This course is an introduction to the world’s major religions, particularly the dominant religious traditions in the countries we will visit in Asia and Africa. To live and work in a global village where we interact with people and communities from different religious traditions we need to understand and appreciate these neighbors’ religious worldview. In this course we will examine and compare the beliefs, texts, figures, rituals, and shrines of the world’s major religions and explore how these traditions answer life’s “big questions” (why we exist, what happens after death, and how we should live our lives, etc.) and how they help their members to negotiate life’s crises and passages and to get along with fellow believers and religious strangers.
Field WorkCountry: Vietnam
Day: 5 - Friday, 12 February
In this field lab we will visit an important Viet Namese Buddhist institution in Ho Chi Minh City that reflects the multiplicity and synthesis of Buddhist traditions in modern Viet Nam. The Tinh Xa Trung Tam, or Central Temple, is home to a recent hybrid Mahayana-Theravada tradition that is unique to Viet Nam. We will spend the first period receiving a formal introduction to the doctrines and practices that are specific to this Buddhist denomination, given by the Assistant Abbot of the Central Temple. We will spend the rest of the afternoon observing, noting, and analyzing the forms of religious observances and the variety of religious practitioners who visit the Central Temple, seeking to identify the various strands of Mahayana and Theravāda practice found in temple life and teachings. We hope to have afternoon tea with the local parishioners, or will take quick excursion to Giac Lam Pagoda.
1. To discern and better understand the distinctive range of religious teaching and practice in Vietnam by observing the sacred sites, daily rituals and monastic practice, across Taoist, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and Christian traditions, and interacting with practitioners, as circumstances permit.
2. To gain a better appreciation of the fluidity of religious institutions and practices.