Registration at Tel. 919-684-6259

A course by Riverdave Owen
Olli at Duke University Fall Session 2020
10:30AM - Noon, with exact dates to be announced
East Campus Bishop's House

     Besides his relationship with the natural world with its epicenter in Concord, Massachusetts, Henry David Thoreau derived much inspiration from his study of India's sacred yogic texts. In this class we will focus on Thoreau's English translation of an ancient Indian narrative know as "The Transmigration of the Seven Brahmans." We will search for clues as to why Thoreau chose this particular story to translate for his readers and what role it might have played in his own personal philosophy and evolution.  Our class will also examine the experience represented by the Sanskrit word "samsara,” often translated in English as transmigration, reincarnation or rebirth.

"To some extant, and at rare intervals, even I am a yogi."  (Letters to Harrison Blake)

"Sometimes, in a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a revery, amidst the pines and hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while the birds sing around or flitted noiseless through the house, until by the sun falling in at my west window, or the noise of some traveller’s wagon on the distant highway, I was reminded of the lapse of time. I grew in those seasons like corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allowance. I realized what the Orientals mean by contemplation and the forsaking of works."  (Walden)   

Tentative Course Outline:  

Week 1 - Review Arthur Christy’s 1932 Introduction to Thoreau’s English translation of the text

Week 2 - Study first chapter in The Subtle Body by Stephanie Syman on Thoreau as America’s first yogi.
or as America’s first yogi
Week 3 - Part one - class discussion of Thoreau’s text 

Week 4 - Part two - class discussion of Thoreau’s text

Week 5 - Discussion on various aspects of karma and transmigration. Class participants will be encouraged to share their own ideas and personal experiences.