I really enjoyed this class, because it gave me a better appreciation and understanding for the origins and beliefs that were at play in the establishment of various religions in China and India. While I was aware of these worldviews before, I had not ever been very exposed to how these religions and worldviews came about, how they were related to one another, and how the demographics that were involved influenced the development of these religions. This class gave me an opportunity to gain a better appreciation for the origins of widespread religions by understanding the roots and foundations, especially from a geographical perspective.
One topic of the class that I found particularly interesting was the juxtaposition of Hinduism and Buddhism. It is sometimes hard to distinguish between the two when one has not had a lot of exposure to them and is the differences between the two. I thought it was interesting that Buddhism in its foundational form was essentially an off-shoot of Hinduism, and more of a pattern or way of living, rather than necessarily a religion of its own. Playing off of this, I have heard of people who are members of other religions, such as Christians, who utilize Buddhist practices such as meditation, and do not consider it a breaking apart from their own religious beliefs. I think this makes Buddhism really a beautiful thing, the fact that it can in essence be a tool to cultivate a better lifestyle, and can be used to harness the energy of the body and direct it toward good practices, rather than harmful actions.
I found when studying Hinduism that it was not as universal as Buddhism, and that while it might be possible to utilize Buddhist practices as, for example, a Christian, it would be impossible to subscribe to Hindu beliefs and practices without some kind of break from Christian beliefs. From the class, I found that Hinduism, although it is more of religion in the sense that it has beliefs that its followers hold, it was not as much a unifying entity. There has been much bloodshed between factions of Hindus in India, and between Hindus and Muslims. Compared to Buddhism, this is very divisive and not peaceful. Buddhism is much more concerned with finding peace and living in harmony with others and the natural world. I think that this makes it valuable, as it can teach people the importance of being able to coexist, and the ways in which we can learn to do so. There are few religious groups or similar groups that have this emphasis in the way that Buddhism does. Because of this, Buddhism might be something that more people should learn about and try to practice, as it has a very freeing effect on the individual, and produces peace in communities when it is practiced appropriately.
With respect to the teaching style in this course, I really enjoyed that the material was presented in more of a story format. This made it very simple to understand and very easy to stay interested in it. Because of this teaching style, I was much more receptive to some of the things that I learned in this class that I otherwise might not have been able to absorb. I am glad for this, because much of my preconceived notions about eastern religions was to some degree incorrect information. I do not feel as if I had biases or discriminated against persons of those religious practices, but I do know that I had some very mistaken ideas of what those religions taught and how they came about. Overall, I think this course was very useful to me and helped me to grow in my cultural appreciation.