This year, the Asian Studies Program is celebrating its fifteenth year anniversary. Hence, the Program is organizing several events on campus which are both continual and unique to the celebration. One of these events took place on Wednesday February 5th in Room 101 of the Science Building. Right from the beginning, the room was filled by an audience of students and faculty. The occasion was February’s Asian Studies Colloquium which focused on Buddhism and Hip-hop as presented by Dr. Chris Haskett of Centre College.
Dr. Haskett is an assistant professor of Religion at Centre College. He is a graduate of Marywood College, Columbia University, and the University of Wisconsin at Madison where he earned a B. A. in English, an M.A. in Religion and a Ph.D. in Languages and Cultures of Asia respectively. Academically, he specializes in the history of Buddhism in Tibet and India. Moreover, he also studies Jainism and Hinduism in addition to Tibetan, Sanskrit, and other South Asian languages.
Wednesday’s Colloquium was introduced by Dr. Jeff Richey, Chair of Asian Studies Program, followed by the presentation, which compared the central themes of Buddhism’s Mahayana Sutras and America’s rap music. Dr. Haskett began his presentation by a background history and description of Buddhism and its Mahayana and Non-Mahayana sects as well as the general nature of Buddhist literature. He then continued to explain typical sections of a Mahayana Sutra (a scripture which expresses the main principles of Mahayana Buddhism) in relation to concepts of self-acclaim which he likened to the concepts of rap music. Dr. Haskett further discussed this resemblance by bringing up typical representatives of the different generations of rap music beginning from the 1980s. Along with these pieces of music, Dr. Haskett showed snippets of lyrical texts which demonstrate self-made power and greatness of the artist which he again compared with the Mahayana Sutras. In general Dr. Haskett’s thesis proved that despite stereotypes about Buddhism as a religion of self-denial and humility, the self-acclaiming qualities of contemporary rap lyrics actually bear a strong resemblance to the self-promotional themes of many Mahayana Buddhist texts.
The Asian Studies Program of Berea College was started in 1999 in order to celebrate Berea College’s historical connection with Asia. Currently, the program has four core faculty and several associated faculty who teach Asian-focused courses across the disciplines.