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Arthaśāstra

Kautilya’s Arthaśāstra, written around 300 BC, is a text on statecraft, a book of political realism. It deals with various topics including war and diplomacy, how a king can retain his kingdom and become a conqueror, how to make allies and know the enemies, and how to make treaties. It focuses on elements, what can be termed in modern usage diplomacy, such as the doctrine of a silent war, propaganda, secret agents, how to use women as weapons of war, and how to use religion and superstition to advantage. According to Kautilya, “power is (possession of) strength” and “strength changes the mind.” More importantly, Kautilya emphasized power to control not only outward behavior but also the thoughts of one’s subjects and enemies. According to him, “one possessed of personal qualities, though ruling over a small territory … conversant with (the science of) politics, does conquer the entire earth, never loses.” Kautilya is the founder of Mandala Theory of foreign policy, which can be termed as a precursor of the theories of political realism and balance of power. Kautilya favored righteous war than greedy and demoniacal wars. The course will delve into various elements of this insightful text and juxtapose the main ideas in the text with similar theories and approaches in the modern world. The students will be able to draw parallels between the core ideas embedded in this ancient text with many modern ideas.

In this course the students will be able to:

  1. Identify how this ancient text could be considered a precursor to the modern theory of Realism in international relations.
  2. Delve into various elements such as Mandala theory in this insightful text and juxtapose the main ideas in the text with similar theories and approaches.
  3. Explore the significance of this ancient text to address problems in the modern world.

Area of Study: Conflict and Peace Studies

Elective/Required: Elective

Prerequisites: Admission into a Program of Study

Instructor: Dr. Debidatta. A. Mahapatra

 

Gandhian Philosophy

The relevance of Mahatma Gandhi for the contemporary world, characterized by turbulence, is indisputable. Gandhi’s principles of Ahimsa (non-violence) and Satyagraha (love for the truth) stemmed from his religious tradition, and he applied these principles to political action in South Africa and India. The course introduces a Gandhian perspective on conflict resolution and peacebuilding. It examines ideas of Gandhi in academic and policy debates towards the development of rich and multiple perspectives and pathways to address the gap between principles and practice. It also explores the relevance of Gandhi for contemporary global issues including, but not limited to, inter-state and intra-state conflicts, climate change, religious extremism, rich-poor divide, education, economic development, and women empowerment. Gandhian ideas such as frugal economy, Gram Swaraj (grass-roots democracy), Ram Rajya (ideal state), trusteeship, social service, Swadeshi (self-reliance), bread-labor, social and religious harmony, and optimal use of resources will also be explored in the course. The students taking this course will be able to apply a Gandhian perspective on the prevailing discourses on human life and society and appreciate the significance of dialogue among civilizations and cultures.

In this course the students will be able to:

  1. Gain a broader understanding of Hindu thought and its problem-solving aspects.
  2. View contemporary conflicts from a Hindu conflict resolution lens and explore the relevance of Hindu perspective for the contemporary world. 
  3. Examine a contemporary conflict while drawing on the Hindu conflict resolution theories and practices.

Area of Study: Conflict and Peace Studies

Required/Elective: Elective

Prerequisite: Admission into a Program of Study

Instructor: Dr. Debidatta. A. Mahapatra

Hindu Conflict Resolution

This course examines the elements of Hindu thought that deal with conflict resolution. Starting from the ancient period to the present, various Hindu scriptures and thinkers have pondered over conflicts at various levels and explored paths for peace. Starting from the Śānti Parva of Mahābhārata to the writings of the 20th-century Indian thinkers, various useful elements can be found in the Hindu thought reflecting on various conflicts in human society and their solutions.  The course will bring to the learners a broader understanding of the  Hindu thought and its problem-solving aspects, and their relevance for the contemporary world. Hindu thought is rich in providing various paths to realize peace. For instance, while for Kautilya, a strong state is a necessary pillar for peace, Swāmi Vivekānanda emphasized universal acceptance and toleration as two core elements for sustainable peace. The course while introducing students the core elements of the Hindu thought that focus on conflict and peace, explores their conflict resolution potentials. It also aims to encourage students to explore a complex and interesting subject in their own way while drawing on the Hindu scriptures and philosophers.

In this course the students will be able to:

  1. Gain a broader understanding of Hindu thought and its problem-solving aspects.
  2. View contemporary conflicts from a Hindu conflict resolution lens and explore the relevance of Hindu perspective for the contemporary world. 
  3. Examine a contemporary conflict while drawing on the Hindu conflict resolution theories and practices.

Area of Study: Conflict and Peace Studies

Required/Elective: Elective

Prerequisites: Admission into a Program of Study

Instructor: Dr. Debidatta. A. Mahapatra

 

Human Rights: A Hindu Perspective

Though its origin could be traced to the ancient and medieval periods, human rights as a concept and policy instrument became popular in the 20th century, particularly after the promulgation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations in 1948. There are many scholarly studies on the subject, but most of them adopt a Eurocentric approach. Scarcely there are studies which bring into focus a Vedanta perspective on the subject. The concept of practical Vedanta, popularized by Swami Vivekananda in the late 19th century, could be considered a precursor to the idea of human rights. Vedanta philosophy, Swami Vivekananda argued, has no value unless it addresses everyday problems confronted by human society including the exploitation of the weak, discrimination against women, and problems like poverty and illiteracy. He argued that for universal peace it is necessary that individuals come out of their selfish boundaries and think of the world as one family (Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam). This Vedanta perspective with its deep philosophical and practical underpinnings is relevant for human rights policy and practice

In this course the students will be able to:

  1. Survey the evolution of the concept of human rights from a Vedanta perspective.
  2. Study select Vedic hymns to demonstrate how those hymns could be considered the foundation of human rights. 
  3. Relate the ancient knowledge with the modern concept of human rights and apply that knowledge for the benefit of human society and the world.

Area of Study: Conflict and Peace Studies

Required / Elective: Elective

Prerequisites: Admission into a Program of Study

Faculty: Dr. Debidatta. A. Mahapatra

International Politics: A Hindu Perspective

Violation of moral principles has emerged a norm than the exception in international politics. States and global institutions have proved ineffective to checkmate violent conflicts. It is not they are incapable or lack resources. The problem lies elsewhere. Ego is a major cause behind much of the hazards in international politics. Indian philosopher Sri Aurobindo argued, like individuals, states have egos– amplified through national habits, prejudices, and idiosyncrasies. When applied to international politics, they lead to jingoism, exploitation, and wars, leading to practices like colonialism and imperialism. Colonialism and imperialism were only manifestations of an exploitative substructure. The root, the ego, is intact, and its manifestation has acquired new shapes. The Indian philosopher argued that state ego could evolve when state leaders think in terms of human unity. The establishment of the United Nations, after the failure of the League of Nations, was hailed a right step in this direction. The UN was established with a promise to ensure dignity and equality to all states. Has this happened?

In this course the students will be able to:

  1. Gain a broad understanding of international politics and various theories related to it.
  2. Interpret international developments from a Hindu spiritual perspective.
  3. Identify the patterns of international politics in which narrow national interests play dominant roles, and explore methods to address them.

Area of Study: Conflict and Peace Studies

Required / Elective: Elective

Prerequisites: Admission into a Program of Study

Faculty: Dr. Debidatta. A. Mahapatra

Introduction to Conflict and Peace Studies

Conflicts are omnipresent in human relations. They are neither inherently good nor bad, but simply facts of life. A conflict situation arises when individuals or groups pursuit incompatible goals. These competing goals can range from needs within the family to competition over scarce resources between members of a community or between states. When competition turns violent, conflict resolution becomes essential as the costs rise with short term and long term implications. This course introduces some of the leading theories of conflict and conflict resolution. The goals of this course are threefold: to introduce students to the background and characteristics of conflict and peace studies; to explore multitude of tools and explanations used by scholars in order to understand peace and conflict; and, to encourage students to explore a complex and interesting subject in an innovative manner through drawing from the existing theories. The course begins with an introduction to conflict theories, focusing on various ways to approach conflict. It also focuses on the conflict at various levels – individual, group, intra-state and interstate. The course then focuses on various approaches to conflict management and conflict resolution.

In this course, the student will be able to 

  1. Develop an understanding of the background and characteristics of conflict and peace studies.
  2. Explore various tools used by scholars to address a conflict.
  3. Examine a case study in an innovative manner by applying existing theories.

Area of Study: Conflict and Peace Studies

Required/Elective: Elective

Prerequisites: Admission into a Program of Study

Instructor: Dr. Debidatta. A. Mahapatra

 

Orientation to Hindu Studies

An overview and insight into the design of the curriculum offered by the Hindu University of America. A survey of 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. The course will include reflections and perspectives on these core concepts, using selected readings from source texts such as the Vedas, Upaniṣhads, Sutras, Itihaasa, Bhagavad-Gītā, Purāṇas and Dharma-Śhāstras. The Hindu world-view 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 and survival of the fittest. The distinction between a discourse of knowledge and a discourse of power will be drawn out. 

In this course students will be able to: 

  1. Explore various options and trajectories available within the Hindu Studies Program
  2. Distinguish the central ideas and concepts that constitute the Foundations of Hindu Dharma; Reflect on the Hindu Studies Foundations area
  3. Inquire into and evaluate different elective areas of study and Courses offered: Sanskrit Studies, Texts and Traditions, History and Method, Post-Colonial Hindu studies and Conflict and Peace studies.
  4. Distinguish between pathways towards a deep study of Hindu thought, or towards deep engagement with western thought from a Hindu perspective
  5. Discover and Create customized pathways for engagement with the Hindu Studies curricula

Area of Study: Hindu Studies Foundations

Prerequisites: None

Faculty / Instructor:  Kalyan Viswanathan (along with others) 

This course is a recommended prerequisite for all students who wish to enter into the Graduate program.

Day:- Thursday

Start Date:- 9 January 2020

End Date:- 19 March 2020

Time:- 9-10pm EST

Philosophy of Nonviolence

This course will examine the philosophical dimensions of the concept of nonviolence and focus on select philosophers and nonviolent movements. For Mahatma Gandhi, one of the pioneers of nonviolent struggle, nonviolence is as old as the Himalayas. It will, hence, be a meaningful exercise to explore how this idea and its practice evolved in different cultures and societies, and how various thinkers and practitioners shaped it. While Kant believed republicanism can provide a base for peace among nations, Tolstoy based his advocacy of peace on theology and shaped Gandhi’s idea and practice of nonviolence. On the other hand, thinkers like Kautilya and Hegel believed war can be a necessary instrument to build a peaceful society. This interdisciplinary course will draw from research in sociology, psychology, political science, anthropology, and related disciplines to explore how concerns of peace and nonviolence shaped ideas of scholars in these disciplines and informed theory and practice of nonviolence.

In this course the students will be able to:

  1. Explore linkages between the concepts of peace, war, and nonviolence.
  2. Gain an understanding of the evolution of nonviolence idea and practice in different cultures and traditions. 
  3. Identify factors that promote or obstruct a culture of nonviolence in the contemporary world.

Area of Study: Conflict and Peace Studies

Required/Elective: Elective

Prerequisites: Admission into a Program of Study

Instructor: Dr. Debidatta. A. Mahapatra

 

Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo

Indian philosopher, poet, mystic and Yogi, Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950), argued that human society has evolved throughout history. His aphorism ‘All Life is Yoga’ is in consonance with his evolutionary philosophy. His Integral Yoga encompasses every aspect of human life and society, the onward march of which do not stop at the present transitory formations. Sri Aurobindo did not deny the relevance of the transitory formations but emphasized that they have to be transcended as they are not the culmination in the evolution. Following Advaita Vedanta, he believed that there is a fundamental unity as the basis of existence and at the foundation of all things, and it is the Nature that moves to realize this unity. He described the Upanishads, the waning or lost knowledge recovered by Rishis through “meditation and spiritual experience” or recovery of the old truths in new forms by Rishis who used the Vedic Word as “a seed of thought and vision.” He expressed dissatisfaction that the modern individual, busy with his mundane life and outward activities, has to decrease interest in this ancient wisdom. The course would cover some aspects of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy and its applicability to contemporary problems. Despite the profundity of his philosophy and its wider implications, Sri Aurobindo and his ideas are relatively less explored. The course aims to fill this gap.

In this course the students will be able to:

  1. Discuss novel ideas like Ideal of Human Unity, Supramental Consciousness, Life Divine, and their significance.
  2. Explore Vedanta philosophy in the texts like The Secret of the Veda, Synthesis of Yoga, Savitri, etc.
  3. Explore the relevance of Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga for the contemporary world.

Area of Study: Texts and Traditions

Required/Elective: Elective

Prerequisites: Admission into a Program of Study

Instructor: Dr. Debidatta. A. Mahapatra

 

Śhānti Parva

Śhānti Parva broadly elaborates the duties of the ruler, dharma, compassion and good governance. It contains lessons on these virtues given by dying Bhīṣma to Yudhiṣṭhira and his brothers. It also contains words from sage Vidura. Śānti Parva has three parts or sub-books: Rājadharma Anuśāsanaparva Parva, elaborating the duties of kings; Apadharma Anuśāsanaparva Parva, focusing on the rules of conduct while facing adverse situation; and, Mokṣa Dharma Parva, elaborating behavior and rules to achieve Mokṣa. One can argue that peace remains the central theme of the book, amidst conflict and war. The book goes deep into the roots of hatred and war and focuses on ahiṃsā or non-violence as imperative for a happy life. It adopts a philosophical and spiritual approach to war while arguing that war ends neither in victory nor defeat, but in great destruction and death. It discusses the legitimate source and use of power, and moral duty to revolt when it turns into tyranny. While accepting conflicts as inevitable parts of human life, it argues that truth is the supreme guiding principle for the kings. According to Bhīṣma, “There is nothing which leads so much to the success of kings as Truth, the king who is devoted to Truth enjoys happiness both here and hereafter. Even to the Rishis, O king, Truth is the greatest wealth. Likewise, for the kings, there is nothing that so much creates confidence in them as Truth.” In many ways, the book holds a mirror image of our contemporary society in which corruption and misuse of power have created myriad conflicts and reveals how Truth, particularly in the relations between the states, can help resolve many of these conflicts.

In this course the students will be able to:

  1. Recognize the centrality of this ancient document, created in a battlefield, in a discourse on conflict and peace.
  2. Find many key elements of statecraft in this document, which are relevant to interstate relations in the modern world.
  3. To explore the ethical underpinnings of statecraft and how to uphold Dharma in a chaotic time.

Area of Study: Conflict and Peace Studies

Required/Elective: Elective

Prerequisites: Admission into a Program of Study

Instructor: Dr. Debidatta. A. Mahapatra

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