REL 425 Religions of South Asia [5 units]

Prerequisite: REL 321 Buddhism

Instructor: David Komito,

Catalog Description:
A historical and comparative exposition of the major religious trends and schools of thought that developed in the “Indian subcontinent” and spread from there to Central and Southeast Asia.

Brief Description of the Course:
This course is an advanced study of themes or texts from one or more South Asian religious tradition and will vary from year to year in accordance with instructor and student interests. In winter of 2014 it will focus on Buddhist Middle Way (Madhyamika) Religious Philosophy by reviewing some of the writings of the Indian philosopher Nagurjuna (2nd century AD), as explained three of his commentators: the Indian Atisha (10th/11th century AD), the Tibetan Tsongkhapa (13th/14th century AD), and the current Dalai Lama.

Learning Objectives:
Nagarjuna has been called “Buddhism’s greatest philosopher”. His influence on Asian culture can only be compared to that of both Plato and Aristotle for the west. Over the centuries Nagarjuna’s Middle Way Philosophy has influenced every indigenous Asian philosophy and religion, either directly, indirectly or as a reaction in opposition to it. In this seminar students will learn the fundamental concepts of this philosophy as theory and practice as well as some of the history of its development across South and Central Asia.

As noted below, English translations of the following will be available either at no cost on the course Blackboard site or will need to be purchased either in paperback form or as e-books readable on any computer, Kindle or iPad).

  • Nagarjuna’s Seventy Stanzas on Emptiness, David Komito, Snow Lion Publications, 1987 - for purchase
  • Selections from Nagarjuna’s Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way will be available on the course site
  • Selections from Atisha’s Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment, Geshe Sonam Rinchen, Snow Lion Publications, 1997, will be available on the course site
  • Selections from Tsongkhapa’s treatises will be available on the course site
  • Selections from the 14th Dalai Lama’s commentaries on Middle Way theory and practice will be available on the course site

Also, Geshe Thupten Dorjee’s audio recorded commentay on the Seventy Stanzas

Method of Instruction:
This will be a combination of an online course and a one hour long seminar conducted as a live telephone conference every Wednesday night of the term at 7 pm Pacific time. The required software for this conference will be hosted by EOU.

Means of Assessment:
Students will be assessed on the basis of the quality of their seminar participation and on an interpretive paper they will write on an aspect of Nagarjuna’s Madhaymaka Religious Philosophy.


Syllabus prepared by David Komito, January 13, 2013