T5097 – Hindu and Buddhist Philosophy in Nepal

Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Bodhnath, Pokhara, and Lumbini
Faculty: Emily Blanchard West & Jeff Johnson
01/04/19 – 01/28/19 

Learn about Hindu and Buddhist mythology and philosophy in Nepal, as we spend time in the living museum of the Kathmandu Valley’s superb religious art and architecture, get close to some of the spiritual places of the Himalayas, and visit the birth place of the Buddha.

Academic Overview
Ever since the first drivable road into the Kathmandu valley was opened in the late 1950’s, Nepal has been recognized as a country with rich religious traditions, and the very name “Kathmandu” has been synonymous with spiritual awareness and soul-stirring beauty.  Hindu Mythology, and the stories and legends associated with Hinduism’s daughter-religion, Buddhism, comprise one of the most complex and intriguing sets of narratives ever created by humankind, with moral and ethical underpinnings as rich and profound as their symbolism and metaphorical imagery. This course will teach you how to understand and engage with the world’s oldest still-active mythico-religious tradition by reading ancient texts, absorbing and analyzing their meanings on multiple levels, and applying this knowledge to the observation and interpretation of the magnificent temples and shrines of the Kathmandu valley, with additional trips into the Himalaya and to the birthplace of the Buddha in the nation’s southern jungles. By the end of the course, you will be able to identify all the major Hindu deities and the aspects and postures of the Buddha by sight, as well as the major myths and stories associated with both religions. You will wrestle with the Buddha’s philosophical positions on the nature of suffering, the self, and reality. You will understand what the “Om” symbol represents, gods like Shiva, Kali and Vishnu will be old friends, and you will use words like “dharma” and “karma” with a confident understanding of their actual meanings.

Program Fee/Cost
Program Fee includes:  Transportation and course arrangements as indicated, hotel accommodations in twin and triple rooms, continental breakfast daily, five lunches and eleven dinners (subject to change). Lunches and dinners will be vegan in keeping with the religious and philosophical tenets being conveyed in the course.


Required Readings
1) Classical Hindu Mythology, by Cornelia Dimmitt & J.A.B. van Buitenen, Temple University Press.
2) The Lonely Planet Guide to Nepal, by Mayhew et al., Lonely Planet Guides.
3) One Amar Chitra Katha Indian mythological comic book from India, purchased online
4) Hindu, Buddhist, & Tantric Gods & Goddesses, Manjupurias, Scholar’s Nest Publishing.
5) What the Buddha Taught, Rahula, Grove Press.
6) Selected Buddhist Sutras from http://www.accesstoinsight.org

1)   Attendance & Participation (10%)
2)   Iconography Test (10%)
3)   Site Visit Presentation (10%)
4)   Reading Presentation (10%)
5)   Fieldwork Presentation (20%)
6)   Philosophy Paper (20%)
7)   Fieldwork paper (10%)
8)   Final Reflection Paper (10%)

Program Directors
Emily West., St. Catherine University (651) 690.6069, email: ebwest@stkate.edu
Jeff Johnson, St. Catherine University (651) 690.6801, email: jtjohnson@stkate.edu

Description of Faculty Directors
Dr. West is an Associate Professor at St. Catherine University. Her Ph.D. is in Classics, with a specific concentration on the Sanskrit language, and most of her research is based on Hindu religious literature. Art History has been a passion of hers since a particularly formative high-school AP course, and was a substantial component of her college and graduate work. The devotional art of India and its formal iconography has been a particular focus of ongoing learning for Dr. West.  In 1989-90, she participated in the University of Wisconsin College Year in Nepal program, and lived in the Kathmandu Valley and did fieldwork on its river system. The months of hiking the valley’s waterways that this required left Dr. West with an intimate knowledge of its geography, road networks, and temple types and distribution.  This will be Dr. West’s 4th time teaching a UMAIE course, and third time co-leading Hindu and Buddhist Art, Architecture and Mythology in the Kathmandu Valley.

Dr. Johnson is an Assistant Professor at St. Catherine University in the Philosophy Department. He has done research in Asian Philosophy, including Buddhist philosophy and some Indian Philosophy. Dr. Johnson has taught the Upanishads, The Bhagavad Gita, and a number of Buddhist Sutras in a World Religion course.  This will be Dr. Johnson’s 3rd time co-leading Hindu and Buddhist Art, Architecture and Mythology in the Kathmandu Valley.

Application Procedures & Deadline
· Select the How to Apply link to start your online application.
· All applications received by your home institutions priority deadline will be sent to the faculty immediately. Applications will be taken after that deadline for programs with space still remaining until the final application deadline of October 1, 2018.

Final Application Deadline: October 1, 2018

For more information on course content, contact Emily West
On application procedures or logistical information, contact your study abroad office.


Travel Packet

Travel ePacket (Link)

Click the image at left to access the course Travel Packet. The ePacket contains important information about traveling abroad, including your itinerary, frequently asked questions, participant letter and culturegram.

Preliminary Itinerary will be posted by October 16.
Final Itinerary will be posted by December 7.


The Orientation process includes 3 components:
– an online self-study and quiz on the UMAIE student handbook.
– an online orientation webinar conducted by your faculty director(s)
– an on-site orientation upon arrival.

You are REQUIRED to participate in and complete all 3 steps within the deadlines specified below. Failure to do so may result in your removal from the course.

Student Handbook and Online Quiz

2018 Student Manual (PDF)

We have put together this handbook to provide you with helpful information for planning and spending your time abroad. The handbook is also your primary study guide to pass your online quiz. There are excellent tips in this handbook, and it is organized in a way we hope will be user-friendly and straightforward.

Please carefully read the UMAIE student handbook and complete the quiz on the UMAIE student handbook by October 20, 2018.


quiz_thumbYou can access the online quiz through your online application by logging in to your school’s study abroad website. Complete the 2019 UMAIE Participant Quiz under Assessments on your online application portal.


 Orientation Webinar

The online orientation webinar for this course is on:

Monday, October 8, 2018 – 4:00pm-5:30pm

Your participation is required. Please review the sign-in instructions below and make yourself available to participate on this date.

Click the webinar icon below to access the launch and sign-in screen for Zoom.

Instructions (PDF)

Instructions (PDF)

Webinar Link (Zoom)


(Alternate Access to Webinar)

Topic: UMAIE 5097: Hindu and Buddhist Philosophy in Nepal – West/Johnson
Time: Oct 8, 2018 4:00 PM Central Time (US and Canada)
Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android: https://stthomas.zoom.us/j/106318335
Or Telephone:
    Dial(for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location):
        US: +1 669 900 6833  or +1 646 876 9923  or +1 877 853 5247  (Toll Free) or +1 877 369 0926 (Toll Free)
    Meeting ID: 106 318 335
    International numbers available: https://zoom.us/u/trh1otVG


Participants are required to bring their Student ID card with them on the course to qualify for reduced student entrances at many sites. Without your ID, you could be responsible to pay any difference in entrance fees.