Contemplative Practice East & West
(Religion 117)

Time & Place:

Spring Term 2002
TTh 2:30-3:50
Olin Hall 314

Joël Dubois
Olin 149, x5246
Office Hours: M 4-5, W 11-12, F 10-11
Home Phone: 529-4289
(10 am - 9 pm daily)

The Course at a Glance

SCOPE & APPROACH: explores the basic elements of contemplative practices (what most people these days call “meditation”) found in the Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist traditions, through in-depth reading of historical sources including the (pseudonymous) works of Dionysius the Areopagite, Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle, and selected ancient Upanishads and Buddhist Suttas. Students have the option of selecting either a practice- or theory-oriented perspective; in either case, intensive reading & regular writing are combined with segments of lecture that provide the necessary background. Two weekend retreats required

Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works, trans. by Colm Luibheid
            Teresa of Avila:The Interior Castle, trans. by Kavanaugh & Rodriguez

Thanissaro Bikku, The Wings of Awakening (distributed free in class)

            Upanisads, trans. by Patrick Olivelle
      Also choose ONE of the following:
            Thomas Keating, Open Heart, Open Mind
            Swami Durgananda/Sally Kempton, The Heart of Meditation
            Henapola Gunaratana, Mindfulness in Plain English

      [Plus seventeen (17) short reserve readings (10-15 pages maximum),
                    & various audio & audio-visual materials presented in class.]

ATTENDANCE: required--along with thorough preparation & participation--for all class sessions, due to heavy emphasis on class conversation; also required at both retreats and (for practice-oriented students) at one of several weekly silent-sitting sessions (M 5, WF 12). Counts a total of 10 points towards your overall grade, with one point subtracted for each unexcused absence.

ASSIGNMENTS: *EITHER* an informal journal (entries collected 6 times @ 5 points each = 30 points)   
                              [for the practice-oriented approach]
                           *OR* three (3) analytical exercises (4-5 pages, 10 points each x 3 = 30 points)
                              [for the theory-oriented approach]
                           three (3) formal reflections (2-3 pages, 10 points each x 3 = 30 points)
                           *EITHER* weekly reading notes, collected at random througout the term (30 points)
                           *OR* consistent participation reflecting thorough reading & reflection (30 points)
                                [94-100=A, 90-93=A-, 87-89=B+, 84-87=B, 80-83=B-, etc.]

ABOUT WRITTEN WORK: all writing must submitted in the proper format by the prescribed deadline; apart from informal journal entries, all work must be carefully proofread to avoid mechanical errors. No rewrites allowed; pre-writes encouraged for formal assignments.

DISCLAIMER:  As you will learn from this term’s study of Buddhist tradition—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 deem that a change would significantly further the objectives of the course, I will need to make alterations in what is posted here.  I reserve the right to make such changes, though I will always strive to give you at least three day’s notice, both in class and by posting changes on the course web site; your understanding is much appreciated. In any case, keep checking the "Schedule of Topics & Readings" page during the course of the term, since additional links--internal as well as to relevant external sites--will be added as the class progresses.

Overview & Objectives

Attendance Policy

Required Texts

Schedule of Topics & Readings

Writing Exercises & Reading Notes

Notes on Written Work


• "South Asian Religions II: the Classical Period" (Religion 222)

• "History of Buddhist Thought and Practice" (Religion 257)