Indian philosophy diversifies course offerings with focus on Yoga

Cambrea Schrank 

Chall2@uccs.edu 

     The number of people in the U.S. who practice Yoga is ever-increasing, with it being a popular means to de-stress and improve fitness and health among busy college students. But how many people who practice Yoga actually understand the history and foundational existence of the ancient and spiritual discipline? 

     The UCCS Philosophy Department will offer PHIL 3480: Indian philosophy in Spring 2022. Since Indian philosophy is such a vast topic, visiting philosophy instructor Patrick D’Silva’s version of the course will focus on Yoga. 

     D’Silva has taught courses including intro to philosophy, world religions, Islamic philosophy and modern Islamic philosophy at UCCS since August 2018. He received his doctoral degree in religious studies at UNC-Chapel Hill. 

     “For me, my dissertation was on basically the exchange of esoteric breathing techniques between the Sufis and Yogis in South Asia and Persia during the early modern period. That meant looking at Indian philosophy and Indian religions with a bit broader lens than a lot of people do it,” D’Silva said.  

     He continued, “When I look at India, which is where my father is from, I also see this incredibly diverse nation. … In this course, when we talk about Indian philosophy, there is going to be material and we are going to talk about people that are not alive any longer but if they were today, they would live in Pakistan or Bangladesh or Sri Lanka. It’s India in the greater sense.”  

     According to D’Silva, when he proposed teaching this course to the philosophy department, he was met with enthusiasm. “We just don’t have a lot of coverage on campus of Asia in general. As everyone knows, Asia is a very large region and it’s incredibly diverse.”  

     UCCS has offered courses such as introduction to philosophies of Asia, philosophies of China and Buddhist philosophy. D’Silva believes the campus community would benefit from more diverse course offerings that look at different parts of the world.  

     He said, “I don’t know of anyone on campus, who works on the more intellectual history, who really works with this part of the world. I think increasing the diversity of our course offerings is a big part of the service we can provide to our students.  

     “What I’ve seen in different institutions is a great appetite, a great interest, for studying the peoples and cultures of different parts of the world, and so I am anticipating a good deal of interest in this course.” 

     D’Silva looks at this course as one to build momentum for even more diverse course offerings on campus.  

     D’Silva chose to focus on Yoga for his course to tie all the complexities and intricacies of Indian philosophy together in a way that is approachable to students.  

     “When you look at Indian philosophy more generally, there’s a lot. One of my concerns is, I want to teach a course where yeah, we dig deep on the material, but I also package it in an accessible way. One of the things about Yoga is that, and even in my own adulthood, Yoga has become so much more commonplace here in the U.S.,” D’Silva said.  

     D’Silva will lead students on this exploration of Indian philosophy, starting with a study on Yoga’s classical roots in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism before turning to Yoga’s transmission from South Asia to the West, and in particular, to the U.S. 

     “In the U.S., we invest so much money into Yoga that we are influencing the way that it is practiced and taught globally. What I want to get to is what I call this tension between authenticity and appropriation. That’s a major theme for me in the course,” he said. 

     “Part of this is going to be empowering students to conduct their own research in a collaborative research project. … Our course final project will be to work together to develop a database that will then be publicly available to provide a little bit more context on different forms of modern Yogi,” D’Silva said. 

     D’Silva also plans to have two Yoga teachers from the local area lead class through a postural asana practice that is based in their respective lineages.  

     Since starting at UCCS, D’Silva has only taught remote classes. “I have yet to teach a course on campus, so this Indian philosophy course will be my first time teaching on campus, which is exciting,” D’Silva said.  

     In addition to meeting the global awareness requirement for LAS, this course can also count toward the philosophy major, the religious studies minor and the Asian studies minor. 

     PHIL 3480 will meet every Thursday from 10:50 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in Columbine 124. 

Ganesha is one of the deities in Hinduism. Stock photo courtesy of Unsplash.com