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Introduction to Hinduism: History, Text, Philosophy

Course overview

This course provides a broad survey of Hindu history, scripture, and thought.

The principal idea here is to explore what is meant by the terms 'Hinduism' or 'Hindu Dharma' and thereby go some way towards an understanding of what is meant by the Hindu identity and the significance of this identity, both traditionally and in the modern world.

The course will provide significant knowledge and insight into a range of topics concerning the philosophies and the literature of Hindu Dharma. It will provide an  understanding of the beliefs and values of the Hindu traditions and also encourage you to think about the meaning and significance of these ideas in your own life and for the world as a whole.

Although courses may be taken in any order, this is an excellent starting point.

The course consists of seven sessions delivered on a weekly basis.

Course structure

Session One: What is the Hindu identity?

What does it mean to be a Hindu? What are the difficulties involved in defining the Hindu identity?

Session Two: Origins and History of the Hindu Tradition

What are the origins of Hinduism and how has its historical development influenced Hindu belief and practice?

Session Three: The Historical Development of Hinduism

We look at the new forms of Hinduism that came to prominence around two thousand years ago. We then consider the effect that foreign rule had on Indian religion.

Session Four: The Hindu Scriptures, Part I – The Vedas

We consider the important question of the role and authority of scripture in the Hindu religious tradition, concluding with a discussion of the four Vedas and the type of religion they reveal.

Session Five: The Hindu Scriptures, Part II – The Upanishads and Other Texts

We look at the Upanishads and consider other important texts that have been influential in shaping Hinduism.

Session Six: Hindu Religious Philosophy

We take a look at the six schools (shad-darshana) of Indian philosophy.

Session Seven: Hindu Religious Philosophy: A Personal Deity

We turn our attention to the schools of Hindu thought that postulate the existence of a personal Supreme Deity and who advocate worship and devotion as the principal form of practice to be undertaken in pursuit of liberation from rebirth.