INTRODUCTION TO ASIAN RELIGIONS

RELIGION 1330

Instructor: Mackenzie Brown
Office: Chapman Center 250 C
Hours: MWF 9:30-11:20; MW 1:30-4:00; and by appointment
Phone:  x-8429
Email: mbrown@trinity.edu

Trinity University
Fall Semester 2012
Class time: 8:30 MWF
Classroom:  Chapman Center 235

COURSE DESCRIPTION: Religion 1330 is a course on Asian religious thought and religious experience. Through lectures and readings, Asian Religions explores the formative religious myths, conceptions, values, and life experiences of Asian men and women. Specifically, the course will examine religious traditions of India, China, and Japan, in an attempt to understand the world and self as they appear to the adherents of these traditions. In addition, the course will address questions about religion as an object of study: What is "religion" in the Asian context? What are some of the different modes and ways of being religious? How does religious thought and experience shape societies and individual self-understanding, and how does self-understanding shape religious ideas and values? How can we understand the religious experiences of persons in cultures that may be different from our own?

The best way to understand the religious experience of persons living in other cultures, or of persons adhering to different religious world views living in the U.S., is to to talk with them in their schools, dining halls, temples, and homes. There is no substitute for personal contact in the process of cross-cultural communication. This course is designed to provide background information and perspectives that will facilitate such communication, in the form of lectures, discussions, films, and reading. In addition, there will be a visit to a local Hindu temple as a practical or experiential exercise in cross-cultural understanding.

Some of the material in this course will seem surprising, perhaps even disturbing. Approach it both critically and empathetically! Question your own prejudices, biases, and assumptions. Explore the meaning and importance of unfamiliar concepts and practices, both within their own cultures and in relation to your own experiences and self-understanding. Consider what a different person you might be if you had been born a woman in China, if you had been raised by Hindu parents in India, or if you had chosen a Buddhist path in a predominantly Confucian culture. It is important to be able to empathize with, even if one does not share the same world view as, the people of the various traditions we shall study this semester.

TEACHING METHODS: The instructor will utilize a general mixing of lectures and discussions. Students are always encouraged to interrupt the instructor with questions and comments. Audiovisual aids will be used frequently, providing the student with some other means of learning than the written or spoken word alone. The instructor welcomes students to come and visit him during office hours, individually or in small groups, for informal discussion.

WRITTEN REQUIREMENTS FOR THE COURSE: There are three section exams, a term project involving a visit to a Hindu Temple, and a final exam (three hours). Students are required to take two of the three section exams. If a student takes all three, the lowest exam grade will be discarded. The section exams (the two counted) and the term project are worth 20% each. The final exam counts 40%. Plus/minus grades are used. Exams will cover not only written materials, but also slides viewed in class. Thus, a student may be asked to interpret not only scriptural texts, but also sacred images, paintings, or statues. The exams are to be taken on-line. On the section exams during the semester and on the final exam, students will have several days in which they may take the exams, at their own convenience. The dates of the exams are given below, and in the course outlines for each section. More detailed information on the exams will be given in class.

Dates of Exams
First section exam (on the Introduction and Hindu Tradition)
Fri., Sept. 21, after class, until 8:00 a.m. on Wed., Sept. 26
Second section exam (on the Indian Buddhist Tradition) Wed., Oct. 17, after class, until 8:00 a.m. on Mon., Oct. 22
Third section exam (on the Chinese Indigenous Tradition) Wed., Nov. 7, after class, until 8:00 a.m. on Mon., Nov. 12
Final exam (on all traditions)

Mon., Dec. 3, after class until Friday, December 7, 11:30 p.m.

The Hindu Temple project will require a field trip to a Hindu temple worship service, usually on a Sunday. The most convenient temple for most students will be the Hindu Temple of San Antonio, but if other Hindu temples are more convenient for some students, another Hindu temple worship visit may be substituted with prior instructor approval. Write-ups of the Hindu Temple project are to be submitted to the instructor via T-Learn. Late projects will be penalized one notch (e.g., B+ to B; B- to C+) for each class day late, up to one week (three class days).  After that time, projects will not be accepted.  For further details on the project, including due dates for different phases of the project, use the navigation bar on the left side of the home page for the course to access the Temple Project page. The due date for the final write-up of the project is Tuesday, November 20, by 5:00 p.m.

Note: Since travel to the Hindu Temple is part of a required assignment for the course, students who intend to drive must apply a week in advance of travel to become University-authorized drivers, whether they will be driving just themselves or providing rides for other students. Students who will ride as passengers must sign an "Informed Consent and Assumption of Risk" form before going to the temple. More information about these requirements will be provided in class.

CLASS ATTENDANCE: Highly encouraged but not required, except for two days: 1) the first review session on Friday, September 21, and 2) the last day of class, Monday, December 3. Attendance on these days is required, as the first review session will go over the Honor Code, and on the last day course evaluation passwords will be distributed. For other days, students are still responsible for materials discussed in class, including slides. Students who miss more than one or two classes will soon find their karma catching up with them.

Admission to the discussion classes of the four books listed as 1-4 below is by ticket only. Admission to the discussion class of the first chapter of Huston Smith's book is also by ticket only. The tickets will be explained in class prior to the discussion days.

ACADEMIC INTEGRITY POLICY (a joint statement by Drs. C. Mackenzie Brown and Randall L. Nadeau, the two instructors for the various sections of Asian Religions):  All students are expected to be thoroughly familiar with the Honor Code.  With increasing use of Internet sources and "cut and paste" technology, it is all too easy to plagiarize the work of others.  This can happen especially when you are rushed, tired, and generally stressed. Whether intentional, or due simply to forgetting to include proper citations, or especially to failing to exercise due caution in using your own wording when paraphrasing another's words, or neglecting to indicate by quotation marks the actual words of another author, it is still plagiarism! 

Since the exams for this course are on-line and may be taken anywhere at a student's convenience, it may seem easy to take a shortcut, if one is not prepared, by accessing unauthorized materials during the exams. The exams are closed book, closed notes, closed web, so unauthorized materials include study notes, whether in hard copy or stored on the Y-drive.

Improper collaboration in preparing for exams also needs to be avoided. The instructor encourages study groups, if students find this helpful, to share orally their own findings and insights. Sharing written materials such as one's notes for the terms is not permitted. For instance, it is a violation of academic integrity in this course for three or four students to work on a common list of terms (say in a Google document), with each student contributing a certain number of term definitions and interpretations. If you study together with another student or students, such collaboration is appropriate but must be acknowledged and fully described. 

Needless to say, there are other forms of academic dishonesty than plagiarizing from the Internet or unauthorized collaboration.  For this course, in particular, the Temple Project offers a number of temptations for the harried student to take shortcuts that can easily result in an F for the course.  Specifically, using other students' accounts of their temple visit to construct your own account, and/or describing scenes/interviews that you have made up and that you did not actually observe or participate in, are examples of academic theft and falsification of data, respectively.  Please be aware of other behaviors that constitute violations of academic integrity in its various forms.  

Regarding use of previous exams, the instructor for this class encourages such use, and has posted some previous exams on the course web site, for you to study in preparing for exams. 

The instructors have a basic faith in the integrity of students and their desire to live in a world where fairness and trust are dominant features of the way we conduct our lives in community with others.  Understanding and observing academic integrity are part of building that world of fairness and trust, right here at Trinity.  However, should the instructors become aware of violations of academic integrity, they will file the necessary charges.  Remember: a common penalty for any sort of violation of academic integrity in this course, given the weight of each assignment, is often an F for the course.

If you have any questions or doubts relating to academic integrity regarding any assignments for this class, including what help you may or may not receive on the term project, PLEASE ASK THE INSTRUCTOR FOR YOUR SECTION OF THE CLASS!

BOOKS FOR THE COURSE (available in the University Bookstore):

A. Books for discussion

1. Eugen Herrigel, Zen in the Art of Archery

2. Herman Hesse, Siddhartha

3. R. K. Narayan, The Guide

4. Michio Takeyama, Harp of Burma

B. Other required books

5. Diana L. Eck, Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India

6. Huston Smith, The World's Religions

Other readings will be available on the web.

COURSE OUTLINE: A brief outline of the course indicating its various topics is available here. A more detailed syllabus with daily reading assignments is available to registered students.