graded but I will review it)
Thursday, February 9
a) Introduce Asian Religions Group Mini-Presentations
b) Finish Video: "The Buddha -- The Story Of Siddhartha"
Tuesday, February 14
a) Lecture: The Essence Of Buddhism -- The Nature Of Suffering Must Be Understood (I)
b) Video: "Buddhism In Brief," Harvard X, April 19, 2017. [6 mins]
Use theBuddhism On-Line Text to complete the Buddhism Study Guide.
"World Religions: Buddhism," Faith Reason, January 16, 2011 [13 mins]: A thoughtful audio introduction to Buddhism from Boston University professor Stephen Prothero.
Thursday, February 16
a) Discussion: Buddhism In The News
b) Lecture: The Essence Of Buddhism -- The Nature Of Suffering Must Be Understood (II)
Browse extensively in Buddhism In The News
"Theravada And Mahayana Buddhism," World History, Khan Academy, March 16, 2017. [8 mins]
Browse in Buddha In The News; Buddhism Audio Links; Buddhism Video Links
***Journal Due (30% of Course Grade)
***Family Day And Reading Break, February 20-24
Monday, February 28
a) Video: "Seven Wonders Of The Buddhist World" (2012) [74 minutes]
Thursday, March 2
a) Lecture: The Essence Of Buddhism -- The Nature Of Suffering Must Be Understood (III)
b) Asian Religions Group Mini-Presentations Workshop
Tuesday, March 7
a) Discussion: Dhammapada -- Verses On The Way
b) Lecture: The Diamond Vehicle -- Tibetan Buddhism (I)
c) Asian Religions Group Mini-Presentations Workshop
Glenn Wallis, trans., Dhammapada -- Verses On The Way
Two on-line versions of the Dhammapada can be found at Dhammapada (1) and at Dhammapada (2).
Thursday, March 9
a) Discussion: Tibetan Buddhism In The News
b) Lecture: The Diamond Vehicle -- Tibetan Buddhism (II)
c) Ungraded Buddhism Mini-Quiz (All the questions will be taken from the Buddhism Study Guide)
***Buddhism Study Guide Due (This will not be graded but I will review it)
Browse extensively in Tibetan Buddhism In The News and Dalai Lama In The News.
Browse in Tibetan Buddhism Video Links and Tibetan Buddhism Audio Links.
"Zen," In Our Time, BBC Radio 4, December 4, 2014.
Tuesday, March 14
a) Asian Religions Group Mini-Presentations
Thursday, March 16
a) Asian Religions Group Mini-Presentations
Tuesday, March 21
a) Discussion: Other Asian Religions In The News
b) Video: "Confucius," Episode 3, Genius Of The Ancient World, BBC (2015) [59 mins] or "Asian Temples: Humans, Nature And Gods," Sacred Spaces (2017) [52 mins]
Browse in Zoroastrianism In The News
Browse in Jainism In The News
Browse inBahai Faith In The News
Browse in Shinto In The News
Browse in Confucianism In The News
Browse in Taoism In The News
Thursday, March 23
a) Lecture: Shinto -- The Way Of The Kami
"Shinto," In Our Time, BBC Radio 4, September 22, 2011. [45 min]
Tuesday, March 28
a) Course Check-In
b) Discussion: Nine Lives
William Dalrymple, Nine Lives: In Search Of The Sacred In Modern India
Thursday, March 30
a) Lecture: Essence Of Sikhism -- The Way Of The Disciples (I)
Use the Sikhism On-Line Text to complete the Sikhism Study Guide.
Eleanor Nesbitt, Sikhism: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford, 2016. This small volume offers a comprehensive introduction to Sikhism. 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. Read at least a chapter or two of this book.
"My Turban And Me," BBC, July 13, 2018. [32 mins]
"Walking The Kartarpur Corridor For Guru Nanak," Heart And Soul, BBC World Service, December 6, 2019. [27 min]
"What Is Sikhism?," Cogito, January 11, 2020. [20 mins]
"The Sikhs: Between India And Pakistan," DW Documentary, January 21, 2020. [27 mins]
Tuesday, April 4
a) Ungraded Sikhism Mini-Quiz (All the questions will be taken from the Sikhism Study Guide)
b) Discussion: Sikhism In The News
Browse extensively in Sikhism In The News. I also recommend using Sikhism as a search term in the Canadian Newsstand Section of the NIC Library Database.
Browse in Sikhism Audio Links, Sikhism Video Links, andSacred Festivals In The News -- Sikhism.
***Sikhism Study Guide Due (This will not be graded but I will review it)
Thursday, April 6
a) Lecture: Essence Of Sikhism -- The Way Of The Disciples (II)
b) Course Wrap-up and Evaluation
Reflections On Entering The Course
Asian Religions Group Mini-Presentation
|Nine Lives Reading Response||15%|
Class Preparation And Class Participation
a) Reflections On 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.
b) The Journal (30%)
The student Journal will be the main assignment in the first half of the semester, though we will then move to other types of assignments in the second half of the term. The purpose of the Journal is to provide you the opportunity for frequent thoughtful, analytical, and personal commentary upon course-related material. The advantages of the Journal, to my mind, are that it breaks work down into regular and manageable chunks, and that it enables you to seize hold of the curriculum in a way which reflects your own interests and style. The entries will, no doubt, vary in format, length, and quality. Although it's fine if some entries read more like summary than analysis, a major purpose of the Journal is to engage you with the curriculum as an active interpreter and critical analyst. In order to give you a basic structure and to clearly communicate my expectations, I will provide certain mandated entries and also provide you with a list of recommended entries. But I do challenge you to ask yourself throughout the semester how you best can use the Journal requirement as a way of fostering your own learning. I recommend that you average at least one Journal entry per week.
c) Asian Religions Group Mini-Presentation (14%)
You will be responsible for collaborating with a small group of your classmates and putting together an informal but well-organized slideshow and oral presentation that introduces a specific Asian Religion.
d) Nine Lives Reading Response (15%)
This assignment will consist of reading notes and a mini-essay in response to William Dalrymple's book Nine Lives: In Search Of The Sacred In Modern India.
e) Class Preparation And Class Participation (25%)
LIB 131 is a seminar-based course that can only thrive if students actively engage with each other in the classroom. The class participation grade will be based upon attendance; pre-class preparation; and the willingness to contribute thoughtfully to full-class and small-group discussion. I would like to encourage a classroom environment in which all are eager to share their ideas and in which lectures are accompanied by thoughtful discussion. I will be assigning regular small homework exercises as one way of fostering student accountability. These will contribute towards the Class Preparation assessment.
f) Self-Evaluation (15%)
You will be asked to assess your own approach to your studies. I will provide a template to help you to think about how to effectively learn to be a better and more self-aware learner.
The curriculum for this course is organized on a week-by-week basis, with regular seminars being dependent upon full pre-class student preparation for their success. Late assignments are also often an extra burden from an instructor standpoint. Due dates should be noted and met.
However, I appreciate that there may be occasions where a very few extra days to polish an assignment in the midst of competing deadlines can be helpful, and thus I deliberately assume a good-faith effort on the part of students to meet the due dates and provide a small cushion of flexibility without any academic penalty. That does not mean the due dates are unimportant or that extensions are automatically granted. You should discuss possible extensions with me directly and I reserve the right to refuse to accept any late major assignment if you do not check in with me first. As a general rule, no assignment will be accepted more than two weeks late.
Writing Support And Peer Tutoring
Writing Support is available to all students at no additional cost. Go to Writing Support for any or all of your assignments. Every visit is a step toward becoming a better writer. Use Writing Support as many times as you like, and at any point in your writing process. The writing support faculty can help you understand the assignment, develop your ideas, outlines, thesis, and revision -- and anything else in-between. Book your appointment through the library website, or visit the library desk to inquire about drop-ins. There's also WriteAway, an online tutoring platform that allows you to upload your papers and assignments for detailed written feedback. Both services may be found at https://libguides.nic.bc.ca/WritingSupport .
Peer Tutoring is available at no additional cost for a wide range of courses offered at NIC. Students are hired and trained to tutor in a wide variety of content areas, in addition to supporting other students with basic study skills. These students have been successful in the courses they have taken and can help support other students become successful in their own courses. To see the list of tutors currently available, request a tutor in a course, or apply to become a tutor, please visit the library website: https://libcal.nic.bc.ca/appointments/ .
Student Technical Services
Our Student Technical Service team is available to help you with any technical issues that you may be experiencing as a student. Please go to https://library.nic.bc.ca/studenttech for more information.
NIC's Learn Anywhere website is geared to provide a collection of information that will help you be successful learning digitally by covering area such as: What is digital learning? How to be a digital learner while using NIC-supported technologies during your studies? A list of key skills and knowledge all students should have for successful learning in today's world, knowing your rights and responsibilities and Technology Readiness Checklists. More details at: https://learnanywhere.opened.ca/
Community Supports (24/7)
There are several supports available to help any student in distress. If you are in distress, please reach out for support.
Vancouver Island Crisis Line: 24/7 1-888-494-3888 (Available to students located on Vancouver Island only)
Crisis Suicide helpline: 24/7 1-800-784-2433 (Available to students located in Canada only)
BC 211: Full list of community services available across BC. Dial 2-1-1 on BC cellphone (Available to students located in BC only).
Here2Talk: 24/7 counselling support for post-secondary students: 1-877-857-3397 (Available to students located in Canada and offshore).
A Note On Plagiarism And Academic Dishonesty
Everything that you hand in should be your original work unless otherwise indicated. Violations of this policy may result in being reported to the Academic Integrity Committee and in failing an assignment or the course in its entirety. Please talk to me if you have any uncertainty about what is permitted here. I want to help you to get as much out of this course as possible but, for this to happen, you need to put forth strong and honest effort. Some students have been using contracted outsiders to complete their work. Please do not do this. What may seem like a dishonest but private choice is actually one with ripple effects that not only disheartens your instructor but which also very negatively impacts upon the education of your classmates. Thank you.
Community Code of Academic, Personal and Professional Conduct (3-06)
Instructional Accommodation and Access Services for Students with Disabilities (3-17)
Student Appeals Policy (3-30)
Student Complaint Resolution Policy (3-31)
Evaluation of Student Performance Policy (3-33)
Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy (3-34)
Course Outline Policy (3-35)
Academic Standing and Progression (3-37)
Grading System (4-14)
WELCOME TO THE COURSE