Summer School at Oxford
Thursday 19 June: Jesus College
Welcome and introductions
Hinduism and Modernity: Shaunaka Rishi Das
In modern, secular society Hinduism is sometimes regarded as backward looking and the source of conflict and communalism. On this view, as scientific knowledge and technology develop, Hinduism will fade into the past and people will leave behind a superstitious phase of their development. Yet in spite of this assumption Hindu culture continues to exert force in the contemporary world. In this talk we will explore issues of Hinduism and modernity, including issues of freedom, democracy, individualism, science, and secularism.
Teas and Coffees
The Vedas: Dr Rembert Lutjeharms
If asked what Hinduism means, many will point to acceptance of the authority of the Vedas as a key tenet. But what do the Vedas actually teach? This session will highlight the variety of voices found in these texts, particularly between the ritual parts of these texts and the Upanishads, which – though still strongly concerned with ritual – emphasise knowledge and philosophical inquiry into the nature of the self, reality, and Brahman.
Lunch at Jamie's Italian Restaurant
Buddhism and Hinduism: Prof. Richard Gombrich
This lecture will argue that there is a serious problem afflicting both Buddhist and Hindu studies. On the one hand, the two religions are widely taught and indeed widely interpreted as if they had nothing to do with each other, and no historical, philosophical, or spiritual connections. On the other, it is often claimed, particularly in India, that the Buddha was a good Hindu who deviated only in criticising the caste system. Both extremes are wildly wrong. The Buddha’s teaching cannot be understood unless one realises that he was opposing his views systematically to Hindu doctrines of his day; and later Hinduism cannot be fully understood without appreciating the Buddha’s contribution to Indian thought.
Private tour at the Ashmolean
Dinner at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies
Friday 20 June: Balliol College
Understanding the Mahabharata: Anuradha Dooney
The Mahabharata is one of the oldest and longest stories ever told. Along with the Ramayana it is India’s most famous epic narrative. This talk maps the central ideas of the Mahabharata and discusses why they remain important, interesting, and relevant to us today. Drawing from the story’s rich portrayal of exemplary and dubious characters it further challenges us to reflect on the difficulty of dealing with success and failure; honour and dishonour; peace and violence; and the ups and downs of daily life.
Teas and Coffees
The Upanishads: Dr Rembert Lutjeharms
The Upanishads have inspired centuries of Hindu thought, and are the earliest records of some key concepts of contemporary Hinduism: the self (atman), rebirth, and Brahman. Building on the discussions of the session on the Vedas, this session will be devoted to a close reading of several Upanishadic passages, to give first-hand experience of the type of literature we are talking about, and to give some practice in the process of interpretation.
Lunch at Balliol College
Bhakti and Bollywood: Dr Jessica Frazier
Bollywood is a wonderfully emotive and vibrant art to some, and the worst form of kitsch, crowd-pleasing entertainment to others. As Western standards come to dominate our idea of what is ‘good’ art, Hindi cinema appears more and more crude to many young Hindus as well as to people in the West. But should Bollywood really be judged according to the Western tradition with its rational, dispassionate ideal of the psyche, and its post-Marxist belief that art should reveal the worst of life? We look at the way Hindi cinema has been influenced by Indian philosophy of art, with its affirmation of the importance of emotion, and its idea that art should sensitise us to what is meaningful in the world.
Teas and Coffees
Who Is a Hindu and What Is Hinduism in Today’s World? A Seeking of Identities: Prof. Julius Lipner
Defining religious identity is always a hard task because religious identity is often perceived in a comprehensive way – covering cultural, social, and political commitment. The question with respect to Hinduism seems to be all the more complicated because of the acknowledged pluralism of the tradition. In this talk we will raise the relevant issues and seek to provide an answer that does justice to the diversity of Hindu belief and practice in terms of modern challenges and views.
Dinner at Cherwell Boat Club Restaurant (Hosted by Azad Shivdasani)
Saturday 21 June: Nuffield College
Understanding the Bhagavad-gita: Anuradha Dooney
The Bhagavad-gita is arguably the most famous of all Indian sacred texts. It has been translated hundreds of times and has inspired countless millions. This talk offers a reflective, interactive workshop in light of some of the seminal ideas that continue to shape lives ever since Arjuna first stepped onto the battlefield.
Teas and Coffees
Introducing the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies: Shaunaka Rishi Das
Gita-Govinda: Dr Jessica Frazier
The development of Bhakti through the first millennium emphasised kinds of spiritual affection and devotion that gradually changed the face of Hinduism. One of the most extreme and intense expressions of Hindu devotion is found in the perennially popular medieval poem, the Gitagovinda or Song of Govinda. Here we see a poem that weaves together imaginative images from yogic, tantric, and romantic culture into a story that depicts the love between Krishna and Radha as a difficult, proud, passionate experience.
Lunch at Prezzo in the Castle Complex
What is Tantra: Prof. Gavin Flood
Tantra refers to a group of Hindu traditions that developed during the 7–12th centuries CE. Focused on the three main gods Vishnu, Shiva, and Devi, these traditions produced their own scriptures called Tantras that were regarded as a revelation that superseded the Veda. On the one hand Tantra can refer to a sophisticated philosophy while on the other hand it can refer to magical practices intended to bring about a concrete result in the world such as the power of becoming really attractive or protection from an enemy. In this talk we will examine what this misunderstood kind of religion is and how it pervaded the subcontinent, gaining royal patronage and producing magnificent temples.
Teas and Coffees
Ramanuja and Christianity: Prof. Keith Ward
Some people assume that Hinduism and Christianity are totally opposed and have nothing to teach one another. Here we consider what the great philosopher of Visistadvaita has to teach Christians. In this short talk we examine Ramanuja’s teachings on Brahman, the soul, devotion to Krishna, and liberation, and show how they can be, and have been, used to reformulate many Christian doctrines in a very positive way. It may be that the most positive future for religion lies in a convergence of these two great spiritual traditions.
Prof. Gavin Flood is the Academic Director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. Author of a number of texts in Hindu Studies, he was granted the title of Professor of Hindu Studies and Comparative Religion from the University of Oxford In 2008.
Prof. Richard Gombrich is an Indologist and scholar of Sanskrit, Pali, and Buddhist Studies. Boden Professor of Sanskrit at the University of Oxford from 1976 to 2004, he is currently Founder-President of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies. He is a member of the OCHS Board of Governors.
Prof. Julius Lipner is Professor of Hinduism and the Comparative Study of Religion at the University of Cambridge. His special fields of study are Vedantic thought, 19th-century Bengal, and inter-cultural and inter-religious understanding, with special reference to the Hindu and Christian traditions
Prof. Keith Ward is a philosopher, theologian, pastor, and scholar. He is a Fellow of the British Academy, an ordained priest of the Church of England, and was a canon of Christ Church, Oxford until 2003 and Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford from 1991–2004. Prof. Ward was instrumental in the founding of the OCHS and is a member of the OCHS Board of Governors.
Dr Jessica Frazier is a Fellow and alumna of the OCHS. Dr Frazier received an M.St. in Religion at Oxford and a D.Phil. in Theology at Cambridge. She lectures regularly at the OCHS and at the University of Kent, Canterbury.
Dr Rembert Lutjeharms, a Fellow and alumnus of the OCHS, having received his D.Phil in Theology in 2010. Dr Lutjeharms is the OCHS Librarian and an excellent Sankritist, teaching regularly at the OCHS.
Shaunaka Rishi Das is the founder and Director of the OCHS.
Anuradha Dooney, a Fellow and alumna of the OCHS, received her M.St. in 2005. She is a key member of the course development and teaching team in the OCHS Continuing Education Department.
Understanding Hinduism by Nicholas Sutton
This is a course book by the OCHS Continuing Education Department’s Director, Dr Nicholas Sutton. Used for many years in classrooms throughout the UK it is now the basis of the OCHS Hindu Studies online programme which reaches several hundred students per year worldwide. It is an excellent entry-level text.
The Upanishads by Patrick Olivelle
Patrick Olivelle, an OCHS Shivdasani Visiting Fellow, has produced one of the most widely used translations of The Upanishads – some of the most important literary products in the history of Indian culture and religion. Olivelle’s work incorporates the most recent historical and philological scholarship.
The Rg Veda, translated by Wendy Doniger
Wendy Doniger, an OCHS Shivdasani Visiting Fellow, provides this translation this selection of 108 of Sanskrit hymns from the Rig Veda. Chosen for their eloquence and wisdom, they focus on creation, sacrifice, death, women, the sacred plant soma and the gods.
The Bhagavad-gita, translated by Juan Mascaro
An accessible and very popular version of the Gita.
The Bhagavad-gita, translated by Winthrop Sargeant
Another excellent translation with the addition of the original text in Devanagari and full transliteration and definitions of all Sanskrit words.
Hinduism: A Short History by Klaus Klostermaier
Prof. Klostermaier was the OCHS’s first Academic Director. This short history is an easy-to-read survey of the development of Hinduism from ancient to modern. Notable are discussions of the origins of Hinduism and the role of philosophical reflection in Hinduism.
An Introduction to Hinduism by Gavin Flood
This book by the OCHS’s current Academic Director, is used as a set text in universities worldwide. It provides a thematic and historical introduction to Hinduism, tracing the development of Hindu traditions from their ancient origins, through the major deities of Vishnu, Siva, and the Goddess, to the modern world. An Introduction to Hinduism examines dharma, caste and world renunciation and introduces debates within contemporary scholarship about the nature of Hinduism.