How can I be a happy person? How do I live a happy life? We all seek happiness and well-being; yet remaining happy is an elusive goal. This course approaches these questions through the teachings of the Bhagavadgītā.
In the Bhagavadgītā, Kṛṣṇa conveys a unique yogic psychology and related yogic methods designed to release emotional contractions such as suffering, anger, and anxiety. Furthermore, he unfolds a contemplative self-inquiry that reveals our deepest sense of self as innately whole and untouched by fear and suffering. Within this recognition is absolute freedom, an absolute wholeness that transcends happiness conceived as transient affective mental states of joy or well-being.
Kṛṣṇa’s teachings are not only a radical revisioning of our self-identity and our interrelated connection to the world, but a revisioning of our conceptualizations (and potential misconceptions) about happiness. This course will include close readings of key Bhagavadgītā verses as well as reflexive contemplative practices to experientially engage teachings as personal insights.
Neil Dalal is the Director of Religious Studies at the University of Alberta, where he teaches in both the Philosophy Department and Religious Studies Program. He received his PhD in Asian Cultures and Languages from the University of Texas at Austin where he specialized in Sanskrit and Indian philosophy, and an MA in East-West Psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies. Dalal's interests explore philosophy of mind, contemplative psychologies, and meditation practices found in classical South Asian Yoga systems. He grounds this research in classical Sanskrit texts and commentaries as well as their living traditions. Dalal's current research focuses on the intersections of contemplative practices, textual study, and embodiment in Advaita Vedanta. He is the co-director of Gurukulam (The Orchard/Sony Pictures), a sensory-ethnographic study of a contemporary Advaita Vedanta community, co-editor of Asian Perspectives on Animal Ethics (Routledge Press), and has published articles in venues such as the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Journal of Indian Philosophy, and Journal of Hindu Studies. Dalal is also a teacher within the traditional lineage of Śaṅkarācārya Advaita Vedānta. He spent several years living a monastic lifestyle in India while studying under the direct guidance of the renowned Advaita Vedantin, Swami Dayananda Saraswati, who gave him permission to teach in 2002.