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FRSEMR 71D - Zen and the Art of Living: Making the Ordinary Extraordinary or return to Course Catalog Search

205217 – Section 001   

Faculty of Arts and SciencesFreshman SeminarsJames Robson
TermDay and TimeLocation
Fall 2018-2019  (show academic calendar)Th   3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.Sever 204 (FAS)
4  (show credit conversion for other schools)
Credit Level

This seminar explores the rich history, philosophy and practices of Zen Buddhism as it developed in China, Korea, and Japan. We will first consider the emergence of the Zen tradition out of the Buddhist tradition and then explore the full range of its most distinctive features (Zen monastic meditation), cultural practices (painting, calligraphy, and poetry), and radical?even iconoclastic?innovations (such as the use of k?ans, which are seemingly nonsensical sayings that defy rationality). We will also critically evaluate some less well-known facets of the Zen tradition, such as gender issues, the veneration of mummified masters, and the question of how Zen was implicated in modern nationalistic movements in Japan during World War II. During the mid-20th century, Zen became a global phenomenon as Zen masters began to move around the world and introduce the practice of Zen meditation to those in search of religious alternatives to Western organized religions, rationalism, and materialism. Zen attracted the attention of writers, musicians, artists, and athletes. Why did Zen develop such a trans-cultural appeal at that moment in history? Why are there so many books with the title: ?Zen and the Art of?..?? Why do so many computer and tech companies have Zen in their names? How has Zen meditation fed into the current ?meditation/mindfulness? boom? These are some of the questions we will explore in this seminar through readings, film screenings, museum viewings, and a visit to a Zen meditation center.

Course open to Freshman Students Only

This course will also include required film screenings, visits to the Harvard Art Museums and Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, and to the Cambridge Zen Center.

Exam Group

Cross Registration
Not eligible for cross-registration