Gita study to be mandatory at Seton Hall University

via published on December 7, 2008

The study of the Bhagvad Gita has
become mandatory for every student joining Seton Hall University in New
Jersey from this year. Seton Hall is an independent, Catholic
university under the Archdiocese of Newark founded in 1856.

is unique,” said A D Amar, professor, Stillman School of Business, the
driving force behind the decision. “Nowhere there is a university-wide
core program. The colleges decide on the core courses and generally
oppose the university imposing core courses. But Seton hall decided
that all its students should learn the core courses.”

of Seton Hall’s more than 10,800 students are non-Christian. Many
non-Catholics also study there. It has a significant number of Indian
students. The core course is for all students, whatever the discipline.

“Seton Hall wanted to establish its
identity by differentiation from other universities, and decided to
develop its own brand of university-wide core curriculum,” Amar said.

its ‘signature’ education, in 2001, the university formed a Core
Curriculum Committee under the Faculty Senate’s authority. In 2006,
Amar became a member of the Committee when they were drafting the
content of the core courses.

university wanted a transformational course that will influence the
character and life of its students. So it wanted a course that seek
answers to perennial questions like the purpose of life, why are we
here, where are we going, etc, as part of the course.

‘The Journey of Transformation,’ the course is taken during the
freshman year and ‘seeks to forge a community of conversation inspired
to explore perennial questions central but not exclusive to the
Catholic intellectual tradition.’

Amar told the Committee that the Bible teaches only one way and that students should learn from older philosophies too. He suggested the inclusion of the Vedas and the Gita.

“The faculty consists of Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, in addition to Christians. Suggestions came to include the Koran also,” Amar said. “Finally, studying the Biblethe Gospels, specifically — the Bhagvad Gita, and Dante’s The Divine Comedy were made part of the core course. The Committee found the Vedas
too difficult to understand. I was surprised at the openness of these
people, and the greatness of the Catholic community was evident,” he

In addition to these three
subjects, individual instructors may add other material. Freshmen study
it in the first semester, and it is a three-credit course.

The translation of the Bhagvad Gita
by Stephen Mitchell is the text. The faculty teaches it with additional
training. None of the teachers is Hindu. As a business professor, Amar
is not teaching it but helps others to learn it.

pilot course was started last year and students love it, he said. The
second interdisciplinary signature course, ‘Christianity and Culture in
Dialogue’, is more social science-oriented, drawing on readings from
Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche in addition to the writings of the
Second Vatican Council.

The third and
final signature course, taken in a student’s junior year, is intended
to expand on the themes of the first two courses, but in a
discipline-specific setting.

arrived in the United States as a foreign student from India in 1972.
He taught at Montclair State University for some time. He has been a
professor at Seton Hall since 1983. He has published over 70 works in
journals and periodicals and also published books. He also serves as
the faculty advisor for the Seton Hall Indian Students Association. He
also contested in the Republican primary from the 7th Congressional

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