Roots of Yoga
This course is an introduction to one of the most important traditions of Hinduism, The Rāmāyaṇa. The Rāmāyaṇa is more than a work—or even a corpus—of literature; it is a phenomenon, a lived tradition, the source and inspiration for much art and cultural expression in South Asia, not to mention social and political forms. It is as vibrant and spirited a tradition today as a millennium ago in Indian history. In this course, we will acquaint ourselves with the primary story/stories of the Rāmāyaṇa, its larger-than-life characters, its governing questions and themes, as well as its pressure points. Who and what is Rāma, and what is his purpose? What is the world and worldview of the Rāmāyaṇa? What might the poet Vālmīki intend by the Rāma story? How do we account for its enduring salience to Hindu life? These are some of the questions that will occupy us in our study of the Rāmāyaṇa.
Even at its simplest, the Rāmāyaṇa is a complex and involved tale, and it will be difficult in six weeks to absorb it in its entirety. We will read excerpts out of The Rāmāyaṇa of Vālmīki: The Complete English Translation (Princeton University Press, 2022) by Robert P. Goldman in addition to some readings about the text by other translators and scholars. All readings will be provided in the course, no additional purchase is necessary.