Skip directly to content

Downloadable lectures

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

Readings in the Upanishads Part 4 of 4

Shivdasani Lecture
Professor Patrick Olivelle
20 May 2009

Professor Patrick Olivelle is very well known and highly regarded for his work on early Indian religions. Among his many publications are The Asrama System: The History and Hermeneutics of a Religious Institution (OUP 1993), The Early Upanishads (OUP, 1998), and The Laws of Manu (OUP, 2004). Among his research interests are ascetic traditions and the history of the idea of dharma. Professor Olivelle teaches at the University of Texas at Austin.

Related: Sanskrit, Upanisads

Siddhas, Munis and Yogins but no Naths: The Early History of Hathayoga

Wahlstrom Lecture
Dr James Mallinson
19 May 2009

The Nath order has long been credited with being the originators of hatha-yoga and the authors of the Sanskrit texts on its practice. Text critical study of those works and research into other sources for the same period show this not to be the case: not one of the twenty Sanskrit texts that make up the corpus of early (pre-1450 CE) works on hatha-yoga was written in a Nath milieu. Furthermore, no single sect can be credited with starting hatha-yoga. On the contrary, hatha-yoga developed as a reaction against the sectarianism and exclusivity of tantra and was available to all, regardless of sectarian affiliation.

Related: Tantra, Yoga

Readings in the Upanishads Part 3 of 4

Shivdasani Lecture
Professor Patrick Olivelle
15 May 2009

Professor Patrick Olivelle is very well known and highly regarded for his work on early Indian religions. Among his many publications are The Asrama System: The History and Hermeneutics of a Religious Institution (OUP 1993), The Early Upanishads (OUP, 1998), and The Laws of Manu (OUP, 2004). Among his research interests are ascetic traditions and the history of the idea of dharma. Professor Olivelle teaches at the University of Texas at Austin.

Related: Sanskrit, Upanisads

Readings in the Upanishads Part 2 of 4

Shivdasani Lecture
Professor Patrick Olivelle
4 May 2009

Professor Patrick Olivelle is very well known and highly regarded for his work on early Indian religions. Among his many publications are The Asrama System: The History and Hermeneutics of a Religious Institution (OUP 1993), The Early Upanishads (OUP, 1998), and The Laws of Manu (OUP, 2004). Among his research interests are ascetic traditions and the history of the idea of dharma. Professor Olivelle teaches at the University of Texas at Austin.

Related: Sanskrit, Upanisads

Readings in the Upanishads Part 1 of 4

Shivdasani Lecture
Professor Patrick Olivelle
29 Apr 2009

Professor Patrick Olivelle is very well known and highly regarded for his work on early Indian religions. Among his many publications are The Asrama System: The History and Hermeneutics of a Religious Institution (OUP 1993), The Early Upanishads (OUP, 1998), and The Laws of Manu (OUP, 2004). Among his research interests are ascetic traditions and the history of the idea of dharma. Professor Olivelle teaches at the University of Texas at Austin.

Related: Sanskrit, Upanisads

Hindu understandings of God 4: The theology of Utpaladeva and the monistic Shaivas

Professor Gavin Flood
12 Mar 2009

We find the idea of God in different religions and it is theologically interesting that semantic analogues of the category appear across the boundaries of traditions. This series of lectures explores Hindu ideas of God and raises questions about the meaning of God in human traditions and the idea of comparative theology.

Related: Hindu Theology, Saiva

Religious experience in psychology, anthropology and sociology Lecture 3: Sociology of religion and the force of the individual

Dr Jessica Frazier
6 Mar 2009

The necessity of analysing religious influences on society has meant that key sociologists from Marx to Durkheim and Weber insisted on the significance of mood, motivation, and individual agency as the heart of any idea of society change. Religious feeling is thus one of the cornerstones enabling their theorisation of social dynamics. Here we look at sociological models for studying subjectivity as an autonomous ‘centre’ of dynamism and force, the beating heart of grand-scale movements of history.

Related: Religious experience, Religious Studies

Hindu understandings of God 3: The theology of Jiva Gosvami

Dr Rembert Lutjeharms
26 Feb 2009

We find the idea of God in different religions and it is theologically interesting that semantic analogues of the category appear across the boundaries of traditions. This series of lectures explores Hindu ideas of God and raises questions about the meaning of God in human traditions and the idea of comparative theology.

Related: Hindu Theology, Vaisnava

Religious experience in psychology, anthropology and sociology Lecture 1: Anthropology of religion and the religious imagination

Dr Jessica Frazier
13 Feb 2009

Many of the canonical names in anthropology have been criticised for their literary style and their tendency towards evocative narrative. Here we argue that this is not a methodological weakness, but the autonomous development of a conception of understanding in terms of imaginative empathy and inter-subjectivity, which parallels hermeneutic philosophy. Religious experiences are literally recreated in the reader, forming an intimate bond between the scholar and his or her subject.

Related: Religious experience, Religious Studies

Hindu understandings of God 2: The theology of Ramanuja

Professor Keith Ward
12 Feb 2009

We find the idea of God in different religions and it is theologically interesting that semantic analogues of the category appear across the boundaries of traditions. This series of lectures explores Hindu ideas of God and raises questions about the meaning of God in human traditions and the idea of comparative theology.

Related: Hindu Theology, Vaisnava

Hinduism, non-violence and the costs of terrorism: towards an Indian mediation service?

Dr Thomas Daffern
5 Feb 2009

This talk will address research into the history and philosophy of non-violence in Indian religious traditions, including Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. It will ask whether the stress on ahimsa in the Indian philosophical tradition is something worth preserving, even in the face of terrorist attacks such as most recently in Mumbai, and if so, how can that be done? The proposal to launch an Indian Union Mediation Service will be presented as one intelligent way to square this ethical circle of idealism versus realpolitik.

 
Dr Thomas C. Daffern is a specialist in peace studies, comparative philosophy and the history of ideas who has taught at the Universities of London and Oxford and also works in the secondary school sector as a religious studies teacher. He founded and directs the International Institute of Peace Studies and Global Philosophy, as a unique international academic network for thinkers interested in research into peace, conflict prevention and global philosophical and intellectual discourse between different cultures and civilisations. A former educational coordinator of the Gandhi Foundation, he has travelled extensively in India and taught at the Jain University in Rajasthan. See www.lulu.com/iipsgp or www.educationaid.net or for further details.

Related: Modern India, Politics

Pages