Great Minds of the Eastern Intellectual Tradition
01: Life's Great Questions—Asian Perspectives
Professor Hardy introduces you to this survey of Eastern philosophy's great minds and ideas. After providing a road map for the course, he answers two questions that demand to be asked: What does the Eastern intellectual tradition look like? Why does it matter to those of us in the West?
02: The Vedas and Upanishads—The Beginning
Witness how the Eastern intellectual tradition began in India with two anonymous writings: the Vedas and the Upanishads. The former contains the East's earliest thoughts on social conventions (specifically the Indo-Aryan caste system), while the latter sees thinkers truly starting to struggle with basic questions about existence and knowledge.
03: Mahavira and Jainism—Extreme Nonviolence
Jainism developed as a rejection of the authority of the Vedas and Brahmin priests. Investigate the views of its founder, Mahavira; delve into Jainism's central tenets and ideas; and listen to two ancient stories that illustrate the pervasiveness of suffering in the world and the theory of multiple truths.
04: The Buddha—The Middle Way
Buddhism, like Jainism, grew as another of India's major heterodox schools of thought. Get an overview of this philosophical and spiritual school by exploring the Buddha's life story, Buddhism's basic principles (including the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path), the daily practices of Buddhists, and more.
05: The Bhagavad Gita—The Way of Action
Written partly in response to challenges posed by Buddhism, the Bhagavad Gita is one of the most important writings in Eastern intellectual history. Comb through this landmark text's pages, paying particular attention to its historical context and its emphasis on karma yoga, or acting without attachment to success or failure.
06: Confucius—In Praise of Sage-Kings
Focus now on China and the ideas of its first philosopher, Confucius. What was life like during the "age of Confucius"? What are the key ideas and lessons to take away from the Analects, which collect his various sayings? How does Confucianism work for a society? A family? An individual?
07: Laozi and Daoism—The Way of Nature
Examine Daoism, the second of China's major philosophies, cultivated by a legendary figure known as Laozi. This school's central text, the Daodejing, offers unique solutions to the problems of social disorder and violence and provides rulers and individuals with practical advice that prefers simplicity and humility over power and ambition.
08: The Hundred Schools of Pre-imperial China
The Warring States Era (475–221 B.C.) was a golden age in Chinese philosophy. Meet three great minds from this period: Mozi, whose ideas centered on "universal love"; Huizi, who explored the relativity of time and space; and Zhuangzi, who argued for a radical skepticism that refused to choose between contradictory positions.
09: Mencius and Xunzi—Confucius's Successors
Mencius and Xunzi, both followers of Confucius, are likened to the ancient Greek thinkers Plato and Aristotle (who learned from Socrates). Both Chinese philosophers accepted the main precepts of Confucianism, but disagreed on several issues. Compare their views on morality, the existence of evil, the principles of economics, and more.
10: Sunzi and Han Feizi—Strategy and Legalism
Sunzi was a Chinese philosopher best known for The Art of War, which promoted the merits of strategic, deceptive warfare. Han Feizi epitomized legalism, the philosophical school aimed at strengthening the state through rational means. Both thinkers—and their roles in the Eastern intellectual tradition—are the subject of this illuminating lecture.
11: Zarathustra and Mani—Dualistic Religion
Follow the lives and teachings of two ancient Persian minds. Zarathustra's faith, Zoroastrianism, posited a universe in which the forces of good and evil were locked in combat. Mani later expanded on this dualistic notion to develop Manichaeism, in which this struggle represented the larger battle between spirit and matter.
12: Kautilya and Ashoka—Buddhism and Empire
Go back to India during the time of Mauryan Empire (322–185 B.C.) and encounter two of its most renowned political thinkers: Kautilya, who sought to combine ethics with political pragmatism, and Ashoka, the Buddhist convert who desired to govern with compassion. How did their intriguing ideas define India—then and now?
13: Ishvarakrishna and Patanjali—Yoga
The yoga commonly practiced in the West stems from the ideas of Ishvarakrishna and Pantajali. Learn how the former developed the metaphysical theories of matter and spirit behind yoga, while the latter cultivated the physical and mental disciplines designed to yoke the body and mind toward spiritual liberation.
14: Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu—Buddhist Theories
Although the Buddha discouraged philosophy, some of his disciples nevertheless began exploring philosophical questions. The result was the birth of Mahayana Buddhism. Here, get a pointed introduction to two major figures in its development and refinement—Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu—and their views on reality, existence, truth, and consciousness.
15: Sima Qian and Ban Zhao—History and Women
First, pore over the pages of Sima Qian's Shiji (The Grand Scribe's Records), which offered a comprehensive history of the world that profoundly influenced China's cultural identity. Then, meet Ban Zhao, the first great female mind of Eastern philosophy and an insightful commentator on the complex relationships between men and women.
16: Dong Zhongshu and Ge Hong—Eclecticism
Witness the continued evolution of Confucianism and Daoism through the lens of two great Eastern thinkers. The first is Dong Zhongshu, who combined traditional Confucian moralism with cosmological speculations rooted in nature. The second is Ge Hong, China's most famous alchemist who reconciled several strands of Neo-Daoism with Confucianism.
17: Xuanzang and Chinese Buddhism
After the collapse of the Han dynasty in A.D. 220, Buddhism became widely accepted in China. Explore the ideas of the four major schools of Chinese Buddhism: Tiantai, Huayan (Flower Garland), Pure Land, and Chan (Zen). Also, meet the most important mind behind Buddhism's spread, the monk and translator Xuanzang.
18: Prince Shotoku, Lady Murasaki, Sei Shonagon
Shift now to Japan, which merged Chinese philosophical ideas with Japanese traditions. Professor Hardy introduces you to three early intellectuals and their works: Prince Shotoku and his 17-article constitution; Murasaki Shikibu and her psychological novel, the Tale of Genji; and Se Shonagon and her commentary on court life, the Pillow Book.
19: Saicho to Nichiren—Japanese Buddhism
Take a closer look at the development of Buddhism in Japan. Among the early Buddhist thinkers you encounter in this lecture are Saicho, founder of Japan's foremost Buddhist temple; Honen, who established Japan's Pure Land sect; and Nichiren, whose form of Buddhism is one of the most prominent in modern Japan.
20: Shankara, Ramanuja, Madhva—Hindu Vedanta
Why is the Vedanta school of Hinduism the most important and influential of the six orthodox darshanas? How did three great Indian philosophers—Shankara, Ramanuja, and Madhva—bring order to the confusing teachings of the Upanishads? How did they each conceive the critical relationship between self (Atman) and absolute reality (Brahman)?
21: Al-Biruni—Islam in India
One fascinating aspect of the Eastern intellectual tradition is the intricate relationship between Hinduism and Islam. After a brief overview of Islam and its arrival in India, delve into some of the vast intellectual accomplishments of Al-Biruni, whom Professor Hardy considers one of the greatest minds in world history.
22: Nanak and Sirhindi—Sikhism and Sufism
Conclude your look at the connections between Hinduism and Islam with this exploration of how thinkers tried to find a balance between the two faiths. Guru Nanak founded Sikhism as a religious tradition that was neither Hindu nor Muslim. Ahmad Sirhindi, a Sufi master, worked to establish clear philosophical boundaries between Hinduism and Islam.
23: Han Yu to Zhu Xi—Neo-Confucianism
Follow the rise of a new major system of Eastern thought: Neo-Confucianism, a philosophy concerned more with ethics than with the soul. Some great early Neo-Confucians you meet include Han Yu (who revived an interest in Confucian ideas) and Zhu Xi, who answered Buddhist questions about metaphysics with Confucian insights.
24: Wang Yangming—The Study of Heart-Mind
Neo-Confucianism is a supremely practical philosophy, according to Professor Hardy. Find out why in his lecture on how intellectuals such as Zhu Xi and Wang Yangming applied the principles of Neo-Confucianism to education and knowledge—specifically through China's iconic imperial examination system, which lasted from the 7th century until 1905.
25: Dogen and Hakuin—Zen Buddhism
Zen Buddhism, which teaches that meditation under the guidance of an enlightened master is the only way to liberation, is the most famous form of Japanese Buddhism. Investigate this philosophy through two Zen masters: Dogen, of the Soto school of gradual enlightenment, and Hakuin, from the Rinzai school of sudden enlightenment.
26: Zeami and Sen no Rikyu—Japanese Aesthetics
Noh drama and the tea ceremony are indebted to Confucian rituals and Buddhist ideals. Learn how the great Noh playwright Zeami and the teamaster Sen no Rikyu epitomize medieval Japanese aesthetics and their emphasis on yugen (profound emotion), wabi (feelings of age and obscurity), and sabi (feelings of simplicity and tranquility).
27: Wonhyo to King Sejong—Korean Philosophy
Focus here on Korean philosophy and three of its greatest proponents. They are Wonhyo, who popularized Buddhism throughout the country; Chinul, who tried to bridge the divide between the doctrinal and meditation schools of Buddhism; and Sejong the Great, who invented one of the most scientific, rational scripts ever devised.
28: Padmasambhava to Tsongkhapa—Tibetan Ideas
Philosophy and religion are nowhere more connected than in Tibet, whose Vajrayana school of Buddhism emphasizes secret rituals and meditative practices. Examine key minds, including the man who introduced Buddhism to Tibet (Padmasambhava), a mystic who felt Enlightenment must be experienced directly (Milarepa), and the fascinating figure of the Dalai Lama.
29: Science and Technology in Premodern Asia
Discover how science and technology form a part of the Eastern intellectual tradition through the discoveries, theories, and insights of people such as Aryabhata (from India) and Shen Gua (from China). Also, ponder the question of why the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions occurred in Europe and not in Asia.
30: Muhammad Iqbal and Rabindranath Tagore
There were many ways that Asian thinkers confronted the technological superiority of Western civilization. See how the views of Pakistan's chief poet and philosopher Muhammad Iqbal and India's Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore held on to respective Islamic and Hindu traditions while accommodating them to the strengthening presence of the West.
31: Mohandas Gandhi—Satyagraha, or Soul-Force
Mohandas Gandhi is rightfully one of the most well-known Asian philosophers. What are the historical roots of some of his ideas, especially that of nonviolent resistance (satyagraha)? Why were some of his critiques of the West and modernity so controversial? What was the relationship between his ascetic lifestyle and his thought?
32: Fukuzawa Yukichi and Han Yongun
After a brief look at Japanese and Korean history between the 19th and 20th centuries, explore the intriguing perspectives of the Westernizer Fukuzawa Yukichi and the traditionalist Han Yongun. The former stressed the development of an independent-minded middle class; the latter sought answers to contemporary crises in Buddhist tenets.
33: Kang Youwei and Hu Shi
Of all the nations in Asia, China had the most difficult transition to the modern era. Delve into Chinese reform through Kang Youwei, who argued for the persistence of Confucian attitudes in the face of Western individualism, and Hu Shi, whose championing of vernacular Chinese allowed intellectuals to escape the strangleholds of the past.
34: Sun Yat-sen and Mao Zedong
Come face to face with two pivotal figures in recent Chinese history. Sun Yat-sen is considered the father of Chinese nationalism and energized the people with his ideas. Mao Zedong, one of modern history's most infamous figures, is noted for his brutal application of the Communist ideologies of Marx and Lenin.
35: Modern Legacies
In the first of two final lectures on the modern legacies of Eastern philosophy, Professor Hardy takes a look back at vital lessons from India's and China's great minds and recaps the enduring themes on fundamental human issues that form the core of their rich intellectual traditions.
36: East and West
Continue examining themes from Chinese and Japanese philosophy. Then, conclude the course with a revealing discussion of a question you may have asked at the start of these lectures: What does this have to do with my life? The answer will open your eyes to the enduring importance of the East's great minds.