RVI2160 - Between Science and Spirituality. South Asian Religions in European Society


Examination arrangement

Examination arrangement: Assignment
Grade: Letter grades

Evaluation Weighting Duration Grade deviation Examination aids
Assignment 100/100

Course content

The course focuses two prominent tropes associated with Buddhism and Hinduism in Western cultures. The first is the assumption that Hinduism and Buddhism are rational philosophies - even sciences in their own right - rather than belief-based religions. They are presented as fully compatible with empirical sciences (physics, psychology, cognitive science, etc.), rational world views (evolution theory, atheist empiricism, etc.) and a modern secular lifestyle. Antithetical to this image, the second trope is centered around the notion that Indian religions possess an ancient knowledge about dimensions of the human psyche unknown (or lost) in modern Western society. Based on this assumption, spiritual techniques of Indian provenience have gained increasing popularity and scientific interest since the 1960s.

Popular culture, but also scientific and scholarly literature transport images of Indian religions oscillating between these two tropes. This course scrutinizes these discourses critically, examining popular cultural practices like Yoga, Vipassan¯a meditation, ¯Ayurvedicmedicine, etc.; scientific engagements with Indian culture (neurological meditation research, quantum mechanics and the Buddhist theory of emptiness, transpersonal psychology,etc.); references to Indian spirituality in popular film and literature (e.g. the symbolism of Transcendental Meditation in the work of David Lynch).

The topic is approached from the critical perspective of post-colonial theory. Special attention is given to the meta-criticisms of cross-cultural hybridization, de-contextualization,and cultural appropriation.

Learning outcome

According to the course curriculum, a candidate who passes this course is expected to have the following learning outcome (defined as knowledge and skills):


The candidate

  • has good knowledge of the religious traditions of Buddhism and Hinduism, especially in their (post-)modern shapes,
  • has an analytical understanding on the formation of globalized knowledge emerging from, often asymmetrical, cross-cultural dialogue,
  • has an overview of central concepts of critical theory, especially from post-orientalist and post-colonial traditions.


The candidate

  • is able to critically assess relevant literature from problem- and context-oriented perspectives focusing the dynamics of cross-cultural encounter, including the practices of de-contextualization, cultural projection and disappropriation,
  • is able to critically assess popular images of Indian religions,

Learning methods and activities

Teaching consists of lectures and seminars.

In order to be admitted to the final exam an approved oral presentation is required (see Blackboard for more information). The obligatory activity is only given the semester the course is taught, but is valid for this and the subsequent semester.

Compulsory assignments

  • Approved obligatory assignment

Further on evaluation

The exam itself consits of a written assignment of 7000-8000 words.

Required previous knowledge


Course materials

The required reading list will be available at the beginning of the semester.

More on the course



Version: 1
Credits:  15.0 SP
Study level: Intermediate course, level II


Term no.: 1
Teaching semester:  AUTUMN 2024

Language of instruction: English, Norwegian

Location: Trondheim

Subject area(s)
  • Comparative Religion
Contact information
Course coordinator:

Department with academic responsibility
Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies


Examination arrangement: Assignment

Term Status code Evaluation Weighting Examination aids Date Time Examination system Room *
Autumn ORD Assignment 100/100 INSPERA
Room Building Number of candidates
Spring ORD Assignment 100/100 INSPERA
Room Building Number of candidates
  • * The location (room) for a written examination is published 3 days before examination date. If more than one room is listed, you will find your room at Studentweb.

For more information regarding registration for examination and examination procedures, see "Innsida - Exams"

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