Effective: Late Fall 8-Week, 2018/2019

RELI 202: *Asian Philosophy & Religion

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  Course Description

Examination of philosophy, religion, and belief systems of Eastern cultures, past and present. Students study the various traditional "systems of thought" from India, China, Tibet and Japan. Cross-listed as PHIL 202. G.E. Course meets Multicultural graduation requirement.

Proctored Exams: Midterm and Final


As part of TruitionSM, students will receive their course materials automatically as described below.


  • Daniel L. Overmyer. Religions of China: The World as a Living System. Waveland Press, 1998.  
  • Patrick S. Bresnan. Awakening: An Introduction to the History of Eastern Thought. 6th, Routledge, 2018.  

Bookstore Information

Visit https://www.ccis.edu/bookstore.aspx for details.

eText Information

If a course uses an eText, (see Textbook information above) the book will be available directly in Desire2Learn (D2L) and through the VitalSource eText reader the Friday before the session begins, if registered for courses prior to that date.  Students will have a VitalSource account created for them using their CougarMail email address. Upon first login to VitalSource, students may need to verify their account and update their VitalSource password.  More information about how to use the VitalSource platform, including offline access to eTexts, can be found in D2L.  Students that would like to order an optional print-on-demand copy of eligible eTexts can do so through the VitalSource bookshelf at an additional cost.  Once orders are placed, it can take approximately five to seven business days for students to receive their print-on-demand books.

Physical Course Materials Information

Students enrolled in courses that require physical materials will receive these materials automatically at the address on file with Columbia College.  Delivery date of physical materials is dependent on registration date and shipping location.  Please refer to confirmation emails sent from Ed Map for more details on shipping status.

Note: Students who opt-out of having their books provided as part of TruitionSM are responsible for purchasing their own course materials.

  Course Overview

People talk about “Yin and Yang” and “Feng Shui.” In Week 1 we will introduce ourselves to each other, and then learn the basis of these ideas in ancient China. In Week 2 we will continue with Chinese popular religion, its holidays, rituals, and system of divination using the I Ching. We will also learn about Confucius and his emphasis on family values, and Daoism, with its call to a simpler life.

Week 3 opens with India’s ancient religion, Hinduism. We will study the deities of the Vedas, and the philosophy of the Upanishads. Week 4 brings us to the Bhagavad Gita, where the god Krishna tells the young warrior Arjuna of the various yogas, or paths to enlightenment. Then we will study the Hindu philosophies, including Tantra and Hatha Yoga (what we think of as “yoga” in the West), and the worship of deities such as Shiva, Vishnu, Kali and Durga. We will also learn about important recent figures in India, such as Mahatma Gandhi.

In the second half of the course, we turn to Buddhism, founded by Siddhartha Gautama. We will learn the story of his quest for enlightenment, his basic teachings, and study Buddhism’s earliest form, Theravada. In Week 6, we investigate the more popular forms of Buddhism, Mahayana and Tibetan Buddhism. We will learn the developing doctrines about the Buddha and bodhisattvas (heavenly beings who help believers), and explore the rich culture of Tibet and and its leader, the Dalai Lama.

Week 7 brings us to Chinese Buddhism. One version teaches of a Pure Land where believers go when they die. Zen Buddhism originated in China as Chan, before it spread to Japan. We will begin our study of Japanese religion with its indigenous religion, Shinto. We will finish the course with a look at Zen Buddhism in Japan, which emphasizes meditation and and uses koans such as “what is the sound of one hand clapping?” to lead people to enlightenment.

  Technology Requirements

Participation in this course will require the basic technology for all online classes at Columbia College:
  • A computer with reliable Internet access
  • A web browser
  • Acrobat Reader
  • Microsoft Office or another word processor such as Open Office

You can find more details about standard technical requirements for our courses on our site.

  Course Objectives

  • To understand Eastern philosophies and religions.


Grading Scale

Grade Points Percent
A 720-800 90-100%
B 640-719 80-89%
C 560-639 70-79%
D 480-559 60-69%
F 0-479 0-59%

Grade Weights

Assignment Category Points Percent
Reading Comprehension Essays (5) 200 25%
Discussions (16) 300 38%
Midterm Exam (1) 150 19%
Final Exam (1) 150 19%
Total 800 100%

  Schedule of Due Dates

Week 1

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 2 20 Thursday/Sunday
Discussion 1 10

Week 2

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 3 20 Thursday/Sunday
Discussion 4 20
Reading Comprehension Essay 1 40 Sunday
Proctor Information N/A

Week 3

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 5 20 Thursday/Sunday
Discussion 6 20
Reading Comprehension Essay 2 40 Sunday

Week 4

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 7 20 Thursday/Sunday
Midterm exam 150 Sunday
Discussion 8 20

Week 5

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 9 20 Thursday/Sunday
Discussion 10 20
Reading Comprehension Essay 3 40 Sunday

Week 6

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 11 20 Thursday/Sunday
Reading Comprehension Essay 4 40 Sunday
Discussion 12 20

Week 7

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 13 20 Thursday/Sunday
Reading Comprehension Essay 5 40 Sunday
Discussion 14 20

Week 8

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 16 10 Thursday/Saturday
Discussion 15 20
Final Exam 150 Saturday
Total Points: 800

  Assignment Overview

Reading Assignments

It will be important to your grade that you do the week’s reading of both texts and websites before trying to make Discussion postings or write the Reading Comprehension essay.

When a website is referenced in this syllabus for a given week’s readings the link will be found in the Content area. This is done to minimize broken links.


Discussions are our chance to really “do philosophy” by entering into a dialogue with each other, and will help us consider the applications of religions to people’s lives.

There will be two Discussions each week, and all posts to the two must be completed by midnight Sunday, except in Week 8 which ends on Saturday. For full credit, you need to make your initial post answering the question in each discussion between Monday and Thursday, and you must come to each discussion more than once in the week. We are trying to create a conversation or dialogue among ourselves, and your participation is vital.

Your initial post and your response posts should genuinely discuss the topic at hand; don’t be brief. In your initial post, you need to refer to material in each of the readings on which the topic is based. Don’t try to post by merely reading others’ posts; do your own work.

You need not comment on every posting by other students, but you should comment on at least three postings of others; your comments may be constructive or critical (analytical) as appropriate. In any post, if you use material from any other source, you need to make it clear that you are doing so by giving a reference and by using quotation marks if you are directly quoting. Discussions 1 and 16 only require an initial post, and replying to other students is optional in these two. Please see Grading Criteria at the end of the syllabus.

Each week there may be other optional discussion topics, for us to explore an idea or have some fun, but these are not for credit.

Reading Comprehension Essays

Reading Comprehension Essays have two purposes: they will challenge you to consider philosophical ideas and issues that face religions as they develop, and they will give you an opportunity to practice college-level writing skills.

There will be Reading Comprehension Essays in weeks 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7. Use the course Dropbox to submit your essay. (Please do not send assignments by email unless you are unable to log in to the course.) Essays are due by midnight Sunday.

These essays are your chance to show you understand the material. In preparing to write your essay, first read the assigned texts carefully, and more than once, thinking about the relationship between the question and the material. When you write your draft, it is a good idea to: use relevant quotations from the text with page numbers; provide your brief interpretation or critique of those quotations; and make sure that you are answering the question completely. Finally, put it together in well-thought-out paragraphs, with a total length of 300 to 500 words.

Before you submit your essay, read it over carefully to see that you have written in complete sentences, following the rules of grammar, punctuation and spelling. If you quote our text, you need only use quotation marks and put the page number in parentheses following the quote. If you quote from any other source, be sure to give full bibliographic information; if you need guidance on citations, visit the CC Writing Center online. Please see Grading Criteria at the end of the syllabus.


Our Midterm and Final exams will push you to learn the terms and concepts of the religions in some detail; most of these are not covered in the Discussions and Essays.

There are two proctored exams for the course, a Midterm and a Final, worth 150 points each. Please see the Proctor Policy below. The tests will consist of various kinds of objective items (multiple choice, matching, true/false).

The Content area of the course has study guides to help you prepare. It will be important for you study for the exams weekly, rather than waiting until the week of the test. In the third and sixth weeks, I will post a breakdown of the test questions in the Content area. The exams will be available in the Quizzes area of the course.

Please Note: With the ease of use of the Internet, there is a strong temptation to plagiarize. Plagiarism may be defined as using another’s phrase, sentence, or paragraph without quotation marks; using another’s ideas or structure without properly identifying the source or using the work of someone else and submitting it as one’s own. For more information, please see the Plagiarism Tutorial in the Content area. The Course Policies section below shows how cases of plagiarism will be handled.

  Course Outline

Click on each week to view details about the activities scheduled for that week.

• Religions of China, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, and Chapter 3 p.57-73.
• Website: Cultural China, “An Egg and A Name”
• Livingston, “Calendar or Seasonal Rituals,” posted in the Content area of the course
• Website: Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco, “Traditional Celebration of the Chinese New Year”
Discussion 2

Rituals are an important part of religious practice. We will read some theory about seasonal rituals, and then discuss the Chinese New Year.

Please see the Content page, Week 1, Readings and Assignments for details.

Note that you will be able to do your Discussion post based on the website readings, if you have not yet received the Religions of China text.

Preparation for Midterm
It’s not too soon to start studying for the Midterm. See the Study Guide for Week 1 and Images for Week 1, posted in the Content area of the Course.
Discussion 1

A person’s cultural and religious life often begins with the name their parents give them and some kind of celebration of their birth such as a baptism or christening, one of several rites of passage in a person’s life. In this Discussion, we will introduce our selves to each other, and talk about how parents choose names for their children in traditional cultures and today. Please see the Content page, Week 1, Readings and Assignments for details.

Note that you will be able to do your Discussion post based on the website readings, if you have not yet received the Religions of China text.

• Religions of China, Ch.3 starting at p.73, Ch. 4 and Ch. 5
• Article “Chinese Cosmology” posted in the Content area of the course
• Awakening, Ch. 14 Daoism
• Awakening, Ch. 13 Confucius and Confucianism
Discussion 3
People have often turned to religion for insights about the future and guidance to make the best decisions for their lives. This discussion will consider the ancient Chinese practice of divination by doing an I Ching exercise.
Discussion 4
Many religions, Daoism included, advise us to be less aggressive, more yielding. We will think about this message and whether it applies today.
Reading Comprehension Essay 1
Confucianism emphasizes very traditional values in all our relationships. In your essay, you will choose some passages from Confucius’s Analects and write on their applicability (or lack of it) today. Please see the Content page, Week 2, Readings and Assignments for details.
Preparation for Midterm
See the Study Guide for Week 2 and Images for Week 2, posted in the Content area.
Proctor Information
Submit your proctor form to the appropriate Dropbox folder by the end of the week. Remember to “Save” the form before placing it in Dropbox. See the Content area for more information.
• Awakening, Ch. 1 India Before the Vedas
• Awakening, Ch. 2 Veda and the Vedas
• Website: Wikipedia, “Rigvedic deities”
• Awakening, Ch. 3 Introduction to the Upanishads
Discussion 5
Rituals of offerings to the gods were an important part of ancient life. This discussion will examine the Vedic Yajna sacrifice and Durkheim’s theory about the purpose of ritual.
Discussion 6
In this discussion we will learn more about the ancient Vedic gods, and consider what it would be like to worship deities that personify natural forces.
Reading Comprehension Essay 2

The Upanishads contain the ideas of ancient India’s philosophical understanding of the world. This essay will ask you to examine the logic of these concepts, through a variety of questions.

As you do the reading, pay particular attention to the logic of the ideas, the way they fit together, one implying the other. For your essay, pick two or three of the topics from the Content area and critically analyze the underlying logic of the concepts; that is, consider whether the ideas make sense and give adequate explanations. Please do not merely repeat what you find in the text. Work to question the ideas in the ways suggested below and to genuinely consider whether the explanations work.

Preparation for Midterm
See the Study Guide for Week 3 and Images for Week 3, posted in the Content area. See also the Midterm Test Breakdown of questions.
• Awakening, Ch. 4 The Bhagavad Gita
• Awakening, Ch. 6 Darshana
• Awakening, Ch. 7 The Devotional Movement
• Awakening, Ch. 8 A Millennium of Strife
• Video: Democracy Now! “Satyagraha 100 Years Later…” in the Content area.
Discussion 7
The Bhagavad Gita has been a very influential text in Indian thought, but it advocates the duty of going to war. We will consider whether this text and other ancient texts with similar messages should be reinterpreted for modern times or should be held to their original meanings.
Midterm exam
The Exam will cover Chinese Religion and Hinduism, and is to be taken between Tuesday and Sunday, by arrangement with your proctor.
Preparation for Midterm
See the Study Guide for Week 4 and Images for Week 4, posted in the Content area. See also the Midterm Test Breakdown of questions.
Discussion 8
For this discussion, we will watch a video of Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, Arun Gandhi, and discuss the relevance of the message of non-violence for today, at a personal level and as a political strategy.

• Awakening, Ch. 9 The Life Story of Shakyamuni Buddha
• Awakening, Ch. 10 Basic Teaching of Shakyamuni Buddha
• Awakening, Ch. 11 Theravada Buddhism

Discussion 9
The stories of the founders of great religions often include stories of temptation or trial that precede their enlightenment and mission. We will look at the Buddha’s story, see how it meshes with his message, and what lessons it contains for believers.
Preparation for the Final
It’s not too soon to start studying for the Final. See the Study Guide for Week 5 and Images for Week 5, posted in the Content area.
Discussion 10
The Buddha taught a very abstract concept of Anatman or No-Self. The philosophical issue is whether we have a soul, a permanent unchanging self. We will discuss what evidence there is for this teaching, and whether there are psychological reasons that we want to believe in a self identity.

As part of your answer, you might consider whether you are in any sense the same person today as you were at five years old, or whether your friends or family members are the same as they have always been. If you feel that people change considerably over time, does that mean that the Buddha is correct in saying we have no permanent identity? You could also consider whether there are psychological reasons that we want to believe in a permanent self, and so are prone to reject the idea of no self.
Reading Comprehension Essay 3
Buddha claims the human problem is desire or craving, and the attachment that comes with it. In this essay you will take a position on whether this idea is correct, or whether desire is actually important to accomplishing goals and having a good life.
• Awakening, Ch. 12 Mahayana Buddhism
• Website: Buddhanet, “Buddhist Symbols/Iconography”
• Video: YouTube, “The Columbia College Brand”
• Awakening, Ch. 17 Tibetan Buddhism
• Gungthang Tenpai Dronme, “A Meditation on Impermanence” posted in the Content area
Discussion 11
Religions use symbols to express their morality and teachings, to cultivate unity among the believers, and as a mediator to the object of their worship. The most effective religious symbols appeal to the intellect and the emotions. We will look at Buddhist symbols, consider how modern institutions use logos to brand themselves, and think about whether religions should modernize their symbols.
Reading Comprehension Essay 4

Most religions start with revelations or insights from their founders. Over time, the founders often come to be deified or given divine status by the religion’s followers. This essay will examine this phenomenon in Mahayana Buddhism, and consider whether religions must do this in order to spread and endure.

Discussion 12
All religions have poetry in their sacred texts and in their later writings. In this discussion, we will consider a poem by a Tibetan monk and how religious ideas are communicated in this form.
Preparation for the Final
See the Study Guide for Week 6 and Images for Week 6, posted in the Content area.
Course Evaluation
Please evaluate the course. You will have an opportunity to evaluate the course near the end of the session. A link sent to your CougarMail will allow you to access the evaluation. Please note that these evaluations are provided so that I can improve the course, find out what students perceive to be its strengths and weaknesses, and in general assess the success of the course. Please do take the time to fill this out.
• Awakening, Ch. 16 Early Buddhism in China
• Awakening, Ch. 18 Chan Buddhism
• Awakening, Ch. 15 Shinto
Discussion 13
Religions are naturally “conservative” institutions, in the sense that they attempt to conserve or hold on to the traditions of the past, and are slow to change. But human life continues to progress and often religions must find ways to reinterpret their texts so as to change with the times. This discussion will look at Pure Land Buddhism’s development of an easier way to attain enlightenment, and whether such efforts are desirable, or instead weaken the original teachings of the founders.
Reading Comprehension Essay 5
This essay will be a reflection on the nature of religious rivalry. Through the semester our text has mentioned several historical periods where a new religion came into conflict with an existing one, but has also shown periods of cooperation between faiths. In this essay you will consider the factors that cause cooperation and rivalry, and whether religions should tolerate each other or compete for converts.
Discussion 14
Religions are continually revitalized by figures that challenge authorities and traditional ways of thinking. We will talk about Bodhidharma who according to legend brought Chan Buddhism to China, and discuss whether we would have liked meet him.
Preparation for the Final
See the Study Guide for Week 7 and Images for Week 7, posted in the Content area. See also the Final Exam Breakdown of questions.
Awakening, Ch. 19 Zen Buddhism
Discussion 16
Good-byes and closing thoughts. Take a moment to wish each other well, and to express any enlightenment you have gained from our study of Eastern thought.
Preparation for the Final
See the Study Guides for Weeks 5, 6, and 7, and Images for Weeks 5, 6, and 7, in the Content area. See also the Final Exam Breakdown.
Discussion 15

The monastic tradition has been part of several Eastern and Western religions, and today, many monasteries and ashrams offer the opportunity for lay people to stay for a period of time to experience the life. This discussion will examine monastic life, and ask you to imagine whether you would accept a three-week, all-expense-paid visit to a monastery.

Final Exam
To be taken between Tuesday and Saturday, by arrangement with your proctor.

  Course Policies

Student Conduct

All Columbia College students, whether enrolled in a land-based or online course, are responsible for behaving in a manner consistent with Columbia College's Student Conduct Code and Acceptable Use Policy. Students violating these policies will be referred to the office of Student Affairs and/or the office of Academic Affairs for possible disciplinary action. The Student Code of Conduct and the Computer Use Policy for students can be found in the Columbia College Student Handbook. The Handbook is available online; you can also obtain a copy by calling the Student Affairs office (Campus Life) at 573-875-7400. The teacher maintains the right to manage a positive learning environment, and all students must adhere to the conventions of online etiquette.

Plagiarism and Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a cumulative process that begins with the first college learning opportunity. Students are responsible for knowing the Academic Integrity policy and procedures and may not use ignorance of either as an excuse for academic misconduct. Columbia College recognizes that the vast majority of students at Columbia College maintain high ethical academic standards; however, failure to abide by the prohibitions listed herein is considered academic misconduct and may result in disciplinary action, a failing grade on the assignment, and/or a grade of "F" for the course.

Additionally, all required papers may be submitted for textual similarity review to Turnitin.com for the detection of plagiarism. All submitted papers may be included in the Turnitin.com reference database for the purpose of detecting plagiarism. This service is subject to the Terms and Conditions of Use posted on the Turnitin.com site.


There will be no discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, ideology, political affiliation, veteran status, age, physical handicap, or marital status.

Student Accessibility Resources

Columbia College is committed to creating a learning environment that meets the needs of its diverse student body. If you anticipate or experience any barriers to learning, communicate your concerns with the instructor. In addition to speaking with the instructor, the following resources are available to ensure an opportunity to learn in an inclusive environment that values mutual respect.

  • For students with disabilities/conditions who are experiencing barriers to learning or assessment, contact the Student Accessibility Resources office at (573) 875-7626 or sar@ccis.edu to discuss a range of options to removing barriers in the course, including accommodations.
  • For students who are experiencing conflict which is impacting their educational environment, contact the Office of Student Conduct at studentconduct@ccis.edu or (573) 875-7877.
  • For students who have concerns related to discrimination or harassment based on sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, pregnancy or parental status, please contact the Title IX Office at titleixcoordinator@ccis.edu. More information can be found at http://www.ccis.edu/policies/notice-of-non-discrimination-and-equal-opportunity.aspx

Online Participation

You are expected to read the assigned texts and participate in the discussions and other course activities each week. Assignments should be posted by the due dates stated on the grading schedule in your syllabus. If an emergency arises that prevents you from participating in class, please let your instructor know as soon as possible.

Attendance Policy

Attendance for a week will be counted as having submitted any assigned activity for which points are earned. Attendance for the week is based upon the date work is submitted. A class week is defined as the period of time between Monday and Sunday (except for week 8, when the work and the course will end on Saturday at midnight.) The course and system deadlines are based on the Central Time Zone.

Cougar Email

All students are provided a CougarMail account when they enroll in classes at Columbia College. You are responsible for monitoring email from that account for important messages from the College and from your instructor. You may forward your Cougar email account to another account; however, the College cannot be held responsible for breaches in security or service interruptions with other email providers.

Students should use email for private messages to the instructor and other students. The class discussions are for public messages so the class members can each see what others have to say about any given topic and respond.

Late Assignment Policy

An online class requires regular participation and a commitment to your instructor and your classmates to regularly engage in the reading, discussion and writing assignments. Although most of the online communication for this course is asynchronous, you must be able to commit to the schedule of work for the class for the next eight weeks. You must keep up with the schedule of reading and writing to successfully complete the class.

No late discussion posts will be accepted.

Late Reading Comprehension Essays will lose two points for each day they are late.

Course Evaluation

You will have an opportunity to evaluate the course near the end of the session. A link will be sent to your CougarMail that will allow you to access the evaluation. Be assured that the evaluations are anonymous and that your instructor will not be able to see them until after final grades are submitted.

Proctor Policy

Students taking courses that require proctored exams must submit their completed proctor request forms to their instructors by the end of the second week of the session. Proctors located at Columbia College campuses are automatically approved. The use of ProctorU services is also automatically approved. The instructor of each course will consider any other choice of proctor for approval or denial. Additional proctor choices the instructor will consider include: public librarians, high school or college instructors, high school or college counseling services, commanding officers, education service officers, and other proctoring services. Personal friends, family members, athletic coaches and direct supervisors are not acceptable.

  Additional Resources

Orientation for New Students

This course is offered online, using course management software provided by Desire2Learn and Columbia College. The course user guide provides details about taking an online course at Columbia College. You may also want to visit the course demonstration to view a sample course before this one opens.

Technical Support

If you have problems accessing the course or posting your assignments, contact your instructor, the Columbia College Technology Solutions Center, or the D2L Helpdesk for assistance. If you have technical problems with the VitalSource eText reader, please contact VitalSource. Contact information is also available within the online course environment.

Online Tutoring

Smarthinking is a free online tutoring service available to all Columbia College students. Smarthinking provides real-time online tutoring and homework help for Math, English, and Writing. Smarthinking also provides access to live tutorials in writing and math, as well as a full range of study resources, including writing manuals, sample problems, and study skills manuals. You can access the service from wherever you have a connection to the Internet. I encourage you to take advantage of this free service provided by the college.

Access Smarthinking through CougarTrack under Students -> Academics -> Academic Resources.