Religion W4620. Nonduality in Indian and Tibetan Thought

Columbia University, Fall 2002

An examination of the development of the Indian and Tibetan religious and philosophical understandings of nonduality, through translated texts ranging from early scriptures through the works of later scholars, with discussions of parallels with modern philosophical thought.

Limited enrollment: Enrollment in this course will be limited to thirty-five students, who will be registered undergraduates and graduate students with some previous coursework in philosophy or religion. Specific training in Indian and Tibetan philosophy and languages is not required. Please consult the instructors for information on permission to enroll.
Class meetings:
Tuesdays 2:10-4pm, 628 Kent Hall
Robert Thurman,, x4-5154
Gary Tubb,, x4-6924
Bulletin Board:
Accessible through CourseWorks@Columbia

Course Description

The last twenty-five hundred years of Indian and Tibetan religious and philosophical thought can be approached as a continuous universe of discourse. The numerous thinkers in these traditions have developed a powerful focus on the many possible relationships between absolute and relative truths or realities. In both Hindu and Buddhist religious philosophical streams, the ultimate nonduality of these two layers of reality was eventually considered by many the most profound understanding possible for a philosopher, an understanding that when full occasioned enlightenment (bodhi) or liberation (moksha) from suffering in the various religious traditions. Several different interpretations, both theistic and nontheistic, were developed, very much shaped by the problem of how to explain a persisting relative, mundane reality, in the context of some kind of ultimate nonduality.

In this seminar, the historical development of the Indian and Tibetan religious and philosophical understandings of nonduality will be examined through translated texts ranging from the Upanishads and the early Buddhist Sutras, through Nagarjuna and Shankara, up to the Tibetan critical writings of Tsong Khapa and other Tibetan scholars. Some modern philosophers and philosophers of science will also be discussed in exploring the relevance of these ancient philosophies to contemporary philosophical problems.

Return to top of page.

Last updated: Fri Aug 30 18:57:17 EDT 2002
by Gary Tubb, email