Dates: 13/04/2015 - 26/04/2015
Mode of Delivery: Online
Level: 4 (Year 1)
Credit Value: 10 (for regular BA Theology and Religious Study study)
In History of Vaisnava Thought, students focus on studying an ancient religious heritage in the light of modern scholarship. Through a series of lively discussions, we explore the many aspects of Vaisnava thought – its literature, historical development, theology and philosophy. Many thoughtful and illuminating perspectives emerge as we examine the insight of scholars who have performed years of careful research on the Vaisnava traditions. In discussing subjects such as the nature of the divine, devotional poetry, sacred space, mystical states and spiritual practice, the abundant beauty and profundity of this venerable Indian tradition is brought to light.
The aims of this course are:
1) To provide an introduction to the study of the Vaisnava tradition, especially the tradition of Vedantic discourse in response to Advaita Vedanta. To encourage students to think carefully about the theological/philosophical issues as articulated within this discourse, in relation to the concept, practice, and experience of bhakti.
2) To provide a detailed, systematic, and schematic overview of the four Vaisnava sampradayas and an understanding of the similarities and differences in their philosophies and practice.
3) To study the writings of Vaisnava Acaryas.
Students who successfully complete this course will have a basic understanding of the theological ideas of prominent theologians/teachers in the Vaishnava tradition. They will also be able to evaluate the merits and shortcomings of both hagiography and critical scholarship in the study of Vaishnavism and be able to participate in varied forms of theological argumentation.
Gopal Hari teaches History of Vaishnava Thought and Science and Religion at the Bhaktivedanta College. He completed a Masters in Science and Religion and a doctorate in Hindu Studies at the University of Oxford, UK. His research interests include conceptions of consciousness, nature and divine agency in classical and contemporary Indian thought. Before coming to the UK, Gopal Hari completed a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and an M.S. in Artificial Intelligence from Boise State University in Idaho, USA, where his parents run the ISKCON Boise temple. Gopal Hari is a regular speaker at interfaith events and university classes, and has been a contributor to radio and television channels on topics of religion, ethics, and science and religion.
This module is part of the BA program for Theology and Religious Study, but it can be taken without special requirements. You may study the BA module as an auditing participant, independent of BA accreditation, without an obligation to complete the final assessment. You would be expected to complete the reading assignments, view/hear the lectures, and take part in the discussion forums. By clicking “Enroll Now” you will be redirected to Bhaktivedanta College Online Campus, where you will proceed with registration and payment. The Paypal fee for this module is €99 fully inclusive. Once your registration is complete, you will have access to the virtual classroom and all learning materials. Upon successfully completing this module, you will be awarded with a Certificate of Attendance mailed to your home address.
Expected Student Learning Activity and Contact Hours
100 hours notional learning hours of which 16 hours will be contact time. Distance learning students will have access to videoed or recorded lectures and seminars and to a moodle interactive learning environment.
- The way of Bhakti: An overview of the teachings on theism and devotion to a personal Deity found in the Vedas, Upanisads, Epics, Gita and Puranas.
- The Vaishnava Acharyas and Vedanta. An overview of the principal Vaishnava Acharyas and their theology as response to Shankara and his theory of non-dualism (Advaita vada).
- The Alvars: Readings from Nammalvar and Antal, considering their influence in shaping the theology of Ramanuja.
- Nimbarka, Vallabha and Chaitanya: A comparative overview of their lives, teachings and influence.
- A Chaitanya Vaishnava commentary on Vedanta Sutra: Baladeva Vidyabhusana and his Govinda Bhasya.
- The limits of Vedantic discourse: An exploration of the extent to which the Chaitanya Vaishnava (theory of acintya-bhedabheda) tradition can extend itself beyond its sanskritic roots of discourse.
- Vaishnava Vedanta today: Debates and issues of contemporary belief and practice in ISKCON and other schools of Vaishnavism.
- To provide a basic understanding of the major doctrines of prominent Vaishnava Acharyas and their writings.
- To analyse the conditions of the formulation and the historical development of the Acharyas’ teachings.
- To encourage students to think carefully about the theological/philosophical issues as articulated within this discourse, in relation to the concept, practice and experience of bhakti.
Methods of Learning and Teaching and Formative Assessment
Lectures; reading; group discussions; power point presentations; practice essay questions; reviews; individual reading and homework; videos; use of media. Question-and-answer sessions, debates, pair and group work and other interactive exercises will be done via the module forum; lectures will be available in the moodle environment.
- Demonstrate a basic understanding of the theological ideas and varying interpretations of Vedanta of prominent theologians/teachers in the Vaishnava tradition.
- Have an understanding of why and how different interpretations of Vedanta determine practice.
- Evaluate the merits and short-comings of both hagiography and critical scholarship in the study of prominent Vaishnava teacher/theologians.
- Be able to participate in varied forms of theological argumentation.
Assessment and Reassessment Components and Weighting
A 2,000-word essay.
Reassessment: As assessment.
- Deepak, S. (2003). An Introduction to Madhva Vedanta. Ashgate Publications.
- Deutsch, E. , Rohit, D. (2004) The Essential Vedanta: A New Source Book of Advaita Vedanta. World Wisdom Books.
- Ghate, V.S. (1981). The Vedanta: a study of the Brahma-Sutras with the Bhasyas of Samkara, Ramanuja, Nimbarka, Madhva, and Vallabha. Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute.
- Gupta, Ravi (2007). The Caitanya Vaishnava Vedanta of Jiva Goswami: When Knowledge Meets Devotion. Oxford: Routledge Hindu Studies Series.
- Hooper, J. S. M., (1929). Hymns of the Alvars. London: Oxford University Press.
- Lipner, J. (1986). The Face of Truth: a study of meaning and metaphysics in the Vedantic theology of Ramanuja. New York: Macmillan.
- Mittal, S., Thursby, G., Eds. (2006). Studying Hinduism: Key Concepts and Methods. London: Routledge.
- Ramanuja (1986). Brahma-sutras – Sri-Bhasya, with text and English rendering of the Sutras, Comments, and Index. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama.
- Sharma, A. (1994). The philosophy of religion and Advaita Vedanta: a comparative study in religion and reason. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.
- Sharma, B.N.K. (1986). The Brahmasutras and their principal commentaries – a critical exposition. Three Volumes. 2nd Edition. Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal.