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This course is an academic study of contemplative practices in two major Indian traditions: Buddhism and Hinduism. It focuses on texts dealing with bhavana (literally "cultivation" of the mind or heart), which is generally called "meditation" today. The course also surveys some of the modern developments of these practices inside and outside of India. Classical sources for meditative practices covered in the course include the Upaniṣads and early Buddhist sūtras, texts of the period of classical Yoga, and those of later Indian Tantrism. Using these texts, the course defines major categories of contemplative practices including meditation on syllables/sounds considered sacred (mantras) and visualization (dhyāna) practices. Similarities and differences between the methods and goals of various Buddhist and Hindu contemplative practices will come into focus. The course also raises issues concerning the impact of Indian contemplative practices on Euro-American culture. Students will evaluate the claims and techniques of modern meditative practices in terms of correspondence with descriptions in classical sources. This will help students appreciate different contemplative traditions and - should they be practitioners of Asian-derived forms of meditation - understand their own practices within cultural contexts.


Course Syllabus for RELG 300. See: