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Negative Flashes of Neti Neti and Realisation of Brahman

Shivdasani Lecture
Dr Diwakar Acharya
22 Feb 2010

The Mūrtāmūrtabrāhmaṇa (II.3) of the Bṛhadāraṇyakopaniṣad introduces the néti néti formula and explains it. From Sanskrit commentaries we can gather that this formula was traditionally interpreted in two ways. The second of them, the one adopted by Śaṅkara, has become the favourite of most of the modern translations; the first interpretation has not attracted the attention of a modern scholar.

On the other hand, a very competent scholar like Geldner (1928) has made an exception and interpreted the formula in an extra-ingenious way, as double negation, which was never considered in the tradition. This interpretation has now been revived in Slaje 2009. This asks us to re-examine the issue, and I will do so in my lecture by rereading the related portions of the Bṛhadāraṇyakopaniṣad.

Related: Upanisads, Veda, Vedanta

Mystical Traditions in Comparative Perspective: Session Four - Christian mystical traditions 2 ‚ Understanding Apophaticism

Professor George Pattison
19 Feb 2010

Mysticism is a term that has fallen out of use in recent years, partly due to the critique of essentialism in the history of religions, partly due to the recognition that mysticism is particular to tradition and culture and partly due to the orientation to understand religion in terms of a politics of culture that sees religion purely in constructivist terms. The abstraction ‘mysticism’ is a problematic category that has been developed from Christian mystical theology (in contrast to dogmatic or natural theology). Viewing other religions through the lens of ‘mysticism’, particularly the religions of India and China, has tended to give a distorted picture to the West, underlined by Radhakrishnan’s claim, among others, that the east is ‘spiritual’ while the west is ‘material’. Of course, the historical reality of religious traditions is much more complex than this. Nevertheless, religious traditions are interested in, and develop, keen senses of inwardness that lay stress upon a direct understanding or experience of transcendence. While acknowledging the problematic nature of the category ‘mysticism,’ this series of seminars intends to explore the mystical traditions of specific religions in dialogue with Hinduism. The series is seen as an exercise in comparative theology. Short lectures on the mystical traditions would be followed by a response from a Hindu perspective and general discussion.

Related: Christianity, Comparative Theology, Mysticism

Hindu Theology: Session Four - The Saiva commentarial tradition 1

Professor Gavin Flood
18 Feb 2010

The class will discuss the Śaiva tantric revelation. We will begin with the theistic or dualistic Śaiva Siddhānta through focussing on chapter 1 (the paśupaṭala) of Rāmakaṇṭha’s commentary on the Kiraṇa-tantra. We will see how Rāmakaṇṭha offers a conservative reading of revelation that he regards as the expression of the highest good (and which other teachings (śāstra) do not give).

Reading:Goodall, Dominic. Bhaṭṭa Rāmakaṇṭha’s Commentary on the Kiraṇatantra vol. 1 (Insitut Français de Pondichéry, 1998).

Related: Hindu Theology, Saiva

Jaina-Hindu Syncretism in Gujarat: The Trimurti-Temple of the Akram Vijnan Marg

Majewski Lecture
Dr Peter Flugel
16 Feb 2010

The Akram Vijñān Mārg, or Stepless Path to Salvific Knowledge, is a highly innovative religious movement. It originated in the 1960s in Bombay and is slowly spreading throughout Western India and the Gujarati diaspora in East Africa, North America, and the United Kingdom. The founder of the Akram Vijñān Mārg was Ambalal Muljibhai Patel (1908–1988), a contractor, who experienced enlightenment while waiting for his return train to Mumbai at Surat. His new religious movement offers a new synthesis of Hindu and Jain ideas and practices. The lecture will explore ways in which his teachings are enacted in the context of the rituals at the trimūrti temples of the movement in India.

Dr Peter Flügel (MA Dr Phil (Mainz)) is a lecturer in the department of the study of religions at SOAS. He is an expert in Jainism and has done textual work and fieldwork. He is the Chair of the Centre for Jaina Studies and a member of the Centre for South Asian Studies and the SOAS Food Studies Centre. Apart from Jaina studies, he has broad interests in religion and society, social anthropology, sociology, philosophy and Indology more broadly.

Related: Jainism

Mystical Traditions in Comparative Perspective: Session Three - Christian mystical traditions 1 ‚ The Relevance of Christian Mysticism

Professor Oliver Davies
12 Feb 2010

Mysticism is a term that has fallen out of use in recent years, partly due to the critique of essentialism in the history of religions, partly due to the recognition that mysticism is particular to tradition and culture and partly due to the orientation to understand religion in terms of a politics of culture that sees religion purely in constructivist terms. The abstraction ‘mysticism’ is a problematic category that has been developed from Christian mystical theology (in contrast to dogmatic or natural theology). Viewing other religions through the lens of ‘mysticism’, particularly the religions of India and China, has tended to give a distorted picture to the West, underlined by Radhakrishnan’s claim, among others, that the east is ‘spiritual’ while the west is ‘material’. Of course, the historical reality of religious traditions is much more complex than this. Nevertheless, religious traditions are interested in, and develop, keen senses of inwardness that lay stress upon a direct understanding or experience of transcendence. While acknowledging the problematic nature of the category ‘mysticism,’ this series of seminars intends to explore the mystical traditions of specific religions in dialogue with Hinduism. The series is seen as an exercise in comparative theology. Short lectures on the mystical traditions would be followed by a response from a Hindu perspective and general discussion.

Related: Categories, Comparative Theology, Mysticism

Three Worlds of the Heart: Theological and Literary Dimensions of the Bhakti Sutra

Professor Graham M. Schweig
8 Feb 2010

Perhaps the shortest of the well-known sutra texts among Hindu traditions is The Bhakti Sutra of Narada, consisting only of 84 aphorisms. This work, however, possesses the most expressive and least cryptic aphorisms, as compared to other sutra texts, while providing the seeds for a remarkably comprehensive bhakti theology. Graham Schweig, while preparing his new translation of the work for publication with Columbia University Press, will present his findings on the ways in which the literary and theological aspects of this text work together synergistically to express some of the deepest dimensions of bhakti. He will also make some intertextual connections and resonances by drawing from the Bhagavad-gita, Bhagavata Purana, and the Yoga Sutra, in order to illuminate dramatic theological moments of the Bhakti Sutra. And further, he will offer some closing reflections on why no traditional commentaries were ever written for this work.

 
Graham M. Schweig is a scholar of comparative religion who focuses on the religions of India. He is a specialist in love mysticism and bhakti traditions. Schweig did his graduate studies at Harvard University and the University of Chicago, and received his doctorate in Comparative Religion from Harvard. Schweig has taught at Duke University and University of North Carolina, and was Visiting Associate Professor of Sanskrit at the University of Virginia. He is currently Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies and Director of the Indic Studies Program at Christopher Newport University, on the Virginia peninsula. He has contributed numerous pieces to encyclopaedia volumes, journals, and books. His book, Dance of Divine Love: India’s Classic Sacred Love Story, was published by Princeton University Press (2005), and more recently, Bhagavad Gita: The Beloved Lord’s Secret Love Song, was published by HarperOne/Harper Collins Publishers (2007). He has several more books coming out with Princeton University, HarperOne, and Columbia University Presses.

Related: Bhakti, Hindu Theology

Mystical Traditions in Comparative Perspective: Session Two - Buddhist Meditation

Dr Sarah Shaw
5 Feb 2010

Mysticism is a term that has fallen out of use in recent years, partly due to the critique of essentialism in the history of religions, partly due to the recognition that mysticism is particular to tradition and culture and partly due to the orientation to understand religion in terms of a politics of culture that sees religion purely in constructivist terms. The abstraction "mysticism" is a problematic category that has been developed from Christian mystical theology (in contrast to dogmatic or natural theology). Viewing other religions through the lens of "mysticism", particularly the religions of India and China, has tended to give a distorted picture to the West, underlined by Radhakrishnan's claim, among others, that the east is "spiritual" while the west is "material". Of course, the historical reality of religious traditions is much more complex than this. Nevertheless, religious traditions are interested in, and develop, keen senses of inwardness that lay stress upon a direct understanding or experience of transcendence. While acknowledging the problematic nature of the category "mysticism" this series of seminars intends to explore the mystical traditions of specific religions in dialogue with Hinduism. The series is seen as an exercise in comparative theology. Short lectures on the mystical traditions would be followed by a response from a Hindu perspective and general discussion.

Related: Buddhism, Comparative Theology, Mysticism

Hindu Theology: Session Two - The Vedanta commentarial tradition 1

Professor Gavin Flood
4 Feb 2010

The course will present an account of the Vedānta commentarial tradition and discuss detailed readings of key texts. We will begin with Śaṅkara’s commentary on the Brahma-sūtra 1.1.1 and his advaita interpretation.

Reading: Śaṅkara Brahma-sūtra bhāṣya translated by Swami Gambhirananda (Calcutta: Advaita Ashram, 1983).

Related: Hindu Theology, Vedanta

Indian Foreign Policy: Shifting Roles and Challenges in the New Decade

Ford Lecture
HE Nalin Surie
1 Feb 2010

A review of principal foreign policy development in the first decade of the 21st century and implications for the second decade.

 
Nalin Surie is the High Commissioner for India in the UK. He is an expert on India-China relations.

Related: Modern India, Politics

Mystical Traditions in Comparative Perspective: Session One - Islamic mystical traditions‚ Sufis in India

Dr Talib Muhammad
29 Jan 2010

Mysticism is a term that has fallen out of use in recent years, partly due to the critique of essentialism in the history of religions, partly due to the recognition that mysticism is particular to tradition and culture and partly due to the orientation to understand religion in terms of a politics of culture that sees religion purely in constructivist terms. The abstraction ‘mysticism’ is a problematic category that has been developed from Christian mystical theology (in contrast to dogmatic or natural theology). Viewing other religions through the lens of ‘mysticism’, particularly the religions of India and China, has tended to give a distorted picture to the West, underlined by Radhakrishnan’s claim, among others, that the east is ‘spiritual’ while the west is ‘material’. Of course, the historical reality of religious traditions is much more complex than this. Nevertheless, religious traditions are interested in, and develop, keen senses of inwardness that lay stress upon a direct understanding or experience of transcendence. While acknowledging the problematic nature of the category ‘mysticism,’ this series of seminars intends to explore the mystical traditions of specific religions in dialogue with Hinduism. The series is seen as an exercise in comparative theology. Short lectures on the mystical traditions would be followed by a response from a Hindu perspective and general discussion.

Related: Comparative Theology, Islam, Mysticism

Hindu Theology: Session One - Introduction and Scriptural Authority in Hindu Traditions

Professor Gavin Flood
28 Jan 2010

This series of seminars examines the idea and possibility of Hindu theology. It would survey the history and constructive theological thinking in Hindu traditions. For some scholars both terms ‘Hindu’ and ‘theology’ are impositions upon South Asia of western categories while for others we can speak about ‘Hindu theology’ in a coherent way. While the course would certainly wish to problematise the category, the main focus would be textual and hermeneutical. If a discipline is defined by its object and/or its method then we might say that theology is a discipline whose object is not a theos but rather ‘revelation.’ Such a definition does not necessarily entail intellectual commitments to theism or the truth of ‘revelation’ but rather roots the discipline in a textual history which develops different kinds of reasoning. Hindu theology would therefore focus on the interpretative and commentarial traditions in the history of Hinduism and encourage critical reasoning about them. In practical terms this would mean that the course would concentrate on classical and medieval periods, particularly the Śaiva and Vaiṣṇava theological traditions that have come down to us in Sanskrit commentaries and independent works. It is hoped that the seminars will provoke theological and philosophical reflections on the meaning of the text studied. The seminar series raises questions about the nature of theology, the nature of reasoning, and the task of theological reading in the contemporary context.

The first seminar will introduce the traditions and themes of the series which will be text historical and thematic. We will raise the question of the coherence of the category ‘Hindu theology’ and the nature and practice of theological reasoning and then begin our examination of Hindu theology through a discussion of the textual sources of Hinduism regarded as primary (śruti) and secondary revelation (smṛti). We will also consider the idea of ongoing revelation in Hinduism with particular reference to the medieval tantric traditions. The discussion will focus on two core Upaniṣads, the earliest, the Bṛhadāranyaka, and the latest, the Śvetāśvatara. 

Reading: Clooney, Francis. ‘Restoring “Hindu Theology” as a Category in Indian Intellectual Discourse’ in Flood (ed.) The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism (Blackwell, 2003), pp. 447–77 Olivelle, Patrick. The Early Upanishads (OUP 2000)

Related: Hindu Theology

Early Vaisnava Texts from Nepal

Shivdasani Lecture
Dr Diwakar Acharya
18 Jan 2010

Exploring early palm-leaf manuscripts from the NGMPP collection, I came across some rare Vaiṣṇava Tantras which were hardly known from any other source. In this lecture, I will talk about four of such texts: the Svāyambhuvapañcarātra, Devāmṛta-pañcarātra, Jayottaratantra, and the Vāsudevakalpa of the Mahālakṣmṃhitā, which are preserved in palm-leaf manuscripts of the 11–14th centuries.

The first three texts are earlier than the texts which are regarded until now as the earliest Pāñcarātra texts. The fourth text, the Vāsudevakalpa, is exclusively concerned with the composite form of Lakṣmī and Vāsudeva, and is comparable to early Śāktatantras in certain aspects in its structure and contents. These texts together provide a broader picture of Vaiṣṇava Tantricism, and suggest that what was happening in the Śaiva fold was very similar to what was happening in the Vaiṣṇava fold.

I will briefly present the contents of all these texts and discuss specific features of them.

Related: Text

Mahatma Gandhi at the OCHS 4: Gandhigiri vs. Gandhiism: The Afterlife of the Mahatma in Lage Raho Munna Bhai (seminar)

Shivdasani Lecture
Dr Makarand Paranjape
30 Nov 2009

The last seminar is as much a celebration of Bollywood as of Gandhi. It is to the former that the credit for most effectively resurrecting the Mahatma should go, certainly much more so than to Gandhians or academics. For Bollywood literally revives the spirit of Gandhi by showing how irresistibly he continues to haunt India today. Not just in giving us Gandhigiri—a totally new way of doing Gandhi in the world—but in its perceptive representation of the threat that modernity poses to Gandhian thought is Lage Raho Munna Bhai (2006) remarkable (film to be shown Monday morning). What is more, it also draws out the distinction between Gandhi as hallucination and the real afterlife of the Mahatma. The film’s enormous popularity at the box office—it grossed close to a billion rupees—is not just an index of its commercial success, but also proof of the responsive cord it struck in Indian audiences. But it is not just the genius and inventiveness of Bollywood cinema that is demonstrated in the film as much as the persistence and potency of Gandhi’s own ideas, which have the capacity to adapt themselves to unusual circumstances and times. Both Richard Attenborough’s Oscar-winning epic, and Rajkumar Hirani’s Lage Raho Munna Bhai show that Gandhi remains as media-savvy after his death as he was during his life.

 
In all, these four presentations are not merely academic explorations of Gandhi’s life and thought, but also investigations into what it may mean to be (neo)-Gandhian in our times.
 
Makarand Paranjape is a Professor of English at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. A critic, poet, fiction writer, and literary columnist with over thirty books and 100 published academic papers to his credit, he is also the author of more 250 reviews, notes, and popular articles. His latest book is Another Canon: Indian Texts and Traditions in English (Anthem Press, forthcoming).

Related: Gandhi, Modern India

Mahatma Gandhi at the OCHS 2: Hind Swaraj in Our Times (seminar)

Shivdasani Seminar
Dr Makarand Paranjape
2 Nov 2009

The second seminar rehearses the significance of Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule, a booklet that Gandhi wrote on board the steamship Kildonen Castle in November 1909, on his return from England to South Africa. The book has acquired the status of a classic to the extent of being dubbed ‘the Bible of non-violent revolution’. Yet, it is also an extremely difficult book to stomach, with its uncompromising attacks on the British parliament, on machinery, on railways, doctors, lawyers, and English educated elites. Though some have called it a post-modern text, it shares none of the anti-foundationalism of post-modernism nor the latter’s premium on indeterminacy. Instead, Hind Swaraj seems to be a last-ditch stand in favour of a pre-modern, traditional civilizational ethos, which exalts manual labour, self-restraint, and the pursuit of virtue and sacrifice, instead of pleasure and profit. What kinds of demands does the text make on us a 100 years after its publication? More importantly, what hermeneutical strategies can we bring to bear on it to make it more palatable?

 
In all, these four presentations are not merely academic explorations of Gandhi’s life and thought, but also investigations into what it may mean to be (neo)-Gandhian in our times.
 
Makarand Paranjape is a Professor of English at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. A critic, poet, fiction writer, and literary columnist with over thirty books and 100 published academic papers to his credit, he is also the author of more 250 reviews, notes, and popular articles. His latest book is Another Canon: Indian Texts and Traditions in English (Anthem Press, forthcoming).

Related: Gandhi, Modern India

Towards an Existential Textology of the so-called 'Sanskrit epics'

Dr Simon Brodbeck
29 Oct 2009

The Ramayana tells of the war, on distant soil, between Rama Dasharatha of Ayodhya and Ravana’s demon hordes—in which Rama was the victor. The Mahabharata tells that story too, amongst many others, and orders business chronologically such that the righteous war Rama won is followed, as the generations pass, some distance northwest of Ayodhya, by the massacre of the inhabitants of Khandava Forest by Arjuna and Krishna, the massacre of practically all kshatriyas by the Pandavas as advised by Krishna at Kurukshetra, and, as the generations pass, by Janamejaya’s massacre of snakes at Takshashila, which was suspended on condition that the surviving snakes behave themselves. And in the meantime Krishna and the Vrishnis have all killed each other at Prabhasa. And the Harivamsha tells of what Krishna did before and after the business at Kurukshetra, which included licking various miscreants into shape.

 
In this paper I take these various massacres as a depiction of one process—an iterative royal rite of expansive self-assertion involving the exploitation of any and all resources that can be obtained, involving the appropriative subordination of other power-centres—and begin to explore some of its ramifications.
 
In human terms, and as partly inspired by the thirteenth major rock edict of King Ashoka “Beloved of the Gods” (in which the good king warns the massacred Kalingans that he will resume his massacre upon any and all who misbehave), I will compare Valmiki’s cursing the nishada hunter (at Ramayana 1.2:14) with Arjuna’s cursing Ashvasena as the latter escapes from the burning Khandava Forest (at Mahabharata 1.218:11). These must remain refugees and fugitives unless and until they reform and conform to the new order. Similar examples will be mentioned from within the Mahabharata (Ekalavya, Padmanabha) and from recent times.
 
In existential terms, I will highlight the analogy between the well-led state, the good household, and the good career individual—a triple myth that these texts develop in such a way as to involve the reader or hearer most intimately, particularly as all hearers or listeners are bodies that have expanded and are sustained by nutritive absorption.
 
In genealogical terms, I will discuss the local appropriation of solar ancestry by the Hastinapura kings, who were reckoned as descended from the moon in the days of the Pandavas, but have come to be reckoned, at Janamejaya’s snake massacre, as descendants of the sun. In terms of the standard solar and lunar vamshas as seen in the Harivamsha and the Puranas, such a change in reckoning would involve the branch-lines of brothers, cousins, and more distant cousins being cut out of the significant ancestry.
 
In gendered terms, and with particular reference to Harivamsha appendix 18, I will show how the solar royal conception involves a fully patrilineal model of inheritance and—at least in its paradigm case, that of the eldest son, the single heir—an endemic fear of the influence of the wife’s natal context upon her son, the next heir. This fear is most starkly dramatised with regard to the the figure of the putrika, a woman whose son continues her father’s line, not her husband’s.
 
Simon Brodbeck was educated at the University of Cambridge and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, where he obtained his PhD with a thesis on the philosophy of the Bhagavadgita. Since then he has been a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, a researcher on the "Epic Constructions" project at SOAS, and a translator and editor for the Clay Sanskrit Library. He is now working at Cardiff University, doing research on genealogy in ancient India. His publications include Gender and Narrative in the Mahabharata (ed., with Brian Black, Routledge, 2007) and The Mahabharata Patriline (Ashgate, in press).

Related: Mahabharata, Sanskrit

Mahatma Gandhi at the OCHS 1: The Death of Gandhi (lecture)

Shivdasani Lecture
Dr Makarand Paranjape
19 Oct 2009

These four, interrelated talks on Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1969-1948) may be considered as an attempt to understand and articulate the coherence of an exemplary life. Given how he regarded it himself—“My life is my message”—Gandhi invites to be read in terms of a consistency in his anubhav (original experience), vichar (thought and ideas), and achaar (conduct and action). To that extent, his is a life which sets itself up almost in opposition to modernity—almost, because it might be reductive to see Gandhi merely as an opponent of modernity. But if the primary tendency of modernity, as Gandhi himself described it in Hind Swaraj (1909), is centrifugal, then Gandhi’s lifework was contrary to modernity in being centripetal. The 100th anniversary of Hind Swaraj, then, affords us a special occasion to re-examine key facets of Gandhi’s life in an integral, rather than fragmentary fashion, asking what he has to say to our own times.

 
In all, these four presentations are not merely academic explorations of Gandhi’s life and thought, but also investigations into what it may mean to be (neo)-Gandhian in our times.
 
The first of the four presentations, on “The Death of Gandhi,” is a way of recuperating his life through the traces of its violent termination. Such a methodology involves us in a reading of the two sites in New Delhi which have come to memorialize that fatality, Raj Ghat and Gandhi Smriti. Delhi, itself a city of tombs, lends itself well to such a semiology of cenotaphs and sepulchres. Raj Ghat and Gandhi Smriti—the one a state mausoleum, the other a monument to the Mahatma’s martyrdom—might thus yield special insights as texts of national self-constitution and interrogation. However differently they make meaning of the catastrophe, both places beg the same question, “Who killed Gandhi?” And the answers that emerge are, to say the least, somewhat surprising in that they reveal the different kinds of demise that Gandhi has suffered at the hands of a multiplicity of actors.
 
Makarand Paranjape is a Professor of English at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. A critic, poet, fiction writer, and literary columnist with over thirty books and 100 published academic papers to his credit, he is also the author of more 250 reviews, notes, and popular articles. His latest book is Another Canon: Indian Texts and Traditions in English (Anthem Press, forthcoming).

Related: Gandhi, Modern India

From Ontology to Taxonomy: the Jaina Colonisation of the Universe

Shivdasani Conference 2009
Will Johnson
11 Oct 2009

This paper explores the shift in Jaina thought from categorization (the ontological dualism of jiva and ajiva) to classification (the universe as a map of the Jina's mind), and reflects on a corresponding alteration in soteriological and sociological concerns.

Related: Categories, Jainism, Philosophy

Madhyamakas and Ontological Categories

Shivdasani Conference 2009
Jan Westerhoff
11 Oct 2009

The status of categories within Madhyamaka philosophy is a curious one. On the one hand there is a strong tendency to reject philosophically refined analyses of the constituents which make up the world, thereby rejecting systems of categories as well. The Madhyamika, it seems, accepts whatever conventions the world accepts at the merely conventional level but does not propose any conventions of his own. In fact there appear to be good reasons for such a view. Given that the membership of an object in a category is generally taken to be a clear example of a property an object has intrinsically, and since the Madhyamikas reject intrinsic properties (properties which exist by svabhava) they should reject categories as well.

 
On the other hand, however, Madhyamakas make use of the very sophisticated and intricate categorial frameworks found in traditional Indian grammar and in the Abhidharma. Furthermore they also vehemently argue against the use of other frameworks, such as that of the Naiyayikas.
 
This paper will explore ways of resolving this tension and investigate more generally what role categories play in the Madhyamaka system of philosophy.

Related: Buddhism, Categories, Philosophy

The Analysis of Experience in Classical Samkhya

Shivdasani Conference 2009
Mikel Burley
11 Oct 2009

This paper argues for an interpretation of classical SƒÅ·pÉkhya according to which its schema of twenty-five categories constitutes the result of an analysis of experience as opposed to a speculative cosmogony or imaginative account of how our psychological faculties come into existence. Problems with prevalent interpretations are highlighted, notably the difficulty of understanding how physical elements can ‘evolve’ from psychological ones and that of understanding the relevance of the categorial schema to SƒÅ·pÉkhya’s overall soteriological goal. An experience-oriented interpretation is then proposed, drawing analogies with aspects of Kantian and phenomenological philosophy. It is contended that the manifest categories be understood as constituents of possible experience (or experience-in-general) rather than as material entities, and the relations between them be understood in terms of synchronic conditionality rather than diachronic material causality. The proposed interpretation, it is argued, shows the SƒÅ·pÉkhya system to be more internally coherent and soteriologically relevant than do alternative interpretations.

Related: Categories, Philosophy, Samkhya

Nyaya's pramana (Knowledge-Generators) as Natural Kinds

Shivdasani Conference 2009
Stephen Phillips
10 Oct 2009

This paper examines Nyaya's understanding of the sources of knowledge, especially perception and inference, as generating genuine subkinds of cognition that are discernible by introspection as well as through our own and others' behaviour, and addresses how typological resources are used by the school in its epistemological theory. By being able to recognize a cognition as perceptual, inferential, analogical, or testimonial in character, we have access to our knowledge such that doubt and controversy can be resolved. The hinge premise is that we may assume such cognition to be veridical. Like contemporary disjunctivists, Naiyayikas see pramana as natural processes and their results as falling into natural kinds, with close imitators, illusions, incorrect inferences, false testimonial comprehension, and so on, as something else altogether, not the same at all, though a wider uniting kind may be identified, being-a-property, being-a-psychological-property, and so on up through the categorial system. This facet of Nyaya's epistemology helps to solve an issue facing modern reliabilist externalism, which is the position that beliefs receive a default positive epistemic status in virtue of being the results of reliable processes of belief-formation. The issue is how to differentiate doxastic processes in an epistemically relevant fashion. Nyaya has a straightforward answer--identify candidates by the highest standard, one-hundred percent reliability, and correlating marks (jati-vyanjana)--an answer that this paper in the end says a word or two to defend.

Related: Categories, Nyaya, Philosophy

On bhava - the ultimate category

Shivdasani Conference 2009
Eivind Kahrs
10 Oct 2009

Whereas some categories clearly are the outcome of mental deliberations, such as the dharma-taxonomies of the Buddhists, the padarthas of the Vaisesikas, or the tattvas of the Samkhyas, others seem to arise from within the cognitive models of Indian culture. This paper explores the concept of bhava as one of the categories arising from within the Sanskrit linguistic and philosophical traditions and traces its transformation into one of the core categories of Sanskritic thought.

Related: Categories, Philosophy

Ontological Categories in Early Indian Philosophy

Shivdasani Conference 2009
Johannes Bronkhorst
10 Oct 2009

This paper will address the question whether and to what extent the ontological categories of early Indian philosophies can be looked upon as what might be called ‘natural categories’, categories that correspond in some way to the reality they intend to describe. It turns out that some of the Indian categories are of this kind, others are not. Examples will be discussed.

Related: Categories, Philosophy

The Seven Category Ontology Reaffirmed

Shivdasani Conference 2009
Jonardon Ganeri
10 Oct 2009

Keynote Respondent: Ramprasad Chakravarthi

 
The six categories of being of Prastapada (substance, quality, motion, differentiator, universal, inherence), together with the category of non-being, constitute the ontology of classical Vaisesika metaphysics. Raghunatha Siromani, the sixteenth century peer of Caitanya in Navadvipa, put pressure on the classical system, arguing in favour of a radical expansion to include eight new categories: power (Sakti), ownedness (svatva), moment (ksana), causehood (karanatva), effecthood (karyatva), number (samkhya), the qualifying relation pertaining to absence (vaisistya), and contentness (visayata). In the seventeenth century, however, there was a reaffirmation of the seven category ontology in the work of thinkers like Madhavadeva Bhatta and Jayarama Pancanana. I will examine the philosophical significance of this reaffirmation. I will argue that Raghunatha’s expansion is based on a commitment to a form of non-reductive realism. What the seventeenth century philosophers introduce is a new concept of realism, one which defends the compossibility of reduction and realism with respect to some type of entity. This ‘sophisticated realism’ (Dummett) is what makes it possible for the reality of entities in Raghunatha’s new categories to be acknowledged, but combined with an affirmation of the seven category metaphysics. I will ask whether it is nevertheless the case that Raghunatha was right to think that there are types of property irreducible to those admitted in the traditional system.

Related: Categories, Philosophy

Earrings and Horns: Locating the first Naths

Dr James Mallinson
28 May 2009

The Naths are ubiquitous in secondary literature on the religious culture of India during the last millennium, but they are very elusive in primary sources. This seminar will trace the development of the traits that set the Naths apart from other religious orders and try to pinpoint when they came together.

Related: Tantra, Yoga

The origins and development of Shaktism

Bjarne Wernicke Olesen
21 May 2009

This seminar will explore traditions focused on the Goddess and examine the boundaries of Shakta traditions. The seminar will examine different kinds of Shakta tradition, those within the boundary of Brahmanical orthodoxy and those outside of that boundary. The seminar will raise critical questions about tradition, about etic and emic accounts, and about the relation of Indology to Anthropology. Bjarne Wernicke Olesen has a degree in Classical Indology and the Study of Religions from the University of Aarhus where he now teaches Sanskrit and Hinduism in the Department of the Study of Religions. He is currently undertaking doctoral research in the area of Shaktism.

Related: Goddesses

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