This course provides a broad understanding of the Vedas and the Upanishads and the beliefs and practices they advocate. The Vedas and the Upanishads are truly vast in their extent and there are few if any who can claim to have full knowledge of their contents. Hence what we aim to do here is present a broad outline of the principal themes and then indulge in a more detailed study of a limited number of selected passages.
In this course we will start a detailed study of Hindu sacred texts with an introduction to the religious teachings of the Veda Samhitas (Vedas) and the Upanishads.
The aim of the course is to provide you with a broad understanding of the contents of these works, as well as the religious beliefs and practices they advocate. We will also look at specific passages in greater detail. In this way, you will get firsthand experience of the type of literature we are talking about, and will also acquire some practice in the process of interpretation.
The Vedas and the Upanishads are truly vast in their extent and there are few if any scholars, academic or Hindu, who can claim to have anything but a limited knowledge of their contents. Hence there is no possibility of covering the full extent of this literature and what we aim to do here is to present a broad outline of the principal themes and then indulge in a more detailed study of a limited number of selected passages.
In this way it is hoped that by the end of the module you will have a general understanding of the type of religion revealed in these works, and a detailed insight into the teachings of specific passages.
The course consists of seven sessions delivered on a weekly basis.
Session One: The Veda Samhitas and the Vedic Religion
In this opening session we will consider the origins and structure of the Veda and explore the type of religion they espouse.
Session Two: The Vedic Hymns and the Vedic Ritual
Here we will look in more detail at a few of the hymns of the Rig Veda Samhita and consider the ritual of yajña recommended by the Vedic literature.
Session Three: Introduction to the Religion of the Upanishads
Here we will consider the religious and spiritual ideas revealed by Upanishadic literature and read through the short Isha Upanishad.
Session Four: The Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad
Here we will consider the structure and principal ideas of the Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad, read through selected passages and attempt to interpret their meaning.
Session Five: The Chandogya Upanishad
Here we will consider the structure and principal ideas of the Chandogya Upanishad, read through selected passages and attempt to interpret their meaning.
Session Six: The Katha Upanishad
In this session we will look at the narrative structure of the Katha Upanishad, review its main ideas and read through selected passages.
Session Seven: The Shvetashvatara Upanishad
Here we will consider the distinctive nature of the Shvetashvatara Upanishad’s ideas and their significance for Hinduism as a whole. We will then explore these ideas in more detail by reading through selected passages.
HOW IT WORKS
Course delivery is 100% online
Seven weekly sessions
Study in your own time
Your tutor is available by email and forums
You can communicate online with your fellow students
All course materials are delivered via the web
Student forums with tutor participation
Recorded lectures available in video and mp3 format
Lecture notes available online and as pdf
Audio interviews with specialists in Hindu Studies at Oxford University
Supplementary materials taken from the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies teaching and research programme
Assessment for each course is optional and is on the basis of successful completion of a single essay of 2000 words.
Courses can be completed in as little as seven weeks. There is a final deadline for essays of twelve weeks from the beginning of the course.