Norton, Massachusetts

Religion 325
Fall 1999
Jeffrey R. Timm
103 Knapton, ext. 3695.
Office hours: Tues and Thurs, 9-10:30 and by appointment.

This course is a thematic and conceptual exploration of a fascinating collection of views, practices, and beliefs called Hinduism. This diversity has overwhelmed Western sensibilities since the first European explorers and traders visited South Asia. Hinduism has successfully spurned the onslaught of three great missionary religions (Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity) and yet it has developed the reputation of being the religion of "tolerance." What is Hinduism? How can an outsider begin to grasp the meaning of this vast array of religious forms? What do the speculations of a Brahmin philosopher have in common with the piety of an ordinary villager?
To understand Hindu thought we will explore the primary which provide foundation to Hindu religious expression; but to enter into the Hindu worldview we must also discover its religious expression in literature, art, music, ritual practices, and social order. Short of going to India, one of the ways we can experience the vitality of this faith is through field research at this area's active Hindu temple in Ashland, MA. Another way is through the medium of film. A number of films on the religion and culture of India are scheduled for viewing during the semester. This, in conjunction with our shared readings and individual research, will enable us to discover how the collection of perspectives known as Hinduism finds concrete expression through sacred text, myth, ritual, art, literature, and in the day-to-day life of the Indian people.

Course Format and Basis for Evaluation

This course will be conducted as a seminar (with short lectures from time to time). Each seminar member is expected to attend each class with the reading prepared and the appropriate text in hand. Quality class participation will significantly enhance the final grade.
Each seminar member will write three thought papers (4-5 pages each) during the semester, as well as make a presentation to the class on a book assigned by the instructor. A longer, final research paper (12-15 pages) will be due during exam week. Instead of this final paper, you may choose to do a take-home, open-book essay exam of similar length.

Required Texts

The Rig Veda trans. by O'Flaherty, Penguin: 1984

The Upanishads trans. by Prabhavananda, Mentor: 1957

The Song of God, Bhagavad Gita Mentor: 1972

Classical Hindu Mythology Temple University Press: 1978

Samskara: A Rite for a Dead Man Oxford: 1978

Hindus: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices Routledge: 1994

Suggested Texts

Eliot Deutsch. Advaita Vedanta: A Philosophical Reconstruction. East-West Center Press, 1969.

Diana L. Eck. Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India. 2nd ed. Anima, 1985.

Harold Coward and David Goa. Mantra: Hearing the Divine in India. Anima, 1991.

David R. Kinsley. The Sword and the Flute. University of California Press, 1975.

Kirin Narayan. Storytellers, Saints, and Scoundrels. University of PA Press, 1989.

Attendance/Participation Policy: One unexcused absence is allowed. Regular participation in class discussion will enhance the final grade.