Theology and Religious Study Year 1 - TRS1

The module will cover the following topics:
• Defining Hinduism
• The Vedas and Vedic ritualism
• Dharma-shastra, caste and gender
• The Upanishads and the renouncer traditions
• Devotional traditions
• Tantric texts and traditions
• Vaishnava traditions
• Shaiva traditions
• Shaktism and worship of the Goddess
• Modern Hindu Reformers
• Contemporary Hindu Movements.

More about this module read here.

Level: 4 (Year 1)

Credit Value: 10 (for regular BA Theology and Religious Study study)


In History of Vaisnava Thought, students focus on studying an ancient religious heritage in the light of modern scholarship. Through a serious of lively discussions, we explore the many aspects of Vaisnava thought - its literature, historical development, theology and philosophy. Many thoughtful and illuminating perspectives emerge as we examine the insight of scholars who have performed years of careful research on the Vaisnava traditions. In discussing subjects such as the nature of the divine, devotional poetry, sacred space, mystical states and spiritual practice, the abundant beauty and profundity of this venerable Indian tradition is brought to light. The aims of this course are: 1) To provide an introduction to the study of the Vaisnava tradition, especially the tradition of Vedantic discourse in response to Advaita Vedanta. To encourage students to think carefully about the theological/philosophical issues as articulated within this discourse, in relation to the concept, practice, and experience of bhakti. 2) To provide a detailed, systematic, and schematic overview of the four Vaisnava sampradayas and an understanding of the similarities and differences in their philosophies and practice. 3) To study the writings of Vaisnava Acaryas. Students who successfully complete this course will have a basic understanding of the theological ideas of prominent theologians/teachers in the Vaishnava tradition. They will also be able to evaluate the merits and shortcomings of both hagiography and critical scholarship in the study of Vaishnavism and be able to participate in varied forms of theological argumentation.

The module provides various definitions of Ethics and an introduction to the major categories of ethical laws. It introduces a broad overview of the progressive development of ethical theories, from ancient times through modern theories, including reference to traditional Indian moral systems and laws.

It presents a Moral Reasoning Strategy (prerequisites for approaching a moral issue, statement of the issue, moral analysis, proposals for resolution, reflective assessment of the selected resolution).

The module explores the following ethical theories:

  • The Divine Command Theory;
  • Aristotle’s theory of Virtue;
  • Aquinas’ Natural Law Theory;
  • Deontology – Kant’s Categorical Imperative;
  • Theories of Justice – Rawls’ “Justice as Fairness”;
  • Classical Utilitarianism, Bentham’s Utilitarianism, and Mill’s rule of Utilitarianism.

It compares the merits of the various theories, discussing their limitations, studying the social-historical context surrounding the development of each theory in an effort to evaluate the theory’s application as timeless or time-bound. It discusses Applied Ethics: a consideration of ethical theory as applied to contemporary ethical issues.


  • EmpiricistsTo provide students with brief and clear overview of the historical development and core issues in Western philosophy.
  • To provide understanding of some answers Western philosophers have given to the most essential questions of life using logical argumentation.
  • To develop the ability to grasp the essence of a philosophical argument and evaluate it in a coherent spoken and written form according to various main philosophical standpoints/traditions.
  • To provide a practical understanding of the function and content of philosophical argumentation in the Western philosophical tradition.

More about this module read here.

Level: 4 (Year 1)

Credit Value: 20 (for regular BA Study)

This module introduces students to the literary and theological contribution of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada focusing particularly on critically exploring his presentation of the Bhagavad Gita within the context of Vedic texts and in dialogue with modern cultural contexts. It also considers key methodological issues of textual interpretation. The module may also include Caitanya Vaishnava theological themes and issues such as the five themes of the Bhagavad Gita according to Baladeva Vidyabhusana and Prabhupada, the soul and transmigration, symptoms of a self-realized person, devotional theism vs. impersonalism (monism), renunciation of work vs. work in devotion, the yoga processes, mind and sense control, cultivation of knowledge, levels of God realization, worship of God vs. worship of other deities, bhakti and ananya-bhakti, levels of devotion, varnasrama-dharma, and the three gunas.

  • Introduction to issues of traditional and modern scholarly interpretation of a Hindu text and presenting a broad overview of the position of the Bhagavad Gita in the Hindu tradition up to Charles Wilkin’s English translation in 1785.
  • The Bhagavad Gita and the Bible: A consideration of some Christian responses to, and interpretation of, the Bhagavad Gita in 19th and early 20th century.
  • The Universal Gita: A consideration of Neo Vedantic representations of the Bhagavad gita in India and the West, with particular reference to the contributions of Swami Vivekananda, Swami Prabhavananda, and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan.
  • The Gospel of Action: In this session we will explore the influence of Hindu nationalism on representations of the Bhagavad Gita with particular reference to Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Aurobindo Ghosh.
  • Gandhi’s Gita: In this session we examine Gandhi’s allegorical interpretation of the Gita, the doctrine of ahimsa and his influence on Western and Hindu views of the Gita.
  • The Counter Culture and the Bhagavad Gita: This session explores representations of the Gita in the West in the 1960’s and early 70’s with particular reference to Swami Bhaktivedanta and the emergence of ISKCON.

More about this module read here.


  •  The complexities of understanding, comparing and representing religious traditions; problematizing the notion of ‘world religions’; interpretive approaches.
  • Christianity and Hinduism: their core beliefs and practices within (various) historical frameworks and with reference to related traditions (Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Sikhism).
  • Broad differences between eastern and western thought; various metaphorical and linguistic frameworks.
  • Key concepts: the ultimate reality, canonical texts - hermeneutics and schisms, human condition and destiny, models and dilemmas of institutionalization, sacred action and morality.
  • Responses to the challenges of modernity – traditions, transformations and issues of interpretation, negotiation and representation.

Concentration on the main themes and debates within each approach in the study of religion:

1. The main discussions within the field of Anthropology of Religion (i.e. unilinear evolution) with reference to the theories developed by Tyler and Evans-Pritchard

2. The main discussions within the field of Sociology of Religion (i.e. religion as a function of society) with reference to the theories developed by Marx and Weber.

3. The main discussions within the field of Psychology of Religion (i.e. religion and the individual) with reference to the theories developed by Freud & James.

4. The influential contribution of M. Eliade within the field of Phenomenology.

5. Orientalism.

online trs

Orientation Module: Introduction to Online Study is an open module offering an overview of the Bhaktivedanta College study methodology. It is designed to introduce students to the Bhaktivedanta College Online Campus (BCOC) environment.

Future students are invited to carefully explore the Orientation Module before proceeding with any of our online programs. This module is designed to inform prospective students about our BA in Theology and Religious Studies (TRS), but all others are welcome to explore our virtual environment and in that way get to know what to expect during your studies. In the Orientation Module, you will also find plenty of material on study skills, essay writing, online research resources, general information about the TRS program, and audio PowerPoint lessons on academic writing (including referencing) and critical thinking.