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Śaivism and the Bhāgavata Purāṇa

Early Modern Hindu Theology Seminars
Dr Anand Venkatkrishnan
16 May 2016

The Bhāgavata Purāṇa (BhP) is primarily considered the prerogative of Vaiṣṇava religious communities. This paper complicates that commonplace historiography by exploring what the BhP meant to a group of Śaivas in Kerala in the fifteenth century. I locate these Śaivas at the nexus of a number of philosophical and religious trends: the confluence of Vedic and non-Vedic non-dualism, the encounter of a Kashmiri and a southern discourse on bhakti, and the proliferation of stotras, or praise-poetry, of both Śaiva and Vaiṣṇava persuasions. Ultimately I attempt to understand the local contours of Śaiva ecumenicism: one that engaged with the core texts of Vaiṣṇavism not as subordinate in a hierarchically inclusive series, or as subsumed within the universalism of non-dualist philosophy, but as canonical and liberating in their own right.

Anand Venkatkrishnan is Asoke Kumar Sarkar Junior Research Fellow at Balliol College, Oxford. He received his PhD in South Asian Religions from Columbia University (2015), and a BA in Classics from Stanford University (2010). His research interests include the intersection between religious movements and scholarly pedagogy, Indian intellectual history, and the early modern world.

The Celestial Dolphin, an Upaniṣadic Puzzle, and the First Incarnation of Viṣṇu

Wahlstrom Lecture
Prof. Diwakar Acharya
12 May 2016

Early in the Indian tradition the dolphin is deified and elevated to heaven as a constellation that housed the old polestar Thuban in its tail. It is venerated in different ages as bráhman, Brahmā Prajāpati, and Viṣṇu. But in later times the same is generalized as a fish, or sometimes in other contexts as a crocodile. The Jaiminīya Brāhmaṇa preserves the story of the deification of the dolphin. The Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa narrates a story of the rescue of Vaivasvata Manu from a devastating flood by a dolphin (jhaṣá), described there as an extraordinary fish. This fish is identified in the Mahābhārata as Brahmā Prajāpati in disguise, but in Purāṇic and other similar sources it is depicted as the foremost incarnation of Viṣṇu. In this lecture a number of Vedic and Puranic passages related to these issues will be discussed. An enigmatic passage from the Bṛhad Āraṇyaka Upaniṣad (BĀU), too, will be read showing how this passage enigmatically equates the celestial dolphin with the central vital function in the human body. To understand the saga of the dolphin, iconography and realia will also be discussed.

Diwakar Acharya is the new Spalding Professorship of Eastern Religions and Ethics and a fellow of All Souls College. His research covers a wide range of topics in Indian religious and philosophical traditions, Sanskrit literature, and epigraphy.

The Tantric Mandala of Srisailam Temple and the Religious World of Saivas and Saktas

Shivadasani Seminar
Dr Prabhavati Reddy
12 May 2016

This seminar focuses on various aspects of the Tantric mandala of Srisailam and the religious culture of Saiva and Sakta communities as is demonstrated in textual sources as well as hundreds of images depicted on the Prakara enclosure of the temple complex. The iconological patterns and symbolism of the images suggest that a Tantric mandala of Siva/Bhairava and Goddess Durga was created to represent a particular body of religious systems, cosmology, mysticism, visualization of deities and esoteric practices of Saivas and Sakta groups between the seventh and the fifteenth centuries. The mandala helps us to understand the ways Tantrikas conceptualized Srisailam as the macrocosmic universe of Siva and Sakti, and their religious worldview based on the soteriological goals to gain both worldly and supernatural enjoyments (bhukti) and powers (siddhis) as well as liberation in this life (jivanmukti). This seminar explores four facets of Tantric religious culture in order to 1) establish the Saiva-Sakta cultic connections and religious practices of Bhairava and Durga and the cult of Virabhadra and Bhadrakali 2) explore the goddess-oriented Sakta traditions such as the tribal connections of Durga prior to her transformation as the Great Goddess of Sanskrit tradition, the worship of seven mothers (saptamatrikas), the village goddess Camunda and Bhairavi, the goddess of Tantras 3) establish the development of esoteric practices of “mystical physiology” through the subtle body of energy system (cakras) to obtain either supernatural powers and to achieve god consciousness, the kundalini practice for the union of Siva and Sakti energies, and the Tantric visualization and meditation practices of Sadasiva and 4) the use of yantras, mandalas, lingas and images in meditation and worship. 

Dr Prabhavati C. Reddy is an Adjunct Faculty member of Religious Studies at George Mason University in Virginia, USA. She is an interdisciplinary scholar with a Ph.D. in Sanskrit and Indian Studies from Harvard University, an M.A. in Asian Art History from the University of Texas-Austin, and an M.A and M.Phil. in Ancient History and Archaeology from Osmania University, Hyderabad, India. She has previously taught at George Washington University and was a two-year Andrew Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow at Northwestern University where she taught in the Department of Religious Studies. She specializes in Hindu traditions and is interested in the historical development of sectarian traditions with reference to constructive theological frameworks and syncretism, religious authority and identity, and conflict and resolution in response to sociological and political processes. She is the author of Hindu Pilgrimage: Shifting Patterns of Worldview of Srisailam in South India (Routledge, 2014) and has published several articles on Indian art and Indian diaspora/Hindu temples in North America. She is currently working on two books entitled, The Tantra and Siddha Traditions at Srisailam: Kundalini and Hatha Yoga Practices in Medieval India and Vaisnava Rituals and Sacred Images. She has lectured at universities in both the U.S and India as well as has presented papers at professional conferences. 

The Ritual Culture and Materiality of Sacred Images in the Vaisnava Temple Tradition

Shivdasani Lecture
Dr Prabhavati Reddy
28 Apr 2016

From temple building to image making, from temple rituals to domestic vratas, from village festivals to pilgrimage journeys, the Hindu temple religion demonstrates an integrated process of creating material forms and objects that express religious and cultural ideas. The material connections of Hindu temple religion are evident in the daily worship to images (murtis) in sanctums and in public festival performances that honor utsava icons. My lecture focuses neither on the image making nor the performance of rituals in Hindu temples. Instead, it explores the material dimensions of sacred images as reflected in the ritual lives of deities and material objects used in festival exhibitions at the famous Venkateswara Temple (Tirumala-Tirupati) in Andhra Pradesh, South India.The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), the temple institution that oversees the management of the religious calendar of events and the ritual performances of Sri Venkatesvara temple (SV), plays a significant role both in the production of religious objects and in the process of legitimizing for approval and usage of created objects for the temple programs. 

Two theoretical dimensions concerning the material culture of sacred images are considered. First, the ways the material objects are used on the bodies of sacred images and the ways the relationships are created between the images and objects symbolizing religious/cultural values. The material objects and materials used for sacred images in the Tirumala Temple constitute of two kinds: 1) sets of attire, body armor, jewelry, and ornaments worn by deities, and 2) materials applied to the aesthetic beautification (alankara) of images and objects used in rituals. The second perspective looks at TTD’s involvement in the production and creation of relationships between images and material objects as well as strategies used by the institution in the promotion of mass devotional culture and economic prosperity of the temple. The images and religious objects promoted by TTD become the focus for the transmission of Vaisnava bhakti ideals, image incarnation (archavatara), master-servant relationship, the path of knowledge, and the aim of reaching higher realms of Visnu-Venkatesvara.

Dr Prabhavati C. Reddy is an Adjunct Faculty member of Religious Studies at George Mason University in Virginia, USA. She is an interdisciplinary scholar with a Ph.D. in Sanskrit and Indian Studies from Harvard University, an M.A. in Asian Art History from the University of Texas-Austin, and an M.A and M.Phil. in Ancient History and Archaeology from Osmania University, Hyderabad, India. She has previously taught at George Washington University and was a two-year Andrew Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow at Northwestern University where she taught in the Department of Religious Studies. She specializes in Hindu traditions and is interested in the historical development of sectarian traditions with reference to constructive theological frameworks and syncretism, religious authority and identity, and conflict and resolution in response to sociological and political processes. She is the author of Hindu Pilgrimage: Shifting Patterns of Worldview of Srisailam in South India (Routledge, 2014) and has published several articles on Indian art and Indian diaspora/Hindu temples in North America. She is currently working on two books entitled, The Tantra and Siddha Traditions at Srisailam: Kundalini and Hatha Yoga Practices in Medieval India and Vaisnava Rituals and Sacred Images. She has lectured at universities in both the U.S and India as well as has presented papers at professional conferences. 

Are Cognitive States Self-Revealing?

Shivdasani Lecture
Professor Kisor Kumar Chakrabarty
25 Feb 2016

According to the Nyaya school of Hindu philosophy, a cognitive state reveals its object but not itself and is revealed by another cognitive state.  Other Hindu philosophers of the Advaita Vedanta philosophical school and Prabhakara (8th century), however, hold that a cognitive state reveals both its object and itself.  I shall discuss the nature of consciousness and self-consciousness and reconstruct how the Nyaya can respond to the formidable arguments offered by the Advaita and Prabhakara.

Cartesian and Nyaya Psycho-Physical Dualism

Shivdasani Seminar
Professor Kisor Kumar Chakrabarty
11 Feb 2016

According to the psycho-physical dualism of Descartes, the mind and the body are ontologically different substances with essentially different attributes.  Though this viewpoint might help to account for the religious doctrine of immortality of the soul as well as free will and personal identity, it is open to serious objections.  I shall argue that a much older kind of psycho-physical dualism developed by the Nyaya Hindu philosophers is not beset with some of the difficulties of the Cartesian view and can account for such issues as immortality, free will and personal identity.

A Comparative Study of Some Classical Causal Proofs of the Existence of God

Shivdasani Lecture
Professor Kisor Kumar Chakrabarty
28 Jan 2016

I shall make a comparative study of three classical causal proofs of the existence of God, one offered by St. Thomas Aquinas, another, by Descartes and yet another, by Udayana (11th century, belonging to the classical Nyaya Hindu school of philosophy).  I shall argue that the proof of Udayana is not open to some of the objections raised against the two other proofs and is more defensible.

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.

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