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Course Information

Instructor Info:Ryan Joo
Office Extension x5589
TA Info:Kinny Newell
Term: 2014S
Meeting Info: Tuesday Thursday
02:00 PM - 03:20 PM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 101
02:00 PM - 03:20 PM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 101

This course will examine the life and teachings of influential Asian spiritual leaders in the West such as Thich Nhat Hanh and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In addition, our examination will also extend to well-known American spiritual teachers influenced by Eastern traditions including Tara Brach, Eckhart Tolle, Jack Kornfield, and Ken Wilber. The course will also discuss a number of important issues pertaining to the philosophy of non-duality, spiritual materialism, the counterculture movement of 1960s, and Buddhism in the US.

Evaluation Criteria:

 Course Requirements

This course has six requirements. All must be successfully completed in order to receive a final evaluation for this course.

1. Attendance and Participation: I expect students to come to class on time and to attend all scheduled class meetings. Feeling “under the weather” is not a valid reason for missing class, but serious illness is. If you have to miss a class due to serious illness, religious observance, or family emergency, you must make every effort to contact the instructor and inform him of your absence prior to the class. You should also bring a doctor’s note or other official document to your instructor. Otherwise, it will be counted as an absence. Under normal circumstances, students who miss more than two classes will not receive an evaluation (or higher than C- if you are from the Five Colleges). Keep in mind that when you miss a class, it becomes your responsibility to contact your classmates to find out about the announcements and class discussion that you missed. 

The reading for each week will be approximately 100-130 pages on average. I expect students to complete the reading assignment before coming to each class, and to be ready to take an active role in the discussion. Class participation is an important part of the course requirements.

2. Weekly Online Reflection Papers: Each week, students must post a weekly online reflection of approximately 200-250 words to the moodle discussion board of our course website either by Tuesday 8 AM or Thursday 8 AM. You should do the readings carefully and write about 1) the key passage that you had hard time understanding, 2) has resonated with you, or 3) you find disagreeable.

Students are encouraged to read their classmates’ reflections and leave at least two short comments (50-80 words each) each week. Your fellow classmates’ reactions to your reflection are meant to stimulate your own thoughts about the assigned readings. Your short comments on your classmates' reflections can be posted as late as Tuesday/Thursday noon. All writings should be free of spelling and grammatical errors, and should be written in a formal writing style. This is a crucial component for the success of our class, and a student who fails to post more than one weekly reflection will not receive an evaluation (or higher than C- if you are from the Five Colleges). 

3. Class Presentations: During this semester, your instructor will ask you to make one 30 minute long Power Point presentation to the rest of the class. Presenter(s) is expected to research on the given topic and teach students about it. Student will have lots of latitude as far as what and how to make his/her presentation effective, although the use of multiple media (e.g. Power Point, YouTube, film, photo, music, bodily demonstration, drawing, map, handout, etc.) is strongly recommended. Your presentation will be evaluated not just on the content of your presentation but also on the effectiveness of your teaching performance. Therefore, make your presentation as interactive, creative and intellectually stimulating as possible.

4. One Research Paper: Students will be asked to write one research paper (approximately 8-9 pages) for this class. Your research paper topic must be approved by your instructor in advance. Your research papers should be emailed directly to by the due date. Your instructor will discuss your paper topic as we approach the due date. (Final Paper Due Date: May 8th 3:20 PM) Keep in mind that late papers will not be accepted, and plagiarism is strictly prohibited.

Plagiarism is the presentation of another person’s ideas or words as your own, without acknowledging the source.  Plagiarism is a serious offense, and can result in No Evaluation for the course or even disciplinary withdrawal from the College. As you write your papers, you must be sure to cite your sources thoroughly and correctly, whether you are quoting directly or paraphrasing.  Ignorance of plagiarism is not an excuse.  If you are ever uncertain as to whether doing something is technically plagiarism, please ask your instructor and read the Ethics of Scholarship webpage on the Hub. []

You should also consult with writing reference manuals for correct citation and bibliographic formats, including for citing Internet sources. If you think that you will benefit from receiving outside help, please contact one of the three teachers at the Writing Center and make an appointment to see him/her.

5. Portfolio: Students should maintain their own portfolio, keeping all work done for this course. This portfolio should contain 1) your self-evaluation, 2) 7-8 exemplary printed copies of your online discussions, and 3) a short self-evaluation of your class presentation. Please hand in your complete portfolio on the last day of our class on May 1st. Your final paper should be emailed directly to by May 8th 3:20 PMNo portfolio or the final paper will be accepted after the due date.

6. Policy on Cell Phone and Laptop Computer Usage: As a courtesy to your instructor and classmates, please turn off your cell phone for the duration of the class. If your phone makes sound, you have to bring approximately $15 worth of cookies, yogurts and/or fruits for everyone to share in the next class. Unless it is directly related to the class presentation, you must refrain from using the Internet, as it can distract both you and your classmates. If you get caught for using the Internet, you will have to bring cookies, yogurts and/or fruits for everyone in the next class.


Additional Info:

Text Books

Students are required to purchase six books for this course. They are available at Amherst Bookstore. 

  • Thich Nhat Hahn, Peace is Every Step (New York: Bantam Books, 1992)
  • Dalai Lama, Ethics for the New Millennium (New York: Penguin, 1999)
  • Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance (New York: Bantam Book, 2003)
  • Jack Kornfield, The Wise Heart (New York: Bantam Books, 2009)
  • Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now (Novato, New World Library, 1999)
  • Ken Wilber, No Boundary: Eastern and Western Approaches to Personal Growth (Boston: Shambhala, 1975)