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Great Minds of the Eastern Intellectual Tradition

Introduce yourself to the great minds responsible for molding Asian philosophy and for giving birth to a wide variety of spiritual and ideological systems.
Great Minds of the Eastern Intellectual Tradition is rated 4.4 out of 5 by 101.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from great course Great course overall. I just want to point out that Brahman is pronounced with an extension at the later part. it is BRUH ...MAAAAAN !!! . That is the correct pronunciation in Sanskrit & Hindi (Punjabi) . Keep up the good work of spreading knowledge.
Date published: 2024-04-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Worth watching again Professor Grant Hardy is a terrific presenter — my husband and I watched his excellent course on world religions. This course interested us very much as students of Eastern philosophy. There was a great deal to absorb and the many different exotic names were hard to remember, but that was not a fault of Dr. Hardy — just a reflection of the enormous geographical and temporal span of the subject matter. We will watch the course again, and probably use the written guide to orient us further. Kudos to Dr. Hardy — we will eagerly await his next course.
Date published: 2023-12-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The most fabulous spectacular couse This course is beyond superb. I totally enjoyed it. He is so knowledgable, fair, wise, kind, understanding, insightful and open-minded. I particularly recommend this course to the disciples of Prof Rufus Fears who enjoy his lectures in Great Courses series. Great Courses: Thank you & well-done
Date published: 2023-08-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Overview of an Immense Tradition India, China, Japan, Korea: you can see how you could spend 30 or 40 lectures on the intellectual traditions of any one of these cultures. To span pretty much the entirety of Eastern intellectual traditions in one course is a lot. Professor Hardy does a great job of introducing the core ideas of a large number of thinkers. He is engaging, and his presentation is clear.
Date published: 2023-05-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Important and interesting insights of the East. I know a lot about the Western thinkers. But professor Hardy describes Eastern thinkers. It is a window to half of the world. It influences Western ideas that I learned.
Date published: 2023-01-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good but Overwhelming For a Westerner like me, this course is overwhelming. There are so many unfamiliar names and philosophical concepts that it is very difficult to keep track of them all. The challenge is compounded by the number of lectures, 36 rather than the more common 24. Dr. Hardy does an admirable job of presenting it all but I just couldn’t absorb it all. I found it useful to follow along with the course guide, which is something I normally do not do. Dr. Handy says that he divided the course into four sections: • 8 lectures on the origins of Eastern thought, primarily the origins of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. • 10 lectures on the intellectual developments in the early empires. • 10 lectures on how these ideas expanded from India to China and Tibet and from there to Korea and Japan. • 8 lectures on science and technology and how the East collided with the West. Dr. Handy sees four general options: Traditionalism, adoptionalism, proselytism, and Westernism. This course is a generally chronological discussion of the major streams of thought in India, China, and Japan. It should be noted that in this culture, there is not as sharp a distinction among philosophy, religion, and government as there is in the Western Tradition. Consequently, the “great minds” are generally Hindu, Confucian, or Buddhist leaders. As might be expected, each lecture is centered on one or two persons who represent a particular intellectual development. Dr. Handy generally focuses on the intellectual development slightly more than the person while he skims over the background history. Interestingly, this approach contrasts with Dr. Dorsey Armstrong’s approach in the companion course Great Minds of the Medieval World. In that course, Dr. Armstrong emphasizes the history and person and she devotes relatively less attention to the intellectual development. Dr. Handy says that he is attached to his own (Western) tradition and that he approaches the Eastern intellectual tradition as an outsider. Nevertheless, he addresses the Eastern intellectual tradition with deep respect and perhaps some reverence. He presents this tradition in its own terms and not as a critic. I should also note that Dr. Handy makes frequent comparison with Christian thought, sometimes assuming a detailed familiarity with Christianity. Those not familiar with Christianity will likely not find these illustrations illuminating. The course guide is written in paragraph form so it is kind of like a synopsis of the transcript. There are not many important illustrations associated with the lectures. The appendices include a helpful timeline, a bibliography, and a list of other helpful resources including internet resources. However, there is no glossary nor a list of important people with short biographies, which would have been very helpful. I used the video version of this course. The lack of visual aids is not a problem. However, trying to follow this course while doing something else, even driving or jogging, does detract from learning for a Westerner like me. The course was published in 2011.
Date published: 2022-07-28
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Lack of critical thinking Another reviewer said it also : the professor is making a dry presentation of lists. He does mention some objectionable implications of the doctrines for a few seconds, but 95% of the time he brings up applications from everyday life of how this or that belief can be useful. Maybe it's the American cultural style of optimist and eternal smile. One example : Bhagavad Gita. In it, Krishna very clearly tells Arjuna to go and kill his uncles and brothers, people that are good, and he loves dearly. Krishna's answer is not just to detach from self benefits from the result of the war, but also to be detached EMOTIONALLY from other people, the dharma has priority over feelings. This is the concept of 'Just War', with which Hitler and Stalin massacred millions to achieve their 'dharma'... Religion is also Philosophy. Which requires logic and critical thinking... and as professors, this is more important to teach than dry lists...
Date published: 2022-06-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beyond Confucius and Mencius Introduced me to many new figures and schools of thought. Will watch again at some point to settle all this in my mind.
Date published: 2022-05-13
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Discover an often-overlooked, but equally important, side of human philosophy with Great Minds of the Eastern Intellectual Tradition—a comprehensive survey of the East's most influential thinkers. In 36 lectures, award-winning Professor Grant Hardy introduces you to the people responsible for molding Asian philosophy and for giving birth to a wide variety of spiritual and ideological systems.


Grant Hardy

Religion offers a window on the world. It's not the only window, but it's a large one, which provides a grand vista of much of human life in both the past and the present.


University of North Carolina, Asheville
Dr. Grant Hardy is Professor of History and Religious Studies and Director of the Humanities Program at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. He earned his B.A. in Ancient Greek from Brigham Young University and his Ph.D. in Chinese Language and Literature from Yale University. Professor Hardy has received a wealth of awards and accolades for both his teaching and his scholarship. At the University of North Carolina, he won the 2002 Distinguished Teacher Award for the Arts and Humanities Faculty, and he was named to a Ruth and Leon Feldman Professorship for 2009 to 2010. He also received a research grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and he participated in scholarly symposia at prestigious universities around the world, including Harvard University and the University of Heidelberg. Professor Hardy has written, cowritten, or edited six books, including Worlds of Bronze and Bamboo: Sima Qian's Conquest of History; The Establishment of the Han Empire and Imperial China; and the first volume of the Oxford History of Historical Writing. In addition, he has written or revised a majority of the articles on imperial China for the World Book Encyclopedia.

By This Professor

Sacred Texts of the World
Great Minds of the Eastern Intellectual Tradition
Great Minds of the Eastern Intellectual Tradition


Life's Great Questions—Asian Perspectives

01: Life's Great Questions—Asian Perspectives

Professor Hardy introduces you to this survey of Eastern philosophy's great minds and ideas. After providing a road map for the course, he answers two questions that demand to be asked: What does the Eastern intellectual tradition look like? Why does it matter to those of us in the West?

31 min
The Vedas and Upanishads—The Beginning

02: The Vedas and Upanishads—The Beginning

Witness how the Eastern intellectual tradition began in India with two anonymous writings: the Vedas and the Upanishads. The former contains the East's earliest thoughts on social conventions (specifically the Indo-Aryan caste system), while the latter sees thinkers truly starting to struggle with basic questions about existence and knowledge.

30 min
Mahavira and Jainism—Extreme Nonviolence

03: Mahavira and Jainism—Extreme Nonviolence

Jainism developed as a rejection of the authority of the Vedas and Brahmin priests. Investigate the views of its founder, Mahavira; delve into Jainism's central tenets and ideas; and listen to two ancient stories that illustrate the pervasiveness of suffering in the world and the theory of multiple truths.

30 min
The Buddha—The Middle Way

04: The Buddha—The Middle Way

Buddhism, like Jainism, grew as another of India's major heterodox schools of thought. Get an overview of this philosophical and spiritual school by exploring the Buddha's life story, Buddhism's basic principles (including the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path), the daily practices of Buddhists, and more.

31 min
The Bhagavad Gita—The Way of Action

05: The Bhagavad Gita—The Way of Action

Written partly in response to challenges posed by Buddhism, the Bhagavad Gita is one of the most important writings in Eastern intellectual history. Comb through this landmark text's pages, paying particular attention to its historical context and its emphasis on karma yoga, or acting without attachment to success or failure.

31 min
Confucius—In Praise of Sage-Kings

06: Confucius—In Praise of Sage-Kings

Focus now on China and the ideas of its first philosopher, Confucius. What was life like during the "age of Confucius"? What are the key ideas and lessons to take away from the Analects, which collect his various sayings? How does Confucianism work for a society? A family? An individual?

32 min
Laozi and Daoism—The Way of Nature

07: Laozi and Daoism—The Way of Nature

Examine Daoism, the second of China's major philosophies, cultivated by a legendary figure known as Laozi. This school's central text, the Daodejing, offers unique solutions to the problems of social disorder and violence and provides rulers and individuals with practical advice that prefers simplicity and humility over power and ambition.

31 min
The Hundred Schools of Pre-imperial China

08: The Hundred Schools of Pre-imperial China

The Warring States Era (475–221 B.C.) was a golden age in Chinese philosophy. Meet three great minds from this period: Mozi, whose ideas centered on "universal love"; Huizi, who explored the relativity of time and space; and Zhuangzi, who argued for a radical skepticism that refused to choose between contradictory positions.

30 min
Mencius and Xunzi—Confucius's Successors

09: Mencius and Xunzi—Confucius's Successors

Mencius and Xunzi, both followers of Confucius, are likened to the ancient Greek thinkers Plato and Aristotle (who learned from Socrates). Both Chinese philosophers accepted the main precepts of Confucianism, but disagreed on several issues. Compare their views on morality, the existence of evil, the principles of economics, and more.

32 min
Sunzi and Han Feizi—Strategy and Legalism

10: Sunzi and Han Feizi—Strategy and Legalism

Sunzi was a Chinese philosopher best known for The Art of War, which promoted the merits of strategic, deceptive warfare. Han Feizi epitomized legalism, the philosophical school aimed at strengthening the state through rational means. Both thinkers—and their roles in the Eastern intellectual tradition—are the subject of this illuminating lecture.

32 min
Zarathustra and Mani—Dualistic Religion

11: Zarathustra and Mani—Dualistic Religion

Follow the lives and teachings of two ancient Persian minds. Zarathustra's faith, Zoroastrianism, posited a universe in which the forces of good and evil were locked in combat. Mani later expanded on this dualistic notion to develop Manichaeism, in which this struggle represented the larger battle between spirit and matter.

33 min
Kautilya and Ashoka—Buddhism and Empire

12: Kautilya and Ashoka—Buddhism and Empire

Go back to India during the time of Mauryan Empire (322–185 B.C.) and encounter two of its most renowned political thinkers: Kautilya, who sought to combine ethics with political pragmatism, and Ashoka, the Buddhist convert who desired to govern with compassion. How did their intriguing ideas define India—then and now?

30 min
Ishvarakrishna and Patanjali—Yoga

13: Ishvarakrishna and Patanjali—Yoga

The yoga commonly practiced in the West stems from the ideas of Ishvarakrishna and Pantajali. Learn how the former developed the metaphysical theories of matter and spirit behind yoga, while the latter cultivated the physical and mental disciplines designed to yoke the body and mind toward spiritual liberation.

31 min
Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu—Buddhist Theories

14: Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu—Buddhist Theories

Although the Buddha discouraged philosophy, some of his disciples nevertheless began exploring philosophical questions. The result was the birth of Mahayana Buddhism. Here, get a pointed introduction to two major figures in its development and refinement—Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu—and their views on reality, existence, truth, and consciousness.

31 min
Sima Qian and Ban Zhao—History and Women

15: Sima Qian and Ban Zhao—History and Women

First, pore over the pages of Sima Qian's Shiji (The Grand Scribe's Records), which offered a comprehensive history of the world that profoundly influenced China's cultural identity. Then, meet Ban Zhao, the first great female mind of Eastern philosophy and an insightful commentator on the complex relationships between men and women.

31 min
Dong Zhongshu and Ge Hong—Eclecticism

16: Dong Zhongshu and Ge Hong—Eclecticism

Witness the continued evolution of Confucianism and Daoism through the lens of two great Eastern thinkers. The first is Dong Zhongshu, who combined traditional Confucian moralism with cosmological speculations rooted in nature. The second is Ge Hong, China's most famous alchemist who reconciled several strands of Neo-Daoism with Confucianism.

32 min
Xuanzang and Chinese Buddhism

17: Xuanzang and Chinese Buddhism

After the collapse of the Han dynasty in A.D. 220, Buddhism became widely accepted in China. Explore the ideas of the four major schools of Chinese Buddhism: Tiantai, Huayan (Flower Garland), Pure Land, and Chan (Zen). Also, meet the most important mind behind Buddhism's spread, the monk and translator Xuanzang.

32 min
Prince Shotoku, Lady Murasaki, Sei Shonagon

18: Prince Shotoku, Lady Murasaki, Sei Shonagon

Shift now to Japan, which merged Chinese philosophical ideas with Japanese traditions. Professor Hardy introduces you to three early intellectuals and their works: Prince Shotoku and his 17-article constitution; Murasaki Shikibu and her psychological novel, the Tale of Genji; and Se Shonagon and her commentary on court life, the Pillow Book.

29 min
Saicho to Nichiren—Japanese Buddhism

19: Saicho to Nichiren—Japanese Buddhism

Take a closer look at the development of Buddhism in Japan. Among the early Buddhist thinkers you encounter in this lecture are Saicho, founder of Japan's foremost Buddhist temple; Honen, who established Japan's Pure Land sect; and Nichiren, whose form of Buddhism is one of the most prominent in modern Japan.

31 min
Shankara, Ramanuja, Madhva—Hindu Vedanta

20: Shankara, Ramanuja, Madhva—Hindu Vedanta

Why is the Vedanta school of Hinduism the most important and influential of the six orthodox darshanas? How did three great Indian philosophers—Shankara, Ramanuja, and Madhva—bring order to the confusing teachings of the Upanishads? How did they each conceive the critical relationship between self (Atman) and absolute reality (Brahman)?

32 min
Al-Biruni—Islam in India

21: Al-Biruni—Islam in India

One fascinating aspect of the Eastern intellectual tradition is the intricate relationship between Hinduism and Islam. After a brief overview of Islam and its arrival in India, delve into some of the vast intellectual accomplishments of Al-Biruni, whom Professor Hardy considers one of the greatest minds in world history.

31 min
Nanak and Sirhindi—Sikhism and Sufism

22: Nanak and Sirhindi—Sikhism and Sufism

Conclude your look at the connections between Hinduism and Islam with this exploration of how thinkers tried to find a balance between the two faiths. Guru Nanak founded Sikhism as a religious tradition that was neither Hindu nor Muslim. Ahmad Sirhindi, a Sufi master, worked to establish clear philosophical boundaries between Hinduism and Islam.

30 min
Han Yu to Zhu Xi—Neo-Confucianism

23: Han Yu to Zhu Xi—Neo-Confucianism

Follow the rise of a new major system of Eastern thought: Neo-Confucianism, a philosophy concerned more with ethics than with the soul. Some great early Neo-Confucians you meet include Han Yu (who revived an interest in Confucian ideas) and Zhu Xi, who answered Buddhist questions about metaphysics with Confucian insights.

30 min
Wang Yangming—The Study of Heart-Mind

24: Wang Yangming—The Study of Heart-Mind

Neo-Confucianism is a supremely practical philosophy, according to Professor Hardy. Find out why in his lecture on how intellectuals such as Zhu Xi and Wang Yangming applied the principles of Neo-Confucianism to education and knowledge—specifically through China's iconic imperial examination system, which lasted from the 7th century until 1905.

32 min
Dogen and Hakuin—Zen Buddhism

25: Dogen and Hakuin—Zen Buddhism

Zen Buddhism, which teaches that meditation under the guidance of an enlightened master is the only way to liberation, is the most famous form of Japanese Buddhism. Investigate this philosophy through two Zen masters: Dogen, of the Soto school of gradual enlightenment, and Hakuin, from the Rinzai school of sudden enlightenment.

32 min
Zeami and Sen no Rikyu—Japanese Aesthetics

26: Zeami and Sen no Rikyu—Japanese Aesthetics

Noh drama and the tea ceremony are indebted to Confucian rituals and Buddhist ideals. Learn how the great Noh playwright Zeami and the teamaster Sen no Rikyu epitomize medieval Japanese aesthetics and their emphasis on yugen (profound emotion), wabi (feelings of age and obscurity), and sabi (feelings of simplicity and tranquility).

30 min
Wonhyo to King Sejong—Korean Philosophy

27: Wonhyo to King Sejong—Korean Philosophy

Focus here on Korean philosophy and three of its greatest proponents. They are Wonhyo, who popularized Buddhism throughout the country; Chinul, who tried to bridge the divide between the doctrinal and meditation schools of Buddhism; and Sejong the Great, who invented one of the most scientific, rational scripts ever devised.

31 min
Padmasambhava to Tsongkhapa—Tibetan Ideas

28: Padmasambhava to Tsongkhapa—Tibetan Ideas

Philosophy and religion are nowhere more connected than in Tibet, whose Vajrayana school of Buddhism emphasizes secret rituals and meditative practices. Examine key minds, including the man who introduced Buddhism to Tibet (Padmasambhava), a mystic who felt Enlightenment must be experienced directly (Milarepa), and the fascinating figure of the Dalai Lama.

31 min
Science and Technology in Premodern Asia

29: Science and Technology in Premodern Asia

Discover how science and technology form a part of the Eastern intellectual tradition through the discoveries, theories, and insights of people such as Aryabhata (from India) and Shen Gua (from China). Also, ponder the question of why the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions occurred in Europe and not in Asia.

31 min
Muhammad Iqbal and Rabindranath Tagore

30: Muhammad Iqbal and Rabindranath Tagore

There were many ways that Asian thinkers confronted the technological superiority of Western civilization. See how the views of Pakistan's chief poet and philosopher Muhammad Iqbal and India's Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore held on to respective Islamic and Hindu traditions while accommodating them to the strengthening presence of the West.

30 min
Mohandas Gandhi—Satyagraha, or Soul-Force

31: Mohandas Gandhi—Satyagraha, or Soul-Force

Mohandas Gandhi is rightfully one of the most well-known Asian philosophers. What are the historical roots of some of his ideas, especially that of nonviolent resistance (satyagraha)? Why were some of his critiques of the West and modernity so controversial? What was the relationship between his ascetic lifestyle and his thought?

31 min
Fukuzawa Yukichi and Han Yongun

32: Fukuzawa Yukichi and Han Yongun

After a brief look at Japanese and Korean history between the 19th and 20th centuries, explore the intriguing perspectives of the Westernizer Fukuzawa Yukichi and the traditionalist Han Yongun. The former stressed the development of an independent-minded middle class; the latter sought answers to contemporary crises in Buddhist tenets.

32 min
Kang Youwei and Hu Shi

33: Kang Youwei and Hu Shi

Of all the nations in Asia, China had the most difficult transition to the modern era. Delve into Chinese reform through Kang Youwei, who argued for the persistence of Confucian attitudes in the face of Western individualism, and Hu Shi, whose championing of vernacular Chinese allowed intellectuals to escape the strangleholds of the past.

30 min
Sun Yat-sen and Mao Zedong

34: Sun Yat-sen and Mao Zedong

Come face to face with two pivotal figures in recent Chinese history. Sun Yat-sen is considered the father of Chinese nationalism and energized the people with his ideas. Mao Zedong, one of modern history's most infamous figures, is noted for his brutal application of the Communist ideologies of Marx and Lenin.

31 min
Modern Legacies

35: Modern Legacies

In the first of two final lectures on the modern legacies of Eastern philosophy, Professor Hardy takes a look back at vital lessons from India's and China's great minds and recaps the enduring themes on fundamental human issues that form the core of their rich intellectual traditions.

31 min
East and West

36: East and West

Continue examining themes from Chinese and Japanese philosophy. Then, conclude the course with a revealing discussion of a question you may have asked at the start of these lectures: What does this have to do with my life? The answer will open your eyes to the enduring importance of the East's great minds.

34 min