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Hinduism II (Paper 21 Bhakti Vernaculars): Session Two

Dr Rembert Lutjeharms
25 Jan 2012

These lectures will take up where Hinduism 1 left off, examining in particular conceptions of liberation and paths leading to it in the post-classical, post-Gupta period. 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 the Vedanta. We will trace the development of devotion (bhakti) in the Vaishnava traditions. 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 Vaishnavism and Shaivism. We will end with an examination of contemporary Hinduism at village level and in its interaction with modernity. These lectures are aimed at students of theology and religious studies.

Related: General

Hinduism II (Paper 21 Bhakti Vernaculars): Session One

Dr Rembert Lutjeharms
18 Jan 2012

These lectures will take up where Hinduism 1 left off, examining in particular conceptions of liberation and paths leading to it in the post-classical, post-Gupta period. 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 the Vedanta. We will trace the development of devotion (bhakti) in the Vaishnava traditions. 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 Vaishnavism and Shaivism. We will end with an examination of contemporary Hinduism at village level and in its interaction with modernity. These lectures are aimed at students of theology and religious studies.

Related: General

Tracking the Trajectory of Religious Material Culture in Tamil Nadu

Dr Kala Shreen
1 Dec 2011

This paper provides a critical overview of select aspects of religious material culture among the people of Tamilnadu. It first discusses how materials are construed in the ritual context, their agency and efficacy and the continuities seen in the process of engagement between the people and the objects. Secondly, it deals with the changing dynamics of the engagement between the people and the ritual objects, the changing social lives of these objects and examines the processes of commoditization, aestheticization and appropriation. These changes have resulted in the circulation of ritual objects and the shifting boundaries between ritual objects and other categories like crafts, curio items, home collectibles and objects in public display on the one hand and transgressing caste/ethnic boundaries on the other hand. Finally, this paper also focuses on the shared material culture between Hindus and Christians in Tamilnadu during religious ceremonies and practices of worship which are explored using examples such as thali (sacred chain in the marriage ceremony), saris etc.

 
Kala Shreen is the Associate Dean – Research and Associate Professor at the School of Social Sciences in MOP Vaishnav College, University of Madras, India. She is also the Initiator/Director of Cultural Dynamics and Emotions Network, Queen’s University Belfast, U.K.

Related: Ritual

Indian Practical Ethics: Law, Gender, Justice, Ecological and Bioethical Challenges

Shivdasani Seminar
Professor Purushottama Bilimoria
28 Nov 2011

Purushottama Bilimoria, PhD is Professor of Philosophy and Comparative Studies at Deakin University in Australia and Senior Research Fellow, University of Melbourne. Visiting Professor and Lecturer at University of California, Berkeley and Dominican University, San Anselmo, and Shivadasani Fellow of  Oxford University. His areas of specialist research and publications cover classical Indian philosophy and comparative ethics; Continental thought; cross-cultural philosophy of religion, diaspora studies; bioethics, and personal law in India. He is an Editor-in-Chief of Sophia, Journal of Philosophy of Religion, Springer. He also edits a book series with Springer on Sophia: cross-cultural studies in Culture and Traditions, Recent publication is Indian Ethics I, Ashgate 2007; OUP 2008, and Sabdapramana: Word and Knowledge (Testimony) in Indian Philosophy (revised reprint), Delhi: DK PrintWorld 2008; ‘Nietzsche as ‘Europe’s Buddha’ and Asia’s Superman, Sophia, vol 47/3 2008; Postcolonial Philosophy of Religion (with Andrew Irvine, Ken Surin et al) Springer 2009. Teaches and publishes on Hindu religious philosophies. Also works on political philosophy, pertaining to ethics of rights, theories of justice, capabilities, education and gender issues in third world, particularly South Asian, contexts.

Related: Ethics, Science and Religion

“Which wise man would worship beings who are tormented by sorrow and fear?” Powers and Weaknesses of Gods in Buddhist Literature

Dr Ulrike Roesler
21 Nov 2011

Buddhists do not deny the existence of gods, but they regard them as beings who are subject to karma and sa?sara and are therefore not free from the fetters of cyclic existence. Their life is extremely pleasant, but when they die they experience horrible agonies, and Buddhists say that there is no greater suffering in the world than that of a god who is dying. In early legends, gods like Indra and Brahma appear as supporters of Buddha Shakyamuni. Some later Buddhist authors, on the other hand, point out their weaknesses, describing them as “beings who are tormented by sorrow and fear, are devoid of compassion, bear various weapons and raise them with the intention to kill” – as opposed to Buddha Shakyamuni, who works solely for the welfare of others. The lecture will illustrate these multi-faceted views with examples from Buddhist literature.

 
Ulrike Roesler obtained a PhD in Indian Studies from the University of Münster (Germany). She held teaching positions in Indian and Tibetan Studies at the Universities of Marburg and Freiburg (Germany) and in Buddhist Studies at the University of Oxford, and has recently been appointed the Lecturer in Tibetan and Himalayan Studies at the University of Oxford. Her research interests are in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, the history of the Kadampa schoolof Tibetan Buddhism, and narrative and biographical literature. Her most recent publication is the volume Lives Lived, Lives Imagined: Biographies in the Buddhist Traditions. Ed. by L. Covill, U. Roesler and S. Shaw. Boston: Wisdom Publications 2010.

Related: Buddhism

The Logical Illumination of Mīmāṃsā and Nyāya (to Navyanyāya)

Shivdasani Lecture
Professor Purushottama Bilimoria
14 Nov 2011

Evolution of thinking, metaphysics and theology  (apauruṣeya, apūrva, padārthas, Īśvara, vādavivāda, hetutarka)

Purushottama Bilimoria, PhD is Professor of Philosophy and Comparative Studies at Deakin University in Australia and Senior Research Fellow, University of Melbourne. Visiting Professor and Lecturer at University of California, Berkeley and Dominican University, San Anselmo, and Shivadasani Fellow of  Oxford University. His areas of specialist research and publications cover classical Indian philosophy and comparative ethics; Continental thought; cross-cultural philosophy of religion, diaspora studies; bioethics, and personal law in India. He is an Editor-in-Chief of Sophia, Journal of Philosophy of Religion, Springer. He also edits a book series with Springer on Sophia: cross-cultural studies in Culture and Traditions, Recent publication is Indian Ethics I, Ashgate 2007; OUP 2008, and Sabdapramana: Word and Knowledge (Testimony) in Indian Philosophy (revised reprint), Delhi: DK PrintWorld 2008; ‘Nietzsche as ‘Europe’s Buddha’ and Asia’s Superman, Sophia, vol 47/3 2008; Postcolonial Philosophy of Religion (with Andrew Irvine, Ken Surin et al) Springer 2009. Teaches and publishes on Hindu religious philosophies. Also works on political philosophy, pertaining to ethics of rights, theories of justice, capabilities, education and gender issues in third world, particularly South Asian, contexts.

Related: Philosophy

Theories of the Text: Week Five

Professor Gavin Flood
10 Nov 2011

Related: Literary Theory

Theories of the Text: Week Four

Professor Gavin Flood
3 Nov 2011

Related: Literary Theory

Hinduism’s Transnational Diasaporias*: the view from Oceania

Shivdasani Seminar
Professor Purushottama Bilimoria
31 Oct 2011

(*aporias of diaspora)

 
Purushottama Bilimoria, PhD is Professor of Philosophy and Comparative Studies at Deakin University in Australia and Senior Research Fellow, University of Melbourne. Visiting Professor and Lecturer at University of California, Berkeley and Dominican University, San Anselmo, and Shivadasani Fellow of  Oxford University. His areas of specialist research and publications cover classical Indian philosophy and comparative ethics; Continental thought; cross-cultural philosophy of religion, diaspora studies; bioethics, and personal law in India. He is an Editor-in-Chief of Sophia, Journal of Philosophy of Religion, Springer. He also edits a book series with Springer on Sophia: cross-cultural studies in Culture and Traditions, Recent publication is Indian Ethics I, Ashgate 2007; OUP 2008, and Sabdapramana: Word and Knowledge (Testimony) in Indian Philosophy (revised reprint), Delhi: DK PrintWorld 2008; ‘Nietzsche as ‘Europe’s Buddha’ and Asia’s Superman, Sophia, vol 47/3 2008; Postcolonial Philosophy of Religion (with Andrew Irvine, Ken Surin et al) Springer 2009. Teaches and publishes on Hindu religious philosophies. Also works on political philosophy, pertaining to ethics of rights, theories of justice, capabilities, education and gender issues in third world, particularly South Asian, contexts.

Related: Diaspora

Theories of the Text: Week Three

Professor Gavin Flood
27 Oct 2011

Related: Literary Theory

How japa changed between the Vedas and the bhakti traditions: the evidence of the Jāpakopākhyāna (Mbh 12.189–93)

Majewski Lecture
Professor John Brockington
24 Oct 2011

The term japa is one that has a long history within the family of Hindu traditions but the difference between the murmuring of Vedic mantras as an accompaniment to sacrificial rituals and the meditative repetition of a divine name in bhakti traditions is considerable. In an attempt to find some evidence for the development process involved, I shall examine theJāpakopākhyāna (MBh 12.189–93), a text which seems in some ways incongruous in its context, and will also survey the occurrence of japa and its cognates throughout theMahābhārata. I seek to unravel the textual history of the passage and the logic of combining its parts, as well as the message that it conveys. The prominence of Brahmā in the passage may form one key to its interpretation, while the fact that the next highest (though much lower) frequency of japa and related terms is in the Nārāyaṇīya seems to offer another clue, especially in conjunction with the significance of japa in the developed Pāñcarātra system.

Professor Brockington is emeritus Professor of Sanskrit in the School of Asian Studies (of which he was the first Head) and an Honorary Fellow in the Centre for South Asian Studies. He has written several books and around 75 articles on his special area of research, the Sanskrit epics, as well as on other topics.   He is the Secretary General of the International Association of Sanskrit Studies and was the chair of the organising committee of the 13th World Sanskrit Conference, held at Edinburgh in July 2006. Among his many publications areThe Sacred Thread: Hinduism in its continuity and diversity, (1981); Righteous Rama: the Evolution of an Epic; Hinduism and Christianity; Epic and Puranic Bibliography (up to 1985) (1992); The Sanskrit Epics (Handbuch der Orientalistik, 2.2.12; A Descriptive Catalogue of the Sanskrit and other Indian Manuscripts of the Chandra Shum Shere Collection in the Bodleian Library, Part II, Epics and PuranasEpic Threads: John Brockington on the Sanskrit Epics, ed. Greg Bailey and Mary Brockington (Oxford University Press, Delhi, 2000); Indian Epic Traditions – Past and Present (Papers presented at the 16th European Conference on Modern South Asian Studies, Edinburgh, 5–9 September 2000) ed. by Danuta Stasik and John Brockington (2002); The Intimate Other: Love Divine in Indic Religions, ed. by Anna S. King and John Brockington (2005); and Rama the Steadfast: An Early Form of the Ramayana,tr. by John Brockington and Mary Brockington (2006).

Related: Mahabharata, Ritual

Theories of the Text: Week Two

Professor Gavin Flood
20 Oct 2011

Related: General, Philosophy

The Problem of Evil and Western Theodicy: But what says Indian Theism and Non-theism to the challenge?

Shivdasani Lecture
Professor Purushottama Bilimoria
17 Oct 2011

Purushottama Bilimoria, PhD is Professor of Philosophy and Comparative Studies at Deakin University in Australia and Senior Research Fellow, University of Melbourne. Visiting Professor and Lecturer at University of California, Berkeley and Dominican University, San Anselmo, and Shivadasani Fellow of  Oxford University. His areas of specialist research and publications cover classical Indian philosophy and comparative ethics; Continental thought; cross-cultural philosophy of religion, diaspora studies; bioethics, and personal law in India. He is an Editor-in-Chief of Sophia, Journal of Philosophy of Religion, Springer. He also edits a book series with Springer on Sophia: cross-cultural studies in Culture and Traditions, Recent publication is Indian Ethics I, Ashgate 2007; OUP 2008, and Sabdapramana: Word and Knowledge (Testimony) in Indian Philosophy (revised reprint), Delhi: DK PrintWorld 2008; ‘Nietzsche as ‘Europe’s Buddha’ and Asia’s Superman, Sophia, vol 47/3 2008; Postcolonial Philosophy of Religion (with Andrew Irvine, Ken Surin et al) Springer 2009. Teaches and publishes on Hindu religious philosophies. Also works on political philosophy, pertaining to ethics of rights, theories of justice, capabilities, education and gender issues in third world, particularly South Asian, contexts.

Related: Comparative Theology, Hindu Theology

Theories of the Text: Week One

Professor Gavin Flood
13 Oct 2011

Related: Literary Theory

Debatable Devotion: Candravati's Ramayana

Professor Mandakranta Bose
15 Jun 2011

Related: Ramayana

How Can Religion Be Studied in South Asian Universities? Or Should It Be?

Shivdasani Lecture
Professor Joseph T. O’Connell
10 Jun 2011

There is a striking disparity between the prominence of religious factors in personal and collective life of so much of the population of South Asian countries and the extreme rarity of study and research explicitly on religion in the universities of those same countries. This anomalous disparity has recently become a subject of concern to a number of scholars within South Asia as well as to some elsewhere who focus their own scholarship on religion in South Asia. This lecture notes several contributory factors (European origin, cultural differences, colonial precedents, novelty and lack of teachers, teaching resources and teaching positions) but gives primary attention to fear and hostility between religio-political communalist and secularist mentalities and interests as inhibiting academic study of religion.

Related: Religious Studies

Approaches to Religion 4: Semiotics

Professor Gavin Flood
9 Jun 2011

Our last seminar will examine the importance of the philosophy of the sign in the study of religions. A key thinker here who we will look at is Bakhtin introduced to the West by Julia Kristeva.

Related: Religious Studies

Krishnadasa Kaviraja’s Caitanya-caritamrta: Its value as a witness to historical events

Shivdasani Lecture
Professor Joseph T. O’Connell
3 Jun 2011

The sacred biographies of Krishna-Caitanya appear to convey a great deal of historical information about the words and actions of their main subject and of hundreds of his followers and other contemporaries. They also include along the way a number of vignettes, some with political implications, that, if accurate, would extend our knowledge of early sixteenth century Bengal some degrees beyond the intramural affairs of the nascent community of devotees. But how reliable are these texts as records of actual historical persons, words and events? Devotees tend to say very reliable. Scholars tend to divide on the issue with some claiming that theological, devotional, and polemic concerns thoroughly negate the ostensible historicity of the texts. Others take a more favourable view arguing that much historical fact is recoverable from the sacred biographies despite the presence of theological and ‘mythical’ constraints. It may even be argued that the authors’ conviction that Krishna-Caitanya’s apparently human actions are ontologically lilas (divine sport) intended to instruct humans in authentic devotion (bhakti) itself provides a religious motive for seeking accuracy in reporting those actions, even in Krishnadasa Kaviraja’s Caitanya-caritamrta (Nectar-like Acts of Caitanya).

Related: Vaisnava

Approaches to Religion 3: Politics

Professor Gavin Flood
2 Jun 2011

The third seminar will discuss the relation of religion to politics and the place of religion in the public sphere. We will look at the idea of the critique of religion as emancipatory critique (Nietzsche, Foucault), the exclusion of women from the symbolic order (Kristeva, Irigaray) and how this is articulated in India (Manushi). 

Related: Religious Studies

Krishnadasa Kaviraja’s Caitanya-caritamrta: Its characteristics as a sacred biography

Shivdasani Lecture
Professor Joseph T. O’Connell
27 May 2011

Sacred biographies of Visvambhara Misra, aka Krishna-Caitanya, (1486–1533) constitute an unusually ample array of texts that for half a century have provided an enduring basis for an otherwise loosely coordinated community of Vaishnava devotees in Bengal and elsewhere. The Caitanya-caritamrta (Nectar-like Acts of Caitanya) of Krishnadasa Kaviraja is the culmination of an inter-related series of such texts. Relying primarily on the Caitanya-caritamrta (in the Bengali and Sanskrit original and in its translation by Edward C. Dimock, Jr.) and drawing upon Tony K. Stewart’s The Final Word, the seminar examines how theological-cum-devotional concerns and institutional loyalties are mediated through the literary forms and strategies employed by the series of ‘biographers’ of Caitanya culminating in Krishnadasa Kaviraja.

Related: Vaisnava

Krishna-Chaitanya Bhakti and Rabindranath’s Religion of Man: Their resonance and dissonance

Shivdasani Lecture
Professor Joseph T. O’Connell
20 May 2011

When we think of Rabindranath Tagore in relation to the Krishna-Caitanya religio-literary tradition of Bengal, his youthful Bhanusimher Padaboli immediately come to mind, as they should as the most explicit treatments of a Vaishnava theme in all of his immense literary corpus. But we may also ask what other indications there may be of resonances and dissonances vis-à-vis the Vaishnava tradition elsewhere in his prose and poetry, especially as he grew older. This lecture first reviews his family’s Vaishnava affinities, especially among the women, and the countervailing critical attitudes and policies of the Brahmo Samaj of which he was for some time secretary. It then attempts to assess in what ways and to what degree underlying characteristics of Bengali Vaishnava piety and aesthetics may be reflected or rejected, implicitly if not explicitly in the works of the mature Rabindranath.

Related: Literature, Vaisnava

Telling the World: Exploring the Cultural and Intellectual Agenda of the Sanskrit Mahabharata

Majewski Lecture
Dr James Hegarty
16 May 2011

In this lecture, I explore the form and function of the Sanskrit Mahabharata. I take up features of its design, its explicit statements about itself and its most prominent themes in order to make some suggestions as to what the Mahabharata sought to do, culturally and intellectually,in early South Asian society. I combine this with an analysis of the presence of the Mahabharata in select literary and epigraphical sources of the first millennium in order to explore the impact of the text from Guptan north India to Kerala and Kashmir. These investigations will be combined with a broader discussion of the role of narrative in the transmission and adaptation of understandings of past, place and preferred ideology within, and potentially beyond, South Asia.

Dr James Hegarty is Senior Lecturer in Indian Religions at Cardiff University. His primary research interest is in the role of religious narrative in the cultural and intellectual history of South Asia. He has published numerous papers on Sanskrit and vernacular narrative materials. His monograph Religion, Narrative and Public Imagination: Past and Place in the Sanskrit Mahabharata is forthcoming with Routledge.

Related: Numismatics, Temple and Text

Approaches to Religion 2: Sociology

Professor Gavin Flood
12 May 2011

In this seminar we will reflect on Sociology as a discourse inseparable from Modernity. We will discuss the key ideas of rationalisation (Weber) and reification (Lukacs, Honneth). We will also consider sociology in the Indian context (Madan). 

Related: Religious Studies

The Relationship Between Religious Experience and Religious Belief: Essentialism, Scholarly Naivety, or Logical Positivism?

Mysticism Seminar/Interdisciplinary Seminar for the Study of Religions
Dr Gregory Shushan
9 May 2011

In recent decades, the study of ‘religious’ or ‘mystical’ experiences has been criticised by postmodern scholars who argue that because all experience is dependent upon language and culture, it is unintelligible to speak at all of some cross-culturally comparable event called ‘religious experience’. Because experience cannot precede culture, such scholars assert that it is ‘naive’ or otherwise methodologically or theoretically unsound to claim that the origins of religious beliefs can lie in ‘religious’ experience. Furthermore, the argument goes, in claiming that there is such a thing as cross-culturally comparable ‘religious’ experience, we leave the realm of the (ostensibly) objective Study of Religions, and cross the boundary into a kind of universalist theology. The issue thus intersects with various other theoretical problems at the core of the Study of Religions, including comparison per se, and views that the term ‘religion’ itself is a theologising construct. In defence of the study of ‘religious’ experience, this paper attempts to demonstrate the weaknesses in these arguments, firstly by showing that they are based upon a number of mutually-reliant but unproven axioms (themselves culturally-situated within a particular anti-scientific academic paradigm); and by giving cross-cultural examples which show a clear connection between ‘religious’ experience and religious beliefs (with particular reference to near-death experiences). 

Dr. Gregory Shushan is Perrott-Warrick Researcher at the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion, University of Oxford, researching comparative afterlife beliefs in small-scale societies worldwide in the contexts of shamanic and near-death experiences. His book, Conceptions of the Afterlife in Early Civilizations: Universalism, Constructivism, and Near-Death Experience (Continuum Advances in Religious Studies, 2009) was nominated for the 2010 Grawemeyer Award. 

Related: Comparative Theology, Mysticism, Religious Studies

Approaches to Religion 1: Phenomenology

Professor Gavin Flood
5 May 2011

This seminar will discuss the foundational ideas of the phenomenology of religion derived from Husserl, namely bracketing (the epoche), the reduction to essences, and the transcendental reduction. We will raise questions as to the viability of this approach.

Related: Religious Studies

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