Mary Evelyn Tucker
East Asian Religions and Ecology
This course introduces students to Asian religious traditions and their intersection with ecology. The first half of the course explores the South Asian religious traditions of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. The second half examines the East Asian religious traditions of Confucianism, Daoism, and East Asian Buddhism. These traditions are studied in the context of the emerging field of religion and ecology. The course identifies developments in religious traditions that highlight their ecological implications for the contemporary period. In particular, it relates religious concepts, textual analysis, ritual activities, and institutional formations to engaged, on-the-ground environmental projects. It investigates the symbolic and lived expressions in religious ethics and practices that can be defined as religious ecologies. Similarly, it identifies narratives in South Asian religious traditions and in East Asian religious traditions that orient humans to the cosmos, namely, religious cosmologies. This interrelationship of narratives and religious environmentalism provides pathways into the study of religion and ecology. At present the rapid modernization in South Asia and East Asia is causing extreme environmental problems, and we investigate Asian religions in relation to this ecological crisis. Both the problems and promise of religions are acknowledged. Religions are now widely seen as significant social, intellectual, and spiritual forces that both shape and are shaped by cultural worldviews. Moreover, the symbolic language of religions often evokes nature’s processes and reflects nature’s rhythms. The multiform roles of religions, then, provide historical sources for reflection upon human behavior guided by values embedded in individuals and social bodies, projected onto ecosystems, and molded into cosmological narratives.