Religious Studies 101 World Religions of Asia, Winter 2004-05

Introduction to selected religious traditions of Asia. This course will examine various Asian religious traditions including Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. Rather than provide a comprehensive survey of all of the Asian religions (which is impractical in a ten-week quarter), this course emphasizes in-depth understanding of selected traditions through the study of primary religious texts supported by secondary readings in the relevant scholarly literature. The focus of our examination will be on the philosophical understanding of religious ideas supported by a critical examination of historical context. We will study key ideas within the critical context of various cultural and historical issues such as gender, class, and ritual.


1. Attendance: Required. Students can have one unexcused absence without penalty. Each class missed thereafter without prior permission will result in 1/2 grade penalty for the course grade. Attendance at weekly discussion sections is mandatory.

2. Short exams: Two short, in-class exams, based on materials from the readings, lectures, and course web site.

3. Short response papers: Three response papers on the readings. They offer thoughtful reflections on the readings rather than merely personal reactions. More specific instructions will be provided on the course web site.

4. Presentation: Students will make a presentation on the readings for one of the section meetings. The presenter should NOT summarize the reading but should use the presentation to discuss why the selected ideas/passages in question are important for understanding the reading and proceed to explain and well as raise questions about these ideas/passages.

The primary purpose of these presentations is to launch the discussion, not to demonstrate breadth of knowledge or to lead the discussion. Each presenter will prepare a handout with 2 questions and brief, corresponding quotations from the readings. More detailed instructions will be provided on the course web site.

5. Final paper: Each student will hand in a medium length final paper of 4-6 pages double-spaced. Suggested topics will be provided. Students may choose to create their own topics with the consent of their section leader. In the case of the latter, a one-paragraph description of the topic must be submitted by email to the instructor one week prior to the due date.

6. Late policy on written assignments: Three grace days total will be allotted excluding the medium-length paper for which no extensions will be given. For all other assignments, a cumulative total of three late days will be allowed without penalty. Thereafter, each late day will result in a two-point deduction from the course grade. Weekends are not counted against the grace days.


Required Texts (Information listed here is given in footnote/endnote format.)

1. Herbert Fingarette, Confucius-The Secular as Sacred (New York: HarperCollins, 1972).

2. Burton Watson, tr., Chuang Tzu (New York: Columbia University Press, 1964).

3. Taitetsu Unno, Tannisho-A Shin Buddhist Classic (Honolulu: Buddhist Study Center Press, 1996).

4. Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace (Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press, 1987).

5. Course Reader, Religious Studies 101 World Religions-Asia, Fall 2004.

Available at the Copy Shop, 539 E. 13th Street, Eugene, OR 97401, TEL 485 6253

Course Reader

1. Ralph T. H. Griffith, trans., The Hymns of the Rgveda (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1973) 206, 633-4.

2. Shree Purohit Swami and W. B. Yeats, trans., The Ten Principal Upanishads (Calcutta: Rupa, 1992) 90-92.

3. A. C. Bhakitvedanta Swami Prabhupada, trans., Bhagavad-Gita As It Is (Los Angeles: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1990) 633-634.

4. Joseph Campbell, Oriental Mythology - The Masks of God (NY: Penguin, 1991) 343-364.

5. Peter Harvey, An Introduction to Buddhism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990) 9-26.

6. Frederick Streng, Emptiness-A Study in Religious Meaning (Nashville and New York: Abingdon Press, 1967) 199, 212-215.

7. Mark Unno, "Key Ideas: Nagarjuna" and "Key Ideas: Philosophical Schools."

8. Robert A. F. Thurman, trans., The Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1987) 56-63, 73-77.

9. Taitetsu Unno, "Philosophical Schools-San-lun, T'ien-t'ai, and Hua-yen," in Buddhist Spirituality, ed. by Takeuchi Yoshinori (New York: Crossroad, 1995) 343-365.

10. Heinrich Dumoulin, Zen Buddhism: A History-India and China (New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1988) 85-94.

11. Hayao KAWAI, "Japanese Mythology: Balancing the Gods," in his Dreams, Myths and Fairy Tales in Japan (Daimon, 1995) 67-97.

12. Mark Unno, "Key Terms - Philosophical Terms in the Zen Buddhist Thought of Dogen"

13. Norman Waddell and Masao Abe, trans., "Shobogenzo Genjokoan," by Dogen Kigen, The Eastern Buddhist 5:2 (10/1972) 129-140.

14. Mark Unno, "Key Terms - Pure Land Buddhism and the Philosophy of Honen and Shinran."

15. Mark Unno, "The Nembutsu of No-Meaning and the Problem of Genres in the Writings and Statements of Gutoku Shinran." The Pure Land 10-11 (12/1994). 1-9 (originally pages 105-121).

16. Nishitani Keiji, "Ikebana," Kyoto Journal 4 (Fall 1987) 33-35.

17. Paula Arai, "Soto Zen Nuns in Modern Japan: Keeping and Creating Tradition," Bulletin of the Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture 14 (Summer 1990) 38-51.

18. Mu Soeng Sunim. Thousand Peaks: Korean Zen-Tradition & Teachers. Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1987. 28-48, 191-314.


RS101 World Religions of Asia - Class schedule

(CR: Course Reader; CR1 = Course Reader Selection No. 1)

Week 1 - Introduction

9/27 Mon. Introduction to the Course-Asian Religions: Whose Religions where?

9/29 Wed. The Geography of Asian Religions: South, Southeast, East, Inner

10/1 Fri. Vedic Religion and Brahmanism. Read: Hymns of the Rgveda, Upanishads, CR1, 2.

Week 2 - Indian Religion: Gita, Nikaya, Mahayana

10/4 Mon. Bhagavad Gita, Dance of Krishna and Gopis. Read: Bhagavad Gita, Oriental Mythology, CR 3, 4.

10/6 Wed. Early Indian Buddhism I - Shakyamuni Buddha - Peter Harvey, Introduction to Buddhism, CR 5.

10/8 Fri. Early Indian Buddhism II - Nikaya Buddhism - Key concepts and historical background

Week 3 - Mahayana Buddhism

10/11 Mon. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday (no class).

10/13 Wed. Nagarjuna and the Wisdom Sutras.

Read: Emptiness, "Key Ideas: Nagarjuna and the Thought of Emptiness," CR6,7.

10/15 Fri. Bodhisattva ideal. Read: The Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti, CR8. Response paper I due in class

Week 4 - Ancient China I: Confucianism

10/18 Mon.Chinese Buddhism, "The Philosophical Schools."

Read: "Key Ideas: Taitetsu Unno, 'Philosophical Schools," "Philosophical Schools," CR6,9.

10/20 Wed.The World of the Sage Kings. Read: Fingarette, Confucius: The Secular as Sacred, vii-xi, 1-17.

10/22 Fri. Confucius and the world of ritual action. Read: Fingarette, Confucius, 18-56. Short exam I in class.

Week 5 - Ancient China II: Taoism

10/25 Mon. Confucianism and the orchestral vision. Read: Fingarette, Confucius, 57-81.

Lao Tzu: The Power of the Way.

10/27 Wed. Lao Tzu: The Power of the Way. Read: Watson, tr., Chuang Tzu, 1-20, 23-30.

10/29 Fri. Chuang Tzu I: Read: Chuang Tzu, 31-45, 46-88. Response paper II due in class

Week 6 - Ancient China III: Taoism and Early Chan/Zen

11/1 Mon. Chuang Tzu II: Read: Chuang Tzu, 89-110

11/3 Wed. Chuang Tzu III: Read: Chuang Tzu, 111-140.

11/5 Fri. Bodhidharma and Zen Buddhism. Read: Dumoulin, Zen Buddhism, CR 10.

Week 7 - Ancient and MedievalJapan, Ancient Korea

11/8 Mon. The way of the kami - gods and goddesses. Read: Kawai, "Japanese Mythology," CR 11.

11/10 Wed. Korean Buddhists: Chajang, Uisang, and Wonhyo. Read: Thousand Peaks, pp. 28-38, CR 18.

11/12 Fri. Dogen and Zen Buddhism. Read: "Shobogenzo Genjokoan," CR13. Resp. paper III due in class

Week 8 - Medieval Japan

11/15 Mon. Dogen and Zen Buddhism. Read: "Shobogenzo Genjokoan," CR13.

11/17 Wed. Shinran and Pure Land Buddhism.

Read: Unno, "Key Terms - Pure Land Buddhism," CR 14, Unno, Tannisho, 37-56, 1-14.

11/19 Fri. Shinran and Pure Land Buddhism Short exam II in class

Read: Unno, Tannisho, 57-66, 21-23, 32-34, Unno, "The Nembutsu of No-Meaning," CR 15.

Week 9 - Modern Vietnamese Buddhism

11/22 Mon. Thich Nhat Hanh. Read: Being Peace, 1-44.

11/24 Wed. Thich Nhat Hanh. Read: Being Peace, 45-90.

11/26 Fri (Thanksgiving Break)

Week 10 - Modern Manifestations Korean and Japanese

11/29 Mon. Soto Zen Nuns. Read: Nishitani, "Ikebana," Paula Arai, "Soto Zen Nuns," CR16, 17.

12/1 Wed. Seung Sahn. Read: Thousand Peaks, 191-314, CR 18.

12/3 Fri. Final Lecture. Final papers due in class.