This presentation explores the nature and historical development of goddesses and the category of Śiva’s “power(s)” (śakti) in the archaic Niśvāsatattvasaṃhitā. It is observed that while female deities have limited cultic importance, their significance increases in the later strata of the text, especially the Guhyasūtra. A shift from apotheoses of feminine-gendered cosmological categories to embodied goddesses appears evident, as are early developments in characteristic Śaiva doctrines concerning the roles of śakti in cosmogony and grace.
Nilima Chitgopekar is Associate Professor of History in the Jesus and Mary College, Delhi University. She has written books dealing with the Shaiva pantheon which include, Encountering Sivaism: The Deity, the Milieu, the Entourage (Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers), and The Book of Durga (Penguin), and edited Invoking Godesses: Gender Politics in Indian Religion (Shakti Books). Her forthcoming title, Rudra:The Idea of Shiva (Penguin), a fictionalised biography of Shiva, will be released in June 2005.
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.
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.