Skip directly to content

Downloadable lectures

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

Session 2: Gadamer's Hermeneutics: Bias, Understanding, and Expanding Horizons

Gadamer and Religion
Dr Jessica Frazier
23 May 2014

Gadamer saw culture, religion, and art as 'living texts' that integrate our life experience into a meaningful worldview that allows us to think, act, and create. But no worldview is ever static or finished; in 'understanding' we use bias (that of ourselves and others) as the raw material from which a new worldview is created. In this respect Gadamer shares much with Aristotelian and later Vitalist thinkers. But Gadamer also affirms that texts can act poetically as 'angels', as he puts it in his studies of Rilke and Paul Celan, gesturing toward the transcendence of that which cannot be encompassed in human thought.

Negotiating the Scriptural Boundary in Early Modern South Asia: Appayya Dīkṣita and Jīva Gosvāmī on Madhva’s Untraceable Citations

Dr Kiyokazu Okita
22 May 2014

In an important paper published in 2012, Elisa Freschi effectively establishes the significance of what we might call ‘Quotation Studies’, an area of study which has been underexplored. Among many benefits such a study can yield, Freschi points out that the study of quotation can reveal the way in which an author understood authority in his / her tradition. In this context Freschi mentions an exciting case of Madhva’s untraceable citations, which Madhva uses to validate his own view.

As Freschi points out, the topic of Madhva’s quotes is a controversial one because many of the passages and the texts quoted by Madhva are found only in his works. For example, he would cite a passage and attributes it to certain text such as the Caturvedaśikhā, which no one ever heard of. Or after citing a verse, he would say iti varāhe but we do not find such a verse in the editions of the Purāṇa currently available. Or he would simply write iti ca, without telling us where his citation is coming from.

In the contemporary Indological field the topic of Madhva’s untraceable quotes has been systematically and extensively explored by Roque Mesquita, who argues that Madhva’s untraceable quotes are for the most part not actual quotes but his own creation. This claim has received considerable criticism from the scholars who belong to the Mādhva tradition. Therefore, in this presentation I shall first briefly describe the history and the nature of the modern day controversy concerning Madhva’s quotes. Then I briefly explore the possible implications of this controversy in relation to the Purāṇic study and the study of Vedānta as Hindu Theology. The main part of this presentation however consists of an exploration of the writings of two important Hindu Theologians in the sixteenth century namely Appayya Dīkṣita and Jīva Gosvāmī, who held opposing views on Madhva’s quotes. While Appayya rejects Madhva’s untraceable quotes to refute the latter’s Dvaita position, Jīva refers to the same quotes to validate his own Gauḍīya viewpoint. By examining these two authors, I hope to show the complexity involved in this topic, which in my view has not been fully addressed in Mesquita’s works.

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religion: Session Two

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religions
Convenors: Tristan Elby and Lucian Wong
16 May 2014

The Contested Category of ‘Neo-Vedānta’:

Swami Vivekananda and the Multivocality of Pre-Colonial Advaita Vedāntic Traditions  

James Madaio, University of Manchester 

'Neo-Vedānta' is the standard scholarly term for the philosophical-theological teachings of Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902). The concretisation of labels, however, can occlude as much as it can reveal. I argue that early Indological interest in historical origins and certain modalities of Advaita Vedāntic theology underrepresents the multivocality of Advaita Vedāntic traditions.  And it is precisely the understudied periods and text genres that were key sources for colonial period 'Neo-Vedāntins' such as Vivekananda.  My paper therefore aims to complicates categories of comparison derived from mid-twentieth century Indological scholarship still evident in post-colonial approaches to the swami.

A New Stage in Comparative Theology:

‘The Mystical Appropriation’ of Swami Abhishiktananda

Ionut Moise, Wolfson College

In this presentation I inquire into the doctrinal issues deriving from Hindu-Christian forms of worship promoted by Swami Abhishiktānanda (Henry le Saux). I will try to underline the problems and the need for the development of a liturgical comparative theology, which relates to both the Christian doctrine and Hindu ritual. The relation between Hindu culture and Christian faith, their orthodoxy and orthopraxy, will be the focus of my presentation. I start by looking at Abhishiktānanda’s understanding of integrating or ‘appropriating’ the Advaita experience and the difficult issues deriving from it. Three months before his death, Abhishiktānanda, intensely faithful to sannyasa, wrote a letter to Murray Rogers (MR, 4.10.73) in which he said that his legacy would be freedom from any notion of ‘Churchianity’ including worship. Yet, Abhishiktānanda’s legacy, (the Shantivanam Ashram) which represents today a meeting point between Hindu culture and Christian faith, seems to contradict his previous statement on the transcendence of the theological ritual. After all, is Hindu-Christian worship needed or not? Second, I will attempt to look at Hindu–Christian worship per se and to explore the value and theological implications deriving from it. A Hindu–Christian liturgy supposes a new language of faith, a new spirituality, and new hermeneutics.  To what extent does the Hindu worship joined to the Christian one remain orthodox? In Hindu traditions, the value of ritual is measured not according to the meaning which carries, but according to the orthopraxy of its performance. On the other hand, in Christianity worship carries a meaning, a dogmatic message. Without these clarifications, the Hindu-Christian worship falls into the syncretism, which Abhishiktānanda rejected.Finally, my paper will try to explain the development of a liturgical theology, which could, or could not lay the premises for an experiential and theological encounter between Hinduism and Christianity.

Session 1: Gadamer's Biography: Beyond Theism and Atheism

Gadamer and Religion
Dr Jessica Frazier
16 May 2014

Gadamer appears to be an unusually secular figure among the phenomenologists of his day; unlike those who began as theologians, his study of classical culture taught him to study religion dispassionately, while embracing religious arts as a channel for his own concerns. Influenced by “Swabian piety”, Bultmannn’s ‘demythologisation’, the spirituality and humanism of the classical world, 'free-thinkers' such as Goethe, Rilke, and Stefan George, and creative re-thinkers of the Christian tradition such as Scheler and Heidegger, Gadamer affirmed both the cultural contingency of faith, and its confessional power.

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religion: Session One

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religions
9 May 2014

Deconstructing Taxonomies: How Can We Study ‘Modern Hinduism’?

Anthony King, Blackfriars

The category ‘Modern Hinduism’ is often assumed to be a comprehensive and all-encompassing taxonomy, one that carefully delineates all the modern manifestations of the pre-existing religions of India. However it is far from being an innocent signifier. It is the site of significant contestation between post-colonial and Enlightenment claims to truth and knowledge. Scholars are divided on the issue of the ‘construction’ of Hinduism, but what is certain is that the study of Hinduism is in a crisis.

How can we address the issue of the validity of the taxonomy ‘Modern Hinduism’? Is there a way to give a voice in the debate to those who perhaps hold the answer – ‘Modern Hindus’ themselves? This paper will address these issues and possible methodologies of such an approach.

Political Theology in the Bhagavad-Gita

Sachi Patel, Wolfson College

Amongst Hinduism’s theological texts the Bhagavad-Gīta is perhaps the most well-known and quoted text in the Hindu tradition. Numerous commentaries and translations have been produced. Within this conglomerate of views, many individuals have derived a political or social inspiration from its teachings, some propagating a political theology based on the text. I will investigate this further, specifically focusing on the interpretations of karma according to the various interpreters in significant historic periods. The concept of karma highlights the relationship between political and social situations and the relevance of divine messages most clearly. 

Renunciation and service: the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, the Vivekananda Kendra, and Swami Vivekananda’s legacy

Majewski Lecture
Professor Gwilym Beckerlegge
7 May 2014

Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) has been an influential but contentious figure in the history of recent Hindu tradition.  From the vantage point provided by the celebration of Vivekananda’s 150th Birth Anniversary during 2013/14, this lecture will explore aspects of Vivekananda’s legacy with particular reference to the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, the movement he founded, and the Vivekananda Kendra, which came into existence in 1972. Greatly influenced by both the Ramakrishna Math and Mission and the RSS, the Kendra promotes its own brand of Hindutva ideology in Vivekananda’s name. Through an examination of these two movements, the lecture will illustrate the diffuse and durable nature of Vivekananda’s influence, and in the process explain why Vivekananda has been judged by some to have been a contradictory and controversial figure.

Professor Gwilym Beckerlegge’s research has centred on the legacy of Swami Vivekananda and the practice of seva within the Ramakrishna Math and Mission and other contemporary Hindu movements, in particular the Vivekananda Kendra.  His most recent publications include the entries on the Ramakrishna Math and Mission and the Vivekananda Kendra in the Brill Encyclopaedia of Hinduism (2013), ‘Legacy of Service’ Frontline (The Hindu Newspaper Group, Chennai) 30/2: 25-31, 2013, ‘Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) 150 years on: critical studies of an influential Hindu guru’ in Religion Compass, Vol.7, No.10, 2013, pp.444-453, and ‘Eknath Ranade, gurus and jīvanvratīs (life-workers): Vivekananda Kendra’s promotion of the ‘Yoga Way of Life’’ in M.Singleton and E.Goldberg (eds.) Gurus of Modern Yoga (2014).

Graduate Seminars (Session Three)

Convenors: Tristan Elby and Lucian Wong
14 Mar 2014

Deconstructing Taxonomies: How Can We Study ‘Modern Hinduism’?

Anthony King, Blackfriars, University of Oxford

The category ‘Modern Hinduism’ is often assumed to be a comprehensive and all-encompassing taxonomy, one that carefully delineates all the modern manifestations of the pre-existing religions of India. However it is far from being an innocent signifier. It is the site of significant contestation between post-colonial and Enlightenment claims to truth and knowledge. Scholars are divided on the issue of the ‘construction’ of Hinduism, but what is certain is that the study of Hinduism is in a crisis.

How can we address the issue of the validity of the taxonomy ‘Modern Hinduism’? Is there a way to give a voice in the debate to those who perhaps hold the answer – ‘Modern Hindus’ themselves? This paper will address these issues and possible methodologies of such an approach.

The idea of ahamkara in Samkhya and Yoga

Ramesh Pattni, Blackfriars, Oxford

Central to the Samkhya and Yoga perspectives is the ego and its central role in the continuation of subjectivity through grasping and ownership of experience. We look at this notion of the subject in relation to the underlying metaphysics of the systems of thought. 

Hindu Ritual and Practice – Four Theories

Hinduism and Theory: Key Critical Themes Series
Dr Jessica Frazier
28 Feb 2014

Drawing on Clifford Geertz's understanding of religion as a 'worldview', the seminar series explore key themes in Hinduism and looks at the way in which crucial conceptual 'translations' are needed to understand Hindu culture properly from without, and asks whether it is possible to derive critical and hermeneutic 'theory' in religious studies from Indic material. One of the goals will be to challenge the hegemony of Western-derived 'theories' of religion, culture, and human nature.

Gandhian Technique for Conflict Resolution: Satyagraha

Shivdasani Lecture
Prof. Sushil Mittal
17 Feb 2014

The presentation will provide an understanding of the principles of Satyagraha, its philosophical base, and the nature and practice of Satyagraha.

Professor Sushil Mittal is a fellow philosophical traveler with Mahatma Gandhi, Sushil Mittal is (full) Professor of Religion in the Department of Philosophy and Religion and Founding Director of the Mahatma Gandhi Center for Global Nonviolence at James Madison University, a post he held for five years (2005–2010).  Dr. Mittal joined JMU in Fall 2004. 

He earned his B.A. from McGill University in Montreal, M.A. from Carleton University in Ottawa, and Ph.D. from University of Montreal.  He has served on the faculties of the University of Florida in Gainesville and Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois.

His discipline by training is cultural anthropology, but he is located in a department of religion where he teaches Hinduism and Gandhian thought.  He has conducted archival and field research in Canada, India, South Africa, and the United States at intervals during the last two decades.  The recipient of numerous grants and fellowships, his book publications include Development and Change in India (1993), Surprising Bedfellows: Hindus and Muslims in Medieval and Early Modern India (2003), The Hindu World (2004), Religions of South Asia: An Introduction (2006), and Studying Hinduism: Key Concepts and Methods (2008).

His current work-in-progress includes The Living Hindu World, Encyclopedia of Hindu Studies, and The Gandhi Reader.

He is the (Founding) Editor of the International Journal of Hindu Studies (1997- ) and the International Journal of Gandhi Studies (2012- ).

Professor Mittal was born in Canada (his “janma-bhumi”) buthas now dedicated himself to working in the United States(his “karma-bhumi”) and he looks to India as the mainsource of his spiritual inspiration (his “dharma-bhumi”).

Pages