This course is an introduction to the major religions of the world. Throughout history, religion
has been one of the primary ways that people have answered the big questions of life: What
is the meaning of my existence? Is there more to the world than what is readily observable?
Is there anything permanent beyond our ever-changing circumstances? What happens after
death? Is there a god or gods? How then should we live? We will examine and compare not
only the beliefs of various faiths, but also other elements of religion such as scripture, ritual,
ethics, art and architecture, life cycle stages, sacredness, community cohesion, social boundaries,
and identity formation in individuals. By its nature, religious studies is multi-disciplinary and
multi-faceted. In fact, even the definition of the term “religion” is debated. In this course, book-
learning will be supplemented by site visits to East Asia, Southeast Asia, India, and Africa—all
places where religious structures and customs will be immediately evident. Through a semester
of study, experience, and reflection on diverse faith traditions such as Hinduism, Judaism,
Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, Christianity, Shinto, and Islam, students will come to better
understand the lives and perspectives of people around the globe.
Field WorkCountry: Myanmar (Burma)
Day: 2 - Rangoon - 28 February
We will be visiting four pagodas: the Shwedagon (the holiest pagoda in Burma), the Sule, the Chaukhtatgyi Paya, and the Ngahtatgyi Paya. Several of these pagodas house important relics and massive sculptures of the Buddha. Academic Objectives:
- Visit a number of pagodas in a country where Buddhism is the official religion.
- Recognize distinctive characteristics of Theravada Buddhism.
- Observe Buddhist worship practices.