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Bhagavad Gita at Seton Hall, Nov 2008
Study of the Vedanta classic, the Bhagavad Gita, has become mandatory from this year for every student joining Seton Hall, an independent Catholic university in New Jersey, USA.
One–third of Seton Hall's more than 10,800 students are non–Christian. That third includes a significant number of students of Asian origin.
The university implements a core–curriculum course for all students — whatever their discipline — to add breadth to their education; now that course includes the Gita.
The university wanted a transformational course within the core curriculum that would influence the character and life of its students, a course that would seek answers to perennial questions such as the purpose of life.
Entitled ‘The Journey of Transformation’, the course is taken during the freshman year and “seeks to forge a community of conversation inspired to explore perennial questions central, but not exclusive, to the Catholic intellectual tradition” says professor Amar (Stillman School of Business) the driving force behind the decision to include the Gita.
Professor Amar told the Committee selecting the curriculum content that the Bible teaches only one way and that students should learn from older philosophies too. He suggested the inclusion of the Vedas and the Gita.
“The faculty consists of Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, in addition to Christians. Suggestions came to include the Koran also,” Amar said. “Finally, studying the Bible — the Gospels, specifically — the Bhagvad Gita, and Dante's ‘The Divine Comedy’ were made part of the core course. The Committee found the Vedas too difficult to understand. I was surprised at the openness of these people, and the greatness of the Catholic community was evident,” he said.
The translation of the Bhagavad Gita that is used is by Stephen Mitchell. The faculty teaches it with additional training. None of the teachers is Hindu.
“The pilot course was started last year and students love it,” said Professor Amar.Top of page