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RLT3480 - The Religious Quest: Eastern Faith and Illumination

6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate Faculty of Arts

Leader: Angelo Andrea Di Castro


Clayton Second semester 2007 (Day)


The unit is designed to introduce students to the study of religion, looking at the main religious traditions of Asia in turn, tracing their evolution, and relating each to the cultural environment in which it grew. Certain basic questions are taken as themes to apply to each section of the subject: for example, what have the different religions said about fundamental questions such as the problem of suffering, the existence of an afterlife and the existence of God or gods? The concern in this semester will be with eastern religions, with special attention to Confucianism, Taoist mysticism, the Hindu way of life, yoga and salvation, and the Buddhist teaching.


The intention of this course is to cultivate familiarity with:

  1. The character of the texts which constitute sources for the historical study of Asian religions (primarily Chinese religions, Hinduism and Buddhism and their cultural contexts).
  2. Some of the problems of interpretation identified and debated by historians of religion.
  3. The range of relevant reference material available as sources for the study, engaging in as extensive a reading program as possible.
  4. The answers given by the religions concerned to perennial questions about such matters as the existence of God or gods, the sequel to death, the problem of suffering, and the ultimate authority for moral statements.
The course is designed to enhance the students' skill in the following areas:
  1. Facility in using library resources to find useful source material, and in exploiting it efficiently.
  2. Sensitivity in interpreting historical sources (both primary and secondary), recognizing the need to relate them to their cultural contexts and to read between the lines when necessary.
  3. Independent thought about the solutions to problems of religious history.
  4. Ability to write a reasoned, appropriately documented and perspicuous answer to a set question on religious history, adapted to a prescribed word limit.
In addition to these points of knowledge and technique, third-year students should develop skill in writing research essays in greater depth, with thorough documentation derived from extensive use of primary sources and thorough examination of the research literature, including journal articles.


Tutorial exercises and long essay (total 2500 words): 65%
Examination (1.5 hours): 35%

Contact hours

2.5 hours (1 x 2.5 hour seminar) per week