Some of the courses I teach...

Religions of Asia
In this survey course, designed as an introduction to three religious traditions that are firmly rooted in Asia, we will carefully examine a wide variety of primary and secondary sources to help us recognize and understand the many different ways in which Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims have attempted to understand the nature of the world (both this world and beyond), human society, and the individual person's place therein.  Each section will conclude with a brief examination of the respective religion in its American context.

      In examining religious traditions that for many may seem wholly foreign, our emphasis will be on the internal logic of each, on the resources that each provides for the construction of meaning, value, and moral vision.  Students will also be indirectly introduced to the methods and issues that characterize contemporary academic study of religion.  Upon successful completion of this course students should have developed a critical understanding of these three distinctive traditions coupled with a mature sensitivity to these diverse traditions.

Buddhist Religious Traditions
     This course is designed to introduce students to the Buddhist religion – its history, fundamental doctrines and practices, development, and major schools – in an academic context.  In this course, students not only learn about Buddhism but are also introduced to the methods and issues that characterize contemporary academic study of religion.  Throughout the course, we pay close attention to how Buddhism influenced the collective histories and personal lives of the people who identify themselves as “Buddhists.” 

     Structurally, this course consists of two main sections.  We begin by looking at the history of Buddhism – from its rise in India to its spread to the rest of Asia.  In doing so, we read selected sections of translated primary texts to understand the basic tenets of Buddhism and how the basic doctrines become transformed and reinterpreted over time.  In addition to primary and secondary sources, we examine the writings of present-day Buddhists from the three major Buddhist traditions – South-east Asian Theravada Buddhism, East Asian Mahayana Buddhism, and Himalayan Vajrayana Buddhism.

Hindu Religious Traditions
     This course is designed as an introduction to the many distinct yet interrelated religious traditions of South Asia that are often labeled "Hinduism."  From the ritually reconstituted cosmos of the ancient Vedic texts to the philosophical speculations of the Upanishads, to the devotional outpourings of the great vernacular poets, to the religious ideals of Mahatma Gandhi, we examine the historical foundations of the three Hindu paths of ritual action, contemplative renunciation, and devotion.  Focusing on the key concepts of dharma or duty, karma, and bhakti or love for the lord, we consider the ways in which Hindus from a variety of historical time periods, local traditions, and social backgrounds have attempted to make sense of their world and their lives within it.

Buddhism in America
      Buddhism, the world's first missionary religion, has always changed in response to different cultures and times.  This course will examine the "export" of Buddhism to the west by looking at the different perceptions of Buddhism held by Asian immigrants and western converts.  We will accomplish this by exploring the history of Buddhism in the west in general and in America in particular.  That preliminary study will then be followed by a look at the ways in which three divergent Buddhist traditions (Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana) have adapted themselves and have responded to a variety of contexts and demands of western culture.  Finally, we will explore various issues and movements that have arisen as a result of that response such as race, gender, sexual orientation, as well as the "engaged" Buddhist response to modern social and environmental problems. 

Comparative Monasticism: Buddhism and Christianity
      Monasticism is a phenomenon that appears in many of the world’s religious traditions.  In this course we explore some of the major characteristics of monasticism by looking at it through a comparative lens.  Grounded in an historical approach, we  study Buddhist and Christian monasticism, from the time of their early beginnings to their modern manifestations in America.  Throughout our study, we pay close attention to how monastics in particular and monasticism as a phenomenon have influenced the Buddhist and Christian individuals, institutions, and the wider cultures. 

      Our study of monasticism includes an exploration of the backgrounds that led to the formation of Buddhist and Christian monasticism, its development in the early period, the development of communal monasticism, women monastics, cycles of reform, and ascetic ideas and movements.  We accomplish this through a close reading of primary sources complemented by a small selection of secondary sources.