Reading Assessment Tests (="RATs") & Excerpts

The reading assessment tests used in this course are designed to ensure that you have properly prepared for the more complex thinking required in team assignments, by doing your best to view the film and read the assigned textbook chapters and primary sources before your team meets to complete those assignments. RATs will be administered on-line--first to individual students, and then to teams working as a group--during class time, in one of the computer labs on the second floor of Mendocino Hall, on the final Tuesday of each two-week sub-unit; keep in mind that the lowest RAT score will be dropped for each individual and team. As described below, prior to taking each RAT you are also required to turn in a summary of one of the readings listed in the schedule under "optional sources" for each two week period.

NOTE: use of RATs as described above is significantly different from testing you will most likely have encountered in other courses, in that the test occurs after only very brief consideration of the reading during lecture, and before in-depth processing of the reading material in class. In preparing for these tests, therefore, most students find themselves needing to allow more time than they are used to for reading assigned materials.

Your Task: For each RAT #1-6 (and also for the trial RAT, labeled "#0"), the overview(s) provided in CP for each tradition lists (1) about a dozen terms & names drawn from the assigned reading in NHLR. In addition, for each two week period the schedule lists (2) two required primary sources, and the bottom of the on-line version of this page lists three excerpts drawn from those sources. Finally, the schedule also lists for each tradition (3) the title of the film to be viewed in class, for which excerpts from key scenes are provided on-line. Each RAT will require you to answer ten (10) multiple choice questions regarding these three types of materials.

1.  Each RAT will begin with seven (7) questions related to one or more of the roughly dozen terms & names, based on what NHLR says about them. For each term or name you should be prepared to identify:
(a) (for a term) its basic meaning OR (for a name) to whom or what the name refers, as explained in NHLR;
(b) key ideas/events (including dates) linked to that term/name, and several specific examples/details related to those ideas/events as described in NHLR; and
(c) the significance of that term or name, according to the assigned NHLR chapter, for the wider tradition of which it is a part.

2.  Each RAT will also present you with one of the three excerpts listed below for the appropriate RAT, and ask you two (2) questions regarding
(a) the exact title of the reading, as well as name and background of the author;
(b) the relevant details preceding and leading up to the passage; and
(c) the relevant details following and further dealing with issues raised in the passage.

[By "relevant," I mean those details needed to understand the significance of everything in the excerpted passage.]

3.  Finally, each RAT will also present you with a few sentences of dialogue drawn from the film excerpts reproduced on-line, and ask you one (1) question regarding
(a) the relevant details preceding and leading up to the moment in the scene; and
(b) the relevant details following and further dealing with issues raised in that moment.

[Again by "relevant," I mean those details needed to understand the significance of everything in the excerpted scene.]

Summaries of Optional Readings: as noted above, before taking each RAT you must turn in a page-long summary of one of the optional readings listed in the schedule.

In order to receive full credit, these summaries must include:
(a) the precise name of your chosen source and its author, integrated into
(b) a one sentence synopsis of key ideas, themes, and/or issues addressed in it (note that (a) & (b) together must not exceed one sentence);
(c) three excerpts which illustrate some aspect of your synopsis; and finally
(d) a one or two sentence reflection articulating some aspect of the reading which resonated or sparked some insight in you personally.

IMPORTANT: each of the excerpts required under (c) above must be 2-4 sentences long (OK to use ellipses to edit, but make sure to preserve grammar), with one each drawn from the first, second, and final third of the reading; and include a page number citation, as well as a 1-2 sentence paraphrase of what precedes and follows each excerpt.

Time Limits & Point Values: You will be allowed roughly fifteen (15) minutes to complete each RAT, though I will generally allow extra time as needed. Each question will count for four (4) points, for a total of 40 points for each RAT. Summaries must be typed and submitted prior to the RAT for the corresponding sub-unit; no class time will be allotted for writing them . Note that while the readings you draw from are optional, the summaries themselves are REQUIRED, and each will count for ten (10) points (with the lowest score dropped as for RATs).

Academic Honesty: You may choose, if you wish, to study for RATs in the company of other students, especially other team members. You should be forthright, however, in asking those who have not first prepared independently to study on their own. Also please be discriminating in listening to others' study group contributions, since you yourself are ultimately responsible for what you say about each excerpt. Regarding summaries, your submission must be unique; sets of nearly identical or even strikingly similar submissions will be returned without points. Finally, during the exam, make sure to keep your gaze fixed either on your own paper or at some distant object at the front of the room or ceiling; gazing at one or more other students' papers will be treated as attempted plagiarism. (See my statements about the importance of academic honesty in FAQ, #14-17)

Excerpts (from required primary sources):

for RAT #0 (Trial--all three excerpts from Eck's "Frontiers of Encounter")

"When the Parliament opened, a replica of the Liberty Bell tolled ten times, once for each of the great religions represented....the president of the Parliament...began his address, “Worshippers of God and Lovers of Man, let us rejoice that we have lived to see this glorious day!”...John Henry Barrows then welcomed the delegates and confessed, “When, a few days ago, I met for the first time the delegates who have come to us from Japan, and shortly after the delegates who have come to us from India, I felt that the arms of Human brotherhood had reached almost around the globe....what gives us the most hope and happiness today is our confidence that ‘the whole round world is every way bound by gold chains about the feet of God’”...devout men of all faiths may speak for themselves without hindrance, without criticism, and without compromise, and tell what they believe and why they believe it.”  And so they did."

"One hundred years ago, my own great-grandparents were just getting settled in what to them was a new world. They were among the millions of immigrants who came from Sweden, Ireland, Poland, and Italy--Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish. America became a nation of immigrants, though not without prejudices and bigotry and exclusion. Beginning in the 1880s, the U.S. Congress passed a series of Asian exclusion acts that attempted to limit and even eliminate immigration from Asia. Such an immigration policy remained substantially in effect through the 1950s....When the immigration act proposed by President Kennedy was finally passed and signed into law in 1965, a new era of immigration began, bringing people from all over Asia to the United States. "

"Just three years earlier Chief Sitting Bull had been arrested and killed, the Ghost Dance had been suppressed, and 350 Sioux had been massacred at Wounded Knee Creek. On September 16, 1893...six and half million acres of Cherokee, Pawnee, and Tonkawa reservation lands were opened for homesteader settlement and 50,000 settlers rushed to claim hometead lands on that day alone....Not until eighty-five years later, with the Amercian Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978, was the integrity of Native American relgiousness legally recongized. And even since then, native peoples have struggled constantly to prevent the degradation of sacred sites, to stop the display of sacred artifacts and bodily remains in museums, and to use ceremonial peyote in their rites. "


for RAT #1

" mother, your faithful servant, wept for me...she perceived the death which held me, and you heard her, Lord....Hence she was granted the dream by which you encouraged her....Her vision was of herself standing on a rule made of wood.  A young man came to her, handsome, cheerful...He asked her the reasons why she was downcast...She had replied that she mourned my perdition.  He then told her to have no anxiety and exhorted her to direct her attention and to see that where she was, there was I also.  When she looked, she saw me standing beside her on the same rule."

"When I start to spirit changes... Even I wonder why I'm not in control of myself then. Before I go into the fire, I have my own mind. I'm afraid...When I see the fire, I calm down; I don't feel any fear...When I'm on the fire, the spirit guides me, and the power. On the fire I don't exist anymore, but I know what's happening around me; I hear what people say. When I'm on the fire, I feel the warmth, but I don't feel any pain....After leaving the fire I feel satisfaction because I've done my duty."

"To receive and embrace me she stretched out her pious hands, filled with numerous good examples for me to follow. There were large numbers of boys and girls, a multitude of all ages, young adults and grave widows and elderly virgins. In every one of them was [she] herself, in no sense barren but "the fruitful mother of children," the joys born of you, Lord...she smiled on me with a smile of encouragement as if to say, 'are you incapable of doing what these men and women have done?'"

for RAT #2

"Their remarks were inspired by life, growing out of the problems submitted to them and the exchange of views between the various sages and their disciples....Each debate is, to a large extent, independent of others and unique, and each subject is the focus of interest at the time it is being discussed....Not only where the thousands of anonymous views are concerned, but also in cases where the identity of the author or proponent is known, the differences between individuals are blurred and the general spirit prevails. However violently two sages may differ, their shared traits and likemindedness must eventually become evident to the reader, who then discerns the overall unity that overcomes all differences.

"...he began to recite the Sabbath prayers, and when the time came to read the weekly portion, the scroll of the Torah rolled open to the right place....the room filled with a holy light.... He read slowly and clearly, taking his time with every word.  And he read loud enough that not even a single one would be lost.  And when he finished reading, the scroll of the Torah rolled closed on its own, and the light vanished from the room.  So it was that [he] lived in the presence of that sacred scroll, reading the Sabbath portion from it every week and studying it night and day."

"...One of the greatest historical controversies was that between the methods of the ‘houses’ (schools) of Shammai and Hillel, which lasted for more than a century.  It was eventually resolved in the famous dictum: ‘Both are the words of the living God, and the decision is in accordance with the House of Hillel.’...When one of the sages ventured to say a certain theory was not to his liking, he was scolded by his colleagues, who informed him that it was wrong to say of Torah, “This is good and this is not.” man has the right to judge or to determine that a certain object lacks beauty from the purely objective point of view "


for RAT #3

"The first ten years of Muhammad’s teaching were difficult....For the powerful and prosperous Meccan oligarchy, the monotheistic message of this would-be reformer, with its condemnation of the socio-economic inequities of Meccan life, constituted a direct challenge not only to traditional polytheistic religion but also to the power and prestige of the establishment, threatening their economic, social, and political interests.  The Prophet denounced false contracts, usury, and the neglect and exploitation of orphans and widows.  He defended the rights of the poor and the oppressed, asserting that the rich had an obligation to the poor and dispossessed.  This sense of social commitment and responsibility was institutionalized in the form of religious tithes or taxes on wealth and agricultural lands."

"Immediately upon entering the sanctuary, [they] proceed to the heart of Makka where the Ka'ba stands. According to tradition, confirmed in the Qur'an, the Ka'ba was the first house of worship built for the worship of God. It was built by Abraham and his son Ishmael, whom the Arabs regard as their ancestors and Muslims regard as the first monotheists in the region. [They] walk around the Ka'ba seven times while reciting a prayer affirming their submission to God's call."

"Charity has always been regarded as a high moral value. Its proportion--nay, its very observance--has been left to the personal discretion of the giver. True, morality has always taught that the greater the portion one shares, the greater the merit. Jesus moved charity to highter moral grounds when he taught that the purer the motivation with which the giver gives his wealth, the greater the moral worth of the deed. With all this Islamc fully agrees, recognizing this teachings of Jesus as geniune revelation from God."

for RAT #4

"There are four steps to yoga....They are not differnt pathsp; they are one and the same. First you solve your daily problems....Be efficient, expert in your daily work....purify your emotions, your heart, your mind. Then you are a good person in the family and in the nation also. When you love God, you love his creation also. Creation is a manifestation of God's glory."

"...he who has experienced the magic of prayer may do without food for days together but not a single moment without prayer...Begin therefore your day with prayer, and make it so soulful that it may remain with you until the evening.  Close the day with prayer so that you may have a peaceful night free from dreams and nightmares.  Do not worry about the form of prayer.  Let it be any form--it should be such as can put us into communion with the divine.  Only, whatever be the form, let not the spirit wander while the words of prayer run on out of your mouth."

"[he] began to sense an extraordinary shakti, a divine energy more powerful and sublime than anything he had ever experienced before. To his shock he realized that it was a growing field of consciousness as perfect and extensive as his own. What could possibly be the source? He opened his three eyes and there on a distant peak he was a yogini sitting immovalbe as the mountains themselves, covered with dust, her mind merged in the absolute."


for RAT #5

"...poverty is the cause of immorality and crimes such as theft, falsehood, vilence, hatred, cruelty, etc. Kings in ancient times, like governments today, tried to suppress crime through punishment. futile this is....this method can never be successful. Instead the Buddha suggests that, in order to eradicate crime, the economic condition of the people should be improved: grain and other facilities for agriculture should be provided for farmers and cultivators; capital shoudl be provided for traders and those engaged in business; adequate wages shoudl be paid to those who are employed."

“...lay people should look after the material needs of the religious with love and respect; the religious with a loving heart should impart knowledge and learning to the laity, and lead them along the good path away from evil....Sakka, the king of the gods (devas), declares that he worships not noly the monks who live a virtuous holy life, but also 'lay disciples (upasaka) who perform meritorious deeds, who are virtuous, and maintain their families righteously.'"

"As the number of students around the famous masters grew larger, the personal contacts of the earlier days could not be maintained except with immediate disciples. Then a master might give to a number of students a certain question that he had already found effectual. Though the question originally had arisen in response to an immediate situation and was the immediate and personal problem of th eindividual disciple to whom it had been addressed, since the principle the master was making manifest through it was the immutable Principle and therefore valid for all men, the question also was valid for other students."

for RAT #6

"The rites that celebrate his installation as master provide the occasion for him to demonstrate the skills he has acquired from his divine protectors. He shows his invulnerability by walking on a bed of live coals and climbing a ladder of sharp knives. This is not just a trial: the thirty six rungs represent the levels of heaven and the ascent is a voyage to their summit. There, face to face with the lord of the pantheon, the Jade Emperor, the disciple introduces himself to the divine court and receives their investiture. This takes the form of an individual covenant with each of the gods, a pact sealed by a document in which the divine authority promises his protection and aid by virtue of the law which obliges the gods to work for the benefit of mankind."

“Society, at least insofar as regulated by human convention and moral obligations, becomes great ceremonial performance, a ceremony with all the holy beauty of an elaborate religious ritual carried out with that combination of solemnity and lightness of heart that graces the inspired ritual performance.  It is not individual existence per se, nor is it the existence of a group per se that is the condition sufficient to create and sustain the ultimate dignity of man.  It is the ceremonial aspects of life that bestow sacredness upon persons, acts, and objects which have a role in the performance of ceremony."

"Today hereditary tao-shih are always men, whereas many who become masters by vocation are women. But this situation does not derive from Taoist principle. The liturgical tradition...grants woman a status identical in every respect to that of men, and a mastership is accessible to both. In the Middle Ages the practice of the ritual required an equal number of men and women dignitaries, and wives held the same religious rank as their husbands....The disappearance of female secular tao-shih is simply the result of a modern society that requires a a masculine presence in transactions with lay organizations such as guilds.

Dimensions of Religious Life

Reading Assessment Tests (TOP) & Final Exam

Frequently Asked Questions

Comparative Papers & Sample