FYS 172 Zen and the Art of Going to College

This course emphasizes the historical, literary, and anthropological / sociological investigation of religion, which have been the dominant modes of analysis in the field for the last half century. It also incorporates cognitive science, brain imaging, and neurobiological aspects of research on meditation, which have emerged as popular research modalities in Buddhist Studies over the last decade.  A straightforward vision of Buddhism and its history is presented, then re-examined from differing standpoints to demonstrate the value and necessity of critical thinking for in-depth understanding of religion.  The course asks students to experiment with an ongoing program of meditation, and to write about their experiences daily. The course culminates in students composing a longer research paper in consultation with the instructor, and presenting the paper in a one-day conference format. The papers will address the possibility of applying insights from the study of Buddhism to ethics, environmental science, physics, neuroscience, medicine, and other topics that students will develop with input from the professor.