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Downloadable lectures

The Lion of Durga

Dr Jim Robinson
30 Oct 2008

Dr Robinson did his D.Phil. research on the Worship of Clay Images in West Bengal. An important part of this was the study of Hindu iconography and the festivals of West Bengal, including Durga puja. Recently he has become a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society and is working on an article on an ivory figure of Durga in the V&A which was part of the Great Exhibition of 1851. Photographs taken during fieldwork in Bengal and amongst the Bengali community in the UK are now in the British Museum Asia collection and in the archives of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. Items such as pata paintings and saras collected during my research in Bengal are also in the Asia collection of the British Museum. He is currently a teacher of Religious Education in Oxfordshire. His fascination with Durga started from a very early age in India where he was born and brought up and he is now particularly interested in researching Durga puja in Calcutta during the British period from 18th–20th centuries.

Related: Goddesses, Iconography

The importance of religion 2: Towards a theory of religious action

Professor Gavin Flood
27 Oct 2008

On the one hand there is a critique of religion that sees religion in terms of propositions about the nature of the world. On the other there is a reaction to such claims by the rational defence of religion. But both positions fail to understand the true nature and function of religions as action and responses to life, as ways of life and kinds of action that provide frameworks for living and dying, especially in the context of late modernity and what Richard Roberts has called ‘the reconfiguring of the religious field.’ This lecture develops the idea of religion as action which is also an orientation towards meaning and transcendence; an orientation to understanding life as a journey for both individuals and communities, a journey that can have an end in a ‘liberation’ or a ‘heaven’ or some variation of an ideal of perfection. Religion is always teleological and orientated towards transcendence of the human condition; religion is predominantly soteriological. The theoretical apparatus behind some of this thinking lies in Bakhtin’s Towards a Philosophy of the Act in which he presents a distinction between the world of culture (which contains various theoretical frameworks such as philosophy, sociology, politics) and the world of life, the world in which we live our lives and die and in which acts are accomplished once and for all (and only once) as being is unrepeatable action (Being-as-event). The theory of religious action I am proposing claims that religious action is a penetration of being-as-event, that it is not restricted to the world of culture but is the only practice and discourse that attempts to penetrate, order and make sense of world of life. This world of life is a synonym for the strangeness of the world.

 
It follows from this is that the heart of religion is human action that forms a kind of subjectivity. This action and its accompanying subjectivity is formed only in inter-subjective, tradition specific ways that entail a particular kind of orientation towards the future. This orientation entails hope or anticipation of the future and a retrieval of meaning from the past (expressed as text) which are realised in present action. The sacred text from the past is brought to life through ritual in the living context of present speech for a particular speech community. Religious actions and their accompanying kinds of speech foster a subjectivity, inwardness, or interiority which is the realisation of a religion’s claims, a soteriology, and the projection of a narrative into the future. This kind of inwardness feeds back into the community as a source of life, of new interpretations, and of new vision.

Related: Religious Studies

Navya Nyaya language and methodology: Padartha

Shivdasani Lecture
Dr Piyali Palit
23 Oct 2008

The Indian model of philosophical analysis, technically devised by the Neo-Logicians, known as the Navya Nyaya school, places forth a PRAMA-oriented picture of the World (visva). This world features four basic constituents stated as (i) pramata, the knower, (ii) prameya, the knowables, (iii) pramana, the process of knowing, and, (iv) pramiti, the knowledge achieved by the pramana. Nothing in this world is left out of these broad categories, i.e., each and every entity in this world must find its place in any of those characters noted above. To speak more specifically, all worldly entities must fall either under the category of prameya, the knowables or under pramana, the process of knowing; in fact while we speak or even think about the process of knowing, pramana also happens to fall under the character of prameya. Hence, to take a definite look into this character – prameya, was of utmost importance for the Indian philosophers to get a clear picture of this world. Neo-logicians adopted the Vaisesika theory of padartha and developed it through linguistic elaboration since for them this world appeared to be not only a prameya but also as abhidheya – verbalisable – which was accepted by all the philosophical schools. Practically, knowability and verbalisability are two basic properties of this world of our experience, and, virtually our experiences tell us how we know and how we express our experiences through language or try to communicate with others. The neo-logicians marked the process of knowing as ‘encoding’, i.e., internalization of the external world, while the process of expressing verbally was marked as ‘decoding’ or ‘sabda-vyavahara’. Before we go into details of these two processes, a holistic picture of this world as ‘padartha’ following the Neo-logicians will be discussed.

 
Dr. Piyali Palit, Professor, Department of Philosophy, Jadavpur University, did her Ph.D. thesis on ‘The Role of Syncategorimaticity as the Principle instrument in Linguistic behaviour in Vedic and Popular Usages’. She did her MA in Sanskrit from Visva Bharati, Santiniketan and Acharya in Advaita Vedanta from Rashtriya Sanskrita Sansthan, New Delhi. She was awarded a fellowship for the project on ‘Influence of Indian Tradition on Rabindranath Tagore’ at the Asiatic Society, Kolkata. She is also associated with the Centre of Advanced Studies in Philosophy at Jadavpur University. Presently she holds the chair of Principal Investigator, Major Research Project in Indian Philosophy and Research Methodology, sponsored by University Grants Commission, Govt. of India. Her recent research works extend in the areas: Analytic Research and Theory Development, Ontological Issues in Ayurveda, Advaita Vedanta, Vaisesika, Purva Mimamsa and Panini-Vyakarana. Apart from a number of articles published in various National and International journals, proceedings, and anthologies, she has authored titles including Basic Principles of Indian Philosophy of Language, A Treatise on Arthasamgraha, Samksepa-Sariraka (Trans. & Comm.), Panchikarana-Varttika, Vedanta-Sanja-Prakarana (both are transcribed from rare original manuscripts).

Related: Nyaya, Philosophy

The importance of religion 1: Religion and reductionism

Professor Gavin Flood
20 Oct 2008

Two tendencies in recent years have sought to provide explanations of religion in terms of a naturalist or eliminative reductionism, the realm of science, on the one hand, and a cultural reductionism, the realm of politics, on the other. Eliminative reductionism primarily refers to theories of cognition and evolutionary psychology along with their philosophical justification. By cultural reductionism I mean accounts that see religion only in terms of a politics of representation and structures of power. On this view, religion is a disempowering hegemony caused by a ‘false consciousness’ that has served the interests of the rich and powerful. Both kinds of reductionism share an incredulity to religious truth claims and offer explanation and critique that are rigorously externalist in their explanation of religion and thoroughly materialist in their ontological and ethical pre-commitments. On reductionist accounts, to explain religion is to locate a cause (in cognition, genetics, socio-political structures) and to explain religion is to present an external account of it, often antithetical to the internal claims of traditions. This understanding of explanation has been the predominant model in the natural sciences from Bacon through to the social sciences of our own time. Even Theology traditionally understood claimed to explain religion in this way, locating the cause of religion in God. Scientific explanations have generally been antithetical to Theology in locating causes of religion in nature and claiming superiority to theological accounts because, unlike such accounts, they are falsifiable and have predictive power. Both eliminative and cultural reductionisms offer external accounts of religion through the location of cause, the former in nature the latter in the genealogy of cultural politics, and so do not engage seriously with traditions’ claims and concerns.

 
But there is a different sense of explanation that is not the location of a cause. This is to draw on, or return to, the verstehen tradition in the history of social science where explanation is ‘understanding’ and to claim that the explanation of religion is the exposition of a meaning rather than the location of a cause: to explain religion is not to seek a causal account in the first instance but to show how something is connected to a broader sphere or context and to demonstrate or translate a tradition’s semantic density into a language which is implicitly comparative. This kind of account is both descriptive and interpretative in drawing out the implications of description in theory-informed, semiotically sophisticated ways, and reasoning within the horizon of the western academy. This account is akin to phenomenology in wishing to offer thick description yet like hermeneutics in wishing to inquire beyond description. Unlike eliminative reductionism it must recognise the autonomy of higher level processes in any hierarchy or multiple levels of organised systems and unlike postmodern, cultural constructivists and genealogists it must recognise the legitimacy of tradition and tradition internal concerns. In the context of this debate, the lecture will discuss the two kinds of reductionism and the idea of ‘explanation’.

Related: Religious Studies

Tantric traditions of Kerala

Majewski Lecture
Dr Rich Freeman
13 May 2008

Related: Tantra

Introduction to Sanskrit metrics and correct recitation of Sanskrit verses: Session three

Professor Gaya Charan Tripathi
12 May 2008

Related: Metrics, Sanskrit

An Introduction of ritual and philosophy of the Vaishnavas based especially on the Pancaratra system

Professor Gaya Charan Tripathi
12 May 2008

Related: Pancaratra, Ritual, Vaisnava

Writing essays in exams

Dr Jessica Frazier
7 May 2008

Related: Essay Writing

Hinduism in contemporary Indian cinema: Popular travesty or new theology?

Dr Jessica Frazier
6 May 2008

Related: Film

Introduction to Sanskrit metrics and correct recitation of Sanskrit verses: Session two

Professor Gaya Charan Tripathi
5 May 2008

Related: Metrics, Sanskrit

Writing essays and dissertations

Dr Jessica Frazier
30 Apr 2008

Related: Essay Writing

Maps, mother goddess, and martyrdom in modern India

Shivdasani Lecture
Professor Sumathi Ramaswamy
24 Apr 2008

Related: Iconography, Modern India, Politics

Methods of chanting various Vedic metrical and prose texts with their phonetic variations

Professor Gaya Charan Tripathi
21 Apr 2008

Related: Metrics, Sanskrit, Veda

Hinduism II: Yoga, Bhakti, and Tantra: Part 8

Professor Gavin Flood
6 Mar 2008

Related: General

Hinduism II: Yoga, Bhakti, and Tantra: Part 7

Professor Gavin Flood
28 Feb 2008

Related: General

The Parinama Aesthetics as Underlying the Bhagavata Purana

Dr Ithamar Theodor
28 Feb 2008

Related: Aesthetics, Bhagavata

Hinduism II: Yoga, Bhakti, and Tantra: Part 6

Professor Gavin Flood
21 Feb 2008

Related: General

Performing Hirapur: Dancing the Shakti Rupa Yogini

Dr Alessandra Lopez y Royo
21 Feb 2008

Related: Dance

Hinduism II: Yoga, Bhakti, and Tantra: Part 5

Professor Gavin Flood
14 Feb 2008

Related: General

Hinduism II: Yoga, Bhakti, and Tantra: Part 4

Professor Gavin Flood
7 Feb 2008

Related: General

Hinduism II: Yoga, Bhakti, and Tantra: Part 3

Professor Gavin Flood
31 Jan 2008

Related: General

Hinduism II: Yoga, Bhakti, and Tantra: Part 2

Professor Gavin Flood
24 Jan 2008

Related: General

Surrender to God in Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism-Discussion

Surrender to God in Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism
Dr Yahya Michot
24 Jan 2008

Related: Comparative Theology

Surrender to God in Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism-Discussion

Surrender to God in Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism
Professor Keith Ward
24 Jan 2008

This afternoon conference examines the idea of surrender to God in three religions and provides the opportunity to address comparative theological concerns. In all three theistic traditions there is the idea of human surrender to God. The conference will explore what this means in the different traditions and look towards a theological dialogue between them.

Related: Comparative Theology

Surrender to God in Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism-Discussion

Surrender to God in Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism
Professor Julius Lipner
24 Jan 2008

This afternoon conference examines the idea of surrender to God in three religions and provides the opportunity to address comparative theological concerns. In all three theistic traditions there is the idea of human surrender to God. The conference will explore what this means in the different traditions and look towards a theological dialogue between them.

Related: Comparative Theology

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