palms and rooftops at Stanford

Rooftops and palms, Stanford. Photo credit: Linda A. Cicero

 

All Courses

Spring
This course surveys major religious traditions of the world. Through examination of a variety of materials, including scriptures and other spiritual writings, religious objects and artifacts, and modern documentary and film, we explore Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Jainism as rich historical and living traditions.
Winter
Temples, prayer beads, icons, robes, books, relics, candles and incense, scarves and hats, sacred food and holy water; objects of all sorts play a prominent role in all religions, evoking a wide range of emotional responses, from reverence, solace and even ecstasy, to fear, hostility and violence. What is it about these things that makes them so powerful? Is it beliefs and doctrines that inspire particular attitudes towards certain objects, or is it the other way around? Many see a tension or even contradiction between religion and material pursuits and argue that the true religious life is a life without things. But is such a life even possible? This course adopts a comparative approach, drawing on a variety of traditions to examine the place of images, food, clothing, ritual objects, architecture and relics in religious thought and practice. Materials for the course include scholarship, scripture, images and at least one museum visit.
Autumn
The world today is in the midst of a major ecological crisis that is manifested in extreme weather events, loss of biodiversity, depletion of fisheries, pollution of air, water, and soil, prolonged draughts, and mass extinction of species. Since the 1970s world religions grappled with the religious significance of the environmental crisis, examining their own scriptures, rituals and ethics in order to articulate religious responses to the ecological crisis. This course explores how certain religions--Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism--have addressed the ecological crisis for the past fifty years. Preserving the distinctiveness of each religious tradition, this seminar examines: the issue of religion as the cause of the environmental crisis; the resources for ecological responses within each tradition; the emergence of new religious ecologies and ecological theologies; the contribution of world religions to environmental ethics; and the degree to which the environmental crisis has functioned--and will function--as the basis of inter-faith collaboration. We will work to develop a shared vocabulary in environmental humanities, and special attention will be given to the contribution of religion to animal studies, ecofeminism, religion and the science of ecology, and the interplay between faith, scholarship and activism.
Winter
An overview of major themes and historical developments in 5000 years of Chinese religion. In this course, we will try as much as possible to appreciate Chinese religion from the Chinese perspective, paying particular attention to original texts in translation in an attempt to discern the logic of Chinese religion and the role it has played in the course of Chinese history. To a greater extent perhaps than any other civilization, Chinese have left behind a continuous body of written documents and other artifacts relating to religion stretching over thousands of years, providing a wealth of material for studying the place of religion in history and society.
Winter
What do Buddhists mean when they argue that there is "no self?" What about their claim that everything is "empty?" Is their theory of karma a type of "fatalism" (that everything is just a matter of predetermined fate)? Does Buddhism really teach that we are all connected with one another? This course aims to answer these questions, and many others related to Buddhist philosophy. We will begin by exploring the central philosophical arguments attributed to the historical Buddha, and study the major philosophical traditions of Buddhism and the debates between them over the issues of metaphysics (what is really real?), ethics (what should we do?), and epistemology (what and how do we know?). We will also learn about the problems and significance of the modern interpretations of Buddhist philosophy. Through these discussions, we will attempt to critically appreciate both the universality and the particularity of the Buddhist ways of thinking.
Summer
What do we owe our parents? This course centers how Buddhist authors in Cambodia and Vietnam have wrestled with questions of debt and gratitude in the family. We will begin with the Indian and Chinese antecedents that shaped ideals of filial piety in the region of Southeast Asia formerly known as "Indochina." The core of our readings and discussions will engage classical Khmer and Vietnamese literature in translation, including the verse novels "A Child Called Dream" and "The Tale of Kieu." The course will close with Asian American celebrations and critiques of filial piety. Our aim throughout the quarter will be to complicate contemporary views on familial debts by charting a specific religious and literary history in Southeast Asia.
Autumn
Buddhism has figured in the Western imagination as a "rational religion," a "philosophy" that is mostly compatible with science. While the notion of Buddhism as "scientific" is both controversial and open to exaggeration, in the last few decades, this positive image has helped to facilitate direct encounters between Buddhism and science in multiple settings--dialogues between scientists and Buddhist scholars on key topics such as mindfulness, collaborative presentations and workshops at academic conferences, scientific research on contemplative practices, and so forth. This course explores the many facets of the encounter between Buddhism and science. It aims to do so through discussion and debate of relevant scientific papers, traditional Buddhist literature, science and technology studies (STS), and anthropological literature. Topics to be addressed include, among others, the encounter between Buddhism and psychology; the study of Buddhist contemplative practices in the laboratory; the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program and the "Mindful Revolution"; the creation of a Buddhist "science of happiness"; Buddhism and technology; and Buddhism, science, and the idea of secularism.
Autumn
What happens to Buddhism when the Buddha speaks Chinese? Is the Qur'an still the Qur'an in English? What did Martin Luther do for the German language? We try to answer these and other such questions in this course, which explores the translation of sacred scripture and other religious texts from the earliest times to the present day. Taking a global perspective, and looking at Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism, the course is designed to introduce students to the theory and practice of translation and get them thinking about its broader cultural, aesthetic and political significance. Undergraduates register for 200-level for 5 units. Graduate students register for 300-level for 3-5 units.
Winter
An exploration of the theory and practice of Buddhist meditation from the time of the Buddha to the modern mindfulness boom, with attention to the wide range of techniques developed and their diverse interpretation. Undergraduates register for 200-level for 5 units. Graduate students register for 300-level for 3-5 units.
Winter
Required of all majors and combined majors. The study of religion reflects upon itself. Representative modern and contemporary attempts to "theorize," and thereby understand, the phenomena of religion in anthropology, psychology, sociology, cultural studies, and philosophy. WIM.
Autumn
What happens to Buddhism when the Buddha speaks Chinese? Is the Qur'an still the Qur'an in English? What did Martin Luther do for the German language? We try to answer these and other such questions in this course, which explores the translation of sacred scripture and other religious texts from the earliest times to the present day. Taking a global perspective, and looking at Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism, the course is designed to introduce students to the theory and practice of translation and get them thinking about its broader cultural, aesthetic and political significance. Undergraduates register for 200-level for 5 units. Graduate students register for 300-level for 3-5 units.
Spring
This course provides an overview of the major themes and historical developments in 2000 years of Buddhist history in China, from its early transmission from India to contemporary developments in the PRC, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Themes include monasticism, doctrine, popular devotion, state policy and the encounter with modernity.
Winter
Readings in Hindu texts in Sanskrit. Texts will be selected based on student interest. Prerequisite: Sanskrit.
Winter
An exploration of the theory and practice of Buddhist meditation from the time of the Buddha to the modern mindfulness boom, with attention to the wide range of techniques developed and their diverse interpretation. Undergraduates register for 200-level for 5 units. Graduate students register for 300-level for 3-5 units.
Autumn
Introduction to Buddhist literature through reading original texts in Sanskrit. Prerequisite: Sanskrit.
Spring
Independent study in Buddhism. May be repeated for credit. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.
Winter
Independent study in Buddhism. May be repeated for credit. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.
Autumn
Independent study in Buddhism. May be repeated for credit. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.
Winter
May be repeated for credit. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.
Spring
May be repeated for credit. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.
Autumn
May be repeated for credit. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.
Autumn
Second Year Khmer is intended for students who can already speak Khmer at a "survival" level (discuss topics such as home, family, food, traveling, work, health) and have basic knowledge of the writing system (able to read short narratives, simple folk tales; and write letters and other types of information based on personal experience). In this course, the first of a three-quarter sequence, students will learn to discuss topics such as Khmer Buddhism, proverbs, and news media using more formal language and educated vocabulary. They will also learn to read (and write about) increasingly sophisticated texts including folk tales and newspaper articles. Prerequisite: SPECLANG 125C or a placement test.