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Legends of the Goddess: Ānṭāḷ Stories in the Śrīvaiṣṇava Traditions

Shivdasani Lecture
Dr. Archana Venkatesan
18 Feb 2013

This paper examines Ānṭāḷ’s story as it circulates in both textual and oral sources since the 12 century, with a particular emphasis on the Manipravala Guruparamparaprābhavam 6000 and 3000 and the Sanskrit Divyasūricaritam. I explore issues of genre, style and language choice as I chart the changes in Ānṭāḷ’s story, and the history that such alterations both reveal and conceal. 

Religion and Rationality

The Importance of Religion Series
Prof. Gavin Flood
15 Feb 2013

This is a series of four lectures based on Flood’s recent book The Importance of Religion: Meaning and Action in Our Strange World (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012).

A prevailing idea from the Enlightenment, still with us today, is that the light of reason would dispel the darkness of religion and reveal the universe to us. While the desire for enlightenment and the attendant aspiration for a better human future are commendable, the identification of religion with darkness and ignorance is problematic. Religion has not gone away and is a topic of deep concern both because of its destructive capacity and for its constructive capacity as a resource that gives people truth, beauty, and goodness. These lectures are within the broad claim that the importance of religion is existential: religions provide significant meaning to life and guide people in their choices and practices.

Hinduism 2, Hindu Traditions (Paper 21)

Prof. Gavin Flood
13 Feb 2013

Beginning with the early medieval period, this paper traces the development of Hinduism in devotional (bhakti) and tantric traditions. The paper examines the development of Śaiva, Śākta, and Vaiṣṇava traditions along with ideas about liberation, ritual, asceticism, yoga and devotion. There will be some exploration of Hinduism and Modernity and there may also be reference to major schools of Hindu philosophy such as Vedānta.

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religions 2

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religions
8 Feb 2013

Convenors: Lucian Wong and Tristan Elby

This series of seminars will provide a lively and thought-provoking forum for graduate students from across the disciplines to present their latest work on any of the Indic religions, creating an opportunity for regular discussion and cross-fertilisation among students in this area. It will be held fortnightly in Hilary term (weeks 2, 4, 6, 8) on Fridays from 4pm–5pm, with a chance for informal discussion afterwards over refreshments. Each seminar will feature two papers on related themes or subjects, of about 20 minutes each, with a chance for questions after each paper. Any graduate students working on, or otherwise interested in, Indic religions, are warmly invited to attend.

 

Beyond Rama: Krishna and Shiva in the Brajbhāṣa works of Tulsīdās
Nayan Bedia

The aim of the dissertation is to produce a critical edition of the 66 padas that constitute Tulsīdās’s Krishna-gītāvalī. Research on the early-modern history, society and language of India is an understudied field. Also, the available scholarship on Tulsīdās tends to focus only on his magnum opus, the Rāmcaritmānas, when many other important works exist. A critical edition of the Krishna-gītāvalī will not only illuminate the understanding of one of the most popular Hindi-authors over last few centuries. It will also assist in forming a better understanding of how early-modern religious practice operated and the interplay between the Hindi vernacular languages, Braj and Avadhī.

Bhaktivinod Thakur’s Kṛṣṇa-saṁhitā: Negotiating History in Nineteenth Century Bengal
Lucian Wong

The nineteenth century is widely regarded as a pivotal period in South Asian religious history. Colonial presence in the region entailed intense and prolonged exposure to challenging currents of western modernity for many South Asian religious traditions and practitioners. While religious responses to the colonial challenge varied widely, the encounter with modernity is often thought of as marking a rupture with pre-modern religious traditions. Historical consciousness has been characterised as one of the key currents and signs of the modern.

Bhaktivinod Thakur was a prominent Bengali Vaiṣṇava theologian and leader, who emerged from a typically nineteenth century Calcuttan middle-class educational and social context. In his first major work, the Kṛṣṇa-saṁhitā, we find him addressing the modern concern for history and its relation to the mythical narratives of Purānic texts. By highlighting 1) evident tensions within the text and 2) significant revisions that he makes in a subsequent edition of the text, this paper calls into question the plausibility of the notion of rupture in relation to the Bengali Vaiṣṇava tradition in the nineteenth century.

Imagination, Narrative and Possession

Mapping the Mystical Self Series
Dr. Jessica Frazier
8 Feb 2013

The snān-yātrā of Salkia: Contrasting voices on possession and animal sacrifice in contemporary Bengal

Majewski Lecture
Prof Fabrizio M. Ferrari
7 Feb 2013

The snān-yātrā is a pilgrimage celebrated once a year in the town of Salkia (Howrah district, West Bengal). Attracting thousands of pilgrims, the festival is the occasion to celebrate Śītalā as Choṭa Mā, a loving and benevolent protective mother. The yātrāemphasises devotion but is also an arena for tense performances. Phenomena of individual and collective possession (bhar) are extremely common and are viewed as a much needed proof of the auspicious presence of the goddess. But possession is also a way to claim (or challenge) power in and across specific contexts (family, jāti, gender, political circles, etc.). It is thus not unusual that many (especially women, or non-Bengali migrants) are accused to cheat, to enact fake possessions, or to be ‘mad.’ Contention also features the day after snān-yātrā, which is dedicated to Bao Mā. This form of Śītalā is radically different. Bao Mā is believed to be potentially dangerous, and is a hungry goddess. The ritual killing of animals (balidān) is the distinctive feature of her service, a performance aiming at pleasing, feeding and thanking the goddess. Regardless of its importance, balidān does not enjoy much popularity. Temple attendance is limited to locals and the sebāits of the temple are indicated by outsiders as ignorant and violent. Such views are validated on a broader scale. In contemporary Bengal practices such as possession and sacrifice are objected by intellectuals and teachers, the middle class, the media and religious authorities from all faiths. In this climate, many facets of local folklore are increasingly dismissed, diminished and ridiculed (often aggressively) as a heterogeneous bunch of backward practices and superstitions. The snān-yātrā is not just an occasion to experience local variations of Śītalā and the gentrification of the goddess. This paper, part of a larger study on Śītalā and medical folklore in North India, reflects on the meaning and destiny of vernacular culture in contemporary India.

Professor Ferrari was educated in Indology and South Asian languages and literatures (Hindi and Sanskrit) at the University of Venice (Italy) and received his PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London) for a study on Bengali folklore. After teaching South Asian religions and Religious Studies for two years at SOAS, he joined the University of Chester in 2007. He is an active fieldworker and regularly conduct ethnographic research in India. He specialises in the study of vernacular Hinduism and folklore and is particularly interested in ritual healing and therapeutic possession; ritual theory and Marxist approaches to the study of religion.

Hinduism 2, Hindu Traditions (Paper 21)

Prof. Gavin Flood
6 Feb 2013

Beginning with the early medieval period, this paper traces the development of Hinduism in devotional (bhakti) and tantric traditions. The paper examines the development of Śaiva, Śākta, and Vaiṣṇava traditions along with ideas about liberation, ritual, asceticism, yoga and devotion. There will be some exploration of Hinduism and Modernity and there may also be reference to major schools of Hindu philosophy such as Vedānta.

The Inner Journey

The Importance of Religion Series
Prof. Gavin Flood
1 Feb 2013

This is a series of four lectures based on Flood’s recent book The Importance of Religion: Meaning and Action in Our Strange World (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012).

A prevailing idea from the Enlightenment, still with us today, is that the light of reason would dispel the darkness of religion and reveal the universe to us. While the desire for enlightenment and the attendant aspiration for a better human future are commendable, the identification of religion with darkness and ignorance is problematic. Religion has not gone away and is a topic of deep concern both because of its destructive capacity and for its constructive capacity as a resource that gives people truth, beauty, and goodness. These lectures are within the broad claim that the importance of religion is existential: religions provide significant meaning to life and guide people in their choices and practices.

Tantric Dimensions of the Rāsa Maṇḍala: The Bhagavata Rāsa Līlā and the Artistic Imagination

Prof. Graham Schweig
31 Jan 2013

The focus of this presentation will be two-fold. First Schweig will bring out tantric dimensions of the Bhāgavata’s Rāsa Līlā: the yantra-like narrative, the feminine power of the Vraja Gopikās over divinity, the līlā of divine love as arranged by the Goddess, etc. Second, Schweig will focus on the symbolism of the Rāsa Maṇḍala by examining key elements of the passage and ways in which its tāntric character influences its artistic renderings. Schweig will argue that the imagery of the Rāsa Mandala functions as a bhakti-yantra. Through līlā-smaraṇam practitioners enter the world of the dance, becoming eternal participants in it. Contemplation and participation become one by virtue of the power of this bhakti-yantra. The centripetal, centrifugal, circumferential and centrifocal dynamics of the Rāsa Mandala circle as they function as powerful inner mechanisms within bhakti, and as expressions in artistic renderings of Rāsa Maṇḍala, will be presented.

Graham M. Schweig is currently Professor of Religion and Director of the Asian Studies Program at Christopher Newport University; he is a regularly invited lecturer at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Schweig is the author of Dance of Divine Love: India's Classic Sacred Love Story(Princeton 2005). His most recent edited publication is A Living Theology of Krishna Bhakti: Essential Teachings of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda (Oxford 2012).

Hinduism 2, Hindu Traditions (Paper 21)

Prof. Gavin Flood
30 Jan 2013

Beginning with the early medieval period, this paper traces the development of Hinduism in devotional (bhakti) and tantric traditions. The paper examines the development of Śaiva, Śākta, and Vaiṣṇava traditions along with ideas about liberation, ritual, asceticism, yoga and devotion. There will be some exploration of Hinduism and Modernity and there may also be reference to major schools of Hindu philosophy such as Vedānta.

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religions 1

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religions
25 Jan 2013

Convenors: Lucian Wong and Tristan Elby

This series of seminars will provide a lively and thought-provoking forum for graduate students from across the disciplines to present their latest work on any of the Indic religions, creating an opportunity for regular discussion and cross-fertilisation among students in this area. It will be held fortnightly in Hilary term (weeks 2, 4, 6, 8) on Fridays from 4pm–5pm, with a chance for informal discussion afterwards over refreshments. Each seminar will feature two papers on related themes or subjects, of about 20 minutes each, with a chance for questions after each paper. Any graduate students working on, or otherwise interested in, Indic religions, are warmly invited to attend.

Hanumān, a Four-fold Axis Mundi Mediator? Liminal Identity of the Messenger Monkey
Matt Martin, Wolfson College, Oxford

Fusing textual, theological and ethnographic methodologies, this interdisciplinary paper will bring to the fore some interesting elucidations concerning Hindu traditions’ most popular theriomorphic deity, Hanumān. I will suggest that Hanumān exhibits, by-and-large, all of the characteristics ascribed to a quintessential liminal mediator, and that his shaman-èsque tendencies (derived from this mediatory affiliation) are not merely confined to the literary boundaries of the Ramāyāṇa, but are more widely evident on both cosmic and social levels. In brief, I will consider Hanumān’s liminal mediator nature in relation to the following issues: the mythological flights of Hanumān as documented in the Ramāyāṇa; Hanumān as a theological nexus and cosmic Axis Mundi; and finally Hanumān invoked during healing exorcism rituals, manifested in his Balajī (child-like) persona.

Archaeology of personhood in Early Historic India
Ken Ishikawa

The present paper discusses the concept of personhood in Early Historic South Asia from anthropological / archaeological perspectives, focusing on Indic divine personality.

The construct theory of personhood has been employed in archaeology to explore the idea of personhood in the human past. The person in this context refers to humans, animals or objects. Personhood is constructed through relationships not only with other humans in the society but with all aspects of the world around them. One of the fundamental questions thus is in what context inanimate objects, events or places attain ‘personhood.’

Personhood in traditional India is largely characterized by dividuality, in which the person is considered as a composite of so-called substance-codes that can be transmitted interpersonally. In my view, divine beings display this dividuality with its temporal and transformative nature as seen in the classical example of Ardhanarīśvara, who is half Śiva and half Pārvatī. I will investigate to what extent Indic Gods can be characterized by dividual personhood by looking at archaeological, art-historical, textual/epigraphic and ethnographic evidence from Early Historic South Asia and beyond.

My key case studies include: 1) a manifestation of social interactions: the relic cult and image worship in Indian Buddhism (with ethnographic reference to relics of the Jagannath image), 2) multiplicate personhood: Seven Buddhas of the past in Indian art 3) Avatāras: Buddhist/Jain fusion art of Gujarat and the interchangeability of the 9th avatāra between Buddha and Jain Ādinātha; the divine ‘avatāra’ kingship during the Gupta period.

No Night Like This: Female Longing in Nammāḻvār’s Tiruviruttam

Shivdasani Lecture
Dr. Archana Venkatesan
21 Jan 2013

The great ninth century Vaiṣṇava poet, Nammāḻvār composed a short poem of one hundred verses, the Tiruviruttam, which purportedly utilizes the narrative trajectory of love and longing to speak of the poet’s desire for Viṣṇu. The poet assumes many voices—the heroine, the hero, the mother, the friend—although later medieval commentators only see the heroine’s voice as contiguous with that of Nammāḻvār. Tamil aesthetic theory that governs the reading of akam poetry guides us to determine the poem’s voice based on the poetic situation and the landscape. While such an approach fits some of the female-voice verses in the Tiruviruttam, several verses resist such categories, as they can easily and equally be spoken by the hero, heroine, mother or friend. Using the verses in the Tiruviruttam as an example, I explore what it means for a male poet to assume multiple female voices, and the manner in which he effaces these multiple voices by imbuing these “female-voiced” verses with a deliberate and intentional ambiguity.

The Meaning of Religious Action

The Importance of Religion Series
Prof. Gavin Flood
18 Jan 2013

This is a series of four lectures based on Flood’s recent book The Importance of Religion: Meaning and Action in Our Strange World (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012).

A prevailing idea from the Enlightenment, still with us today, is that the light of reason would dispel the darkness of religion and reveal the universe to us. While the desire for enlightenment and the attendant aspiration for a better human future are commendable, the identification of religion with darkness and ignorance is problematic. Religion has not gone away and is a topic of deep concern both because of its destructive capacity and for its constructive capacity as a resource that gives people truth, beauty, and goodness. These lectures are within the broad claim that the importance of religion is existential: religions provide significant meaning to life and guide people in their choices and practices.

Facets of Hinduism in the Cultural-Nationalist Programme of the Hindu Mela

Shivdasani Lecture
Dr Swarupa Gupta
26 Nov 2012

The Hindu Mela (1867) was the first organised expression of cultural nationhood. This lecture will examine the triadic intersection between (Hindu) religion,  culture, and nationalism as reflected in the Hindu Mela. It studies how this intersection formed a reference point for comparing the selective emphasis on Hindu heritage in the earlier (late nineteenth century and early twentieth century) phase, and later, in emphatically communal and political discourses. I will focus on the shifting connotation of ‘Hindu’, and argue that despite the nomenclature: ‘Hindu Mela’, there was a flexibility. This was evident in the contextual inclusion of non-Hindu groups in the Mela. Lines of religious divisions were blurred. The Mela was open to Indians of all classes, srenis [occupational-cum-social groups], and religious-communal groups. The ideology of the Mela was yoked to ideas about swadesh or Bharat Bhumi, which was not necessarily the land of the Hindus alone. This inclusion occurred despite the use of Hindu religious imagery. Using a comparative model, I track how and why this was different from / similar to the use of Hindu ideology and imagery by the Moderate Congress leaders and by the Extremists. In this regard, I explore how the Mela depicted / picturised Hindu Gods, e.g., a pushkar bijmala was given to Shiva; how Krishna was transmuted to the idol of Kali (done by Kasisvar Mitra, Rajendranath Deb and others). Further, I also address the issue of dissemination: for instance, at the national theatre, religious plays were staged. I also aim to investigate how the use of religious icons and images was accepted / not accepted by non-Hindus.

Swarupa Gupta, Ph.D. in History, SOAS (University of London, 2004) is Assistant Professor at the Department of History, Presidency University, Calcutta. Her publications include: Notions of Nationhood in Bengal: Perspectives on Samaj, c. 1867-1905 (Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2009); an edited volume entitled Nationhood and Identity Movements in Asia: Colonial and Postcolonial Times (Delhi: Manohar Publishers, 2012); and a book manuscript: Ethnicity, Otherness and Cultural Constellations in Eastern India and Beyond. She has also contributed to various peer-reviewed international and national journals such as Modern Asian Studies (Cambridge University Press), Economic and Political WeeklyStudies in HistoryJournal of the Asiatic SocietyEncounters; and also to several edited books. She is the recipient of Felix Scholarship, University of London Central Research Fund award, SOAS fieldwork grant, and an invited visiting fellowship at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Gottingen, Germany.

The Sacred and the Secular: Hindu Ideology and Imagery in Extremist Politics

Shivdasani Seminar
Dr Swarupa Gupta
29 Oct 2012

My presentation would explore how different visions, versions and heritages of Hinduism were reflected in Extremist politics. It would trace how such reflections crafted a nationalist idea of India. I will see how concepts such as Tilak’s ‘feeling of Hindutva’, Lajpat Rai’s ‘Hindu nationality’, B.C. Pal’s ‘composite patriotism’, and Brahmabandhab Upadhyay’s ‘Sankara’s Advaitic system’ differed from contemporary ideas about ‘Hindu Nationalism’. I argue that the Extremist brand of nationalism cannot be equated to communalism (Cf. J. Zavos: 2000 and 2011; and C. Jaffrelot: 1998). Using a comparative model, I trace regional and trans-regional iconisations of Hinduism in Extremist politics. Why and how were yearnings and devotion to a divine Motherland (India), referred to as ‘Gyan Bhumi’, ‘Punya Bhumi’, and ‘Ved Bhumi’ expressed? This is yoked to the symbolism of Krishnacharitra, and the performance of religious ceremonies for political purposes, such as the Ganapati festival in Maharashtra, which was also celebrated in Bengal. This is connected to the point about dissemination of Extremist religious-political ideas. I see how Kathas, and periodicals on religious discussions disseminated such ideas to a wider audience, and how the latter reacted to these. 

Swarupa Gupta, Ph.D. in History, SOAS (University of London, 2004) is Assistant Professor Member at the Department of History, Presidency University, Calcutta. Her publications include: Notions of Nationhood in Bengal: Perspectives on Samaj, c. 1867-1905 (Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2009); an edited volume entitled Nationhood and Identity Movements in Asia: Colonial and Postcolonial Times (Delhi: Manohar Publishers, 2012); and a book manuscript: Ethnicity, Otherness and Cultural Constellations in Eastern India and Beyond. She has also contributed to various peer-reviewed international and national journals such as Modern Asian Studies (Cambridge University Press), Economic and Political WeeklyStudies in HistoryJournal of the Asiatic SocietyEncounters; and also to several edited books. She is the recipient of Felix Scholarship, University of London Central Research Fund award, SOAS fieldwork grant, and an invited visiting fellowship at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Gottingen, Germany.

Hindu Scriptural Reasoning

Prof. Gavin Flood
25 Oct 2012

Scriptural Reasoning is a practice of reading scriptures and thinking about them across traditions. It was founded by Peter Ochs as a practice of Jews, Christians, and Muslims reading their scriptures together in small groups and comes out of the post-liberal Theology of the Yale School along with traditional Jewish practices of reading scripture (called Textual Reasoning). With a view to broadening the scope of Scriptural Reasoning it is proposed to transplant the practice into a Hindu context. The enterprise is hermeneutical in orientation although it assumes that much of the text-historical or philological work has been done. The practice will be simply to take a theme and passages from Hindu scriptures and discuss them. The aim of Scriptural Reasoning is to understand difference rather than to arrive at consensus (although that too can arise) but the practice is open ended. It is practice driven rather than theory driven although general features of Scriptural Reasoning have developed over the last twenty years or so. Probably the best way to describe it is to let Peter Ochs speak:

Scriptural Reasoning (SR) is an open-ended practice of reading- and reasoning-in-dialogue among scholars of the three Abrahamic traditions. There are no set doctrines or rules of SR, since the rules are embedded in the texts of scripture and their relation to those who study and reason together. Individual practitioners of SR do find it useful, however, to reflect occasionally on their group practice and identify its leading tendencies. Such reflections differ from individual to individual and from time to time, but there are overlaps, and both the overlaps and the differences stimulate http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/journals/jsrforum/

Hindu Scriptural Reasoning will be by way of experiment to see whether a practice developed out of a Jewish context can work in a Hindu context.

 

In the World but Not of the World: Social Ethics in Early Modern North India

Dr Kiyokazu Okita
12 Oct 2012

Can a religious practitioner be exempt from performing social duties? Ever since Buddhists and Jains rejected Brahmanical social values, the issue of social ethics for religious practitioners has been a contested topic in South Asia. In this presentation, I examine how Baladeva Vidyabhusana, a Vaishnava theologian in the 18th century, dealt with this topic at the court of Jai Singh II, a famous Rajput king of Jaipur.

 

Kiyokazu Okita obtained his D.Phil. from Faculty of Theology, University of Oxford in 2011. After serving as a lecturer at Department of Religion, University of Florida, he is currently a JSPS post-doctoral research fellow at Department of Indological Studies, Kyoto University, as well as a visiting researcher at Abteilung für Kultur und Geschichte Indiens und Tibets, Universität Hamburg.

Hindu Scriptural Reasoning

Prof. Gavin Flood
11 Oct 2012

Scriptural Reasoning is a practice of reading scriptures and thinking about them across traditions. It was founded by Peter Ochs as a practice of Jews, Christians, and Muslims reading their scriptures together in small groups and comes out of the post-liberal Theology of the Yale School along with traditional Jewish practices of reading scripture (called Textual Reasoning). With a view to broadening the scope of Scriptural Reasoning it is proposed to transplant the practice into a Hindu context. The enterprise is hermeneutical in orientation although it assumes that much of the text-historical or philological work has been done. The practice will be simply to take a theme and passages from Hindu scriptures and discuss them. The aim of Scriptural Reasoning is to understand difference rather than to arrive at consensus (although that too can arise) but the practice is open ended. It is practice driven rather than theory driven although general features of Scriptural Reasoning have developed over the last twenty years or so. Probably the best way to describe it is to let Peter Ochs speak:

Scriptural Reasoning (SR) is an open-ended practice of reading- and reasoning-in-dialogue among scholars of the three Abrahamic traditions. There are no set doctrines or rules of SR, since the rules are embedded in the texts of scripture and their relation to those who study and reason together. Individual practitioners of SR do find it useful, however, to reflect occasionally on their group practice and identify its leading tendencies. Such reflections differ from individual to individual and from time to time, but there are overlaps, and both the overlaps and the differences stimulate http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/journals/jsrforum/

Hindu Scriptural Reasoning will be by way of experiment to see whether a practice developed out of a Jewish context can work in a Hindu context.

Spoken Sanskrit: Week Eight

Professor M Narasimhachary
12 Jun 2012

 Founder Professor and Head (Retired), Department of Vaishnavism, University of Madras, India. His specialist subjects include the Pre-Ramanuja Religion and Philosophy, Pancharatra Agama Literature, Telugu and Sanskrit Literature and popularisation of Sanskrit as a spoken tongue. He has published a number of articles and monographs in academic journals on topics such as the Samskrita Svapnah, Bhakti and Prapatti in Srivaishnava Philosophy and the Pancaratra-kantakoddhara. Important Publications include: The Contribution of Yaamuna to Visistadvaita [Pub; Jayalakshmi Publications, Hyderabad]; Critical Edition and Study of Yaamuna's Aagamapraamaanya [Gaekwad's Oriental Series, Baroda]; and an English translation of Sri Vedanta Desika's Padukasahasram and all of his 32 Stotras. Prof. Narasimhachary received the Certificate of Honour for Proficiency in Sanskrit from the President of India for the year 2004.

Related: Sanskrit

Motivation to the Means in the Philosopher’s Stone

Shivdasani Seminar
Professor Parimal Patil
6 Jun 2012

This seminar is an exploration of theories of religious action and meta-ethics in late pre-modern Indian philosophy of religion. We will focus on these theories as they are introduced by the Nyāya philosopher Gaṅgēśa in his Tattvacintāmaṇi. 

 
Parimal G. Patil is Professor of Religion and Indian Philosophy at Harvard University, where is Chair of the Department of South Asian Studies. His primary academic interests are in Sanskrit philosophy and the intellectual history of religion in India. In his first two books, Against a Hindu God and Buddhist Philosophy of Religion in India, he focused on interreligious debates between Buddhists and non-Buddhist philosophers in the final phase of Buddhism in India. Currently, he is working on early modern Sanskrit philosophy, especially the work of the New Epistemologists.

Related: Nyaya, Philosophy

Spoken Sanskrit: Week Seven

Professor M Narasimhachary
5 Jun 2012

 Founder Professor and Head (Retired), Department of Vaishnavism, University of Madras, India. His specialist subjects include the Pre-Ramanuja Religion and Philosophy, Pancharatra Agama Literature, Telugu and Sanskrit Literature and popularisation of Sanskrit as a spoken tongue. He has published a number of articles and monographs in academic journals on topics such as the Samskrita Svapnah, Bhakti and Prapatti in Srivaishnava Philosophy and the Pancaratra-kantakoddhara. Important Publications include: The Contribution of Yaamuna to Visistadvaita [Pub; Jayalakshmi Publications, Hyderabad]; Critical Edition and Study of Yaamuna's Aagamapraamaanya [Gaekwad's Oriental Series, Baroda]; and an English translation of Sri Vedanta Desika's Padukasahasram and all of his 32 Stotras. Prof. Narasimhachary received the Certificate of Honour for Proficiency in Sanskrit from the President of India for the year 2004.

Related: Sanskrit

Consuming Scripture

Shivdasani Lecture
Professor Parimal Patil
4 Jun 2012
What counts as "scripture"?
Wherein lies its authority?
What has been said about dharma on the basis of it?
How has what has been said been justified through exegesis (and other commentarial and "quasi-commentarial" practices)?

Related: Hindu Theology, Mimāṃsā, Philosophy

Bishop Appasamy and Comparative Theology in India

Graduate Seminar
Brian Dunn
31 May 2012

A.J. Appasamy (1891-1975) was a Harvard, Oxford and Marburg trained Tamil Christian theologian who served as an Anglican priest and seminary professor in India before Independence, and post-Independence, as the first Bishop of Coimbatore in the Church of South India. Working from the premise that doctrines and theological systems are largely cultural and linguistic negotiations, and therefore provisional rather than permanent constructs, Appasamy’s earliest interest was in recasting Christianity as a living bhakti (‘devotional’) tradition in the Subcontinent. As his comparative practice matures there is a noticeable shift in his thinking away from larger generalized groupings of ‘religions,’ such as ‘Christianity’ and ‘Hinduism,’ and increasingly towards particular interaction with specific thinkers, texts and traditions. Concurrent to this he began to develop a methodology by which to do so that employs the Vedantic epistemological categories known as pramanas (‘evidences’). This paper will consider how Appasamy’s theological project and method might fruitfully be applied to the field of scholarship known today as ‘comparative theology,’ especially as it pertains to the Indian context. Building on Appasamy’s use of the pramanas, I will add my own proposal that comparative theologians from all traditions might draw further benefit from the clarity of the dialectical structure of the Vedantic commentarial tradition.

 
Brian Dunn is currently pursuing his doctoral research in the field of comparative theology at the Theology Faculty, Oxford. His present focus is on the life and writings of a South Indian Christian theologian, Ayadurai Jesudason Appasamy, and his particular comparative interaction with Hindu philosophical and theological conceptions of divine embodiment. 

Related: Christianity, Comparative Theology

On How To Argue with a Buddhist

Shivdasani Seminar
Professor Parimal Patil
30 May 2012

In this seminar, we will explore what was at stake, both philosophically and otherwise, for Brahmanical philosophers in debates with Buddhist opponents. We will focus, in particular, on Nyāya arguments for the existence of Īśvara and Buddhist counterarguments. 

Related: Buddhism, Nyaya, Philosophy

Buddhists and Brahmins at Vikramaśīla

Shivdasani Lecture
Professor Parimal Patil
28 May 2012

 It is so well-known that Buddhist philosophers in India argued with their non-Buddhist opponents that it is hardly worth mentioning. Yet, despite the centuries-long history of such polemics, Buddhist philosophers in India rarely explained what they hoped to gain in critically engaging their opponents through such arguments. In this lecture, I discuss why Buddhist epistemologists at Vikramaśīla thought it was important to argue with their Brahmanical opponents. 

Related: Buddhism, Philosophy

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