Topics for Paper I, REL101 World Religions: Asian Traditions

Due Friday, October 13, 2017, in class.

A. Your Own Topic
Select one passage from a primary source we have read for the course up to this point. i) Discuss why that passage is key to understanding the main ideas of the reading as a whole. ii) Relate that passage to two other passages from the reading to show how your idea about what the passage means is confirmed by other passages from the same or related texts. iii) What do you find compelling about the ideas in the passage in question, and what do you find to be problematic or questionable? iv) Discuss how the ideas represented in that passage made you reconsider your ideas about religion and/or ethics. AS THE TITLE OF YOUR PAPER, write "A." followed by an appropriate TITLE for your paper based on its content. For example, you might write: A. Different Vedic Metaphors for Ultimate Reality and Its Manifestations.


B. Defined Topics

1. Compare the creation account in the Rig Veda (Course Reader selection 1) with Genesis from the Hebrew Bible (see below):

Genesis (World English Bible: http://ebible.org/bible/web/Genesis.htm)

1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 1:2 Now the earth was formless and empty. Darkness was on the surface of the deep. God's Spirit was hovering over the surface of the waters.

1:3 God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. 1:4 God saw the light, and saw that it was good. God divided the light from the darkness. 1:5 God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." There was evening and there was morning, one day.

1:6 God said, "Let there be an expanse in the middle of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters." 1:7 God made the expanse, and divided the waters which were under the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. 1:8 God called the expanse "sky." There was evening and there was morning, a second day.

1:9 God said, "Let the waters under the sky be gathered together to one place, and let the dry land appear;" and it was so. 1:10 God called the dry land "earth," and the gathering together of the waters he called "seas." God saw that it was good. 1:11 God said, "Let the earth put forth grass, herbs yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit after their kind, with its seed in it, on the earth;" and it was so. 1:12 The earth brought forth grass, herbs yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit, with its seed in it, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. 1:13 There was evening and there was morning, a third day.

Discuss both similarities and differences. In particular, discuss how they differ not only in the content of ideas but also in the ways of thinking represented by the two texts.

2. In the episode of Krishna and Arjuna from the Bhagavad Gita (RT - see chapter 2, 3), duty to one's role in society is extolled as the path to liberation. In the episode of Krishna and the gopis (milk maidens) from the Gita Govinda, Krishna seduces the gopis to violate their duty to their husbands. Yet, he explains that he did this precisely to lead them to liberation (CR3, pp. 348-349). Are the views attributed to Krishna in these two works of literature contradictory, or can they be reconciled?

3. Compare and contast the views of karma as found in early Buddhism (see Peter Harvey article [CR4]) and in the Hinduism of Bhagavad Gita on the following three points: i) philosophical comparison of karma in relation to anatman and atman, ii) social comparison in relation to renunciation and social obligation, and iii) individual karmic merit versus role-based karmic merit.

4. Discuss the differences between the ascetic path (path of self-denial and renunciation, the holy man) and the path of the householder (represented by Arjuna) in terms of karma yoga, bhakti yoga, and jnana yoga (religious practice of action, devotion, and knowledge of ultimate reality), citing at least three passages from the Bhagavad Gita.