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.