Philosophical Perspectives: Asian Thought

January 29, 2001

Easwaran (trans.) Bhagavad Gita
Leder Spiritual Passages
Glassman and Fields Instructions to the Cook
Lao Tsu Tao te Ching (miscellaneous handouts)


J18 Intro. to Course
J20 BG 1- 12 (Brahman and Atman)
J25 BG 12-14TM, 47-65M (Maya)
J27 BG 14-16M, SP 17-31 (Dharma)
Fl BG 16-21, 65-69 (Karma) -Life’s Perfect Lessons
F3 SP 197-206 (Reincarnation)
F8 BG 30-39, 71-90 (Karma Yoga)
F10 BG 99-109, 129-36; (Raja and Bhakti Yoga) – Plugging In
F15 BG 39-42, Gandhi (Ahimsa and Satyagraha)
F17 The Soul Knows No Bars (talk, evening of 16th)
F22 TEST #1
F24 SP 3-16, 187-96, 206-10 (Life of Buddha, Dukkha)
F29 handout (Anicca, Anatta)
M2 handout (Four Noble Truths) –
M14 handout (Eightfold Path) — Witness Protection Program
M16 Zen Buddhism IC 1-40 – Breathing ABCs
M21 Guest Speaker (Meditation)
M23 IC 41-85 (Right Livelihood) – RILUV
M28 Guest Speaker IC 88-121 (Social Action)
M30 IC 124-129; 152-59; handout or film (Interbeing)
A4 TEST #2
A6 TC 1-9 (Tao)
A11 SP 33-44 (Yin/Yang)
A13 TC 10-19, SP 53-69 (Morality vs. Natural Compassion)
A18 TC 20-39 (Wu-Wei) – The Use of the Useless
A25 TC 40-59, SP 129-143M (Uselessness)
A27 TC 29, 39, 60-69, SP 143-45 (Nature) – Entering the Mind of Nature
M2 TC 70-81 (Conclusion)

Course Format: Asian philosophies are rarely concerned with ideas and methods designed to bring about a life transformation. This course thus uses techniques that encourage you to interact with the material not only theoretically, but experientially and personally. Since each individual is different, you are also permitted to “self-design” the course, adding on to the basic course any of a series of four extra components.


Tests (135 points) – There will be three tests on the material covered, the first two given in class, and the third during finals period. Each counts for 45 points.

Quizzes and Hand-Ins (30 points) – Over the course of the semester, there will be 16 times (more than once a week) where I ask you to hand in a brief (200-300 word) response to the homework reading. I may also substitute a pop quiz. (Or we can try the honors system.) Each response is worth 2 points. The responses must be presented on the due date. There are no make-ups on hand-ins, even due to illness (unless prolonged) or special circumstance (unless discussed in advance with the instructor). However, since I am counting only 15, you can miss one with no effect on your grade.

Attendance and Participation (20 points) – Attendance is mandatory, as is coming prepared. Everyone has their off-days. So students can miss up to three classes without penalty, or be unprepared for up to four classes (a missed class also counts as “unprepared”). Beyond that I will take off four points for every missed or unprepared class.

In addition, I will assign a grade out of 20 points, based on an assessment of your overall in class presence, preparation, and contribution. Your willingness to participate in the form of questions and comments will be recognized. There are no “bad” questions or comments – all participation is valuable and valued.

A 185-200 (92.5% and up)
A- 180-184 (90-92%)
B+ 175-179 (87.5-89.5%)
B 165-174 (82.5-87%)
B- 160-164 (80-82%)
C+ 155-159 (77.5-79.5%)
C 145-154 (72.5-77%)
C- 140-144 (70-72%)
D+135-139 (67.5-69.5%)
D 125-134 (62.5-67%)
F 124 and below (62% and below)


Solely fulfilling the basic course requirements will earn you up to 185 points. In theory, you could get an A or A- in the course. More likely, you would not exceed the B range if only fulfilling these minimal requirements. However, there are four “add-on” options that can avail you further points totaling up to, or significantly beyond, 200 points. Of these four options you can only choose up to two. Otherwise grading would become too skewed. (In all cases, fewer points than the designated range will be given if the work is substandard.)

Service-Learning- Project (18-24 Points)
Participating students will attend an orientation session (Jan. 27th, 5 p.m.), and spend about 20 hours working with AIRS (AIDS Interfaith Residential Services). Depending upon your preference, you can volunteer at the nearby Don Miller House, spending time with and assisting residents, or work with Family Services, tutoring kids of HIV positive parents.

In addition to regular duties, you will participate in an “oral history project” where you will meet once or twice with someone who has AIDS, discuss with them their life-story and their life’s wisdom, and write it up, both to be handed in as an assignment, and gifted to the individual.

Note # 1: Your commitment to AIRS is important: if a student takes on the service-project and then fails to fulfill his/her obligations– except for unavoidable reasons-rather than receiving extra-credit points, penalty points will be assessed.

Note #2: students who choose this option can use this course to fulfill a requirement of Loyola’s new Service-Leadership Program.

Research Paper (10-16 points) – Participating students will research a topic of particular interest to them. For example, one might wish to explore the relation between Zen Buddhism and a martial art; or how Jesus is like or unlike a Taoist master; or Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence; or whatever else interests you. Students must use at least three sources beyond our course readings, no more than one taken from the Internet. The final paper should have philosophical content, explore a particular question or thesis, and be of 7-10 page length.

Experiential Games (2-14 points) – During the course of the semester students will have the option of playing life “games” which help one to experience and understand concepts from the course. These games involve playing with your quality of thought, attention, and behavior. A 1+ paper write-up will then be handed in, describing your experience and what you learned from it. Over the semester, there will be 7 games, with 2 points given for each one played and written-up.

Note: Students who wish to participate in this track should obtain my book, Games for the Soul, which is available at the bookstore as an optional text for this course.

Art Project (5-10 points) – For those students who are aesthetically inclined, you can produce a work of art (painting, piece of music, photography exhibit., cycle of poems, etc.) related to the course. The work should exhibit significant thought and effort, but you don’t need to be a Leonardo DaVinci to produce something of value.


As part of their service to AIRS, all students volunteering through Dr. Leder’s Asian Thought class will write up an “oral history” of one of the participating clients. This oral history (and mutual discussion) will be loosely and flexibly guided by an interview protocol as below. The process will require two meetings between the student and resident. The students will write up the “story” of the resident in a first-person voice (trying, without judgment, to recount their life and world-view as they experience it) and then will share it with the resident who will be able to modify it, to help “get it right.” (Note: on occasion, this second meeting may prove impossible for the client, but every effort should be made.)

The final product will be given to the client to keep, and pass on, if desired, to friends or family. AIRS itself may wish to establish an archive of these oral histories, or use them in some other way. The final product (rendered anonymous) will also be handed in to Dr. Leder for the purposes of student evaluation, and may (with clients’ permission) be kept and used by Loyola’s Center for Values and Service.


1. Tell me a little about your life, and background. What was your family like, your growing up? And tell me about your life as an adult. (Follow-up with particular questions as appropriate to clarify matters, and draw out the speaker.)

2. What were some key events in your life that shaped who you are? Were there things that changed the direction of your life for better or worse? How so? Looking back on it all, would you do anything differently?

3. How has the disease you’ve contracted changed your life and your view of the world? How has it impacted on other friends and family members?

4.. Looking around the world today, are there things that make you sad, things you think should be different? Are there good things, positive things, that make you happy?

5. If you could pass on (to a young person like myself) any pieces of wisdom you’ve gained, any rules for how to live, what would you say?

6. As a volunteer, I’m supposed to be “helpful.” What do you think I can do that is most helpful for you and other residents? What is most helpful about what the AIRS organization is doing for you? Are there any times people try to help and end up doing harm?

7. Add your own question(s)

8. I’ve been asking you a lot of questions. Are there any questions you’d like to ask me? Fire away!

As part of your first or second visit, also include the following:

9. I’m studying Asian Philosophy, and I wanted to lay out for you a couple of the ideas we’re learning about and see what you think of them. It would be useful for me to hear your perspective, and for us to discuss these ideas a bit. Do you believe this idea (or practice) to be true or useful? Why or why not?

(Note: Here, pick one or two ideas that you think might really be valuable and relevant for the person you’re speaking with, and/or you would be interested in what they have to say about it. You might choose something in the subject-area of your “philosophical reflection” write-up. For example, you might speak about karma, reincarnation, Buddha’s four noble truths, meditation, or any other topic we’ve studied. Without being patronizing, take the time to explain the idea as a good teacher might. Feel free to then explore it in a discussion where you chime in with your ideas. Do the two of you agree or disagree? Are there differences (or similarities) of life experience and personality that have shaped your respective views?

Note: You probably don’t want to include this discussion in your “oral history” write-up unless it seems directly relevant. However, this discussion might help inform your “philosophical reflection” write-up, especially if you’ve chosen your discussion topics with that end in mind.

School: Loyola College
Professor: Drew Leder
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