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Downloadable lectures

Icon and murti (four seminars)

Dr Kenneth Valpey
25 Jan 2007

This seminar series will examine the issue of representation of the divine in Christian Orthodoxy and Vaisnava Hinduism. Given that God is unknowable and beyond all representation in these traditions, questions will be raised about how a transcendent reality can be represented, the function of such representations, and the degree to which such mediations are thought to be required by tradition. The first two seminars will offer theological backgrounds to Orthodoxy and Vaisnava Hinduism and the remaining two will examine in more detail conceptual and historical problems in the history of the traditions.

Related: Comparative Theology, Iconography

Hinduism II series (eight lectures)

Professor Gavin Flood
25 Jan 2007

These lectures will examine conceptions of liberation and paths leading to liberation in the history of Hinduism. After an introductory lecture that raises some theological questions about the relation of path to goal and the importance of ritual and asceticism, we will begin with an examination of Samkhya, the philosophical backdrop of Yoga, and move on to the opening Yoga-sutras, their ideal of liberation as isolation (kaivalya), and the means of achieving that goal. We will trace the development of devotion (bhakti) and examine bhakti and yoga in the Bhagavad Gita before moving into the medieval period. Here the lectures will describe some developments of bhakti in vernacular literatures, focusing on both texts that advocate devotion to iconic forms and the later texts that advocate devotion to an absolute without qualities. Here we will also examine the importance of ritual texts and the relation between ritual, devotion and yoga. Lastly we will trace the themes of liberation and path with examples from selected tantric traditions within Vaisnavism and Saivism.

 
While the lectures will place texts in their historical contexts, the course will not examine texts in a strictly chronological sequence, the stress being on theme. Throughout we will raise critical, theological questions through engaging with texts in translation and raise the question about the extent to which liberation is a rhetoric that overlays other cultural forces. By the end of the course the student should have an understanding of soteriology in Hinduism, an understanding of some the main literatures associated with this, and an awareness of the philosophical and theological problems entailed. These lectures are aimed at students of theology and religious studies.
 
Lecture Schedule
  • Introduction: the question of soteriology in India
  • Sankhya and Yoga
  • Yoga-sutras of Patañjali
  • Bhakti and Yoga in the Bhagavad-gita and its interpreters
  • Bhakti literatures and Ritual texts
  • The Sant tradition: Kabir, Mirabai
  • The Pancaratra
  • Saivism

Related: General

Icon and murti (four seminars)

Icon and murti (four seminars)
Dr Matthew Steenberg
25 Jan 2007

This seminar series will examine the issue of representation of the divine in Christian Orthodoxy and Vaisnava Hinduism. Given that God is unknowable and beyond all representation in these traditions, questions will be raised about how a transcendent reality can be represented, the function of such representations, and the degree to which such mediations are thought to be required by tradition. The first two seminars will offer theological backgrounds to Orthodoxy and Vaisnava Hinduism and the remaining two will examine in more detail conceptual and historical problems in the history of the traditions.

Related: Comparative Theology, Iconography

Understanding the Pancaratra

Professor M Narasimhachary
30 Nov 2006

This seminar presented by the Prof. Narasimhachary (OCHS Shivdasani Fellow) and Prof. Gavin Flood (OCHS Academic Director) will explore issues of text and interpretation through focussing on texts of the Pancaratra corpus.

Related: Pancaratra

Understanding the Pancaratra

Professor Gavin Flood
30 Nov 2006

This seminar presented by the Prof. Narasimhachary (OCHS Shivdasani Fellow) and Prof. Gavin Flood (OCHS Academic Director) will explore issues of text and interpretation through focussing on texts of the Pancaratra corpus.

Related: Pancaratra

The teleology of meditation

Graduate seminar
Christopher Wood
23 Nov 2006

Drawing from a range of examples, this seminar will present a thesis about the ways in which the goal of meditation within specific spiritual traditions affects practice. It will raise questions about the nature of meditation and other spiritual practices and about individual and communal experience. Christopher Wood is a DPhil student in the Theology Faculty. His background is in Theology (Birmingham) and he has research interests in the history of ideas, comparative religion, and the interface between Theology and Psychology.

Related: Religious experience

Desire in Christianity and Indian religions

Dr Ulrike Roesler
9 Nov 2006

Desire in its widest sense is fundamental to human existence and has been the focus of much discussion in religious traditions over the centuries. Desire has been seen as a negative quality which keeps people in bondage, as generally seen in Buddhism, but desire for a greater good has also been seen as a positive force in different traditions. The aim of this conference is explore the idea of desire and its understanding in Christianity and Indian religions and to generate discussion of comparative philosophy and theology across traditions.

Related: Comparative Theology

Desire in Christianity and Indian religions

Professor Keith Ward
9 Nov 2006

Desire in its widest sense is fundamental to human existence and has been the focus of much discussion in religious traditions over the centuries. Desire has been seen as a negative quality which keeps people in bondage, as generally seen in Buddhism, but desire for a greater good has also been seen as a positive force in different traditions. The aim of this conference is explore the idea of desire and its understanding in Christianity and Indian religions and to generate discussion of comparative philosophy and theology across traditions.

Related: Comparative Theology

Desire in Christianity and Indian religions

Dr Dermot Killingley
9 Nov 2006

Desire in its widest sense is fundamental to human existence and has been the focus of much discussion in religious traditions over the centuries. Desire has been seen as a negative quality which keeps people in bondage, as generally seen in Buddhism, but desire for a greater good has also been seen as a positive force in different traditions. The aim of this conference is explore the idea of desire and its understanding in Christianity and Indian religions and to generate discussion of comparative philosophy and theology across traditions.

Related: Comparative Theology

It's a kind of magic: The powers of yoga and their interpretation

Majewski Lecture
Dr Angelika Malinar
30 Oct 2006

Flying through the air, the remembrance of former existence, being insensitive to pain - all these phenomena are known as the 'power' of Yogins and are usually regarded as signs of a successful practice of Yoga. Already in the oldest texts, such as the Mahabharata (400 BCE- 400 CE) and the Yogasutra (4th-5th century, CE), they are called bala (power), siddhi (achievements) or vibhuti (manifestation of might). In academic contexts these powers were rather neglected since they have often been interpreted as an expression of 'magical thinking'. The discussion of some of these academic views will be followed by an analysis of the description and interpretation of Yogic powers in the Yogasutra and the Mahabharata. It will be shown that the authors of these texts used their own philosophical framework for explaining the 'conquest' of the objects of Yogic practice.

Related: Yoga

Theories of the text series (five lectures)

Professor Gavin Flood
17 Oct 2006

The study of texts is fundamental to Theology and Religious Studies. The aim of this series of seminars is to examine some theories of the text that have arisen within the human sciences over the last fifty years and to examine their implications for the study of religions. These developments have broadly occurred within what has become known as the 'linguistic' turn and 'postmodernism', along with reactions to it. As we now move beyond these intellectual movements ('beyond theory' to borrow a recent term by Terry Eagleton) we need to reassess the role of the text, particularly the religious text, and examine the kinds of reading practices that are available to us.

Related: Literary Theory

Baladeva vidyabhusana's Premeya-ratnavali and the issue of lineage

Graduate Seminar
Kiyokazu Okita
12 Oct 2006

This seminar will present an account of the Vaishnava philosopher Baladeva Vidyabhusana and his place in the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition. The paper will address the problem of lineage and raise questions about authenticity, authority, and the legitimacy of practice claimed by tradition. Kiyokazu Okita is a graduate student in the Theology Faculty at Oxford, pursuing research for his DPhil on Baladeva. He has degrees from Japan and the USA.

Related: Hindu Theology, Philosophy, Vaisnava

The Bhagavad-gita: Innovations and challenges in its translation

Wahlstrom Lecture
Professor Graham M. Schweig
30 May 2006

Many translators of the Bhagavad Gita resort to an informationally accurate prose translation that sometimes loses the poetic power and expression of the original verse. Others resort to constricted verse translation droping important and nuanced meanings of the text. Schweig is developing a way to translate Sanskrit philosophical verse that is both loyal to the meaning of the text while conveying something of the poetic power of the text in what he calls “dedicated free verse translation,” without falling prey to the weakness of either approach. Schweig will present some of the discoveries on which he is writing for his forthcoming introduction and translation of the Bhagavad Gita for Harper Collins / Harper San Francisco.

Related: Bhagavad-gita

The concept of nivrtti as translated in the lives of women in Hinduism: A survey (as part of 'Towards equality: writing/reading gender in texts of Hinduism' workshop)

Professor T.S. Rukmani
19 May 2006

Nivrtti denotes disengagement with worldly conventions. Of course it is used more in the context of samnysins/samnyasinis in connection with the pursuit of moksa (liberation). But this paper intends to release the word nivrtti from this narrow application and look at it in a wider context. The paper will examine the instances in the texts which have representations of women who go against the conventional, mother/warrior image. For instance is the brahmavadini/scholar woman like Gargi for instance, discarding by choice the role of a married woman and opting for a life of scholarly/spiritual search? Again is Savitri exerting her independence and opting to marry Satyavan in spite of her father's advice? Sulabha again could be someone who did not want to marry anyone because she was far superior to all those who wooed her. She makes the deliberate choice to become a bhiksuni. There are any number of these examples in Sanskrit texts which will form the basis of the talk.

Related: Dharmasastra, Gender

Texts of Hindu sacred law and the construction of women's lives (as part of 'Towards equality: writing/reading gender in texts of Hinduism' workshop)

Professor Mandakranta Bose
19 May 2006

In India the treatises of law founded upon the sacred books of the Hindus had a far-reaching and defining influence on social life. As foundational documents of the Hindu way of life which codified social relations as well as personal belief as religious imperatives, these texts have exerted the deepest influence on the lives and conduct of women through history and their teachings have not yet entirely lost their force. In this lecture I shall consider some of the provisions in Hindu sacred law that moulded the lives of women, as derived from the writings of Manu and other ancient Hindu lawgivers, as well as some later writers on this basis we shall attempt to understand the intimate connection between the religious framework and the social, which has laid the basis of women's status, roles, rights and duties in Hindu society.

Related: Dharmasastra, Gender

Playing around with Sakuntala: Translating Sanskrit drama for performance

Majewski Lecture
Dr William Johnson
18 May 2006

This lecture considers possible strategies for translating the conventions and aesthetic of Sanskrit drama for a modern English-peaking audience. It takes the form of a case study of Dr. Johnson's own translation of The Recognition of Sakuntala for Oxford World's Classics, and reflects on some unintended consequences.

Related: Literature

A cherished gem or a bitter fruit? Renunciation in Kavikarnapura's Caitanya-candrodaya-nataka

Graduate Seminar
Dr Rembert Lutjeharms
16 May 2006

Related: Asceticism, Vaisnava

The place of devotion and grace in Shankara's soteriology

Graduate Seminar
Jean-Marie Schmitt
8 May 2006

Related: Hindu Theology, Vedanta

Value ethics in the early Upanishads: A hermeneutic exercise

Shivdasani Seminar
Professor T.S. Rukmani
4 May 2006

The general view amongst scholars, and western scholars in particular, is that there is not sufficient attention paid to ethics in Hinduism. While no one holds that view seriously these days it does surface in discussions on Hinduism even today. This presentation tries to tackle that issue from the point of view of the early Upanishads. The main argument I develop is that moral theory and ethical behaviour is culture specific and there cannot be a uniform standard moral theory for all cultures. Moreover, it is axiomatic that no culture, particularly one that has survived thousands of years like that of the Hindus, could have survived without a moral code. Moral theory grows in consonance with the values that each society considers of ultimate importance. Keeping this as the background, this paper looks at a number of the early and middle Upanishads to build a behaviour pattern based on the twin concepts of dharma and moksa. Along the way the paper also tries to answer criticisms from scholars like Zaehner for whom a jivanmukta (one liberated while still in the body) is beyond all morality. The conclusion drawn is that there is a close connection between moral behaviour and the realization of what it means to be human.

Related: Ethics, Upanisads

Images and ideas of the goddess in the Hindu tradition

Shivdasani Seminar
Professor Mandakranta Bose
2 May 2006

Prof. Mandakranta Bose (Emeritus Professor, Centre for India and South Asia Research, University of British Columbia, Canada)

The idea of Devi, the goddess on whom all creation depends for both protection and nurture, is fundamental to the Hindu way of life. This profound philosophical idea found powerful expression in Hindu myths from early times, influencing both religion and culture in South Asia. This lecture will take note of the intensely emotional impact of the idea of the goddess figure in Hindu thought and trace how through the ages it has been reworked into the rich fabric of South Asian literature, art and the performing arts.

Related: Goddesses, Iconography

Shouting at Shiva: Religion in the films of Amitabh Bachchan

Religion and film seminars
Jessica Hines
6 Mar 2006

Related: Film

The adequacy of language: Re-evaluating Shankara's understanding of the Veda

Majewski Lecture
Dr J. S. Hirst
2 Mar 2006

If ultimate reality is beyond language, how can language comprise the only valid method of acquiring knowledge of it? And if no language whatsoever can describe ultimate reality, what guarantee could there be that what Vedic language purports to disclose is anything other than a chimera?

These are problems that lie at the heart of Shankara's Advaita Vedanta, but occur, in different guises, in a wide range of religious traditions. They are problems which raise questions about text and interpretation, about 'revelation' and the ways in which language is held to work. They require us to reflect on how we know what we know. They challenge us to define in what senses, if any, the ultimate may be said to be ineffable.
 
In this lecture, I shall re-examine the work of the famous Indian non-dual commentator, Shankara (c.700 A.D.), who held that ultimate reality (brahman) is beyond language and who frankly admitted that the Veda has no authority once brahman is known. I shall, however, challenge interpretations of his work which assume that language is inadequate to its task and so locate knowledge of the ineffable either in some kind of mystical experience or in the secondary or poetic use of language. I shall argue that, in Shankara's view, the language of the Upanishadic Vedic texts is precisely adequate to its task, given the epistemological and hermeneutical strategies the Veda provides for the Advaitin commentator to deploy.

Related: Veda, Vedanta

Interconnecting parallel times: Notions of time in the Caitanya tradition of Hinduism

Text, context, and interpretation seminars
Dr Angelika Malinar
2 Mar 2006

While the idea that ancient Indian cultures lack a sense of history has been questioned and even rejected in recent years, the notion of cyclical time is still regarded as the concept of time prevalent in Hinduism. The paper examines this view by dealing with Mircea Eliade‚ understanding of cyclicity and eternal return. It will be argued that time is not only in Western religions, but also in Hinduism conceived of as a complex, multi-layered phenomenon. This will be shown in a case-study of the Caitanya tradition.

Related: Vaisnava

The mediator: The priest in film

Religion and film seminars
Professor George Pattison
27 Feb 2006

Prof. George Pattison, Theology Faculty, Christchurch College, Oxford

Related: Christianity, Film

The poetics of sovereignty in early Vedic liturgies

Text, context, and interpretation seminars
Dr T. Proferes
17 Feb 2006

Recently there has been a general interest in the relation of religion to kingship in the history of Indian religions. In the context of this interest, the seminar examines the relationship between power and ritual through showing how sovereignty is expressed in Vedic liturgies.

Related: Ritual, Veda

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