Note: Last Updated on 4/20/2014
45.348  Eastern Philosophy and Religion (GEN ED AHED)
Dharma and Dao in South and East Asia

Spring Semester 2014

TU TH 12:30pm-1:45pm

Professor Eric S. Nelson                                                              Email: Eric_Nelson at

Office: Dugan Hall 200F                                                              Telephone: 978-934-3996

Spring Office Hours: T TH 11:30 am-12:30, 2:00-3:15 pm, and by appointment



In this course, we will explore the early classical philosophical and religious traditions of China, India, Tibet, Japan, and Korea. We will discuss selected works on truth, wisdom, liberation, yogic discipline, spiritual devotion, and liberation, awakening, and enlightenment in Hindu and non-Hindu thought in India as well as works on wisdom, virtue, self-cultivation, ritual propriety, nature, and wandering free and at ease in Confucian and Daoist thought in China. Some of the issues that we will examine are the roles of emptiness, language, and nature in Buddhism and Daoism; the debate between "orthodox" (āstika) and "unorthodox" (nāstika) movements in India: arguments for and against moral, natural, and other conceptions of human life in China; and the significance of virtuous action, ritual, and duty in Hinduism and Confucianism. After investigating interpretations of Dharma in Indian thought and Dao (Tao) in Chinese thought, we will consider Buddhist and Confucian philosophical writings from Korea and Japan.

Prerequisites for the course: None

Students for whom course is intended: All levels

Course Goals and Objectives

1. The goals of this course are to promote:

(a) Familiarity with a wide-range of positions and arguments in South and East Asian thought since antiquity, and

(b) Interdisciplinary and critical reasoning and reflection through considering a variety of cultural-historical, philosophical, and religious issues and approaches.

2. The objectives of this course are for students to develop their ability and skills in:

(a) Interpreting texts by accurately and fully describing concepts and arguments and placing them in their social-historical contexts

(b) Reasoning about ideas by (i) evaluating the content, structure, and strategies of philosophical and religious works, (ii) reflecting on their contexts by considering information and scholarship from the historical and social sciences, and (iii) applying concepts and arguments to contemporary issues and their own lives, and

(c) Collaborating with other students, and presenting and supporting their ideas in public through class participation.

Course Requirements

Students are required to:     1. Complete all assigned readings     2. Maintain regular attendance

3. Participate in class discussion    4. Complete all written assignments on-time


1. Attendance and active participation: 25% of final grade.

Note that missing classes and not participating in class and group discussions will result in a lower final grade; attending and participating in classes will improve your final grade. There will be oral and written, individual and group, in-class assignments and take-home assignments based on the readings and class-discussion.

2. Three Exams: 75% of final grade.

Grading will be based on (1) knowing the texts and our class discussions and (2) being able to make your own arguments and interpretations.

All Required Texts are Available Online


I. China

道可道非常道 / The Dao that can be spoken of is not the enduring Dao

1. Jan. 21, T: Introduction to the Course and to the Chinese Context through the Book of Changes (Yijing 易經)

2. Jan. 23, TH: The Yijing: Qian and Kun: and

Also see: Richard Wilhelm, trans., The I Ching, 1-15; Hellmut Wilhelm, “The Hexagrams Ch’ien and K’un,” in Change Eight Lectures on the I Ching, 48-63; Denis Mair, The Dance of Qian and Kun in the Zhouyi - Sino-Platonic Papers.


3. Jan. 28, T: Confucius (Kongzi 孔子), The Analects (Lunyu 論語), chapters 1-7:

Also see: 

4. Jan. 30, TH: Confucius (Kongzi 孔子), The Analects (Lunyu 論語), chapters 7-14:

5. Feb. 4, T: Confucius (Kongzi 孔子), The Analects (Lunyu 論語), chapters 14-20:

6. Feb. 6, TH: Laozi (Lao Tzu 老子), Daodejing 道德經, chapters 1-27:

Also see: and alterantive transaltion:  

7. Feb. 11, T: Laozi (Lao Tzu 老子), Daodejing 道德經, chapters 28-53:

8. Feb. 13, TH: Laozi (Lao Tzu 老子), Daodejing 道德經, chapters 53-81:


10. Feb. 20, TH: In Class Exam 1.

II. India and Tibet

"tat tvam asi / thou art that"

11. Feb. 25, T: Patanjali, The Yoga Sutras, parts one and two:

See also:

12. Feb. 27, TH: No class - video assignment. Introduction to Hinduism, BBC: Extreme Pilgrim - Hindu Mela :

13. March 4, T: Patanjali, The Yoga Sutras, parts three and four:

14-15. March 6, TH and March 11, T: Indian Myth, Culture and spirituality

Tantric Hinduism, Hymn to Kālī, Karpūrādi-stotra,

Myths of Mankind: The Mahabharata (Ancient History Documentary):
Hinduism - Religions of the World:

16. March 13, TH: Lokāyata/Cārvāka – Indian Materialism,

Additional reading:

March 18 and March 20: Spring Break - NO CLASSES

17. March 25, T: Bardo Thodol ("The Tibetan Book of the Dead") pdf (first half)

Recommended Documentary: Wheel of Time by Werner Herzog (2003)

If you want to hear more:

18. March 27, TH: Bardo Thodol ("The Tibetan Book of the Dead") pdf (second half)

19. April 1, T: In-Class Exam 2

III. Japan and Korea

20. April 3, TH: Introduction to Zen

21. April 8, T: Dōgen Zenji (道元禅師), Actualizing the Fundamental Point (Genjo-koan),

22. April 10, TH: Dōgen, The Time-Being (Uji),

23. April 15, T: Dōgen, Mountains and Waters Sutra (Sansui kyô),

24. April 17, TH: Zen, the Kyoto School and Japanese Nationalism

See the sources on:, especially

25. April 22, The "Four Seven Debate" in Korean Neo-Confucianism. Reading:

Additional reading: Mencius,

Yi Hwang (1501–1570), To Become a Sage: The Ten Diagrams on Sage Learning,

26. April 24, TH: Gender and Modernity in Korea and Japan. Read: Jin Y. Park, Gendered Response to Modernity: Kim Iryeop and Buddhism online at

Additional reading: Sakiko Kitagawa, Living as a Woman and Thinking as a Mother in Japan A Feminine Line of Japanese Moral Philosophy online at

27. April 29, T: Jin Y. Park, Buddhism and Modernity in Korea online at

Conclusions, evaluations, and Take-Home Final / Exam 3 due before Midnight on on May 7.