Religions of Asia
This course is an introduction to the religious traditions of Southern and Eastern Asia. It surveys the beliefs, rituals, practices, and thought of major traditions—Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism—and less well known traditions—Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Sikhism, Shintoism. The focus of the course will be on the lived experience of each tradition, looking at the worldviews, motives and aspirations of religious figures. Further, we will trace historical developments by examining moments of sharing and contestation of religious, political, and social ideas between traditions in order to question their boundaries and integrity. Special emphasis is placed on the role of the visual in each religious culture. As Asian religions often do not draw the same boundaries between the sacred and profane as western traditions do, we will also interrogate the ways we approach the study of religion and problematize the very study of “Asian Religions” and “World Religions” in general. This course seeks to foster effective communication skills and to promote critical and independent inquiry into the ways the sacred has been and continues to be made, and how the vicissitudes of life are made meaningful in Asia.