RS 200B: Introduction to Asian Religions

The aim of this course is to provide students with an introduction to the academic study of the major religions of Asia. We will examine the basic historical context, literature and developments of each religious tradition by means of lectures, assigned readings, discussions and films. As far as possible, we will aim to enter into a “sympathetic understanding” of the world-views and fundamental outlooks of practitioners of these faiths. Special emphases will be given to these traditions’ perspectives on questions pertaining to the nature of reality and the human condition. As well, we will discuss other central topics such as scripture, religious practice, and ethics. The course begins with a study of Hinduism before proceeding on to a briefer treatment of Jainism. We then continue with an exploration of the early Buddhist tradtion. In the last month students are introduced to Chinese religions (Confucianism, Taoism, and Chinese Buddhism). We end the course with a brief exploration of religious developments in Japan (Zen, Pure Land Buddhism).