Greening Spirituality

This course will explore the varied ways in which the natural world, or the “other than human world,” has been imagined and experienced through embodied practices and creative acts throughout American history. The course will examine indigenous ways of knowing and understanding that situate the human integrally within the broader planetary community.

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We will study the often unacknowledged

ecological influences of Asian religions and Native American cultures on America’s literary, artistic, and architectural heritage, as well as the growing presence – in the United States – of Dharma traditions, and their influence on contemporary meditation methods as they have opened the door to ancient approaches interweaving the elemental potencies of wilderness (and wildness) into the fabric of contemplative practice. 

We will reflect, together, on the critical importance of acknowledgement of other cultures and cosmological views that existed before us, and to which—at the very least—we owe a debt of gratitude. 

The contemporary greening of spirituality has deep roots in American soil and the sanctification of the wonder and mystery of treasured national spaces, such as the red hills of Sedona, Yosemite, and Muir Woods, has begun to resemble an alternate form of civic religion—one that envisions and embraces a spirituality of place.

Module 1: Roots

What is “spirituality”? What is “sacred” beyond the diversity of varied religions and rituals? How and why is it connected to the verdant natural world around us?

Module 2: Turtle Island

The Beat Poets and American Buddhist Ecocriticism

Module 3: Decolonizing the Spiritual

Module 4: Ecopraxis

Greening Spirituality on a Warming Planet

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Dr. Rita D. Sherma

Rita D. Sherma is founding Director and Associate Professor at the Mira & Ajay Shingal Center for Dharma Studies; Core Doctoral Faculty; and Co-Chair of Sustainability 360 Initiative at GTU, Berkeley, CA. Formerly, she was the Swami Vivekananda Visiting Professor in Hindu Studies at USC, Los Angeles. She holds an MA in Women’s Studies in Religion, and a PhD in Theology & Ethics from Claremont Graduate University, CA. Sherma is co-founder of the American Academy of Religion’s Hinduism Program Unit. She is the founding Vice President of DANAM (Dharma Academy of North America)—a scholarly society for research on Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain religious & interreligious studies—and serves on the Board of the Society for Hindu-Christian Studies. Sherma has authored/edited/co-edited several books and is the founding Editor-in-Chief of "Journal of Dharma Studies." She serves on the Editorial Board of "Reading Religion" Journal (an AAR publication). Her pedagogical approach goes beyond encounters in the classroom to create collaborations with her students in research, writing, publications, and sponsoring students' leadership in their disciplines.

Dr. Devin Zuber

Devin Phillip Zuber is an associate professor of American Studies, Religion, and Literature at the GTU, and also presently the Chair of the Department for Historical and Cultural Studies of Religion. He teaches in the PhD program's concentrations for Art & Religion, New Religious Movements, and Religion & Literature. Much of his teaching and research remains focused on the nineteenth-century cultural reception of the Scandinavian scientist-turned-mystic, Emanuel Swedenborg (1688--1772).

Prior to coming to Berkeley in 2011, Zuber taught at the University of Osnabrück and the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, both in Germany, and at Queens College in New York City. He has been a fellow, scholar-in-residence, or visiting research professor at the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library (London), at the Wabash Center for Religion and Theology at Wabash College in Indiana, in Stockholm University’s Department for Aesthetics and Culture (Sweden),  at the Mesa Writer's Refuge in Point Reyes, California (with the Gardarev Center), and at the Rachel Carson Center for the Environment at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. In 2016, Zuber was also a scholar-in-residence at the former estate of the film director Ingmar Bergman on Fårö island (Sweden).

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