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Downloadable lectures

Money of the Gods: The Religious Tokens of India

Shivdasani Conference 2007
Dr Sanjay Garg
20 Oct 2007

Session 6 of the 2007 Shivdasani Conference. 

 
Numismatics and archaeology have always had a close relationship. Still in the study of archaeology and archaeological concepts, the discipline of numismatics is often relegated to a secondary importance. Though the use of religious tokens in India is not embedded in antiquity, it forms a part of the living traditions. The paper aims at consolidating numismatic research done so far on this topic and analyse this data in the context of other archaeological remains such as monuments and sculptures as well as religious texts.
 
It also seeks to re-emphasise the importance of numismatic objects like religious tokens for studying the cultural and religious aspects of the social life of our people.

Related: Numismatics, Temple and Text

The Indian Temple: Production, Place, Patronage

Shivdasani Conference 2007
Dr Adam Hardy
20 Oct 2007

Session 11 of the 2007 Shivdasani Conference.

 
In the forms of shrine, which developed between the 7th and 13th centuries, Hindu temples, conceived as divine bodies, embodied structured patterns of movement in their architectural compositions. Shrines are invested with a sense of centrifugal dynamism that appears to originate at the tip of the finial, or a point just above it, progressing downwards from this point and outwards from the vertical axis. Compositional elements are made to appear to multiply, to emerge and expand out from the body of the shrine, and out from one another, as interpenetrating elements differentiate themselves and come apart. As well as a spatial structure, a temple has a temporal one, of which a given spatial arrangement is a momentary glimpse, or rather, a succession of such glimpses. A series of elements, or of configurations of elements, can be sensed not so much as a chain of separate entities, but as the same thing seen several times, at different stages, evolving and proliferating. This pattern of growth is conveyed through clearly identifiable architectural means.
 
The same pattern of emergence, expansion, and proliferation expressed in a single temple is reflected in the development of architectural forms during the course of various traditions. This unfolding takes place both in the details and at the level of the whole composition. The effect observed in a single, developed temple, of one form putting forth another, which in turn emits another and so on, is brought about by a cumulative extrapolation and successive incorporation of temple designs: a new design springing from an old one, while preserving the old one within the new.
 
Analogies, or homologies, are striking when dynamic temple compositions are compared with certain recurrent religious and philosophical concepts. Patterns of emergence and growth, as if from an all-containing point, underlie a vision of creation, which is found repeatedly in many different guises. The manifestation or coming into being of the divine or of the universe is repeatedly understood as taking place through the sequential emergence, or successive bursting forth, of one form or principle from another.
 
This is not to say that such ideas gave rise to the architectural forms, or that the temple builders deliberately set out to embody these concepts: rather, it would seem, the forms and the ideas both spring from the same way of thinking, the same view of the world.

Related: Temple and Text

Yajna and Puja: A Comparison of the Ritual Archetypes

Shivdasani Conference 2007
Dr Natalia R. Lidova
20 Oct 2007

Session 8 of the 2007 Shivdasani Conference. 

The correlation between yajña and puja may well be one of the most complicated problems in Indology. Yajña and puja are known to have been mutually counterposed in the Indian tradition. At any rate, they were topical in different periods of its evolution. Yajña held pride of place as a solemn rite in the Vedic time, while puja became widespread in the post-Vedic era to become the central ritual of Hinduism. Many scholars cling to the idea of a Vedic origin of puja, regarding it as a yajña which went through specific transformations, though no substantiated explanations of these supposed changes have yet appeared. Perhaps, the only attempt of this kind was made by J.A.B. van Buitenen, who hypothetically traced puja to the Pravargya, a Vedic ritual, which included the soma offering. Based on a similarity of the purely external aspects of ritualism, his concept failed to win broad recognition but, on the contrary, was subject to ample and well-deserved criticisms.
 
Attempts to compare yajña and puja have either emphasized the similarities between the two, or brought out the differences. Irrespective of this, they all proceeded from comparisons between the outward aspects of the ritual practice, with extremely vague results. A comparison of rituals appears to be destined for success only if it proceeds from a specific methodological approach, which allows comparison not only of the outward aspects of rites but ritual principles underlying them. Here, our task is reduced to the identification of what we may conventionally term the "ritual archetype" at the basis of yajña and puja. As I see it, the most salient features of a ritual archetype are determined by three principal aspects, which can be put into the form of three queries. The first, "Where?" pertains to the arrangement of the ritual space; the second, "How?" to the type of the offering; the third, "What for?" describes the ritual goals of the worship.
 
To bring out the ritual archetype of yajña, I proceeded from the Brahmanas, which characterized the principal conceptual bases of the Vedic ritualism, as well as the srauta- and sulba-sutras, which contained essential technical details of the actual ritual. The ritual archetype of puja was reconstructed on the basis of ritualistic chapters of the Natyasastra, the Atharvaveda Parisistas, the Sattvata Samhita, which preserved testimony of the ritualism of the Pancharatra, and the Saiva Agamas – the Ajita, the Raurava and the Mrgendra.

Related: Ritual, Temple and Text

The Style and Aesthetics of Indian Erotic Temple Sculpture

Shivdasani Conference 2007
Dr David Smith
20 Oct 2007

Session 10 of the 2007 Shivdasani Conference. 

Related: Aesthetics, Temple and Text

Key thinkers in the study of religion Part 2

Dr Jessica Frazier
19 Oct 2007

Related: Religious Studies

Hinduism One, Part 2

Professor Gavin Flood
18 Oct 2007

Related: General

Key thinkers in the study of religion Part 1

Dr Jessica Frazier
12 Oct 2007

Related: Religious Studies

Hinduism One, Part 1

Professor Gavin Flood
11 Oct 2007

Related: General

Making room for the goddess: A theology of Sri in fourteenth-century South India

Majewski Lecture
Professor Francis X. Clooney, SJ
18 May 2007

While Vedanta Desika (fourteenth century, South India), as a Srivaisnava Hindu, was a member of a tradition with the greatest respect for the Goddess Sri, in his era there was still lively debate about her precise status in relationship to the supreme deity, Narayana.

In his Srimad Rahasyatrayasara, Desika pushes for a complete acceptance of Sri as the eternal consort of Narayana, an indispensable equal participant in the divine work of enabling human salvation.
 
Though in many ways a theological conservative and defender of traditional orthodoxy, Desika here shows himself to be radical and innovative in his defense of Sri. Comparison and contrast with debates over the identity of Jesus in early Christian theology and over the role of Mary, mother of Jesus, as co-mediatrix of redemption, clarify Desika's theological method and contribution to the theology of Sri.
 
Professor Frank Clooney, SJ, is Parkman Professor of Divinity and Professor of Comparative Theology at Harvard. Prof. Clooney is the author of numerous articles and books in the area of Hindu Studies and comparative theology, including Fr. Bouchet's India: An 18th-Century Jesuit's Encounter With Hinduism (2005), Divine Mother, Blessed Mother (2005), and Hindu God, Christian God (2001).

Related: Goddesses, Hindu Theology, Vaisnava

Comparative theology as intellectual and spiritual practice

Professor Francis X. Clooney, SJ
17 May 2007

The study of great religious texts demands much of the scholar, in part because such texts require professional linguistic and historical expertise, familiarity with the tradition in which the text arose, and a sense of the wider and often unstated context. But such religious texts also make demands on the reader, drawing him or her into thinking and feeling in specific ways about the topics discussed in the text. The reader then has to make choices about where, if anywhere, to draw a line between scholarly detachment and engaged participation. If the reader comes from a religious tradition, then he or she also brings the expectations of that tradition to the reading process, complicating even the initial scholarly learning practice. Prof. Clooney will illustrate the complexities of this learning with respect to his current study of the Srimad Rahasyatrayasara of Vedanta Desika (fourteenth century, South India).

 
Professor Frank Clooney, SJ, is Parkman Professor of Divinity and Professor of Comparative Theology at Harvard. Prof. Clooney is the author of numerous articles and books in the area of Hindu Studies and comparative theology, including Fr. Bouchet's India: An 18th-Century Jesuit's Encounter With Hinduism (2005), Divine Mother, Blessed Mother (2005), and Hindu God, Christian God (2001).

Related: Comparative Theology

The concept of Hindu philosophy

Shivdasani Lecture
Dr Sangeetha Menon
14 May 2007

This seminar will discuss the concept of philosophy in the Hindu context and will examine foundational concepts as well as explore their psychological and spiritual import.

Dr Sangeetha Menon graduated in Zoology, and then took her postgraduate degree in philosophy from the University of Kerala, with a thesis entitled ‘The Concept of Consciousness in the Bhagavad Gita. A gold-medalist and first rank holder for postgraduate studies, she has been a fellow at the National Institute of Advanced Studies since 1996.

Related: Philosophy

Twentieth-century Sanskrit commentaries on the Vaisesikasutras

Shivdasani Lecture
Dr Shashiprabha Kumar
14 May 2007

This lecture highlights five Sanskrit commentaries on the Vaisesikasutras that have been written and published in the last century. The commentaries are: (i) Vaidikavritih, by Pt. Hariprasada, Nirnayasagar, 1951; (ii) Rasayana, by Sri Uttamur Viraraghavacharya, Madras, 1958; (iii) Brahmamunibhasyam, by Swami Brahmamuni, Baroda, 1962; (iv) Vedabhaskarabhasyam, by Pt. Kashinath Sharma, Himachal, 1972; (v) Sugama, by Desika Tirumalai Tatacharya, Allahabad, 1979.

 
Dr Shashiprabha Kumar is Professor in Sanskrit Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University and specialises in Nyaya-Vaisesika. She has published widely in this field over the past thirty years and has particular interest in the idea of consciousness in Nyaya, as well as the early history of the school.
 

Related: Philosophy, Vaisesika

Sabda as pramana in Vaisesika

Shivdasani Seminar
Dr Shashiprabha Kumar
10 May 2007

The seminar examines the nature of sabda in the Vaisesika system which has been discussed there both as a guna of akasha, and as a pramana. The former is expressed in the ancient Vaisesika tradition, from Kanada up to Udayana, whereas the latter is explored in the later tradition, starting from its amalgamation with Nyaya and opposition to Buddhism. This seminar will cover both these aspects, with an emphasis on the role of sabda as a pramana.

Related: Philosophy, Vaisesika

The dancing Shiva as a focus for teaching cultural diversity

Dr Anne-Marie Gaston
7 May 2007

This seminar examines representations of the deity Shiva, and explores the possibilities of the image of the dancing Shiva as a pedagogical focus in teaching cultural diversity.

Related: Iconography, Saiva

The dance of emotions

Shivdasani Lecture
Dr Sangeetha Menon
7 May 2007

This lecture will be a comparative study of emotions, facial expressions, and gestures in the Natyasastra, Abhinayadarpana, and the works of Charles Darwin and Paul Ekman.

Dr Sangeetha Menon graduated in Zoology, and then took her postgraduate degree in philosophy from the University of Kerala, with a thesis entitled ‘The Concept of Consciousness in the Bhagavad Gita’. A gold-medalist and first rank holder for postgraduate studies, she has been a fellow at the National Institute of Advanced Studies since 1996.

Related: Aesthetics, Dance

Beyond love and love beyond: Hindu and Western ideas of love

Shivdasani Seminar
Dr Sangeetha Menon
3 May 2007

The seminar will examine Hindu ideas of love and the idea of divine love ('love beyond'). The seminar will pay particular attention to the Narada Bhakti Sutras.

Related: Comparative Theology

An introduction to Hindu tantrism (four lectures)

Professor Gavin Flood
1 May 2007

This short seminar series is a thematic and historical introduction to Hindu tantric traditions. Beginning with a survey of general features such as systems of mantra, ritual, cosmology, and yoga, we will then go on to examine particular tantric traditions focused on Shiva, Vishnu, and the Goddess. The seminars will mainly explore the medieval period and examine tantrism in the context of political systems of the time, folk religion, traditions of brahmanical learning, and knowledge systems. Part of the seminars will focus on the study of particular texts and reasoning about them with an emphasis on understanding their theological concerns.

Related: Tantra

The concept of dharma in Vaisesika

Shivdasani Seminar
Dr Shashiprabha Kumar
30 Apr 2007

This lecture will examine various aspects of dharma as suggested in the Vaisesika system, namely its historical, metaphysical, and moral aspects. The concept of dharma is so central in Vaisesika philosophy that Kanada begins his discourse with an aim of explaining dharma.

Related: Philosophy, Vaisesika

A super-gift or a conduit: The place of a daughter in the Indian marriage exchange

Graduate Seminar
Pulane Lizzie Motswapong
30 Apr 2007

The seminar will examine Hindu ideas of love and the idea of divine love ('love beyond'). The seminar will pay particular attention to the Narada Bhakti Sutras.Ancient Hindu lawgivers have always viewed spiritual merit as arising from the spirit of dana. Marriage dana especially kanyadana has been considered as such.

A father, by giving away his kanya was assured of spiritual merit. In ancient India the kanya was designated as the super-gift and all the other gifts which accompanied her were secondary. Marriage gifts continue to form an integral part of modern marriage system, (in the form of dowry); the kanya continues to be given away but her role is subsumed by the property she carries with her to the marital family and as a result she is reduced to a conduit.
 
The shift in status of the daughter from super-gift to a vehicle that facilitates the dowry custom has closely and significantly affected the status of women in contemporary Indian society. The practice has spread all over India and its wider ramifications are visible in the spate of cases of bride-burning, suicides, and harassment. This paper will compare and contrast the role of the daughter in the exchange while taking into account factors that may have contributed to this shift in the status of a kanyadana.

Related: Dharmasastra, Society

Neurons, experience, and being: A discussion on consciousness

Shivdasani Lecture
Dr Sangeetha Menon
27 Apr 2007

The lecture will present Indian theories of consciousness and experience in the context of some of the current discussions on consciousness and brain.

Related: Consciousness, Science and Religion

Consciousness and cognition in Vaisesika

Shivdasani Seminar
Dr Shashiprabha Kumar
26 Apr 2007

The seminar intends to discuss the nature of consciousness as expounded in the early system of Vaisesika, which deals with the problem of consciousness in relation to the process of cognition in general. In other words, knowledge is an adventitious attribute which inheres in the substance called atman (soul) only when it is embodied. During this seminar, the various implications and formulations of this view in Vaisesika sources will be examined.

Related: Philosophy, Vaisesika

The Subhasita as a social artifact

Majewski Lecture
Dr Daud Ali
27 Feb 2007

Subhasitas are Sanskrit sayings that generally make a moral point. This lecture will examine the role of ‘eloquent speech’ in the formation of social and political relationships in medieval India, showing the role of subhasita in the formation of ethics.

Daud Ali is Senior Lecturer in Early Indian History at the School of Oriental and African Studies. He is author of Courtly Culture and PoliticalLife in Early Medieval India, and, with Ronald Inden and Jonathan Walters, of Querying the Medieval: Texts and the History of Practice in South Asia

Related: Ethics, Literature

Towards a comparative theology of the person

Graduate seminar
Nicholas Bamford
27 Feb 2007

Comparative theology is an important area of research in the contemporary world. This paper will develop the idea of the person as a fruitful category for comparative theological inquiry. The seminar will raise questions about the person as an ontological category and its possible future development with particular reference to Saiva theology in dialogue with Orthodox Christianity.

Related: Christianity, Comparative Theology, Saiva

What did Ramakantha contribute to the Buddhist-Brahmanical atman debate?

Dr Alex Watson
8 Feb 2007

In attempting to refute the Buddhist doctrine of no-Self, Ramakantha absorbed many features of Buddhism. For example, he sided with Buddhism against Nyaya and Vaisesika in denying the existence of property-possessors (dharmins) over and above properties (dharmas), and in denying a Self as something that exists over and above cognition. For him the Self simply is cognition (jnana, prakasa, samvit) and so he has to prove that cognition is constant and unchanging. I will present those arguments of Ramakantha's that strike me as his strongest and most original. I will spend at least the first 10 minutes of the talk introducing, and giving an overview of, the Buddhist-Brahmanical atman debate.

Related: Buddhism, Philosophy, Saiva

Icon and murti (four seminars)

Dr Kenneth Valpey
25 Jan 2007

This seminar series will examine the issue of representation of the divine in Christian Orthodoxy and Vaisnava Hinduism. Given that God is unknowable and beyond all representation in these traditions, questions will be raised about how a transcendent reality can be represented, the function of such representations, and the degree to which such mediations are thought to be required by tradition. The first two seminars will offer theological backgrounds to Orthodoxy and Vaisnava Hinduism and the remaining two will examine in more detail conceptual and historical problems in the history of the traditions.

Related: Comparative Theology, Iconography

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