This Course is an important point of entry into the entire curriculum offered by Hindu University of America and a prerequisite for all Graduate level programs.The word ‘Orientation’ in this course title carries two meanings. The first and obvious meaning is that the course will provide an overview of the unique programs, areas of study and courses offered by Hindu University of America. It will ‘orient’ the student towards the university and provide a map of a possible educational journey.The second and not-so-obvious meaning of the word is the idea, that one can approach Hindu Studies from many different angles and vantage points. In the course we will look at these different ‘perspectives’ on Hindu Studies and inquire into the question ‘What does Hindu Studies mean today?’. What is the unique ‘orientation’ that makes Hindu studies at HUA so distinct, profound, and transformative? How does Hindu studies look when viewed from an outsider’s vantage point, especially through the enlightenment era paradigm? And how does it look when viewed from an insider’s paradigm, i.e., a worldview that is authentic to Sanatana Dharma?
In this course students will be able to:
This course will offer a preliminary reflection on the central themes and ideas of Hinduism leading to an understanding of the common foundations of the great variety of traditions and practices within the umbrella of Sanatana Dharma or Hinduism.
It will survey the central ideas of Hinduism – covering an Ontology of key Sanskrit terms and the principal ideas that are central to the cosmology, practice, and expressions of Sanatana Dharma. It will include reflections and perspectives on these core concepts, using selected readings from source texts such as the Vedas, Upanishads, Itihaasa, Bhagavad-Gita and Puranas. But it is not a Hinduism 101 course!
The course will also review the complex challenges that arise at the confluence of Hindu and western thought. The Hindu worldview based on Dharma with its emphasis on duties and responsibilities and sustainability of life will be contrasted with contemporary ideologies and their focus on rights and privileges, competition, exploiter-exploited binary, and survival of the fittest. The distinction between a discourse of knowledge and a discourse of power will be drawn out, as two alternate paradigms. Through this, the course will develop an overview and insight into the design of the curriculum offered by the Hindu University of America i.e., the context, and the paradigm that informs that design. It will examine the impact of colonial discourse on postcolonial Hindu experience and leave students with the pressing urgency of intellectual decolonization. And as it distinguishes between colonial perspectives that constitute the received knowledge on Hinduism, from the lived reality of Hindus, it will present the significance and importance of Hindu studies today, in a deeply moving, inspiring and transformative way.
The class is structured in a way that promotes discussion and debate based on self-study and reflection each week. While the content being discussed in each class will be concluded within 90 minutes, the discussion time will be free format, and can continue for an additional 30 minutes. During the course, students will be required to submit one short essay. They need not be academic quality papers – but should be based on students’ self-reflection on what they have learnt and assimilated so far, and what has touched and inspired them deeply.