Great World Religions: Hinduism

Course No. 6104
Professor Mark W. Muesse, Ph.D.
Rhodes College
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Course No. 6104
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Course Overview

Terms we associate with Hinduism—"Hinduism," "religion," and "India"—are all Western labels, terms that for most of history did not accurately reflect the thinking of those who practice this ancient faith. In fact, one of the primary themes of Professor Mark W. Muesse's lectures is the difficulty of studying Hinduism without imposing Western perceptions on it.

In Hinduism you will find a religion that is perhaps the most diverse of all. It worships more gods and goddesses than any other, and it rejects the notion that there is only one path to the divine.

A Window into All Religions

These lectures provide a window into the roots of, perhaps, all religions. You will explore over the course of Hinduism's 5,000-year journey:

  • The Indus Valley civilization
  • The sizable variety of Hindu gods and goddess
  • The sacred writings in the Vedas, Bhagavad Gita, and Upanishads
  • Ritual purity rites
  • The Aryan language of Sanskrit, whose roots can be seen in English words such as "divine," "video," and "ignite."

The story of Hinduism is the story of very non-Western traditions—arranged marriages and the caste system—that have survived and thrived for thousands of years; and of a wealth of gods, terms, and practices—karma, Krishna, yoga, guru—that have found a home in Western lives and language.

The course also explains that Hinduism rejects the notion that there is only one path to the divine, and at its best, it honors all seekers of truth.

Understand the Oldest Religion

Hinduism is the world's oldest living religious tradition, with roots deep in the early cultures of India. These ancient cultures, the most important of which were the Indus Valley civilization and the Aryan society, combined to create a highly diverse family of religions and philosophies.

The series moves chronologically through the history of Hinduism, from its earliest precursors through its classical manifestations to its responses to modernity. Along the way, Dr. Muesse discusses salient aspects of Hindu life and places them in historical and theological context.

The journey begins with an examination of the early cultures that most significantly shaped the development of Hinduism.

  • Dr. Muesse makes a brief visit to the indigenous culture of northern India, the Indus Valley civilization, before introducing the migration of the Aryans from Central Asia.
  • Hinduism received from the Aryans its most sacred and authoritative scripture, the Veda, which is explored in detail.
  • After the Vedic period, classical Hinduism formed many of its basic ideas and practices, including the notions of transmigration of the soul, reincarnation, and karma. Major social arrangements were established in Hindu culture.
  • The classic phase strongly influences the present day. Social stratification and gender relations greatly affect the nature of spiritual life for all Hindus. Professor Muesse discusses the caste system, and the different life patterns for men and women.

The Way of Action, ye Way of Wisdom, the Way of Devotion

Hinduism is religiously and philosophically diverse. It affirms the multiplicity of the divine and acknowledges that there are multiple paths to divine reality. Dr. Muesse outlines:

  • The Way of Action, the spiritual discipline pursued by most Hindus, aims to improve an individual's future lives through meritorious deeds, according to the Hindu belief in reincarnation. The lectures look at several examples of such action, including ritual, festival, and pilgrimage.
  • The Way of Wisdom is a much less-traversed pathway to salvation because it is so demanding and rigorous. Gaining wisdom means to understand the unity of the soul and ultimate reality, and to live one's life accordingly.
  • The Way of Devotion, or bhakti, is oriented toward faith in a deity of personal choice. It is a widely chosen road to god among Hindus. Your introduction to bhakti practice comes through one of the most important and beloved Hindu texts, the Bhagavad Gita, a wondrous story of a warrior's dilemma and the counsel of the god Krishna. It has been a treasure trove of spiritual enrichment for Hindus for centuries.

Dr. Muesse also explores the functions of images in Hindu worship and how Hinduism can be both monotheistic and polytheistic. You learn about devotion to the Goddess and her many manifestations in the Hindu pantheon, and investigate some of the theory and practice of Tantra, a yogic discipline associated with the Goddess.

Hinduism Today

Modern Hinduism faces challenges from Islam and from Western culture. Theological differences between Hinduism and Islam have generated tense relationships between Hindus and Muslims, frequently erupting into outright violence.

Dr. Muesse describes the British Raj and the Indian independence movement led by Gandhi, includes examples of Hindu missions to the West, and discusses the tensions between Hinduism and modernity.

The many paths of Hinduism involve very different conceptions of divine reality, and Dr. Muesse explains how such divergent views coexist within the Hindu tradition.

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12 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Hinduism in the World and the World of Hinduism
    Reflection on the subject and the methods used to examine it are very important when one begins the study of Hinduism, a very old and complex religion. This inaugural lecture describes how Hinduism will be studied in this series. We examine the words "Hinduism," "religion," and "India," discussing why they are problematic yet useful for the study of our subject. x
  • 2
    The Early Cultures of India
    Hinduism is an amalgamation of elements from several cultural sources. This lecture focuses on two major contributors, the Indus Valley civilization, and the Aryans. The discovery of the Indus Valley civilization in the 19th century revealed a sophisticated and long-forgotten culture. In this lecture, we examine the artifacts left by this civilization and contemplate their import for its inhabitants and for the subsequent emergence of Hinduism. x
  • 3
    The World of the Veda
    In this lecture and the next, we explore the Aryan contributions to the emergence of Hinduism. Our guide is the rich collection of Aryan texts known as the Veda, today regarded by Hindus as their most sacred and authoritative scripture. We shall examine how these texts envisioned the world and its creation, some Vedic gods and goddesses, and the Veda's understanding of the nature and destiny of human beings and their place in the world. x
  • 4
    From the Vedic Tradition to Classical Hinduism
    This talk discusses the emergence of classical Hinduism and its views. We examine the place of ritual in Aryan life, their purposes, and their performers. In the central centuries of the first millennium B.C.E., remarkable changes raised doubts about the time-honored Vedic tradition. These doubts spurred the emergence of Hinduism. We see how philosophers came to see the human as an immortal soul encased in a perishable body and bound by action, or karma, to a cycle of endless existences. x
  • 5
    Caste
    In addition to new ideas about life, classical Hinduism is defined by evolving social arrangements. This lecture and the next discuss the social foundations of Hinduism. We observe how Aryan society is transmuted into an exceedingly complex caste system. Rules regulating behavior within and between castes were developed and joined to the emerging ideas about the soul. These regulations had—and have—tremendous impact on Hindu social life, governing matters such as one's work, marriage, diet, and hygiene. x
  • 6
    Men, Women, and the Stages of Life
    Like caste, patterns of behavior became a fact of life during the emergence of classical Hinduism. We examine the roles of women and men and the social mores governing relationships. We see how regulations formed in classical Hinduism prescribed particular stages of life to be followed by men and women of caste. We give special attention to the householder stage, marriage, the patterns of family life, and the final stage of life, often widowhood for women and renunciation for men. x
  • 7
    The Way of Action
    Classical Hinduism established the central problem of human existence for Hindus—samsara, the cycle of continual transmigration of the soul. Hinduism offers three ways to deal with this problem. This talk focuses on the first: the path of action, the most important religious discipline for most Hindus. The principal features of the path of action are performing meritorious religious deeds, including rituals, festivals, and pilgrimages. x
  • 8
    The Way of Wisdom
    Changes that precipitated classical Hinduism also caused transformation in Indian religious practices. Numerous movements rose in response to these developments. This lecture will discuss the sages who tried to continue the Vedic tradition by maintaining the authority of the Veda. These sages produced practices and philosophies to address transmigration and karma. We explore the new solutions from within the orthodox Hindu tradition with a study of the highly valued Upanishads. x
  • 9
    Seeing God
    Early Western interpreters regarded Hinduism as a crude and hopelessly idolatrous religion. In this lecture we explore the dynamics of Hindu theism in theory and in practice. We see how the pantheon of Hinduism and devotion to images avoid idolatry, and we explore some of the rituals associated with worshiping the god(s). We focus on Siva, one of the most widely revered Hindu deities. x
  • 10
    The Way of Devotion
    Hinduism affirms the multiplicity of the divine as well as the multiplicity of paths to divine reality. In this lecture, we will look at the path of bhakti, or devotion. Oriented toward faith in a personal deity of choice, the path of devotion is a widely traversed road to god among Hindus. Our entry to bhakti practice will be through one of the most important and beloved of Hindu texts, the Bhagavad-gita. This wonderful story of a warrior's dilemma and the counsel of the god Krishna is a treasure trove of spiritual enrichment for Hindus. x
  • 11
    The Goddess and Her Devotees
    In this lecture, we study features of Goddess worship, a long-established tradition in India known as Saktism. We examine manifestations of the Goddess as consorts to the great gods and as autonomous devis. We learn that the feminine energy revealed by the Goddess is essential to Hindu theology. The lecture also explores the practices and concepts of Tantra, an esoteric yogic discipline with origins that may date to the Indus Valley civilization. x
  • 12
    Hinduism in the Modern Period
    Modern Hinduism has been challenged by Islam and Western culture. Both incursions into India have left profound and lasting imprints. In this lecture, we discuss Islam's effects on Hinduism; we discuss how theological differences have formed tense relationships between Hindus and Muslims that frequently erupt into violence. We consider the effects of British expansion into India and religious responses to British presence, and the religious philosophy of Mohandas Gandhi. We examine the articulation of Hinduism to the West and its movement beyond India. x

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Your professor

Mark W. Muesse

About Your Professor

Mark W. Muesse, Ph.D.
Rhodes College
Dr. Mark W. Muesse is W. J. Millard Professor of Religious Studies, Director of the Asian Studies Program, and Director of the Life: Then and Now Program at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. He earned a B.A., summa cum laude, in English Literature from Baylor University and a Master of Theological Studies, a Master of Arts, and a Ph.D. in the Study of Religion from Harvard University. Before taking his position at Rhodes,...
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Reviews

Great World Religions: Hinduism is rated 4.0 out of 5 by 57.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent overview of Hinduism I have listened to the Great World Religions series on Christianity and Islam and only wish they were done in this way. This course has the exact balance between breadth and depth I was looking for in an introductory survey. I come out of these 6 hours feeling like I have a very good, basic understanding of what Hinduism is about. This is exactly what I wanted, and was expecting from, a 12 lecture introduction. Of course given the vastness and complexity of the subject, there is so much that cannot be covered, even fleetingly, within 12 x 30 mins lectures. I was however impressed with how much the Professor did manage to fit into the course. I repeat this is an excellent course, fully recommended for anyone wishing to gain a basic understanding of Hinduism. I listened to the audio download version. I wanted to get a better idea of Hinduism prior to listening to the “History of India” course.
Date published: 2016-09-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A Broad View from the Western Perspective OK, so the course topic, Hinduism, is as vast and timeless as the country India (itself an artificial construct). Still, I was hoping (perhaps unrealistically) to find a little more insight or nuance, if not empathy, for this rich collection of philosophy and culture. Western analysis of Eastern thought is not easy. On this score I give Prof. Muesse a PG for "Pretty Good," though I found the enthusiasm of his presentation slightly distracting from the content itself. I applaud the breadth of course coverage, but wish there could have been more depth in certain key areas, such as The Way of Wisdom.
Date published: 2016-08-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good introductory course to the history and concept of HInduism
Date published: 2016-07-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Hinduism: History, Sociology, Spirituality This is a very good overview of the history, sociology, politics and spirituality of Hinduism. This course needs to be much longer because there is so much to cover. I am most interested in the the spiritual and philosophical beliefs of Hindus. Less so in their politics and modern life. The professor does a good job in presenting a balanced view of such a complex subject.
Date published: 2016-05-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Dharma in progress Audio download... This is a tough review...if you're thinking of a course that will give you a strong introduction to Hinduism, presented by a clear-speaking, well prepared lecturer...this is a good one and I recommend it. The history of this fascinating religion is quite long, with origins possibly as old as 3500 BCE, long before any of the religions that we in the 'west' are most familiar. However, I was a bit disturbed by some of the aspects of Hinduism in general, since some of the values it eschews are completely foreign to me (especially lectures 5 and 6). It only shows that I'll need to dig a bit deeper into this subject. Admittedly, this is my first exposure into Hinduism, and I probably don't really understand the spiritual world of Trīmārga...I probably will try to listen to more of the lectures from Dr Muess ('Religions of the Axial Age' seems to be a good place to start) and try to wrap my mind around a religion that is the way of life for over a billion people. Improving my (good) karma may yet become my dharma. Wait for a sale and a coupon, and be patient...apparently you have as many lives as it takes.
Date published: 2016-03-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Six Solid Hours video download version Professor Muesse covers everything from the the Indus valley civilization to how Hinduism is being affected by(and effects) the West today in 12 short lectures. Perhaps more than any of the other religions surveyed in this series, he has the most daunting task. In part because some of the other religions (notably Judaism and especially Christianity) are probably familiar to most taking these courses, or because Islam has a presence in the West and is much in the news, or because Buddhism, while sharing many of the traditions of Hinduism, does not have the plethora of Gods with which to wrestle, nor as long a history. To his credit, Dr. Muesse manages his survey admirably. He hits the high points, and even manages some in-depth discussion on a few of them. Along with other reviewers, I learned more about the caste system and why it is so much a part of Indian culture even today, that I had not previously known. Regrettably there was not enough time for professor Muesse to discuss much about the great epics, but perhaps the TC will give full courses to the Ramayana or the Mahabharata in the future. At least this course does devote some time to the Bhagavad-gita, a work that I wold like to have even more time devoted to. While I did know of the central problem of continual rebirth in Hinduism, I was unaware of, and particularly impressed with the discussion of the three ways to address this central problem. These three lectures really helped me to sort out a great deal of confusion in my mind about this issue. Although the professor apologizes at the end of the course as to how much he had to leave out, I for one was impressed with how much he managed to include in this short course. His style is not particularly dynamic, but is slow and measured and very easy to follow. I'll purchase other courses that he presents. Recommended
Date published: 2016-03-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Solid, Balanced, Careful Overview How do you capture 7,000 years of Hindu belief in about six hours? Of course, that's a daunting task, but the lecturer does a really good job of presenting the high points of Hinduism. One of the things I most appreciate about him is his constant reminder to the viewer that his discussion of Hinduism is through Western eyes--that Hinduism isn't simply one monolithic religious system, but many religions and faith practices linked together by culture, geography and history. He managed to pull off the task of giving a broad overview of the Hindu faith, the roles of men and women in that faith (broadly stated), the branches and practices of Hinduism, a bit about the relationship between Islam and Hinduism, the influence of British Colonial Rule on Hinduism, and even Hinduism's influence on the West. Throughout the entire course, I remained interested. I learned a great deal. I highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2016-01-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent Introduction I purchased the audio download version of this course as I knew next to nothing about Hinduism. This course provided a good introduction to Hinduism and many interesting insights into the history of the region now known as India. Muesse is a very clear speaker who kept me engaged with the material. I now have a much better appreciation for Hinduism. I definitely recommend this course to those who want to broaden their understanding of religions around the world.
Date published: 2015-06-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The mechanics of Hindusim I decided to hear this course after having heard several courses regarding Eastern Asia's culture and history. There are three great history in the TGC that focus on the east exclusively: "Foundations of Eastern Civilization", "From Yao to Mao", and "Fall and Rise of China". I found all three to be very valuable. Each of them investigates the topic from different perspectives, different eras and different time scales. However, none of them really focus on India, and a course that focuses on the history of India in the TGC is conspicuously missing. Having heard these three courses though, I realized that I had next to no clue about Buddhism and Hinduism. The first course I tackled in order to gain some knowledge was "Great World Religions – Buddhism", but I found this course given by professor Ekkel to be extremely disappointing – never reaching the depths I was expecting. I was therefore a bit apprehensive about this course… Fortunately, this course is totally different. Professor Muesse did a fantastic job in explaining the roots of Hinduism (to the extent that this is known#, and the important major traditions and writings. He demonstrated how Hinduism is at the same time a Monotheism and a Polytheism, one religion and a collection of religions. Many aspects are relevant to this very day. A prime example is the caste system. I have often heard about the caste system in India, under which every person by birth belongs to a particular caste which he cannot leave during his lifetime except in very extreme cases. The caste system is still practiced today though formally it is illegal. In our modern Western world, this concept is almost intolerable. Professor Muesse explains the Hindu roots of this belief, and I found that once it was explained one can at least understand the roots if not accept their very physical consequences. A large part of the course #relatively speaking#, describes the three methods by which one can practice Buddhism: through Wisdom #and this is closest to rigorous philosophy in the Western world#, through action #which means either through combat or through normal work#, and through devotion which basically means monasticism. Another interesting aspect is the relationship to women: on the one hand women are always under the control of men in traditional Hindu society #be they fathers, husbands or children), but religiously goddesses play a big role in Hinduism and they are highly revered. This has been a very short course on Hinduism, but I believe it achieved very nicely the goal that Professor Muesse sketched in the first lecture: to give a basic understanding of Hindu origins, traditions and customs. Professor Muesse presented the subject in an engaging and interesting fashion, and overall I feel the course was valuable.
Date published: 2015-05-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant introductory course... A masterful, authoritative introduction to the fascinating world of Hinduism which is so very different from Western life. Dr Muesse's explanations of "religion", "India" and "Hinduism" are hypnotic, providing a perfect start to this wonderful series on one of the world's leading religions -- one with which most of us in the West are not very familiar, perhaps other than knowing it has a caste system and considers the cow to be a holy animal. A pantheon of 330 million gods may come as a surprise! The professor has a compelling, naturally-flowing, moderately-paced style which truly makes listening easy and enjoyable; he goes into important detail on critical points, as time permits. His 12 half-hour talks are carefully constructed and sequenced. When you finish this course, you will have a solid basic grounding in Hinduism; you will undoubtedly view its followers in a whole new light; you will have new understanding and appreciation, and you will indeed know what Hindus "believe". On balance, of course, it is important to remember that this is an introductory course. A major achievement, one of Great Courses' best, and easily earns top recommendation.
Date published: 2014-06-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Overview of Hinduism: A Super Large Task This was great course as well. It was the 4th course of the great world religions that I listened to and I thought that it was excellent. Dr. Muesse did an excellent job. I don't know if he's a practitioner of Hinduism but he seems very involved in it. I did a search for him on google and he's very involved in meditation as it is practiced in India, and has been a teacher at Tamilnadu Theological Seminary in Madurai, India. I'm not sure exactly what that means but it sounds like a good recommendation that he understands Hinduism. I'm not sure how old this lecture set is. I'm listening to it again, and it was given to me as a gift a while ago. He talks about the destruction of a Mosque as a recent event showing the tension between Hinduism and Islam. I had to research that as well and it says that it happened Dec. 2 1992, so maybe this is a very old set of lectures. However, I think this is a perfect illustration of the Islamic subjection of people. They build their mosques in areas designed to be as offensive to the subject people as possible. What could be worse to Hindus than to have a mosque built on the site of the birth of their God King Rama? I did a search on Prof. Mussee to see if he's taught any more courses and he has; Confucius, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad and Religions of the Axial Ages. I can remember that I didn't like the set on Confucius and Religions of the Axial Ages was one of the first sets that I ever purchased and can't really remember it. I'll have to listen to them again and review them. Anyway I really enjoyed this lecture series and would highly recommend it.
Date published: 2014-02-23
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Well presented, good overview, but just too exotic I belong to a group of retired people who take great courses together. We have studied, art, history, music and now religion. This time around we decided to do ALL of the Worlds Great Religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. I am going to leave our overall rating for each course in each of the five reviews I am writing here. Our final order as it turned out is the same order in which we viewed the courses: Judaism (4 Stars), Christianity (3 Stars), Islam (3 Stars), Hinduism (1 Star), Buddhism (No Stars), Here is a case where the professor was interesting. lively, engaging, and comfortable. He presented a well formulated and clear study of the origins, texts, beliefs, and practice of Hinduism. But the experience was just too far from our own, too exotic for us to make a connection except as observers of a tradition with roots so different from ours that we could not connect to it. As a group our hope was to discover the core of the faith that attractive other human beings to it.....it never clicked....for us. The bottom line was that the content was good, the professor capable and pleasant but overall effect was less than the sum of its parts.
Date published: 2014-02-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent but far too short An very short but interesting introduction to a vast subject. Given the number of Hindus in the world it would make sense for the Teaching Company to offer a longer course on this subject. Professor Muesse makes a brave effort in cramming some 3000 years of a culture into 6 hours of lectures.
Date published: 2013-07-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fascinating! This was a fascinating course. Dr. Meusse has an easy listening style. For the uninitiated, this is an interesting way to dip your toe into a totally different and illuminating world. So different from western culture, it is truly well worth your exploration...
Date published: 2013-04-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Masterfully presented. Great introduction to previously unfamiliar to me subject. I admired Dr. Meusse's sensitivity to possibility of losing subtle meanings in both linguistic translation and in inevitably applying cultural stereotypes of researches and students, and his effort to get around this problem. Great selection of topics covering art, customs, major texts, deities and dogmas. Masterfully presented.
Date published: 2013-01-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A panoramic introduction to Hinduism This course has served as an excellent introduction to Hinduism. Generally, the content is well balanced and the presentation clear and engaging. The reason for 4 stars instead of 5 is that Dr. Muesse does not dedicate enough time on maybe the biggest problem of modern Hinduism, namely the problem of the outcaste people, the Dalits. The suffering of these people is so outrageous (just google it or search for documentaries on youtube) that is seems odd that the lecturer does not offer at least 3-4 minutes on the issue. I would urge the TheGreatCourses to produce a supplementary lecture on the Dalits to compensate for this serious ommission. Also, the video presentation would benefit from more images and even video clips, since the culture and religion of India offer great visual elements. Overall, a good course for anyone interested in a quick panorama of Hinduism.
Date published: 2013-01-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The nuggets and the mud DVD review. If you are familiar with the history of archaeology — let's take Pompeii for example — you know that the first diggers in the 1740s were after "treasure": statues and other artifacts that could bring glory to a collection. And in so doing, they took no notice of where these artifacts stood in relation to other remains. They sought precious things in other words, not information about a functioning whole, now buried. The first European students of Hinduism did something similar. Here was a huge "quarry" of rituals, art objects, scriptures, philosophies, mystical practices, festivals, priestly institutions and popular beliefs that structured everyday routines, and buttressed caste relations for millions. Compared to "exportable" religions like Christianity and Buddhism that redefined themselves to makes sense in different countries and languages, Hinduism appeared ungainly and rooted in a particular people. Somewhere in this very ancient religion, they thought, must be revelations about our origins, or perhaps some hidden wisdom. Western seekers soon picked out specific aspects as "core", declaring the rest a mass of embarrassing superstitions. It seemed, in other words, to offer a few nuggets of gold mixed in with tons of mud. Dr Muesse's HINDUISM is both an introduction to this religion and an attempt to give the whole its due. He tries very hard to avoid the "treasure hunt" approach so that every part, even the famous ones, are seen as elements of something larger. • The first four lessons are historical: early culture, the Vedic hymns, and "Axial Age" offshoots (800-200 BCE) — Vedanta, Buddhism and Jainism (these last two are mentioned only), concepts such as rebirth and karma, etc. • Two lessons on caste (society vertically ordered) and life stages (the individual's life, chronologically ordered). • Four lessons on the three "paths" to religious fulfilment depending on one's temperament: action, wisdom and devotion. This includes an examination of Hindu iconography. How "literally" are these divine images taken? • Two lessons finally on the role of the feminine, and the relationship of modern Hinduism to Islam, science, British colonialism, nationalism (Ex. Ghandi) and various offshoots abroad. You get the point. Those of you seeking a balanced overview will be very satisfied. Muesse offers an excellent stepping stone to further study. Those who think the "core" of Hinduism is this or that guru or school of thought will be disappointed. Your favorite bit will only appear, if mentioned at all, as a small part of the whole. His PRESENTATION is excellent: clear enunciation, no fuzzy concepts, no pointless anecdotes. Best of all, he provides plenty of photos to give visual context. DVDs are therefore preferred, though not absolutely necessary. Strongly recommended.
Date published: 2012-10-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent Introduction to Hinduism I am a fan of Professor Muesse and this is the second course of his i have completed and i have recommended both. Necessarily this is an overview and "birds eye" view of the vast panorama that is subsumed within the title "Hinduism" which is a label imposed from those outside the Faith. In the not too distant future there will be more than a billion hindus on Earth and it is therefore incumbent on all non Hindus to appreciate and understand their world view. The Professor traces the development of Hindu thought and practice from Vedic times in the ancient past through classical and medieval developments up to the present day as Hinduism has responded to the challenge of Islam and perhaps more importantly Western Civilisation in the modern period. The Professor has one of those blessed voices that at the same time carry gravitas as well as being soothing and comforting to listen to as a student. The Professor manages to provide great insight into the dominant manifestations of Hindu thought and practice and also offers comparative analysis ie comparing the "liberal" response of Ram Mohan Roy to western thought to liberal christian intellectual developments in the nineteenth century. Superb course, highly recommended from a wonderful Professor. I have just purchased his "Axial Age" course and cannot wait to listen to it. Another home run for TTC!
Date published: 2012-08-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Excellent Introduction I knew very little about Hinduism when I started this course. This course provided a very satisfactory introduction to the topic. I finished the course being somewhat conversant in several topics such as: the caste system and the Hindu gods. Prof. Muesse is one of my favorite Teaching Company instructors. He was clear and organized. Both my wife and I appreciate his dry sense of humor. He also provided a nice bibliography. Overall, I would recommend this brief introduction to students who wish to learn a little bit about Hinduism. I wish TTC and Prof. Muesse would provide us with additional courses on this topic. Thank you for this Great Course.
Date published: 2012-04-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor Muesse Is Outstanding! I don't know if I would rate this one as high as Confucius, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad, but this course is really great! Lecture 5 on Caste and Lecture 6 on the Stages of Life were really fascinating, and probably 2 of the top 5 lectures I have listened to in any course! I knew nothing almost nothing on either Hinduism or India, but Professor Muesse painted a picture in my mind not only that I was learning a completely different culture, but I almost felt that I was living in India and experiencing what the people were experiencing. You will also learn about nirvana and samsara, and about the Indus Valley where the influences of Hindu teaching began. There is also a lot of talk about some of the gods and goddesses. Unfortunately there is so much diversity and material to discuss on Hinduism that the student will not come close to fully understanding Hinduism based on these 12 lectures. Professor Muesse even admits in the last lecture that he didn't have time to discuss Hinduism in as much detail as he would have liked. He does however say that his goal is whet our appetites to continue to study Hinduism, and he was very successful in accomplishing this goal to me.
Date published: 2012-03-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Enjoyed course except for unnecessary anti-semitic As someone who knew nothing about Hinduism, but was very interested in learning about it, I enjoyed the course very much until, in one of the last lectures, Professor Muesse felt compelled to throw in an unnecessary anti-semitic remark. In talking about pilgrimages found in the world's religions he mentions Christians and Jews who travel to their Holy Land "which is now occupied by the state of Israel". So all of Israel is occupied territory? This comment was wholly unnecessary and, in my opinion untrue, and left a bad taste in my mouth for the remainder of the series. It does make me wonder about what other biases may be present that I am unaware of that could taint his lectures.
Date published: 2012-02-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good, but could be better This is a competent scholarly presentation of Hinduism. At 12 lectures, it’s fairly brief, but I felt that it was enough for my needs and I didn’t finish the course wishing it was longer. The upside of the course being “scholarly” is that it’s clear, fairly systematic, free of gross inaccuracies, and not judgmental. The downside is that I don’t think Muesse gives much insider’s perspective, providing a sense of what it’s like to actually be a Hindu; this is particularly unfortunate because I suspect that he’s capable of doing that, based on his “Religions of the Axial Age” TTC course. I also think this course should have had way more visual images, since vivid imagery has always been a major element in Hinduism, and the target audience for this course is unlikely to be very familiar with that imagery. Beyond these comments, I think that one’s reaction to the course depends a lot on what you make of Hinduism itself. My take is that Hinduism is more a pluralistic and dynamic family of religions, rather than a single coherent religion, and some of these variants have of course gone on to develop under new names, especially Jainism and Buddhism (further greatly changed in East Asia). As a result, Hinduism can be many things: emotional to intellectual, simplistic to sophisticated, absurd to profound, grounded to transcendent, monotheistic to polytheistic, detached to engaged, depressing to uplifting, oppressive to liberating (or at least tolerant), etc. Much divresity to choose from! Overall, I would say that this course may be a good choice for people with little to moderate familiarity with Hinduism, and who aren’t predisposed to disliking Hinduism.
Date published: 2011-12-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Wonderful Surprise!! I took this course as part of the five course comparitive religion study and I expected to get just that; a feature by feature comparison to the other religions I had studied. That was not at all the case however, because after the very first lecture by Dr Muesse, I could not tear myself away from the DVD. The Professor's delivery style is captivating, and he makes the subject material equally magnetic. I expected a brief overview of Hinduism, and got a broad overview of what we call religion, Hinduism and India translated into words that we as well as the people of India can relate to and understand the true meaning of. The professor's style coupled with the fascinating content of the course material would make for a real "page turner" of a best selling novel. This is a MUST course for anyone, whether student of religions, or simply someone who enjoys a good solid presentation of little known facts! I thought I knew a bit about India, its history, and Hinduism in general. I learned that my understanding of all three had not scratched the surface. Professor Muesse used his moderately slow, metered delivery to add considerably to my knowledge. After all, that is the real reason for taking the course. I definitely got my money's worth, and will cheerfully recommend this course to anyone. Thank you folks at The Teaching Company for another hands down winner!
Date published: 2011-09-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good short overview of Hinduism I knew very little about Hinduism going into this course. I had read a bit of Hindu "scripture" for ancient history in high school, but that was pretty much it. I came away from this course with much more knowledge. Many people seem to have had a problem with the professor and his presentation style. I thought he was clear and easy to listen to. Given the vastness of the subject, he did a good job selecting the topics to cover and showing how they inter-relate. My main (only?) complaint about this course is that it's too short. There are numerous courses on Christianity and Judaism, and two on Buddhism, shouldn't Hinduism get more than 12 sessions and one course? I would have liked time for more discussion of the "scriptures" in particular. My basic criteria for assessing a course are: did I find it thought-provoking and did it make me want to study more. This course got A's for both criteria.
Date published: 2011-08-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good information Downloaded version. I did not know anything about Hinduism, which was the reason for purchasing this course. I read many negative reviews with surprise. I found the course very informative, with a lot of interesting and new (for me) information. It certainly covered all the basic ideas of Hinduism, the beliefs, the caste structure, the history, and many other aspects of the religion and its practitioners. My only criticism is that the professor was clearly reading his notes. He did not sound like he was giving a lecture, but like a person reading a book. I think he would have benefited by listening to the courses of other professors, such as Greenberg, Bryer, Noble, Fears, Vandiver and many others who present the material in a spoken, conversational style, rather than a written style. A few reviewers have suggested that only a Hindu could have given a good review of the subject. I do not think this is true. Bob Bryer, who gives an excellent review of the Egyptian history, is not an Egyptian. Kenneth Hummond, who has a great course on Chinese history, is not Chinese. And professor John Esposito (a Roman Catholic) who teaches a very good course on Islam is certainly not a Muslim. There are many other examples. I do not see why one has to be born into a particular culture to become an expert on it. I spoke only Russian when I came to the United States in 1977 at the age of 21. I speak English now and am pretty proficient in it. So I do not believe that a person has to be born into a culture or else he/she will not be able to learn about it and convey its meaning to others. In summary, this is a very good course and I highly recommend it.
Date published: 2011-07-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Learned a lot... but I was starting from scratch! I knew nothing about Hinduism and did learn quite a bit but I also found my attention drifting periodically.
Date published: 2011-05-02
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Great World Religions: Hinduism I was very disappointed in this course. I think you should have gotten either a Hindu or someone like Jay Garfield who is (1) knowledgeable about Indian culture, and (2) able to present a subject without his own prejudices being so apparent. I found this instructor dismissive and sneering about one of the world's oldest religions, a religion that is rich in psychological depth and metaphor. i will not buy another course taught by this instructor. I also think he used examples---i.e. the hex on a man's lingam-- to trivialize the veneration of lingam and yoni, which deal with the pouring of cosmic energy into the field of time and space. I'm really disgusted with his treatment. He exhibits purely academic knowledge of terms and definitions with no grasp of the depth and beauty of the Hindu religion.
Date published: 2011-04-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Basics of Hinduism Impressive presentation on Basic Hinduism! This is a great introduction for interested Westerners in general and anyone who does not have a background in Hinduism. The series of lectures is very well-organized, and become progressively involved. By the time it comes to lecture 9 (Seeing God), it has become seriously deep and yet kept at a simplified level the average listener can comprehend. I was apprehensive about how this ‘Western’ professor was going to teach this incredibly complex, unfathomable subject and summarize the basics in just 12 short talks. He has done a phenomenal job! Hinduism is often misunderstood and ill-understood around the world, and Dr Muesse has shed some light on all the basics and brought out the essence of the subject remarkably well. The only topic that is covered improperly is in the last lecture. He mentions that some of the low-caste Hindus converted to Christianity because of their dissatisfaction with Hinduism. He probably had to leave it at that for ‘political’ reasons, but since he mentions the so-called ‘voluntary’ conversions, a debatable, very sore subject to Hindus, many non-Hindu Indians, and many non-Christians around the world, he has the responsibility to mention all the forced conversions of the destitute through false promises, incentives, coercion, and by putting down Hinduism by Western ‘Christian’ missionaries. It was best that he left conversion out of his lectures. Also, his statement on Mother Teresa is highly debatable and controversial. He should have stayed away from controversial issues. (Note: Recently, India passed a law that forced conversion is illegal). All in all, this is a well-thought out, well-delivered program, presented with tremendous respect for Hinduism. He has put in a lot of effort and studied this fascinating religion. He is very knowledgeable.
Date published: 2011-02-28
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Ouch! Prof. Meusse fails to communicate an appreciation of the wonder and beauty of Hinduism. The Teaching Company would do well to find a professor with a deeper experience of India's spiritual wealth. The best teacher of Hinduism is a Hindu and there is no shortage of scholars in United States universities from India who would be willing to share Hindu wisdom with Western audiences. Also, Prof. Eckel presents wonderful lectures on India in his lectures on Buddhism. My own love of Hinduism started with the Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahansa Yogananda (now on CD). One can also find Hinduism in its true essence in other Self-Realization Fellowship publications. One must cultivate the intuition born of meditation to understand the Hindu scriptures. Many American intellectuals are now practicing meditation. Prof. Meusse presents a too literal, too material, interpretation of Sanatana Dharma and thereby perpetuates old stereotypes of Hindus as heathens. I would not recommend these lectures by Prof. Meusse on Hinduism.
Date published: 2010-11-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good information, so-so instructor Great content. This course definitely hits the spot as a short overview of Hinduism. Although the course is brief, at 12 lectures there is decent coverage of the important points and concepts within the religion. That said, the content could be even better with a slight increase in speed of presentation. Mark Muesse is articulate and well spoken, yet drags on slowly due to his style. 5 stars for the course and content, 4 for the instructor due to his monotone and inanimate personality.
Date published: 2010-08-02
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