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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Prem Pahlajrai
ASIAN 498
Seattle Campus

Special Topics

Offered occasionally by permanent or visiting faculty members. Topics vary. Offered: AWSp.

Class description

INTRODUCTION TO INDIAN PHILOSOPHICAL LITERATURE

This course explores the development of Hindu Indian Philosophy starting from the middle of the first millennium BCE.

All texts will be read in English translations, no knowledge of Sanskrit or other Indian languages is required.

Student learning goals

Read & discuss excerpts from the Rg and Atharva Vedas that hint at the beginnings of philosophical speculations,

Trace the development of these ideas in select Upanishads,

Explore the purpose of Yoga as described in the Yoga Sutras,

Examine the conflict between renunciation and religion as presented in the Mahabharata’s Moksha-dharma-parvan (“Section on the Laws of Liberation”), and

See how the Bhagavad Gita effects a synthesis between the tensions of performing one’s role in society and renouncing society for the pursuit of liberation.

The primary goals of this course are to familiarize ourselves with this literature and the readings that are presented here, and to understand the concerns & motivations of their creators and the various perspectives from which these can be interpreted. We will use writing as a means to organize our understanding and work our ideas into coherent arguments. Our goal in class sessions will be to engage with the ideas and issues raised by our readings, with the active participation of all students.

General method of instruction

Bi-weekly lecture and discussion.

Recommended preparation

Success in this course requires reading the assigned texts carefully and thoughtfully. The course has no formal prerequisites, but a prior course on Hinduism and/or Eastern Religions will be helpful. Students should read assigned texts, take notes of key issues and arguments and come to class prepared to discuss them, and to think and write critically about them.

Class assignments and grading

Weekly reading assignments. Weekly study guides with discussion questions distributed online. Bringing passages to discuss in class, asking questions, and making thoughtful academic arguments. Responses to WebQ reading quizzes. GoPost response paragraphs and peer feedback on specified topics. Periodic writing assignments.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Class Webpage
Last Update by Prem Pahlajrai
Date: 02/01/2014