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Throughout history, religious expression has been an essential human activity, influencing the development of civilizations. Humanity’s religions are grounded in their sacred texts - foundational writings that crystallize the principles and vision of the faiths, forming the basis of belief and action. These richly informative lectures reveal a global legacy of faith, thought, and spirituality.

Sacred Texts of the World is a series that is currently running and has 1 seasons (32 episodes). The series first aired on February 7, 2014.

Sacred Texts of the World is available for streaming on the The Great Courses Signature Collection website, both individual episodes and full seasons. You can also watch Sacred Texts of the World on demand at Amazon Prime, Amazon, The Roku Channel online.

The Great Courses Signature Collection
1 Season, 32 Episodes
February 7, 2014
Cast: Grant Hardy
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Sacred Texts of the World Full Episode Guide

  • Conclude with Professor Hardy's recommendations, from each of the major religious traditions, of specific texts with which to begin your own reading of sacred writings. Finally, contemplate the question of what difference the comparative study of sacred texts might make in our lives when we read them with empathy and understanding.

  • Here, uncover thought-provoking parallels between religious texts and certain secular ones. With reference to the key ways in which scriptures are received and employed within religious faiths, delineate how the founding documents of the United States have come to function as many sacred texts do in other cultures.

  • The Islamic Hadith recounts the actions and sayings of Muhammad. Study the sources and composition of this revered body of texts, and observe how they provide guidance on essential matters of Muslim life. Also encounter the superlative poetry of Sufism, Islam's mystical tradition, which employs refined spiritual practices to reach direct union with God.

  • The remarkable oral tradition in Islam mandates that the Qur'an be recited and regards memorization as an act of devotion. Delve into the Qur'an's origins in the life of Muhammad, the conception of its text as direct revelation, and its recitation as a sophisticated and esteemed art form.

  • Alongside the four canonical Gospels, competing accounts of Jesus's life emerged, which we now call "apocryphal." Here, discover the Gospel of Peter, which directly portrays the Resurrection, and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, which recounts events of Jesus's childhood. Finally, encounter Gnostic Christianity in the Gospel of Thomas, containing mystical sayings of Jesus.

  • Letters, as exemplified in the New Testament writings, were an important means of instruction in the early church. Study seven key letters written by Paul, speaking to theological understanding, challenges faced by early Christians, and essential doctrine. Conclude with Revelation and its dramatic vision of the coming kingdom of God.

  • In approaching Christian scripture, trace the complex origins of the New Testament, beginning with the letters of Paul and the Gospels. Follow the proliferation of later Christian texts and how they were categorized, and study the composition of the first complete Christian Bibles in comparison with more recent versions and translations.

  • Explore the customs and rituals of the Japanese Shinto religion, aimed at harmonizing the human and natural worlds. Study excerpts from its revered texts, comprising histories of Japan and ritual prayers, and learn about its integral role in Japanese life. Also encounter the Tenrikyo faith and its three distinctive books of scripture.

  • The full canon of Daoism comprises roughly 1500 texts. Study seminal scriptures such as the Neiye, the Huainanzi, the Scripture on Great Peace, and the Declarations of the Perfected. Grasp how the Daozang, or complete canon, is organized into three "Caverns" or divisions, reflecting the major schools of Daoism.

  • The foundational text of Daoism, the Daodejing, speaks of the Way (Dao), a transcendent order underlying all phenomena. In excerpts from the text, contemplate the Daodejing's compelling expression of harmonious duality and its conception of effortless, spontaneous human action. Also sample the Zhuangzi, a related masterpiece of literature and philosophy.

  • In a second look at Confucianism, investigate the renowned Yijing and how its system of divination has actual practical applications. Then delve into Neo-Confucianism, its principles of self-cultivation and harmony with humanity and the cosmos, and its embodiment in the texts of the Analects, the Mencius, the Great Learning, and the Constant Mean.

  • Here, confront the intriguing question of whether Confucianism is a religion or a philosophy. Learn about the Confucian canon and how it became the foundation of Chinese state ideology. Sample texts encompassing poetry, history, ritual, rules for living, and explorations of morality, and consider why we refer to them as "classics" rather than "scripture."

  • In studying the remarkable and elaborate Tibetan canon, grasp how Vajrayana Buddhism combines the Mahayana philosophy of the perfection of wisdom with Tantra, secret rituals and practices that offer shortcuts to enlightenment. Also encounter the Tibetan Book of the Dead - in reality, a treatise on rebirth.

  • Two distinctive forms of Buddhism took root in Japan. Learn first about the Pure Land School, which directs spiritual efforts toward entering a celestial realm where seekers can learn the dharma. Through Zen scriptures and koans (paradoxical sayings used in teaching), contemplate the tradition's direct, experiential approach to enlightenment.

  • Among textual riches of the Theravada tradition of Buddhism is the Buddha's teaching on the origins of suffering. Contemplate the Therigatha, poems of women's enlightenment; the Dhammapada, verses of advice and inspiration; and the Discourse to the Kalamas, where the Buddha outlines a spiritual path of direct experience and observation.

  • Here, investigate two prominent types of Buddhist scriptures and how they are used. Delve into the Vinaya, regulations and stories comprising rules for living for monks and nuns. Then sample excerpts from the Jataka, the large body of stories concerning the Buddha's past lives, used for teaching Buddhist morality.

  • This lecture introduces the huge library of Buddhist scriptures. Study the origins and contents of the three major Buddhist canons - the Pali canon, the Chinese canon, and the Tibetan canon. Learn about the devoted efforts through Buddhist history to preserve these texts, and the nature of their significance to Buddhists.

  • Within Judaism, two central texts form the basis for devotion to God through study. Grasp the nature of the Mishnah, a body of legal judgments and maxims teaching students how to think critically. Then encounter the Talmud, a vast analysis and commentary on the Mishnah and Jewish life - a marvel of world literature.

  • Study the contents of the Torah - the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Then consider two kinds of responses to the text - the religious perspective that regards it as a repository of eternal truths, and the historical-critical perspective that approaches the text with the tools of the scholar.

  • In approaching the sacred texts of Judaism, learn the dramatic history of the Aleppo Codex, a historically significant copy of the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible). Track the origins of the Tanakh and its constituent sections - the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings - and grasp how the Tanakh became the focus of Jewish identity.

  • Trace the evolution of the Sikh religion, and the lineage of gurus that produced the faith's sacred text, the Adi Granth. Study the composition of the Adi Granth; sample its beautiful hymns, poems, and prayers; and learn how the book is treated by Sikhs as a living guru.

  • Learn about the huge canon of Hindu sutras, shastras, Puranas, and Tantra. Delve into two highly influential texts: the Laws of Manu, outlining rules, customs and guidelines for living for the four Indian castes; and the beloved Bhagavad Gita, which speaks to matters of spiritual insight, social obligation, and worldly success.

  • A second body of Hindu sacred writings encompasses literature, texts that explore the nature of dharma, the eternal laws and principles that give meaning and shape to life. Here, discover two great Indian epics: the Ramayana, a mythic narrative of kingship; and the Mahabharata, a complex story of familial bonds and discord.

  • The Upanishads constitute the philosophical or wisdom texts of the Hindu Vedas. Study the composition of the Brihadaranyaka and Chandogya Upanishads, containing spiritual arguments and dialogues revealing the underlying unity of brahman (ultimate reality) and atman (the self or soul). Trace the Upanishads' influence on Westerners.

  • Grasp the nature and roles of sacred writings within Hinduism, as contrasted with the Judeo-Christian tradition. Learn about the structure of the Vedas, comprising collections of hymns and commentaries, and their meaning and function in Hindu ritual. Read compelling excerpts from the Vedas, and learn how Western religious scholars have approached them.

  • Throughout history, the world's sacred texts have held profound significance for the cultures that produced them. Consider five key reasons for the importance of studying them, from their accessibility and centrality to their cultures of origin to the wisdom they contain and the enlarged perspective they offer on our own traditions. #Music, Philosophy & Religion