Classical Asian Philosophy

Discipline: Philosophy and Religious Studies
Instructor: Harmon
Credits: 3
Day: B
Start: 0800
End: 0915
Field Work: Day 1 | Mauritius Download Syllabus

This course will consist of a survey of classic Asian philosophy. It would examine the historical background, schools, and philosophical traditions the Indian philosophies of Hinduism and Buddhism, and the Chinese philosophies of Daoism and Confucianism. The topics will include metaphysical, ethical, and epistemological issues raised in these Asian traditions. Whenever possible, students would be reading selections from primary texts such as the Vedas, the Upanishads, and the Bhagavad Gita; and from basic Buddhist texts, including some Tibetan Buddhist texts by teachers from the Kagyud sect, and from the Analects of Confucius, the Tao Tze­Ching, and Zhuangzi.

Field Work

Country: Mauritius
Day: 1

Some of the most remarkable Hindu temples can be found outside of India---and Mauritius is no exception.  Under British rule from 1810 to 1968, the Indian-Mauritians are descended from Indian immigrants who came to Mauritius to work in the sugar fields as indentured servants after slavery was abolished in 1835.  The treatment of Indian indentured servants by the British was quite cruel, and there was actually a thriving trade in “coolies,” workers of Asian descent.  Thousands of Indians from Calcutta and other parts of India came to Mauritius to work; others went on to the West Indies.  Their continued presence in Mauritius has meant that Mauritius has a number of important nineteenth century Hindu temples.    Our field lab will explore two of them.  After an orientation on the ship for breakfast, students will take a bus to the Hindu Temple Maheswavath in Triolet, located north of Port Louis.   Built in the 1850s, this is one of the largest Hindu temples in Mauritius, with white buildings that are brightly painted. After a tour of the temple in Triolet, we will head south into the mountains of southeast Mauritius to visit the Grand Bassin Shiva Temple, built in 1891.  There students will see large statutes of Shiva, Lakshmi, and Hanuman, among others.  Many Hindus in Mauritius make a yearly pilgrimage to the Grand Bassin Shiva Temple where there is a lake made of water from the River Ganges; this lake has mythic origins that span from when Shiva and Parvati brought water with them from the Ganges but spilled it where the lake stands today.  Students will climb up a trail to a Hanuman Temple that will give them a splendid view of all of Mauritius.   While we will have a tour guide, students will have the freedom to explore these Hindu temples, and their scenic environs, in a spirit of reflection and contemplation.
Academic Objectives:
  1. To expose students to two of the largest, and most dramatic nineteenth century      Hindu temples in Mauritius;
  2. To give students some historical background regarding how Hinduism came to flourish in a small island off the coast of South Africa;
  3. To help students to identify the most common Hindu gods, and to learn about their stories and iconography;
  4. To give students a sense of how Indian Classical Asian Philosophy is manifested visually in the Hindu temples, and how Hindus worship their gods.