Skip directly to content

Downloadable lectures

Asceticism for All: the Yoga of the Householder

Majewski Lecture
Dr James Mallinson
2 Dec 2015

The earliest systematic treatments of yoga in Sanskrit texts are written by ascetics for ascetics. Over the course of the first millennium CE, however, textual prescriptions for yoga that may be practised by non-ascetics appear and proliferate. This lecture will explore how yoga practices that were developed in ascetic milieux were translated for non-ascetic audiences, a process that continues to this day.

Dr James Mallinson is Lecturer in Sanskrit and Classical and Indian Studies at SOAS, University of London. He took his BA in Sanskrit and Old Iranian at the University of Oxford, followed by an MA in Area Studies (South Asia), with Ethnography as his main subject, at SOAS. His doctoral thesis, submitted to the University of Oxford, was a critical edition and annotated translation of the Khecarīvidyā, an early text of haṭhayoga. Dr Mallinson has published eight books, all of which are editions and translations of Sanskrit yoga texts, epic tales and poetry. His recent work has used philological study of Sanskrit texts, ethnography and art history to explore the history of yoga and yogis. He is currently working on a monograph entitled Yoga and Yogis: the Texts, Techniques and Practitioners of Early Haṭhayoga.

Raimon Panikkar and Hindu-Christian theology

Shivdasani Seminar
Prof. Joseph Prabhu
23 Nov 2015

This seminar will investigate Panikkar’s contributions to Hindu-Christian dialogue, and the theoretical implications of his statement that he was “fully Hindu and fully Christian.”

Joseph Prabhu is Professor of Philosophy and Religion at California State University, Los Angeles and occasional Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago. He is active as both a scholar and a peace activist. He has edited The Intercultural Challenge of Raimon Panikkar (Orbis Books, 1996) and co-edited the two-volume Indian Ethics: Classical Traditions and Contemporary Challenges (Ashgate Publishing Co, 2007;  Springer and Oxford University Press, India, 2016).He has authored Raimon Panikkar as a Modern Spiritual Master (Orbis Books, 2015). He has been a Senior Fellow of the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard University and of the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago. He has also been co-editor of ReVision from 1995-2003, and a contributing editor of Zygon. He is the past President of the international Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy, 2008-2010, and the Program Chair for the Melbourne Parliament of the World’s Religions, 2009. He served on the Board of Trustees and the Executive Committee of the Council of a Parliament of the World’s Religions from 2005-2011. He has lectured and taught at more than seventy universities either as visiting professor or as guest lecturer in Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe and the United States.

Indian Theories of Life

Religion and the Philosophy of Life Series
Prof. Gavin Flood
19 Nov 2015

How do we account for the persistence of religion in human life? To answer this question these lectures will examine the idea of religion in relation to philosophies of life. In particular it will examine the thesis that life itself comes to expression through religions. This entails an empirical claim that the origins of religion can be explained in terms of the evolution of human interactivity, what we call social cognition; a historical claim that philosophies of life have operated within religions in terms of what we might call a transcendent teleology that have continued into secular modernity; and a philosophical claim we can account for the persistence of religion in terms of a realist ontology of life. The three lectures roughly correspond to these interrelated claims.

Taking the theme of the first lecture that life itself comes to expression through religion, the second lecture will illustrate these themes through examining how ‘scholastic’ reflection in India has dealt with the category ‘life’ with particular reference to the realist non-dualism in Abhinavagupta and Kṣemarāja.

Hegel and Hinduism: How not to do Cross-Cultural Hermeneutics

Shivdasani Seminar
Prof. Joseph Prabhu
16 Nov 2015

This seminar will examine Hegel’s interpretation of Hindu philosophy and religion, place it in its hermeneutical context, and critique it.

Joseph Prabhu is Professor of Philosophy and Religion at California State University, Los Angeles and occasional Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago. He is active as both a scholar and a peace activist. He has edited The Intercultural Challenge of Raimon Panikkar (Orbis Books, 1996) and co-edited the two-volume Indian Ethics: Classical Traditions and Contemporary Challenges (Ashgate Publishing Co, 2007;  Springer and Oxford University Press, India, 2016).He has authored Raimon Panikkar as a Modern Spiritual Master (Orbis Books, 2015). He has been a Senior Fellow of the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard University and of the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago. He has also been co-editor of ReVision from 1995-2003, and a contributing editor of Zygon. He is the past President of the international Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy, 2008-2010, and the Program Chair for the Melbourne Parliament of the World’s Religions, 2009. He served on the Board of Trustees and the Executive Committee of the Council of a Parliament of the World’s Religions from 2005-2011. He has lectured and taught at more than seventy universities either as visiting professor or as guest lecturer in Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe and the United States.

The Mammoth, Multi-faith Kumbh Mela: A Place of Practical Plurality amid Colossal Chaos

Kalpesh Bhatt
9 Nov 2015

This lecture is based on the 2013 Maha-Kumbh Mela held in Allahabad, in which Kalpesh Bhatt conducted field research as a part of the Harvard Kumbh Workshop. Recognized as the largest religious gathering in the world, the Kumbh Mela is a mammoth, multi-faith event that hosts around 100 million pilgrims from diverse and at times antithetical Hindu traditions ranging from polytheistic to monotheistic to atheistic. Even a few Buddhist, Sikh, Jain, and other South Asian traditions also participate in the Kumbh, making it an intricately convoluted convergence of manifold beliefs, practices, and rituals. The enthusiasm of and differences among the millions of laypersons and ascetics who flock to the Kumbh occasionally culminate into a fierce commotion arising from mundane issues such as space allocation, crowd control, unchecked competition, and crass commercialization.

Despite embodying such a colossal chaos, the Kumbh Mela provides an example of practical pluralism by effecting a mostly harmonious confluence of diverse belief systems and practices. Drawing from textual sources as well as his ethnographic fieldwork in the 2013 Kumbh Mela, Allahabad, India, Bhatt examines how does the spirit of sacrifice embedded in the spatial and spiritual vastness of the Kumbh engender the active seeking of understanding across lines of differences without leaving one’s identities and commitments behind? Although grounded in disparate theological, philosophical, and sociocultural foundations, millions of lay people, religious leaders, wandering sadhus, and solitary ascetics coexist and coalesce, albeit temporarily, in this month-long event. How we can extrapolate this ecumenical model of the Kumbh Mela to embrace pluralism pragmatically in a larger context.

Kalpesh Bhatt joined the collaborative doctoral program at Department for the Study of Religion, Centre for South Asian Studies, and Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies at the University of Toronto, after completing Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School. Prior to that, fusing his interests in science, religion, and art, Kalpesh led a number of creative projects, including the production of an IMAX film, Mystic India, and a high-tech water spectacular, Sat-Chit-Anand, based on the Upaniṣadic story of Naciketā. Kalpesh’s doctoral project is to do modern Hindu theology from pre-modern Hindu texts such as the Bhagavad Gītā and study its role in Indian diaspora’s grappling with everyday personal and socioeconomic struggles.

 

Truth in Theology

29 Oct 2015

Dr. Ankur Barua (Cambridge)
Professor Keith Ward (Oxford)
Dr. Jessica Frazier (Oxford and Kent)

The question of ‘truth’ in Theology has long been contested. What do we mean by truth in a theological context? How do we assess competing truth claims from theologies of different religions? Can we assess such claims and does the question even make sense? This seminar intends to explore the question of theological truth in relation to Hinduism specifically but drawing on ways that Christianity has dealt with the issue. 

What is Still Living in the Life and Work of Gandhi?

Shivdasani Lecture
Prof. Joseph Prabhu
19 Oct 2015

This lecture aims at a rigorous assessment of Gandhi’s ongoing relevance to a comprehensive culture of peace, which includes, among other matters, peace and human rights, interfaith harmony, and ecosophy.

Joseph Prabhu is Professor of Philosophy and Religion at California State University, Los Angeles and occasional Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago. He is active as both a scholar and a peace activist. He has edited The Intercultural Challenge of Raimon Panikkar (Orbis Books, 1996) and co-edited the two-volume Indian Ethics: Classical Traditions and Contemporary Challenges (Ashgate Publishing Co, 2007;  Springer and Oxford University Press, India, 2016).He has authored Raimon Panikkar as a Modern Spiritual Master (Orbis Books, 2015). He has been a Senior Fellow of the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard University and of the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago. He has also been co-editor of ReVision from 1995-2003, and a contributing editor of Zygon. He is the past President of the international Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy, 2008-2010, and the Program Chair for the Melbourne Parliament of the World’s Religions, 2009. He served on the Board of Trustees and the Executive Committee of the Council of a Parliament of the World’s Religions from 2005-2011. He has lectured and taught at more than seventy universities either as visiting professor or as guest lecturer in Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe and the United States.

Is it ‘Intolerant’ to ‘Convert’ Other People? Revisiting a vexed debate in Hindu–Christian dialogue

Majewski Lecture
Dr. Ankur Barua
21 May 2015

A recurring theme in Hindu and Christian conversations over the last hundred years or so is the ‘intolerance’ of the very attempt to produce conviction in other people to move across religious boundaries. I argue that an examination of these conversations reveals that crucial terms such as ‘tolerance’, ‘conversion’, and others are often not carefully defined, so that these encounters have become a dialogue of the deaf. However, when these terms are located in the distinctive Hindu and Christian theological universes, it becomes clear that the necessity or the impossibility of conversions is related to deep metaphysical disputes over what, in fact, is the true Religion. Therefore, from a philosophical perspective, the real debate lies not only over the political structures of ‘toleration’ but also over the epistemic reach of reason to settle the most famous (and lamentably blood-splattered) question in the entire religious history of humanity: what is, in truth, the nature of the divine?

Dr Ankur Barua is Lecturer in Hindu Studies, Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge. He was raised by a Roman Catholic aunt and Vaishnavite Hindu parents, and the question of ‘conversion’ across Hindu-Christian theological boundaries has remained a matter of deep existential concern, and, of course, a central focus of much of his published work. His articles have appeared in the International Journal of Hindu Studies, Journal of Hindu-Christian Studies, Journal of Hindu Studies, The Heythrop Journal, The Journal of Ecumenical Studies, and Sophia. 

Hindu Theology for a King: Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa’s Tattvadīpikā: Session One

Dr. Kiyokazu Okita
29 Apr 2015

The Tattvadīpikā (An Illumination of Reality) is an unpublished Vedāntic work written by Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa (ca 1700-1793), a prominent Bengali Vaiṣṇava author in the early modern period. The manuscript is held in the library of the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum in Jaipur (Manuscript #5693 in Gopal Bahura's Literary Heritage of Rulers of Amber and Jaipur). The work is not widely circulated among Bengali Vaiṣṇavas, and its existence was practically unknown till the catalogue of the library was published in 1976. This suggests that the work was probably written exclusively for Jaisingh II (1688-1743), a famous Rajput king of Jaipur Baladeva worked for, who was known for his keen interest in Hindu Theology.

The text is primarily concerned with a refutation of other schools of thought such as Buddhism, Nyāya, Vaiśeṣika, Sāṅkhya, and Advaita Vedānta, providing us with an excellent insight into the intellectual climate in early modern North India. This reading class aims to introduce students with an intermediate knowledge of Sanskrit to the style of theological debate in Sanskrit writings as well as to the methodology of editing a text based on a manuscript.

Dr. Kiyokazu Okita is Assistant Professor at The Hakubi Center for Advanced Research, Kyoto University, Department of Indology, Faculty of Letters, Kyoto University.

Understandings of Bhakti and Tantra in Balinese Hinduism

IK Foundation Lecture
Prof. June McDaniel
30 Mar 2015

Balinese Hinduism is a tradition that emphasizes dharma rather than bhakti. Still, esoteric bhakti can be found in Bali, especially in the experiences of the pedandasor brahmin high priests. They are primarily Saivite, though there are a few Buddha-Siva priests remaining. Bhakti is combined with the daily ritual identification with Siva/Surya, the surya-sevana ritual, involving tantric mantras, mudras, pranayama, nyasa, and bhutasuddhi. The priests transform ordinary water into the holy water which is needed for virtually all other Hindu rituals in Bali, and in doing so they not only ritually identify with the god, they also develop a devotional relationship to him. The surya-sevana ritual includes both bhakti and tantra. This paper will describe the roles of bhakti and tantra from field interviews with practitioners, primarily Balinese pedandas.

This paper will argue that the concept of bhakti is known in Balinese Hinduism, but it is not primarily associated with emotion. It is associated withsannyasa, with dharma, with jnana, karma, and with yajna. It is almost anythingexcept emotion. The concept of tantra is also known, and found primarily in four areas. There is priestly tantra, in which the pedanda identifies himself with the gods and with the universe, and ritually merges his identity with the god Siva. There is magical tantra, both black and white, in which mantras, mudras, yantras and amulets are used to supernaturally influence the world. There is architectural tantra, in which the layout of temples, and indeed the island of Bali itself, is an expression of the mandalas of deities. And there is bodily tantra, in which the Kanda Empat are both deities and biological entities which develop along with the human souls, spiritually evolving from physiological organs to divine beings.

Ātmanepada as saṃvidhāna in Bhartṛhari’s Linguistic Ontology

Shivdasani Seminar
Prof. Dilip Loundo
5 Mar 2015

Bhartṛhari’s Vākyapadīya contributes to the clarification of Pāṇini’s seminal definition of ātmanepada (“the results of the acts are intended for the agent”) by postulating saṃvidhāna (lit., ‘making provisions/arrangements’ or ‘bringing things together’) as its major semantic component. Both in worldly and Vedic matters (dharma & mokṣa), ātmanepada seems to develop, through the suggestive power of saṃvidhāna, a capacity to convey purportful unity of action and the agent’s dynamics of ego-decentration.  

Prof. Dilip Loundo is Coordinator of the Centre for the Study of Religions and Philosophies of India (NERFI). NERFI is an integral part of the Postgraduate Program of Religious Studies (PPCIR) of the Federal University of Juiz de Fora (UFJF), Minas Gerais, Brazil. Prof. Loundo is a Ph.D. in Indian Philosophy from Mumbai University, an M.A. and M.Phil. in Philosophy from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Sanskrit from Mumbai University. His recent publications include: Comments on Nāgārjuna’s Two Truth Doctrine (São Paulo, 2014); Buddhavacana e Śabda Pramāṇa in Mahāyāna Buddhism and Advaita Vedānta (Campinas, 2014); Ritual in Vedic Tradition: Openness, Plurality and Teleology (João Pessoa, 2012); What´s Philosophy After All? The Intertwined Destinies of Greek Philosophy and Indian Upaniṣadic Thinking (Barcelona, 2011); The Seashore of Endless Worlds: Rabindranath Tagore’s Encounters with Latin America (Belo Horizonte, 2011); The Apophatic Mystagogy of the Upaniṣads in Satchidanandendra Saraswati’s Advaita Vedānta (Juiz de Fora, 2011); Poetry and Soteriology in India: The Devotional Lyricism of Jayadeva’s Gītā-Govinda (Campinas: 2011); Bhartṛhari’s Nondual Linguistic Ontology and the Semantics of ātmanepada (Bangalore, 2010); An Anthology of Hindi Poetry (Rio de Janeiro, 2010); Tropical Dialogues: Brazil and India (Rio de Janeiro:2009). He is presently engaged in preparing the first direct translation into Portuguese of the main Sanskrit Upaniṣads.

The ‘Two Truths’ and the Nature of upāya in Nāgārjuna

Shivdasani Seminar
Prof. Dilip Loundo
19 Feb 2015

In the Mūlamādhyamaka-Kārikā, Nāgārjuna sustains that the Buddha’s teachings combine, in a unique manner, saṃvṛti-satya (‘conventional truth’) e paramārtha-satya (‘supreme truth’). This peculiar combination of the ‘two truths’, involving a re-orientation of the original meaning of saṃvṛti-satya meant to suit the requirements of the meta-conceptual level of paramārtha-satya,  is, precisely, what constitutes an upāya (‘skilfull means’), the fundamental rational tool of (mahāyāna) Buddhist soteriology. 

Prof. Dilip Loundo is Coordinator of the Centre for the Study of Religions and Philosophies of India (NERFI). NERFI is an integral part of the Postgraduate Program of Religious Studies (PPCIR) of the Federal University of Juiz de Fora (UFJF), Minas Gerais, Brazil. Prof. Loundo is a Ph.D. in Indian Philosophy from Mumbai University, an M.A. and M.Phil. in Philosophy from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Sanskrit from Mumbai University. His recent publications include: Comments on Nāgārjuna’s Two Truth Doctrine (São Paulo, 2014); Buddhavacana e Śabda Pramāṇa in Mahāyāna Buddhism and Advaita Vedānta (Campinas, 2014); Ritual in Vedic Tradition: Openness, Plurality and Teleology (João Pessoa, 2012); What´s Philosophy After All? The Intertwined Destinies of Greek Philosophy and Indian Upaniṣadic Thinking (Barcelona, 2011); The Seashore of Endless Worlds: Rabindranath Tagore’s Encounters with Latin America (Belo Horizonte, 2011); The Apophatic Mystagogy of the Upaniṣads in Satchidanandendra Saraswati’s Advaita Vedānta (Juiz de Fora, 2011); Poetry and Soteriology in India: The Devotional Lyricism of Jayadeva’s Gītā-Govinda (Campinas: 2011); Bhartṛhari’s Nondual Linguistic Ontology and the Semantics of ātmanepada (Bangalore, 2010); An Anthology of Hindi Poetry (Rio de Janeiro, 2010); Tropical Dialogues: Brazil and India (Rio de Janeiro:2009). He is presently engaged in preparing the first direct translation into Portuguese of the main Sanskrit Upaniṣads.

 

Nineteenth-century Hindu discourse on image worship

Dr Sharada Sugirtharajah
12 Feb 2015

Nineteenth-century colonial India offers examples of both Hindu iconoclasts and iconic worshippers, but there has been a tendency to privilege the former and regard them as agents of modernity, and the latter as backward. Most nineteenth-century studies of Hindu attitudes to image worship have mainly focussed on two prominent figures—Rammohan Roy (1772–1883) and Dayananda Saraswati (1824–1883) who denounced image worship. This paper seeks to widen the discourse and to include the often overlooked nineteenth-century Sri Lankan Shaivite ‘reformer’, Arumuga Navalar (1822–1879) who took a very different stance on the issue of image worship. While Roy and Dayananda rejected image worship, Navalar affirmed it. Situating these three ‘reformers’ in their respective historical and cultural contexts, the paper will draw attention to the significant differences between Navalar and the two Indian Hindu responses to the Protestant missionary critique of image worship. It seeks to problematize the conventional approach which situates the debate on image worship within the narrow confines of the tradition verses modernity paradigm.

Dr Sharada Sugirtharajah is Senior Lecturer in Hindu Studies in the Department of Theology, at the University of Birmingham.  Her research focuses on representation of Hinduism in colonial and postcolonial writings. 

The Meaningfulness of the ‘Meaninglessness of Ritual’: Vedic Ritual (yajña) as Renunciation (tyāga)

Shivdasani Lecture
Prof. Dilip Loundo
5 Feb 2015

Though debatable in textual interpretation, Staal’s provocative idea of the ‘meaninglessness of ritual’ points to intrinsic self-justifying dimensions of Vedic ritual.  Perhaps the most important of these dimensions is the ritual’s intrinsic component of renunciation (tyāga) that co-exists, in a complex form, with other external goals. Renunciation forms the structural basis for the continuity between yajña and pūjā and for the organic link that binds together the karmakāṇḍa and the jñānakāṇḍa of the Vedas.  

Prof. Dilip Loundo is Coordinator of the Centre for the Study of Religions and Philosophies of India (NERFI). NERFI is an integral part of the Postgraduate Program of Religious Studies (PPCIR) of the Federal University of Juiz de Fora (UFJF), Minas Gerais, Brazil. Prof. Loundo is a Ph.D. in Indian Philosophy from Mumbai University, an M.A. and M.Phil. in Philosophy from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Sanskrit from Mumbai University. His recent publications include: Comments on Nāgārjuna’s Two Truth Doctrine (São Paulo, 2014); Buddhavacana e Śabda Pramāṇa in Mahāyāna Buddhism and Advaita Vedānta (Campinas, 2014); Ritual in Vedic Tradition: Openness, Plurality and Teleology (João Pessoa, 2012); What´s Philosophy After All? The Intertwined Destinies of Greek Philosophy and Indian Upaniṣadic Thinking (Barcelona, 2011); The Seashore of Endless Worlds: Rabindranath Tagore’s Encounters with Latin America (Belo Horizonte, 2011); The Apophatic Mystagogy of the Upaniṣads in Satchidanandendra Saraswati’s Advaita Vedānta (Juiz de Fora, 2011); Poetry and Soteriology in India: The Devotional Lyricism of Jayadeva’s Gītā-Govinda (Campinas: 2011); Bhartṛhari’s Nondual Linguistic Ontology and the Semantics of ātmanepada (Bangalore, 2010); An Anthology of Hindi Poetry (Rio de Janeiro, 2010); Tropical Dialogues: Brazil and India (Rio de Janeiro:2009). He is presently engaged in preparing the first direct translation into Portuguese of the main Sanskrit Upaniṣads.

Textual Authority (śruti) and Soteriological Reason (tarka) in Advaita Vedānta

Shivdasani Lecture
Prof. Dilip Loundo
22 Jan 2015

Far from antinomic terms and more than just compatible terms, śruti and tarka seem to converge, in Advaita Vedanta, to the same soteriological discipline that constitutes the only means to attain liberation (mokṣa). Accordingly, śruti is revelation in the sense that it, basically, reveals a method of dialogical reasoning (anugṛhita tarka) that succeeds in eliminating one’s ignorance about Reality. Special emphasis will be given to the teachings of Śaṅkarācārya, Sureśvarācārya and Satccidanandendra Saraswati.

Prof. Dilip Loundo is Coordinator of the Centre for the Study of Religions and Philosophies of India (NERFI). NERFI is an integral part of the Postgraduate Program of Religious Studies (PPCIR) of the Federal University of Juiz de Fora (UFJF), Minas Gerais, Brazil. Prof. Loundo is a Ph.D. in Indian Philosophy from Mumbai University, an M.A. and M.Phil. in Philosophy from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Sanskrit from Mumbai University. His recent publications include: Comments on Nāgārjuna’s Two Truth Doctrine (São Paulo, 2014); Buddhavacana e Śabda Pramāṇa in Mahāyāna Buddhism and Advaita Vedānta (Campinas, 2014); Ritual in Vedic Tradition: Openness, Plurality and Teleology (João Pessoa, 2012); What´s Philosophy After All? The Intertwined Destinies of Greek Philosophy and Indian Upaniṣadic Thinking (Barcelona, 2011); The Seashore of Endless Worlds: Rabindranath Tagore’s Encounters with Latin America (Belo Horizonte, 2011); The Apophatic Mystagogy of the Upaniṣads in Satchidanandendra Saraswati’s Advaita Vedānta (Juiz de Fora, 2011); Poetry and Soteriology in India: The Devotional Lyricism of Jayadeva’s Gītā-Govinda (Campinas: 2011); Bhartṛhari’s Nondual Linguistic Ontology and the Semantics of ātmanepada (Bangalore, 2010); An Anthology of Hindi Poetry (Rio de Janeiro, 2010); Tropical Dialogues: Brazil and India (Rio de Janeiro:2009). He is presently engaged in preparing the first direct translation into Portuguese of the main Sanskrit Upaniṣads.

The Habit of Prayer and Prayer in a Habit

Religious Practice in Comparative Perspective Series
Dr Martin Ganeri
4 Dec 2014

The routine activity of the ‘hours of prayer’ forms a major part of the daily life of the different Christian religious orders.  This talk will consider what function this prayer plays in the life and goals of religious communities. 

Dr Martin Ganeri O.P. is Vice Regent of Blackfriars Hall, University of Oxford and Director of the Centre for Christianity and Interreligious Dialogue at Heythrop College, University of London.  His recent and forthcoming publications include, ‘Theology and Non-Western Philosophy’ in O. Crisp, G. D'Costa, M. Davies and P. Hampson (eds) Theology And Philosophy: Faith and Reason, London: T&T Clarke, 2012 and ‘Selfhood, Agency and Freewill in Rāmānuja’ in E.F. Bryant (ed.) Free Will, Agency, and Selfhood in Indian Philosophy, New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Medical Ritual in the Veda and Ayurveda

Shivdasani Seminar
Prof. Shrikant Bahulkar
27 Nov 2014

It is well-known that the medicine in the Atharvaveda is predominantly a pre-scientific medicine and is considered to be the forerunner of the Indian system of scientific medicine, known as the Āyurveda ‘science of longevity’. Scholars have attempted to find roots of the Āyurveda in the medical charms of the Atharvaveda and the remedies against various diseases prescribed in the ritual texts in the tradition of that Veda. These charms and practices of the Atharvaveda were subsequently replaced by the therapeutics of Āyurveda. However, the magic practices for the cure of diseases continued despite the growth of scientific medicine. The classical Āyurvedic texts give due recognition to the medical charms and the practices mentioned in the tradition of the Atharvaveda. This kind of treatment is called daivavyapāśraya ‘(the treatment based on) the recourse to the divine’ and is prescribed for the cure of varieties of certain diseases that are supposed to have been caused by sinful deeds, curse of enemies, witchcraft or possession by demons. It involves recitation of mantras and certain acts that are similar to those found in the tradition of the Atharvaveda. The Āyurvedic texts also prescribe mantras that are to be recited during the preparation of certain drugs. This tradition survived not only in India, but spread to other countries, particularly to Tibet along with the Āyurveda and is still followed by the practitioners of Tibetan medicine (sowa-rigpa). It is possible to infer however that some of the notions found in the so-called ‘scientific’ medicine were caused by beliefs and superstitions. A survey of this material points to the fact that while the Āyurvedic texts prescribe medical charms and practices, they do not necessarily prescribe the mantras of the Atharvaveda. On the contrary, the mantras and the practices mentioned in the Āyurveda are similar to those prescribed in the Atharvavedic texts, but are not Atharvavedic. It appears that the tradition of the medical charms and the rites, elaborated in the Atharvaveda tradition, was replaced by post-Vedic religious traditions that influenced the Āyurvedic texts. Even in the tradition of the Atharvaveda, we do not find the prayogas or priestly manuals for the medical ritual mentioned in the Kauśika-Sūtra, a major ritualistic manual of the Atharvaveda and elaborated in the commentaries on that text. The tradition of the Atharvavedic medical ritual must have been disappeared long ago; what we find in the later texts is the post-Vedic mantra material mostly influenced by local traditions.

Professor S. S. Bahulkar has been teaching undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Sanskrit for more than 30 years, during which time he has been engaged in a wide variety of research projects. Both his research and teaching focus on Vedic Studies, Buddhist Studies, Ayurveda and Classical Sanskrit Literature. He has guided 14 students for their M. Phil. and Ph. D. Degrees. He has edited and written ten books and about sixty articles in English, Marathi and Sanskrit. After having done his M. A. and Ph. D. in Sanskrit from the University of Pune (1972 & 1977), he conducted his post graduate research at the Nagoya University, Japan. He worked in the Deccan College, Pune (1979-81), the Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth, Pune (1981-1993; 1995-2006; 2009) and the Central University of Tibetan Studies, Sarnath (1993-95; 2006-2009; 2010-2012). He has visited a number of foreign countries in connection with teaching, research and conferences. He has also worked as Visiting Professor at the University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada (1993), Freie Universität, Berlin, Germany (1998-99) and Harvard University, Cambridge, U. S. A. (2010). He was instrumental in recording as many as six Veda Śākhās in India, for a research project funded by the Danish Government (1983-84). He has participated in the organization of a number of regional, national and international seminars and conferences, including the 5th International Vedic Workshop, held in September 2011 in Bucharest, Romania and the 6th held at Kozhikode (Calicut), Kerala in January 2014. Presently he is Adjunct Professor at the Department of Pali and Buddhist Studies, University of Pune and the K. J. Somaiya Centre for Buddhist Studies, Mumbai. He is Chairman, Executive Board, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute and Editor of the Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute.

IK Foundation Lecture: The Origin, Evolution and Role of Two Indian Dance Styles: Odissi and Bharata Natyam

IK Foundation Lecture
Dr Anne-Marie Gaston
24 Nov 2014

Inscriptions and texts from all over India suggest that dance was widely associated with temples, religious practices and social conventions in the past.  Currently, most classical dances performed on stage in India are based on dances that were earlier associated with both religious and secular practices. Hence they are assumed to share a common ancestry with the earlier temple and secular dances.

Bharata Natyam, the classical dance of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, has the best documented history of all the classical styles. There are abundant inscriptions on temples, royal courts records and observations made by European and Indian travelers, as well as firsthand accounts from members of the hereditary dance community (Isai Vellala), the caste of the musicians and dancers.

 In contrast, despite a history of temple dance in the state of Orissa, Odissi, as seen on the concert stage today, originated in the 1950s-60s. It was a conscious creation by several theatre personalities, former gotipuas (boy actor/dancers) and Orissan nationalists, anxious to have recognition for the state’s unique artistic traditions and to place them within the framework of classical Indian arts.

 This illustrated lecture explores the different trajectories of the two styles and speculates about how the characteristics of the Odissi style may have been influenced by its unique history.

Anne-Marie Gaston (D.Phil Oxon, M Litt Oxon) is scholar and internationally recognized performer of several styles of South Asian classical dance: Bharata Natyam, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Kathakali, and Chhau. All of her training has been in India for over forty years, with some of the greatest teachers. Her dance repertoire includes both the traditional repertoire and innovative dance/theatre performances which seamlessly blend movement, original musical scores, text, video and images on a variety of themes: Environmental (Tagore’s Mother Earth, In Praise of Wilderness, images from Great Himalayan National Park); Greek (Athena Brahmani, Demeter and Persephone); Mesopotamian myths (Ishtar and Gilgamesh); Buddhist (Avalokitesvara [images from Ladhak], Environmental Wisdom of the Buddha); Yoga and Dance (Siva: Creation of Destruction,  Adishesha, Dance of Time, Dance Meets Yoga). 

Anne-Marie was invited by the Government of India to perform for state visit of Indira Gandhi to Canada and by The Government of Orissa to perform as state guest in Bhubaneswar. Some of her other performances include the Madras Music Academy (also lectures), National Centre for Performing Arts, Bombay (East West Encounter both sessions), India International Centre and Habitat Centre, New Delhi; Tropensmuseum, Amsterdam; National Arts Centre, National Gallery Ottawa and at numerous venues across Canada; Roundhouse, Commonwealth Institute, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Dartington Hall, UK. She has lectured for the Oriental Institute and Centre for Hindu Studies, Oxford; Lancaster University In the US at Universities of Chicago, New York, Washington, Florida as well as Smith and Mount Holyoke Colleges.

She has published three books: Bharata Natyam from Temple to Theatre, Siva in Dance Myth and Iconography, Krishnas Musicians: music and music-making in the temples of Nathdvara Rajasthan. She contributed the chapter on Embodied Movement for the Oxford Handbook of Sacred Arts, as well as numerous articles for magazines and journals. She is a Research Associate with InterCulture, University of Ottawa, Canada. She recently conducted research in Indonesia on aspects of the Ramayana in traditional arts. www.culturalhorizons.ca.

Aesthetics of Ecstasy: A Phenomenology of Emotional Expansion in Caitanya Vaiṣṇava Religious Experience

Dr Hrvoje Čargonja
21 Nov 2014

In my lecture I will argue that expansiveness of emotions is not only the necessary condition for Caitanya Vaiṣṇava religious experience, but also a specific mode of givenness of the emotional dimension of experience. Such contention is grounded in my fieldwork on the International Society for Kṛṣṇa Consciousness (ISKCON), a Western ‘religious transplant’ (Bryant & Ekstrand 2004) of Bengal or Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism, a religion with theistic, devotional theology based on the ancient Indian theory of aesthetic experience known as the rasa theory. Based on the analysis of narratives of religious experience (from the scripture and interviews) I will show how tradition’s ‘embodied aesthetics’ (Holdrege 2013) of emotional expansion can be described through aesthetic values of control, intimacy and play.

Following Alexander Baumgarten, philosophers studying aesthetics of everyday life (Mandoki 2007, Saito 2008), and some anthropologists (Coote 1994, Morphy 1992), aesthetics is understood as ‘valued formal qualities of perception’  enabled by human capacity for qualitative evaluation. In lieu of such reasoning, aesthetic values are seen as ‘habits of attention’ (James 1984; Throop 2008), or ‘culturally appropriate ways’ (Throop 2008) of  and for  experiences, ‘that lend specific styles, configurations, and felt qualities to local experiences’ (Desjarlais 1994).

In this somewhat Schelerian view on emotional embodiment as ‘felt values’, Caitanya Vaiṣṇava religious experience emerges as a gradual and repetitive unfolding in which appearance of emotional ‘bodiliness,’ belonging to the three distinct categories of aesthetic values, feeds back into the just past one, amplifying the emotional intensity of the experience. In other words, acts of consciousness, recurrently entangling emotions and  feelings that conform to aesthetic values operating in a given cultural domain, become intensified or ‘refined’ (Higgins 2008) through the expansion of coherence in the flow of such ‘emplaced’ (Pink 2009) field of consciousness. Therefore, in terms of phenomenological reduction, a deeper insight into this religious tradition that deifies religious emotions brings to the foreground a very important, but often neglected feature of emotions and feelings – extended, periodic and expansive structure of their temporality.

Dr Hrvoje Čargonja is teaching assistant and postdoctoral student at Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, University of Zagreb, Croatia, where he obtained his PhD degree. He also holds a MSc degree in molecular biology awarded by Faculty of Science, University of Zagreb. His doctoral thesis was a research on the International Society for Kṛṣṇa Consciousness with special focus on the topic of religious experience. He conducted his fieldwork in Croatia and India and was awarded several scholarships for a three year research stay at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies where he worked under the supervision of Professor Gavin Flood. His special research interests include: anthropology of religion, phenomenology of religious experience in Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism, cultural phenomenology.

From Myth to Ritual: The Horse of Pedu and the Remedy for Removing Snake’s Poison

Shivdasani Lecture
Prof. Shrikant Bahulkar
13 Nov 2014

The Atharvavedic hymn (AVŚ X.4 = AVP XVI. 15, 16, 17) is a charm against snakes and their poison. It mentions Paidva, a slayer of snakes. The word paidva-, literally meaning of Pedu, is derived from the word pedu- that occurs in the ṚV as a proper name (ṚV 117.9; 118.9; 119.10). In the Ṛgvedic hymns, addressed to Aśvins, it is mentioned that Aśvins gave a white horse to Pedu. The word paidva- thus refers to the horse. This horse is said to have possessed the power to destroy snakes. The Ṛgvedic hymns in question mention the snake-destroying horse; however, they have no connection with the remedy for removing snake’s poison. On the contrary, the Atharvavedic hymn (AVŚ X.4) does not mention Aśvins and their gift to Pedu; but mentions paidva that kills various kinds of snakes. In the ritual context of the Atharvaveda, paidva is to be employed in the remedy for removing snakes poison, prescribed in the Kauśika-sūtra (32.20-25), the major ritual text of the Atharvaveda. It is obvious that paidva, mentioned in the rite of the Kauśika-sūtra, is not the mythical horse of the Ṛgveda. The Atharvavedic tradition simply uses the connection of the mythical horse of Pedu with the snake-killing power for the purpose of the ritual in which the main rite is to be performed as the remedy for removing snake’s poison. It is difficult to identify paidva of the Atharvaveda. The commentators of the Kauśika-sūtra identify it as an insect. It appears that there existed a remedy in the tradition of the Atharvaveda for removing the snake’s poison and that the insect or some other substance to be used for that purpose was given the name paidva in order to connect it with the mythical horse known for its snake-killing power.  The relevant myth and the ritual connected with the myth will be discussed in detail.

What kind of Philosophical Theory is Madhyamaka?

Majewski Lecture
Jan Westerhoff
30 Oct 2014

The Madhyamaka school of philosophy has been credited as being the central philosophy of Buddhism and also as a kind of anti-philosophy of pure critique that simply seeks to demonstrate the contradictory nature of all statements about the world. This lecture explores the nature of philosophical argument in Madhyamaka and the kind of philosophical theory that the Madhyamaka is.

Originally trained as a philosopher and orientialist, Jan Westerhoff's research focuses on philosophical aspects of the religious traditions of ancient India. Much of his work concentrates on Buddhist thought (especially Madhyamaka) as preserved in Sanskrit and Tibetan sources, he also has a lively interest in Classical Indian philosophy (particularly Nyāya). His research on Buddhist philosophy covers both theoretical (metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language) and normative aspects (ethics); he is also interested in the investigation of Buddhist meditative practice from the perspective of cognitive science and the philosophy of mind. Some publications (for more information see www.janwesterhoff.net) are ‘The connection between ontology and ethics in Madhyamaka’ in: The Cowherds: Moonpaths: Ethics and Madhyamaka Philosophy, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2014; The Dispeller of Disputes: Nāgārjuna's Vigrahavyāvartanī, Oxford University Press, 2010; Twelve Examples of Illusion, Oxford University Press, 2010; Nāgārjuna's Madhyamaka. A Philosophical Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2009; ‘The Madhyamaka Concept of svabhāva: Ontological and Cognitive Aspects’, Asian Philosophy, 2007, 17:1, 17-45; Ontological Categories. Their Nature and Significance, Oxford University Press, 2005.

The Anthropology of Islamic Prayer

Religious Practice in Comparative Perspective Series
Dr Mohammad Talib
23 Oct 2014

The idea of prayer in Islam is vague in the sense that it ranges from the mandatory to the most optional and spontaneous. This lecture will deal with the issue of prayer from an anthropological perspective.

 

Dr Mohammad Talib is lecturer at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford. He has taught Sociology at Jamia Millia Islamia University (Delhi), from 1979 to 2001. In 2002, he came to Oxford as the Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz fellow in the Anthropology of Muslim Societies at the Oxford Centre for Islamic studies. His research in the anthropology of Islam focuses on Sufi groups, and madrassahs. His current research work: Madrassahs in the Recent History: An Alternative view between Anthropology and International Relations is a critical examination of the state of social science scholarship on Islam in the contemporary world after 9/11. Among his publications are Writing Labour: Stone Quarry Workers in Delhi (2010), Delhi, Oxford University Press, ‘Modes of Overcoming Social Exclusion through Education: Analysis of two Accounts from Pre-and Post Independent India’ in K N Panikkar and M Bhaskaran Nair (eds.) Emerging Trends in Higher Education in India: Concepts and Practices (New Delhi: Pearson Education India, 2011), ‘Predicaments of Serving Two Masters: Anthropologists between the Discipline and Sponsored Research’ in Raúl Acosta et. al (eds.) Making Sense of the Global: Anthropological Perspectives on Interconnections and Processes. (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010), and ‘Sufis and Politics’ in The Oxford Encyclopaedia of the Modern Islamic World, John Esposito (ed). Oxford University Press, New York (2008).

Vedism and Brahmanism in Buddhist Literature: An Overview

Shivdasani Lectures
Prof. Shrikant Bahulkar
16 Oct 2014

There is seen the tendency of Vedism and Brahmanism through out the Buddhist literature, right from the early Pāli canon through the Mahāyāna to the late Buddhist Tantric texts. In the Pāli canon, the terms such as veda, vijjā, tevijja, yañña and so on. These terms have basically Vedic connotations; however they have been used in a different, typically Buddhist sense. In the Mahāyāna scriptures, there are a number of Vedic concepts used to praise the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas. In the Vajrayāna rituals, we find a growing tendency of Vedism and Brahmanism. While borrowing the Vedic and Brahmanical vocabulary, concepts and ritual practices, the Buddhist did not necessarily adhere directly to particular traditions or texts.  The proportion of the usage of such vocabulary and ritualistic practices has increased in the Mahāyāna and, more prominently, in late Buddhist Tantric tradition that involved the muttering of various mantras, offerings into fire and other practices, resembling the Vedic and Brahmanical sacrificial ritual. 

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religion: Session Four

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religions
30 May 2014

Capturing the Other Side: Difficulties Facing Religious NGO Groups in India

Ved Patel, Worcester College

Hindu NGOs currently play an integral part in social and disaster relief projects in India. Despite this, they are faced with critiques that can be grouped under the general categories of religious innovation and religious nationalism. On one hand, Hindu NGO groups have been criticized for lacking substantial Hindu theological or textual sources that support or encourage such work. This attempt at engagement, then, is passed off as mimicry of western or Christian based models of social involvement. Alternately, these acts of service have been labeled as nationalistic and supportive of RSS and BJP ideals. Both of these designations can impede additional Hindu NGOs from engaging in a voluntary sector that demands increased participation. This paper will discuss some of the specific critiques that have been aimed at these groups and some of the plausible methods that can be implemented to increase voluntary involvement

Śrībhāya of Rāmānuja: A Modern and Contextual Reading

Ionut Moise, Wolfson College

Śrībhāṣya of Rāmānuja (c.12th AD) provides a new commentary on the Vedanta classic text Brahma-Sutra of Bādarāyaṇa (c. 2nd -3rd AD) in the light of the Viśiṣṭādvaita, a branch of Vedanta (one of the six major Hindu philosophical schools). The text expounds Rāmānuja’s interpretation, particularly his doctrine of Karman, or bhakti, whose knowledge, he maintains, is essential for salvation (mokṣa). It is more of a theological work, as he discusses the idea of a personal god (Parama-Puruṣa), endowed with qualities, on which grounds Śaṅkara is frequently criticised. Rāmānuja maintains also the reality of cosmos and the individual souls (ātman). The majority of scholars continue to regard Śrībhāṣya as the most fundamental work of Rāmānuja and Viśiṣṭādvaita, and in modern time has opened new perspectives in the zone of applied theology, and inter-religious dialogue. Here I seek to provide a modern and contextual re-reading of the text. 

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religion: Session Three

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religions
23 May 2014

Convenors: Tristan Elby and Lucian Wong

Pages