ENV 785b/REL917H (Online) / 2020-2021

Asian Religions and Ecology

Credits: 3
Teaching Mode: Online

Spring 2021: Tu, 4:00-6:00, Online

The first half of the course will explore the South Asian religious traditions of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. The second half of this course will explore the East Asian religious traditions of Confucianism, Daoism, and East Asian Buddhism. These traditions are studied in the context of the emerging field of religion and ecology. This course identifies developments in religious traditions that highlight their ecological implications into the contemporary period. In particular, it relates religious concepts, textual analysis, ritual activities, and institutional formations to engaged, on-the-ground environmental projects. It investigates the symbolic and lived expressions in religious ethics and practices that can be defined as religious ecologies.
At present the rapid modernization in South and East Asia is causing extreme environmental problems. This course will investigate Asian religions in relation to this ecological crisis. Both the problems and promise of religions are acknowledged. Religions are now widely seen as significant social, intellectual, and spiritual forces that both shape and are shaped by cultural worldviews. Moreover, religions are containers of symbolic language that often evoke nature's processes and reflect nature's rhythms. The multiform roles of religions, then, provide historical sources for reflection upon human behavior guided by values embedded in individual and social bodies, projected onto ecosystems, and molded into cosmological narratives.