course banner for HRS 147B
Time & Place:

Fall 2005
MW 3:00-4:15

Mendocino 1020


Joël Dubois (view home page)
Mendocino 2016, x5332,
Office Hours: T 9-10, W 10:25-11:25, Th 1-2 and by appointment

Course Overview (w/schedule)

DESCRIPTION: Introduction to South Asian (primarily Indian) religious life from prehistory to the fourth century CE, relating religious practices & ideas to broader cultural developments including visual arts and literature.  [View map of South Asia.] The course highlights the poetic, artistic, and ritual culture of the Veda (the earliest verbal record of South Asian history); upanishadic and Buddhist wisdom, paralleled by important developments in architecture & iconography (6th-1st centuries BCE); and the beginning of classical Hindu tradition focused on the high god Vishnu, especially as presented in epic literature (1st-4th centuries CE). I will draw attention to three aspects of the way South Asian individuals in the ancient period have both transmitted & modified these religious traditions: (1) reflection regarding unseen realities (i.e., spirits, gods, & cosmic force.); (2) the specific rituals & customs that have inspired and supported such reflection; and (3) the diverse communities, from particular families to broader institutions, in which such reflection and practices have taken place. [Read more about this focus.] Team-based learning will be the primary mode of engaging with primary sources (see (GE Area: C1)

LEARNING OBJECTIVES: After taking this course you should be able to:
1. successfully differentiate and identify the key terms, images, and primary sources related to the ancient South Asian religious life, as reflected in both readings and visual records.
illustrate, using specific examples drawn from the South Asian religious traditions featured in the course, the signficance of the terms, images, and sources referred to in #1.
3. compare and contrast specific examples drawn from the religious traditions mentioned above, demonstrating awareness not only of particular details but also of the wider contexts in which those examples occur.
4. demonstrate increased competence in
the following skills, in both individual and team contexts: (a) accurate representation (identifying & placing in context passages selected from the assigned readings, as well as reporting on the details of your own daily practice); and (b) systematic reflection (continually clarifying and examining assumptions about Asian arts & ideas, especially in light of your recitation practice).
5. appreciate both the emotional impact and the intellectual fascination of South Asian culture, and maintain interest in the lifelong investigation of human culture generally.
[View RAT format & guidelines for observation journal to see the way that each of objectives #1-4 is reflected in written assignments.]

SOURCES: In this class I use the term "sources" rather than texts or books, because significant emphasis is placed on non-textual material (generally visual and audio-visual). By "source" I mean a source of information about particular time(s), place(s), and person(s); I further distinguish between primary sources (which were created by Asians themselves during the periods being studied) and the textbook and other scholarly commentaries on those sources (which though very important are secondary in that they are far removed from the times and places we are studying).

You are responsible for obtaining the printed sources listed below, and for bringing assigned readings to each class meeting. (In the schedule provided below, I refer to theses sources using the BOLD CAPITAL abbreviations next to each title.)

      William  Mahony,The Artful Universe (TAU) [ISBN # 0-7914-3580-6]
      Patrick Olivelle (trans.), Dharmasutra-s: The Law Codes of Ancient India (DS) [ISBN # 0-19-283882-2]
      J.A. B. Van Buitenen (trans.),The Bhagavad Gita in the Mahabharata, (BGM) [ISBN # 0-226-84662-8]
                                                                (all of the above available at the Hornet Bookstore)
      Thanissaro Bikkhu, The Wings to Awakening (WTA) [distributed free in class]                                                                                             

"HRS 178A: Religions of India" Course Pack (CP) [printed by & available from
                                                               at the above URL, click the red "Buy Now" button; or call 1-800-200-3908]

Several introductory readings will also be drawn from on-line slide-shows and PowerPoint presentations. which may be accessed by using the links next to each presentation's name in the on-line version of the syllabus given below.

Also Recommended (for those with braoder interests in Asian art & literature):

John D. La Plante, Asian Art [McGraw Hill, 1992: ISBN # 0-697-11591-7]
      Tony Barnstone, ed., Literatures of the East [Prentice Hall, 2003: ISBN # 0-13-061368-1]
      Donald Lopez, ed., Religions of Asia in Practice [Princeton Univ. Press, 2002: # 0-691-09061-1]
      Encyclopedia Britannica (On-line entries re: Asian art & religion)

ATTENDANCE: This course relies heavily on interactive learning, and such learning cannot take place without your being physically and mentally present in the classroom.  Therefore the most fundamental requirement of this course is coming to class consistently, making certain to bring with you the assigned reading materials. For most of the term, the positive impact of your attendance and preparation, on the one hand, and negative impact of your absences and unpreparedness, on the other, will be reflected only in your scores on both individual RATs, assignments and peer assessment.

I will however take attendance during the first, second and final weeks of class, since these are particularly important points in the term. More than one absence during this time may result in up to a five (5) point reduction in your overall score for the class; during this time, repeated tardiness may be counted as an absence, and leaving class early will mostly likely count as a full absence. Exceptions to the above-stated policies may be granted in rare instances for compelling reasons, which generally must be verified in writing by a medical practitioner or some other independent professional; but note that an absence will be considered unexcused until and unless you present documentation to explain it--ideally by the next class that you are able to attend, or as soon therafter as possible.

In addition, while in the classroom, please be mindful of sights, sounds, and smells that are distracting to the instructor, and to a significant number of students as well. In particular:
  * please take care of eating before or after coming to class.
  * please plan to use the restroom before or after class; otherwise sit by the door.

  * please turn off all audible ringers on cell phones and beepers when entering the classroom.
  * if arriving late or leaving early, please sit by the door to minimize the distraction of your movement.
  * please refrain from side-talking during presentations and whole-class discussions

NOTE: in order to receive updates regarding class sessions throughout the term, you are required to maintain an active email address for the duration of the course. Please send me an email to confirm this within the first ten days of the term; to facilitate my handling of student correspondence, please include the abbreviation "[ROI]" in the subject heading of all emails. You may register for an advertisement-free email account from any open lab on campus; if you need help, call (278-7337) or visit the Saclink Desk (on the second floor of the new Academic Information Resource Center, just behind the library--follow signs to your right when exiting the elevator, all the way to Room 2005); or simply go to and follow the instructions for "Set up Saclink" in the left-hand column.

1. four (4) RATs ( "reading assessment tests") (3 x 50 points, 300 points total)
   [composite of individual and team scores, with lowest score dropped]
2. a portfolio of in-class team assignments (400 points total):
   [includes a 100 point peer evaluation]
3. two (2) observation reports (700-100 words, 2 x 100 points, 200 points total)
4. one (1) final reflection (700-100 words, 100 points)
[GRADING SCALE: 940-1000 points=A, 900-930=A-, 870-890=B+, 840--870=B, 800-830=B-, etc.]

Barring genuine emergencies, no make-ups are available for RATs. Generally no rewrites of journal reports are allowed; however you may wish to show me prelimary drafts (submitted for review at least three days prior to the deadline). If you have a documented disability and verification from the Office of Services to Students with Disabilities (Lassen Hall 1008, x6955), and wish to discuss academic accommodations, please contact me within the first two weeks of the term. I will generally elect severe penalties for academic dishonesty on RATs and journal assignments: a zero score for the assignment, and failing the course for a second offense. You are responsible for reading my comments regarding the importance of academic honesty in FAQ, #10-13, and for requesting clarification if there is anything you do not understand.

SCHEDULE: Readings below are listed by topic and range of dates, with each topic spanning a three week period from a Wednesday to the Monday eighteen days later. RATs will be given at the start of the first Tuesday's class for each unit, with specific dates indicated below. All introductory readings listed for a unit should be completed by the day of the RAT; required primary readings should also at least be skimmed in order to situate posted excerpts (see RAT guidelines), several of which will appear on the RAT. All numbers in the schedule are page numbers unless otherwise noted.

Introduction: South Asia, Contemporary Sacramento, & Team-Based Learning

   August 30: personal introductions, review of syllabus, & intro to team-based learning

September 1:
prepare for trial RAT & form teams

       Introductory Readings: "Dimensions of Religious Culture" from the on-line syllabus; CP 42: 44-54
                                            TAU, vi-vii; WTA, iii-iv; DS, xxi-xxv; BGM, ix-xi
--> [view terms]
REQUIRED Primary sources: selections from "American Hindus" (CP, 16: 80-93, 116-20, 127-28)
                                                    selections from "American Buddhists" (CP, 35: 209-216)
       OPTIONAL primary sources: remainder of "American Hindus" & "American Buddhists" (CP, 23-34)

September 6 & 8: trial RAT & team assignment, with follow-up lectures

Unit 1: Ancient India & Vedic Religious Culture (September 13 - October 4)

       Introductory reading: CP, 47: 54-65; "Indus Valley Slide Show" (on-line) & "Full Moon Offering" (video)
                                           [if unable to view video, download & install Free RealOne Media Player]

                                         TAU, 1-22, 41-42, 59-64, 93-97, 104-10, 124, 140-41
--> [view terms]
REQUIRED primary sources: numbered verses & surrounding commentary in
                                                         TAU, 22-35, 50-58, 64-69, 74-76, 83-93, 97-103
                                                    "The Agnihotra in the Srautasutras" (CP 66: 206-14)
                  [view excerpts]                "The Agnihotra [Brahmana] " (CP, 75-78)
                                                    TAU, 131-40, plus numbered verses in TAU, 110-23
                                                    Brhadaranyaka Upanishad 3.1-9 (CP, 92-103, 108-10)
       OPTIONAL primary sources: remainder of TAU, chapters 1-3
                                                     "The Darsha Purnamasa" (CP, 79-89)
                                                     TAU, 142-53 &/or 157-63
                                               Taittiriya Upanishad 2 (CP, 105-7)

Unit 1 RAT: Tuesday, September 20
Site Visit Report due Thursday, October 6 (beginning of class)

Unit 2: Brahmins & Buddhists in the Late Vedic Period (October 6-25)

       Introductory reading: DS, xxi-xxv, xlii-iii; CP, 52: 65-73
                                         WTA, 1-12, 15-27, 37-42
--> [view terms]
                                         "Early Buddhist Worship" (on-line)
REQUIRED primary sources: Dharmasutra of Apastambha (DS, 3-7, 24-31, 45-53, 58-64, 72-73)
                                                   Sutta Nipata .4 & .7 (CP, 114-17), & numbered verses in
                  [view excerpts]               WTA, 37, 49, 65-66, 71, 100, 109, 113-4, 123, 145-46, 172
                                                   "Buddha Shakyamuni as a Saint" (CP, 120-32, 139-40)
                                                   "Gotami's Story" (CP, 151-64)
       OPTIONAL primary sources: "The Morning & Evening the Grhya Sutras (CP, 70-74)
                                              "Saints of the Theravatha and Therigatha" (CP, 137-50)
                                                    "The Four Bases of Power" (WTA, 124-36)

Unit 2 RAT: Tuesday, October 11

Unit 3: The Buddha's Dharma & The Vaishnava Alternative (October 27 - November 15)

       Introductory reading: WTA, 58-64, 72-74, 105-8, 136-39, 154-55, 172-73, 277-81
                                         CP, 56: 73-75, 86-88; BGM, 1-6 --> [view terms]
                                         [review "Early Buddhist Worship" (on-line)]
REQUIRED primary sources: "Frames of Reference" & "Right Exertions" (WTA, 74-82, 84-90, 109-12)

                                                    "Faculties," "Factors of Awakening," & "The Noble Eightfold Path"
                                                         (WTA, 141-43, 154-60, 165-69, 173-76, 184-87 )

                  [view excerpts]          "Four Noble Truths" (WTA, 288-92, 311-16, 337-41)
                                                         & numbered verses in WTA, 322-24, 28-29, 33-34
                                                    Bhagavad Gita 1.20-4.34 (BGM, 14-23, 71-89)
       OPTIONAL primary sources: remainder of II/B & C (WTA, 90-109, 112-36)
                                                    remainder of II/E, F & G
( WTA, 139-54, 160-65, 169-72, 176-84)
                                                    remainder of "Four Noble Truths" (WTA, 292-311, 316-37)
                                                    Mahabharata 6.63.14-22 &/or 6.63.41 (BGM, 39-69, 145-57)

Unit 3 RAT: Tuesday, November 1
Follow-Up Report due Thursday, November 17 (beginning of class)

Unit 4: Vaishnava Transformations of Vedic Religious Culture (November 17 - December 8)

       Introductory reading: BGM 6-13, 23-29; TAU, 194-99
                                          DS, xxxiv-xlii; CP, 58: 76-78, 81-84, 88-93
--> [view terms]
                                          "Classical Buddhist Icons, Hindu Counterparts, & their Homes" (on-line/download)
                                          [if unable to view, download & install PowerPoint Viewer (PC/Mac)]

       REQUIRED primary sources: Bhagavad Gita 7-12 (BGM, 99-121) with "Mahabharata excerpt" (CP, 165-66)
                                                    Dharmasutra of Baudhayana 2.7-15 (DS, 183--202)
                                                         & "The Sandhya Upasana as Performed in Mithila" (CP, 61-66)
                  [view excerpts]          Law of Manu 1.1-20 (CP, 168-73) &
                                                        Vishnu Smrti I-II, XLIX, LXV-LXVII, XCVII-C (CP, 185-207)
                                                    Devi Mahatmya 1.1-2.30, 12.1-13.17 (CP, 210-17, 224-27, 233: 66)
       OPTIONAL primary sources: Bhagavad Gita 12, 17-18 (BGM, 99-121)
                                                    Law of Manu 3.122-156, 3.183-286(CP, 174-81) &/or
                                                         Dharmasutra of Baudhayana 1.10-15, 2.17-3.10 (DS, 183-92, 195-202)

                                                    Devi Mahatmya 2.31-5.18 (CP, 218-23)
                                                    "Vishnu" (CP, 229-33)

Unit 4 RAT: Tuesday, November 22
Comparative Reflection due Thursday, December 8 (beginning of class)
Thursday, December 15 (10:30): Culminating Team Assignment (attendance mandatory)

DISCLAIMER:  As you will learn from this term’s study of South Asian traditions (if you didn’t know it already!) the nature of life is change.  In creating this syllabus I have tried to be as careful as possible to get all the details right.  However in certain situations, whenever I notice that an error has been made--or that a change would significantly further the objectives of the course--I reserve the right to make alterations in the syllabus. I will always give you at least three day’s notice, both in class and by sending out an email about the change.

Dimensions of Religious Culture

Reading Assessment Tests

Frequently Asked Questions

Observation Journal

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• Asian Civilization" (HIS 006)

• "Art of India &Southeast Asia" (ART 117A)

• "Cultures of South Asia" (ANTH 149)