This course is designed as a historical and cultural survey of the basic teachings and doctrines of the major religious traditions of the world: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. The course will examine a significant number of specific themes in all religions studied such as the nature of this world and of the universe; the relationship between the individual and the transcendent; ultimate reality; the meaning and goals of worldly life; the importance of worship and rituals; ethics and human action. Excerpts from important texts of each tradition will be analyzed such as The Torah, The Bible, The Koran, The Upanishads, The Bhagavad Gita, The Tao Te Ching, Chuang-Tzu, Buddhist Sutras, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, and The Confucian Canon. During the course, students will also learn the basic principles of meditation.
Exploration of yoga as a historical religious phenomenon, set of physical practices, and also as an element of modern culture; includes both lecture and practical components. We will analyze yoga’s roots in ancient India and such texts as the Upanishad and Pantajali’s Yoga Sutras, as well as its popularity and place in contemporary culture. Students will examine yoga as a spiritual, mental, and physical practice; in other words, as a path to attain spiritual realization and union with the divine, as a quieting and focusing technique, and as a healing and balancing physical exercise. Hence, we will study various breathing (pranayama) and meditation techniques along with ayurveda, an ancient Indian healing system and “science of life.” Included is an overview of such different forms of yoga such as Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Iyengar, Kundalini, Yin, as well as Laughter, Restorative, Bikram and yoga therapies for eating and addictive disorders. Finally, students will explore the interactions between practitioners of yoga and social, political, and environmental activism.
This course examines the interaction between culture and religion in Italy, above all modern Italy. The peninsula has been the almost uninterrupted home of the Catholic church and the Vatican State, a factor of great importance for centuries and still today in the development of Italian culture and society. At the same time Italy is a relatively young nation, democratic, industrialized, and multicultural. In the lively Italian cultural landscape religion can mean oceanic crowds at sanctuaries or a papal appearance, fierce newspaper debates, small parishes, and Muslims or Christians praying in rented spaces. Italy, indeed, epitomizes key issues in religion and culture generally. Students move between themes of diversity in religious belief and practice, coexistence of communities, continuity of tradition and local heritage, the political interface, secularism, religion in the media and popular culture, national identity, and educational, social, and health policies and activities. The course exploits the special opportunity to investigate various religious communities in Italy.
“In search of Early Christianity” aims to give students a brief overview of the main theological changes that happened in the first six centuries of the Christian era. This module will offer a sketch of the teachings of the major eastern and western theologians and of various Christian movements (e.g. Gnosticism, Origen, Tertullian, Irenaeus, Augustine), exploring also the historical context in which their thinking developed. Students will be introduced to tools and methods of religious studies, learning to critically interact with ancient primary sources (mostly texts and archaeological sources). Through the study of ancient sources and the contemporary scholarly debate around them, students will gain a sense of both the debates and divisions that occurred among Christians of the first sixth century and of the diversity of modern scholarly approaches and perspectives.
Prerequisites: Junior standing; a prior course in religious studies, or equivalent, is recommended
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