Contemplative Studies Courses

Contemplative Studies Courses 

This is a listing of the Brown Contemplative Studies courses for AY 2018 - 2019.   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 2018 

COST 0036:  Love and War in India

Love and War in India explores two fundamental cultural tropes that have significantly shaped the religious, literary, social and political life of South Asia. Building on the ancient Tamil conceptions of aham (love/interiority) and puram (war/exteriority), and the Sanskrit ideas of kama (desire), dharma (duty) and ahimsa (non-violnece) we will investigate a variety of texts on religious devotion, ethical behavior and political theory in order to contextualize the concepts of love and war within multiple arenas of Indian social and cultural life. (S. Reddy)

COST 0140:  Food, Religion and Politics in South Asia

Why study food? What can food tell us about religion, politics, and culture? Food in South Asia often shapes identity, social status, ritual purity, religious belonging, and political activism—the notion that you are what you eat has wide currency. Whatever form it takes, food embodies histories of migration, trade, empire, colonialism, and ethics. Through reading primary texts and ethnographic articles, watching films, and (of course) eating delicious food, we will explore the rich foodways of South Asia and their social, religious, and political ramifications.  (F. Moore-Gerety)

COST 0145:  Karma, Rebirth and Liberation:  Life and Death in South Asian Religions

Karma, Sanskrit for the "action" that makes up a human life, has been a central concern for the religious traditions of South Asia throughout their history. Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism share the belief that after death people are reborn, taking on lives according to their actions in lives previous. In these traditions, liberation from the cycle of rebirth becomes the ultimate goal of human existence. This course examines the ideas of karma, rebirth and liberation in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism from historical, cosmological, ritual, narrative, iconographic and theological points of view. We also look at these ideas in Western culture.  (F. Moore-Gerety)

COST 0200:  Meditation and the Brain

This course provides an exploration and critique of psychological and neuroscientific research on meditation by situating the current applications of meditation in the West in the broader historical context of the development of Buddhism. In this course, we will critically evaluate the findings of scientific and clinical studies of meditation in terms of their methodological rigor, implicit assumptions, and biases. We will also study the transmission of Buddhism from Asia to the West in order to understand the influence of Buddhism norms and worldviews on contemporary applications of meditation. This course will also feature first-person experiential learning in select meditation practices.  (W. Britton/J. Lindahl)

COST 0570:  Science, Religion and the Search for Happiness in Traditional Asian Thought

The search for true happiness is as relevant today as it was 2500 years ago in South and East Asia. Is it attained through sense pleasures or through spiritual satisfaction? Attained through self-indulgence or through self-denial? Can you be completely and truly satisfied in life if you flourish while others suffer? What are the roles of compassion for self and others and of mindfulness and meditation in the creation of a life of genuine happiness? This course will explore these issues through readings in the Buddhist, Confucian, and Daoist traditions and via recent scientific research on mindfulness, meditation and compassion.  (H. Roth)

COST 1950:  Senior Concentrators' Seminar

A selection of topical readings that will enable concentrators in the Sciences and Humanities Tracks of the concentration to synthesize their knowledge of the field of Contemplative Studies and its current principal issues. Students will also share ideas and methods regarding the research and writing of their Capstone Projects, which typically they will be working on concurrently via their other course.  (H. Roth)

Contemplative Studies Courses  - Spring 2019

COST 0032:  Music and Meditation

Music and Meditation explores the contemplative nature of sonic experience from humanistic, artistic and scientific perspectives. By drawing from various traditions across both time and space, and by engaging with a variety of disciplinary methodologies from Contemplative Studies, Ethnomusicology, Religious Studies and Cognitive Science, we will seek to better understand how diverse religious communities have used music as a meditative tool, a mystical philosophy, a communal exercise, a ritual performance, and more. We will examine the philosophies of thinkers, scientists and musicians to investigate music making as both an instrument, and a goal, of contemplative practice.  (S. Reddy)

COST 0100:  Introduction to Contemplative Studies

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. Enrollment limited to Semester 01-04 students, others by permission of instructor. Enrollment limit is 40.  (H. Roth)

COST 0452:  The History of Yoga and Practice of Yoga in India and Beyond

From its roots in premodern India to its current popularity worldwide, yoga has a rich a complex history. As a practice of the mind, body, and spirit, yoga has taken many forms—meditation, chanting, breath control, postures—in order to achieve a range of goals: liberation from rebirth, supernatural powers, strength, pleasure, peace, wellness. As its reputation and commodification have increased, yoga has attracted deep interest, debate, and even controversy. In this course we will study yoga from its earliest texts to its status in the modern world, addressing its historical, religious, social, and political ramifications in many different contexts. (TBD)