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.
Baladeva vidyabhusana's Premeya-ratnavali and the issue of lineage
The Bhagavad-gita: Innovations and challenges in its translation
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 ‚Äúdedicated free verse translation,‚Äù 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.
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)
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.
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)
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.
Playing around with Sakuntala: Translating Sanskrit drama for performance
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.
A cherished gem or a bitter fruit? Renunciation in Kavikarnapura's Caitanya-candrodaya-nataka
The place of devotion and grace in Shankara's soteriology
Value ethics in the early Upanishads: A hermeneutic exercise
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.
Images and ideas of the goddess in the Hindu tradition
Prof. Mandakranta Bose (Emeritus Professor, Centre for India and South Asia Research, University of British Columbia, Canada)
Shouting at Shiva: Religion in the films of Amitabh Bachchan
The adequacy of language: Re-evaluating Shankara's understanding of the Veda
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?
Interconnecting parallel times: Notions of time in the Caitanya tradition of Hinduism
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.
The mediator: The priest in film
Prof. George Pattison, Theology Faculty, Christchurch College, Oxford
The poetics of sovereignty in early Vedic liturgies
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.
Action movies and American ideals: The growth of Buddhism in Hollywood
Jessica Frazier, Divinity Faculty, Cambridge, and OCHS
The biography of temple complexes
The distribution of Buddhist and early temple sites shows that they overlap in the lower Krishna basin. But more noticeable is the clustering of early temple sites in the two interior districts of Mahboobnagar and Kurnool in Andhra where no Buddhist sites have been found, for example temple sites such as Keesaragutta and Alampur. The most ornate of the early temples located in the Eastern Deccan are those at the site of Alampur situated at the confluence of the rivers Tungabhadra and Krishna. The sites of Aihole, Badami and Patadakal formed the core area of temple construction in central Deccan. Inscriptions dating from 8th to 12th centuries from these temple sites, especially Aihole provide valuable information on the operations of the merchant guild Ayyavole and donations made by them to the temple complex. The importance of the sites of Aihole-Pattadakal-Badami in the development of multi-layered sacred space in central Deccan is undeniable and this presentation locates these temple complexes within their social domains.
Rationalism, atheism and Hinduism in dravidian India, c.1920-90
Dr. David Washbrook (St Antony's College, University of Oxford.)
The shrine in early Hinduism: The changing sacred landscape
This lecture counters the linear view of religious change in South Asia, which suggests that the Hindu temple came into its own after the decline of Buddhism in the fourth-fifth centuries AD. Instead the presentation shows that the temple form was part of a common architectural vocabulary widely used from the second century BC onwards not only for the Buddhist shrine, but also for the Hindu and Jain temples and several local and regional cults. The speaker thus makes a case for plurality of religious beliefs and practices in ancient South Asia as against the prevailing view that these local and regional cults were gradually subsumed under the mantle of Sanskritisation starting from the 4th-5th centuries onwards.
Colonial knowledge, archaeological reconstructions: The discovery of the Hindu temple in 19th-20th century India
The first lecture in the series traces the beginnings of the archaeology of religion in 19th-20th century India and highlights the trends that emerged in the study of the Hindu temple as a result of this intervention. Perhaps the most salient is the disjunction between religious praxis and theory and the study of architecture divorced from its ritual and philosophical moorings. A second is the change in the character of religious sites in the subcontinent from a culturally pluralistic personality to a monotheistic religious identity as a result of early archaeological legislation in the 19th century and more specifically from the early years of the 20th century onwards. This is best achieved by contrasting the ‚Äòdiscovery‚Äô of the site of Amaravati (1798-1867) with that of Nagarjunakonda (1920-1938) ‚Äì both located along the river Krishna in the Guntur district of Andhra.
Narratives in stone: The Ramayana in early deccan
Recitation from sacred texts including the Epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata was a crucial part of ritual activities at temples further reinforced by representations of themes from literature in narrative panels on temple walls. The most sustained visual narrative based on the Valmiki Ramayana dates from 5th to 8th centuries and is to be found on the Visnu temple at Deogarh dated to 425 AD, the contemporary temple at Nachna, as well as in the Deccan on the Durga, Papanatha and Virupaksa temples at Aihole ‚Äì Pattadakal and at the Kailasa temple at Ellora. The Ramayana travelled to Southeast Asia towards the end of the first millennium AD, but the selection of themes and episodes to be depicted on monuments varied from place to place. This presentation analyses the Ramayana panels with a view to understanding the religious and cultural milieu of these shrines.
Hinduism I series: Themes and textual sources (eight lectures)
- Introduction: What is Hinduism?
- The Vedas and Vedic traditions.
- The Upanishads: the Chandogya and Svetashvatara
- Dharma, society and gender
- Theistic Traditions 1
- Theistic Traditions 2
- Local Traditions: Kerala
- Hinduism and Modernity
Philosophy's linguistic turn
Yoga and vyaakarana
Female speakers in the Upanishads and Mahabharata
Hinduism II: Bhakti through vernacular traditions (eight lectures)