"Throughout history, religious expression has been an essential human activity, deeply influencing the development of cultures and civilizations. Today, even after centuries of scientific empiricism, the world's major religions are as active as ever, continuing to speak profoundly to their believers' self-conception and ways of living. With few exceptions, humanity's religions are grounded in their sacred texts-foundational writings that crystallize the principles and vision of the faiths, forming the basis of belief and action. The worldwide library of sacred texts is a vast and extraordinary canon that includes a large number of the most impactful books ever written. Beyond the Hebrew and Christian scriptures and Islam's Qur'an, jewels of the world's sacred writings include the Hindu Vedas, the Buddhist Sutras, Daoism's Daodejing, and the Analects of Confucius, as well as the revered texts of traditions such as Zoroastrianism and Jainism, and modern faiths such as Baha'i. These are texts that people around the world live by and, at times, are willing to die for. Remarkable in their centrality and enduring appeal, sacred writings offer a uniquely revealing window into global thought, culture, and history. A familiarity with the diverse body of world scriptures offers you a penetrating look at how people from different traditions have viewed the cosmos, the world, and human beings; a grasp of the core values and beliefs of the world's highly influential faiths; a deep sense of the worldview, cultural themes, perceptions, and concerns driving the societies that produced the texts; direct knowledge and understanding of a towering body of world literature, reflecting richly varied traditions; and the words and insights of some of the wisest human beings in history on the self, the mind, ethics, morality, and meaningful living. At their core, sacred writings take you to the essence of the world's faiths as they give meaning and inspiration to countless millions of people around the globe. In doing so, the texts provide a significant bridge to understanding other peoples and ways of life, and an opportunity to look at our own traditions and assumptions with fresh eyes and a greatly enlarged perspective. Now, in Sacred Texts of the World, Professor Grant Hardy of the University of North Carolina at Asheville takes you deeply into the world canon of sacred writings that have played an integral role in human culture and history. Covering a wide spectrum of texts, the course examines the scriptures of seven major religious traditions, as well as nine lesser-known or smaller faiths, including sacred writings from the ancient Egyptian and Mayan civilizations. These 36 lectures provide rich insights into world cultures and the meaning of religious faith. A Global Richness of Sacred Traditions Within each faith studied, the lectures provide an overview of the full range of sacred writings, focusing on the texts that are the most significant and relevant for comprehending the tradition. In addition to extensive study of the scriptures of the Judeo-Christian and Islamic worlds, you'll discover religious texts from vastly differing cultures, including these iconic writings: The Hindu Upanishads:Within a broad look at the huge Hindu canon, study the spiritual arguments and dialogues of the Brihadaranyaka and Chandogya Upanishads, core wisdom texts elaborating the underlying unity of brahman (ultimate reality) and atman (the self or soul). The Adi Granth of Sikhism: Unpack this most unusual text, the beloved heart of the Sikh religion; study its precepts expressed in hymns, poetry, and prayers; and learn how devotees treat the book as a living guru. The Buddhist Mahayana Sutras: Among six lectures on seminal Buddhist texts, taste the Mahayana tradition's Lotus, Diamond, and Heart sutras, and their compelling expressions of emptiness, non-duality, and "no-self." The Zoroastrian Avesta: Grapple with the challenging theology of this ancient Persian religion, embodied in the Avesta's hymns, religious codes, and spiritual debates between the priest Zoroaster and the creator god, Ahura Mazda. The Classicsof Confucianism: Delve into the Confucian notions of self-cultivation, right action, and harmony with the cosmos; contemplate texts including the Analects,the Mencius, and the renowned Yijing; and trace their profound influence on Chinese culture. The Mayan Popol Vuh: Uncover this remarkable text of the ancient Mayan culture, comprising creation stories, religious ritual, and sacred mythological narratives. Scriptural Treasures of the Abrahamic Faiths Among the major world religions, you'll devote a full third of the lectures to the emblematic texts of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Here, the inquiry covers not only these faiths' most central writings, but other key texts that illuminate the monotheistic traditions. In Judaism, you'll study the roots of the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible) and the great texts of its constituent parts-the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings-discovering how the ancient Jews, scattered geographically, were bound together by their scriptures. Within Christianity, you'll trace the complex origins of the New Testament and dig deeply into the Gospels, Acts, and Letters. You'll also study the formation and contents of Islam's Qur'an, sampling excerpts of its majestic poetry and diverse suras (chapters). Building on your knowledge of the core scriptures of these faiths, you'll investigate these important related texts: The Jewish Mishnah and Talmud: Grasp the role and significance of the Mishnah, an elemental text teaching critical thinking, and of the Talmud, a vast literary commentary on Jewish life. The Christian Apocryphal Gospels: Discover four noncanonical versions of the life of Jesus, containing revealing and often provocative stories and teachings. The Hadith of Islam: Contemplate this revered body of texts narrating the actions and sayings of Muhammad as they speak critically to Muslim life and culture. Expanding the inquiry beyond the most long-standing faiths, Professor Hardy invites your consideration of the sacred writings of more recent religions. Among these, you'll encounter the Japanese Tenrikyo and its distinctive scriptures of poems, songs, and revelations. You'll also study the monumentalBook of Mormon and Mormonism's other core texts, and read foundational Baha'i writings on the oneness of God and the unity of religions. An Inquiry of Extraordinary Scope and Dimension As an integral element of this course, Professor Hardy offers thought-provoking perspectives on the meanings of the texts and their cultural roles, and how studying them can bring sharp focus to our own assumptions. In comparing writings of different religious cultures, you learn these distinctions: While Western monotheists have placed great emphasis on printing and translating their scriptures, traditions such as Hinduism and Zoroastrianism have held that holy words must be spoken aloud to be actualized, viewing writing and translation as diminishing what is most sacred. The Western distinction between "religion" and "philosophy" doesn't apply in some major traditions. Daoism, for example, addresses both political problems-matters of government and leadership-and a path to inward spirituality and transcendence. In taking you to the heart of the texts, Professor Hardy suggests persuasively that many of the values of China and Japan don't make sense until you've thought carefully about the Confucian Analects and the Daodejing, just as reading the Qur'an critically illuminates what is going on in the Middle East and much of Africa. Throughout, Professor Hardy illustrates the lectures with striking images depicting religious history and the texts themselves, bringing the story of the writings alive in visual terms. His teaching reflects a remarkably wide-ranging knowledge of the texts and the societies that produced them, and he enriches the inquiry with fascinating and often surprising details of religious culture: The Qur'an is not a book but the spoken words of the text; there is a different word (Mus'haf) for the Qur'an as a physical object. For most of its history, India's social stability came from the principles advocated in the Hindu Laws of Manu, rather than from external law codes. Christian fundamentalism is a relatively new phenomenon; in past centuries, Christians read their scriptures from multiple perspectives. The earliest collection of women's literature, from the 5th century B.C.E., is the Buddhist Therigatha. Until 623 C.E., Muslims prayed facing Jerusalem. In Sacred Texts of the World, you'll delve deeply into the sacred writings that have shaped the identities, mental worlds, and actions of large segments of humanity-texts that remain a formidable influence in today's world. These richly informative lectures reveal a global legacy of faith, thought, and spirituality."