Contemplative Studies Courses

Contemplative Studies Courses 

This is a listing of the Brown Contemplative Studies courses.   Please consult the Courses@Brown website for time slots, and the most complete and current information on these offerings.  If you have any questions, please contact 

Contemplative Studies Courses Fall 2017

COST 0030

Sound, Song and Salvation in South Asia

Srinivas Reddy

MWF, 11 – 11:50 am

Rockefeller Library, Rm. 205


COST 0040

Great Contemplative Traditions of Asia

Hal Roth

Class:  TTH, 2:30 – 3:50 pm

Salomon Center 202

Med Lab:  MWF, 9 – 9:50 am

Hillel House, Winnick Chapel


COST 0200

Meditation and the Brain

Jared Lindahl and Willoughby Britton

Class: M, 3 pm – 5:30 pm

Salomon 203

Med Lab:  M, 2 – 2:50 pm

Hillel House, Winnick Chapel


COST 1950

Concentration Seminar

Hal Roth

Class:  W, 3 – 5:30 pm

J. Walter Wilson 503

Med Lab:  W, 12 – 1:30 pm

Hillel House, Winnick Chapel


RELS 0045

Buddhism and Death

Jason Proass

Class:  TTh, 10:30 – 11:50 am

Smith-Buoananno G12

Contemplative Studies Courses Spring 2018


COST 0100

Introduction to Contemplative Studies

Srinivas Reddy

Class:  W, 3 – 5:30 pm

Med Lab:  MWF, 9 – 9:50 am


COST 0450

Stages of the Contemplative Path

Jared Lindahl

Class:  TTh, 9 – 10:20 am

Med Lab:  M, 4 – 5 pm


COST 1020

Cognitive Neuroscience of Meditation

Sara Lazar

Class:  T, 4 – 6:30 pm


RELS 0100

Introduction to Buddhism

Jason Protass

Class:  MWF, 11 – 11:50 am


RELS 1425

Buddhist Poetry

Jason Protass

Class:  M, 3 – 5:30 pm


PHP 11880

Meditation, Mindfulness and Health

Eric Loucks

Class:  W, 3 – 5:30 pm

Contemplative Studies Courses - 2016 - 2019

  • COST 0040/RELS 0040:  Great Contemplative Traditions of Asia (Roth)
    Introduction to the critical study of contemplative practices and experiences emphasizing philosophical and scientific analyses of works from the major Asian contemplative traditions of South and East Asian Buddhism and Chinese Daoism in historical context. Theoretical studies of mysticism and studies from the psychological sciences will be included.  Additional weekly meditation lab section.  
  • COST 0100:  Introduction to Contemplative Studies (Roth)
    Introduction to the new field of Contemplative Studies focusing on identifying methods human beings have found, across cultures and across time, to concentrate, broaden and deepen conscious awareness. We will study what these methods and experiences entail, how to critically appraise them, how to experience them ourselves, and how they influence the development of empathy, health, and well-being. Prerequisites: None. Preference given to Contemplative Studies Concentrators. Enrollment limit is 20.  Additional weekly meditation lab section.
  • COST 0200: Meditation and the Brain:  Applications in Basic and Clinical Science (TBA)
    This course draws upon the multi-disciplinary expertise of four instructors to provide a detailed exploration of recent neuroscientific research on meditation combined with guided first-person experiential learning in various meditation practices. The course focuses on the cognitive, affective, and neurophysiological effects of meditation practices and their clinical applications in health, psychiatry and medicine. We will identify persistent methodological challenges as well as the potential solutions for cutting-edge research that can emerge from an informed interdisciplinary perspective.
  • COST 0410/RELS 0290E:  Engaged Buddhism (Roth)
    “Engaged Buddhism” is a term used to describe social activism that applies Buddhist insight and ethics. This course will examine the historical background of engaged Buddhism, explore its central concepts, analyze it theoretically, and look at practical applications. Since many engaged Buddhist movements employ meditation, we will also study, first hand, the effects of meditation on prosocial attitudes in the “Meditation Labs” that are integral to the pedagogy of the course. Preference given to students who have taken RELS 0500 or UNIV 0540 or who have prior coursework in Buddhism. Additional weekly meditation lab section.
  • COST 0420/RELS 0500:  The Theory and Practice of Buddhist Meditation (Davis)
    6th-century B.C.E. India to its transmission through Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand and on to modern insight meditation movements in the West. Students will examine selected textual sources and explore how Buddhist meditation is practiced today, both as an individual practice and as part of broader social institutions. Meditation lab related to weekly lecture/discussion. Prerequisite: Preference given to students who have taken one or more of the following courses: COST/ UNIV 0540; COST 1080/PHP 1880.  Additional weekly meditation lab section.  
  • COST 0450:  Stages of the Contemplative Path (Lindahl)
    One common metaphor for human life and self-transformation is the journey or the path. Contemplative traditions have also employed this image, offering both concise and expansive maps of the stages of practice and anticipated end goals of the contemplative life. The study of path structures allow us to carefully compare the relationship between specific cognitive, affective, and somatic practices, their resultant states and traits of human experience, and the meaning and value ascribed to them in different historical and cultural contexts.
  • COST 0480/RELS 0520:  Buddhist Ethical Theory (Davis)
    Discussions of ethical questions in the classical Buddhist philosophical literature focus not only on how one should act, but also – perhaps more fundamentally – on which habits of mind and heart should be cultivated. In this course, students will (1) gain an understanding of Buddhist approaches to ethical questions, (2) learn to compare Buddhist approaches to ethical questions and ethical theorizing with prominent approaches in Western philosophy, and (3) examine whether and how classical Buddhist approaches to ethical questions might improve on and move forward contemporary discussions in the philosophical literature on ethics, and in society more broadly.
  • COST 0530/RELS 0530:  Laozi and the Daodejing (Roth)
    Seminar on the historical and philosophical origins of the Daodejing, heretofore acknowledged as the foundational text of the Daoist tradition. Recently discovered and translated manuscripts from Ma-wang-tui and from Guodian that cast new light on these questions will be the basis for the course. Recent research on early commentarial traditions to the Daodejing and on its philosophical significance will also be studied.Pre-requisites: None. Preference given to students completing any of the following: COST 0100; COST/UNIV 0540; RELS 0040, RELS 0120. Limited enrollment: 20. Additional weekly lab section on reconstructed Classical Daoist meditation techniques.
  • COST 0550/RELS 0550:  Tibetan Buddhism and the West (Lindahl)
    This course traces the history and development of the various lineages of Tibetan Buddhism from its origins in Indian Buddhism through to encounters between Tibet and the West in the modern period. The course investigates the religious, political, and geographical conditions in Tibet that influenced the development of some of the unique characteristics of the lineages of Tibetan Buddhism. The course explores key doctrines, practices, institutions, and religious leaders of the major lineages, and delves into key events in the modern period, beginning with the age of missionaries and explorers and ending with the Cultural Revolution and subsequent diaspora.
  • COST 0650:  Psychology and Philosophy of Happiness (PHIL 0650)  (Reginster, Krueger)
    The course explores four fundamental questions about happiness: What is happiness—pleasure, life satisfaction, something else? How is happiness achieved—what are the myths and realities about what conduces to happiness? Can happiness be achieved—are we naturally well suited to be happy? Why pursue happiness—is it sufficient, or even necessary, for a good life? The course examines classic contributions from philosophy and psychology, the two disciplines that have studied happiness most extensively. Team-taught by professors from both philosophy and psychology, it invites students to compare and combine both approaches.
  • COST 0855The Bhagavad Gita (CLAS 0855) (Buchta)
    This course will study and discuss the teachings of the Bhagavad Gītā in the context of its literary, theological, and philosophical origins in ancient India. We will read the text itself (in English, not Sanskrit), parts of the epic Mahābhārata in which the Gītā is situated, and collateral texts, such as Upanisads, Indian myths, Buddhist sermons, or even modern novels, that may shed light on why and how this text has exercised such far-reaching influence across the ages, inside India and beyond.
  • COST 0990:  Concepts of the Self in the Classical Indian Literature (CLAS 0990) (Buchta)
    Examination of the great Indian epic Mahabharata and related mythology to introduce the context for the most ancient speculations of the Rgveda and the subtle teacher-student dialogues about the self contained in the Bhagavadgita and Upanishads. We will also examine the more systematic Indian philosophical texts and note their resonance in ancient and modern European conceptions of self.
  • COST 1020:  Cognitive Neuroscience of Meditation (TBA)
    The course will focus on the history and development of neuroscientific studies of meditation. We will examine the various technological innovations that drove this research, EEG, PET/fMRI, and MEG and the central scientific and philosophical challenges presented by it, including: the epistemological status of correlating subjective measures with brain function; the challenges of carrying out and analyzing data from a longitudinal meditation training study; the nature of neuroplasticity; how the brain’s default network is affected by meditation; the neural oscillatory correlates of attentional processes in meditation; how the James-Lang hypothesis is affected by these cognitive neuroscientific studies. Instructor permission required.
  • COST 1080:  Meditation, Mindfulness and Health (PHP 1880) (Loucks)
    This course provides an overview on the relation of meditation and mindfulness (the ability to attend in a nonjudgmental way to one’s own physical and mental processes during ordinary, everyday tasks) with various health outcomes and disease risk factors such as depression, anxiety, pain management, diet, substance use, and cardiovascular disease. Mechanisms by which mindfulness may influence health will be addressed. The course will assess studies in the field for methodological rigor, and students will be taught strengths and weaknesses of current research. Students will be taught various mindfulness practices including direct experience with mindfulness meditation.
  • COST 1441/RELS 1441:  Zen Meditation in China, Korea and Japan (Roth)
    Intensive study of the development of Zen Meditation in China, Korea and Japan featuring historical origins in Indian Mahayana Buddhism and Chinese Daoism. Historical and social contextualization will be balanced by first-person investigations. Examines both kôan and silent illumination methods. Weekly seminars on representative texts in translation; labs will experiment with meditation techniques directly drawn from the readings. Students register for both seminar and lab. Prerequisite: Any of the following: COST 0100, 0420, 0480; RELS 0040, RELS 0100, RELS 0145; RELS 0290E; RELS 0500, or UNIV 0540; or instructor's permission. Enrollment limited to 20. Additional weekly meditation lab section.
  • COST 1442/RELS 1442:  The History, Philosophy and Practice of Rinzai Zen Buddhism (Roth)
    Follows Rinzai Zen Buddhism from origins in India to developments in China to its transmission to Japan and eventual transplanting to the West. Course will examine the nature of cultural and historical influences on the practices and adaptations through the Asian and American contexts, including the secular pedagogy of Contemplative Studies. This is a 2016 GELT course. This course has an experiential learning component that includes travel to Japan for on-site learning. Students admitted to the course must be able to travel to Japan in January of 2017. Permission of instructor required. Enrollment limit: 10.Priority Given To: Students with declared Contemplative Studies or Religious Studies or East Asian Studies Concentration and who have taken three of the following courses: RELS 0040, RELS 0290E, RELS 0500, RELS 0520; UNIV 0090, UNIV 0456, UNIV 0540, UNIV 1000, UNIV 1950; prior coursework in Buddhism or Japanese Religions at Brown will also be considered. Additional weekly meditation lab section. 
  • COST 1520/PHIL 1520:  Consciousness (Hill)
    Topics will include: (i) the different features of various types of consciousness; (ii) dualist, physicalist, and representationalist theories of experience; (iii) the nature of pain and other bodily sensations; (iv) the nature of conscious thought; (v) the qualitative dimension of perception; (vi) introspection; (vii) the roles of attention and working memory in perceptual consciousness; (viii) blindsight, inattentional blindness, hemineglect, and related phenomena; (ix) the unconscious; and (x) what it is for a state of consciousness to be unified.
  • COST 1770/PHIL 1770:  Philosophy of Mind (Hill)
    Questions concerning the nature of mentality and its relation to the body. Selections from the following topics: mind and behavior, mind as the brain, mind as a computing machine, thought and language, action and mental causation, intentionality and consciousness, the nature of mental representation, emotion and volition, the nature and possibility of a science of mind. Prerequisite: at least one course in philosophy (2 or more preferred) or a background in cognitive science.
  • COST 1870:  Neuroethics (SCSO 1770P) (Poland)
    In this course, we will examine ethical, social, and philosophical issues raised by developments in the neurosciences. Topics will include: neurodevelopment and the emergence of persons; the impact of child abuse on brain development; aging, brain disease, and mental decline; life extension research; strategies and technologies for enhancement of human traits; "mind-reading" technologies; agency, autonomy, and excuse from responsibility; error and bias in memory; mind control; neuroscientific and evolutionary models of religious belief and moral judgement. Enrollment limited to 20. Instructor permission required.
  • COST 1910:  Individual Study Project - Semester 1 
    COST Individual Study Project Semester 1, directed reading and research arranged with individual faculty. Section numbers vary by instructor. Please check Banner for the correct section number and CRN to use when registering for this course.
    (Fall Semester Only)
  • COST 1920:  Individual Study Project - Semester 2
    COST Individual Study Project Semester 1, directed reading and research arranged with individual faculty. Section numbers vary by instructor. Please check Banner for the correct section number and CRN to use when registering for this course.
    (Spring Semester Only)
  • COST 1950:  COST Concentration Seminar (Roth)
    Enables concentrators to synthesize their knowledge of the field of Contemplative Studies and its current principal issues, and learn how to most effectively conduct research and writing on their Capstone Projects
  • COST 1980:  Thesis Preparation
    Required of seniors in the honors program, (second semester of two-semester sequence that includes COST 1950 in first semester). Open to others only by permission of the Director. Section numbers vary by instructor. Please check Banner for the correct section number and CRN to use when registering for this course.