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Jeanine Viau

on 2 October 2017

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Transcript of Hinduism

Brahmanic Traditions
"Truth is one; sages call it by various names."
Renouncers & Householders
festival & pilgrimages
one truth, various names
derived from a name applied by foreigners to the people living in the region of the Indus River
introduced in the 19th century under colonial British rule for census-taking

referred to all practitioners and traditions that did not fall into another category (i.e. not Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jain, or Sikh)
Rig Veda
Diverse and highly localized
dharma - not simply "religion"; rather refers to a broad complex of meanings, including...?
Brahman (the Unknowable; unseen, all-pervading reality)
the Vedas
c.2500-1500 BCE Indus Valley civilization
'Aryan' invasion?
c.1500-500 Vedic Period
c.600-100 BCE Upanishads (Renunciate tradition)
c.500 BCE-1500 CE Epics, Puranic Period (Bhakti emerges)
500-1200 CE Medieval Period (Establishment of bhakti)
1200-1757 Muslim Rule
(1757) 1858-1947 British Empire (Colonial Period)
1947-Post-Colonial Independent India
Diversity: Hinduism covers a wide range of beliefs & practices: includes monotheism, polytheism and monism

No historic founder or unified system of belief encoded in a creed. No central authority or institutional structure.

Practice (Ritual) takes precedence over belief: correct practice is determined by your specific dharma.

challenges for study
sacred texts in hinduism
= revealed
= inspired
Regarded by Hindu’s as a timeless revelation
A popular definition of a Hindu is one who accepts the Vedas as revelation
Includes the Vedas (means wisdom or knowledge)
Inspired but by human authors
Includes rules of conduct (dharma) (The Laws of Manu), various commentaries, the Epics, and stories about people and Gods (The Puranas)
The breath of the eternal as ‘heard’ by the ancient sages or rishis
The Vedas are a large body of literature composed in Sanskrit. Oral tradition- the Brahmans/the Vedic Aryans-written 1000 yrs after its composition and the very act of writing was seen as polluting
Dharma sutras = “shruti” (divinely revealed)
Composed 1500–500 BCE

the Vedas - Four Parts
Rig Veda (hymns)

Brahmanas (directions for ritual sacrifice)

Aranyakas (‘forest treatises’)

Upanishads (wisdom, mystical, renunciate)

Rig Veda
Hymns imploring blessings from the devas – controlling forces in the cosmos, deities who consecrate every part of life
Indra (god of thunder and bringer of rains)
Agni (god of fire)
Soma (sacred drink)
Ushas (goddess of dawn)

Early Vedic Culture
Polytheistic cosmology: different gods petitioned through the fire sacrifice ritual (1000-500 BCE)
Brahmins or male elite priests were the only group who could “read” the Vedas and conduct the ritual
Hierarchical society with boundaries between different classes strictly governed
Each group had specific dharma (law, truth) to follow: strict behavior codes for diet, dress, social and economic interaction
Religion focused on pragmatic, this-worldly benefits: health, wealth, sons etc.

Varna (Caste) System
First reference in the Rig Veda – the cosmic Man, purusha
The caste system was seen as a reflection or microcosm of the universal order or macrocosm
The fire ritual (public & domestic) and following your specific dharma was essential to maintain both social and cosmological order

Vedic Renunciation: Upanishads
Upanishads are the last section of the Vedas composed 600-100 BCE

Extol the Guru-disciple relationship –upa=near to and nisad “to sit down”

Esoteric reinterpretation of the Vedic ritual that provides the monistic philosophy for Vedantic renunciation
Behind the diversity & multiplicity of life was one sacred impersonal substance Brahman and the individual soul Atman was identical to Brahman

Foundational Ideas of Renouncers
Beings are reincarnated or reborn into the world of suffering over and over again (samsara)

Karma “action” is the fuel for rebirth, the law of cause and effect that governs reincarnation

Freedom or liberation from cyclic existence can be attained through spiritual knowledge (jnana); to escape from samsara is to achieve moksha- liberation from limitations of space, time and matter through realization of the immortal absolute

Liberating knowledge can be achieved through the spiritual disciplines of asceticism and yoga

New religious ideal figure: Renouncer (rather than Vedic Priest)

Renunciation of pleasure

Yoga means to “yoke” or “unite”

Term 1st appears in Katha Upanishad where it is defined as the control of the senses & the cessation of mental activity that leads to liberation

Covers a range of mental and physical practices designed to transform consciousness

Renouncers pose a challenge to wider society: they wrestle with the question of how to relate to society & society wrestles with how to relate to them

New vision of human condition is at odds with Brahmanic worldview which affirms social obligation and public and domestic ritual.

Throughout the history of Hinduism there have been many attempts to reconcile householders and renouncers but they often remain in tension

The ASHRAMA or Life-Stages model for Brahmin male
Each of 4 stages has its own duties and responsibilities

(i) Celibate student
(ii) Householder
(iii) Hermit or Forest Dweller
(iv) Renouncer

reconciling lifeways
The Laws of Manu (200 BCE-200 CE ) states that if you are a Brahmin male you may attempt liberation but if you have not fulfilled your social obligations first, you will go to hell

Rituals of renunciation for later stages: symbolically perform your own funeral-the social self has died

Within The Laws of Manu also see renunciation prescribed for certain groups (widows)
Four Aims of Life:

1. Dharma –religious and moral life
2. Artha – economic development
3. Kama – appropriate gratification of the senses
4. Moksha – escape from cycle of reincarnation, samsara

Krishna, Arjuna's charioteer
the Epics
:: devotion

- worship or ritual, either public or private
communal puja is usually performed by
, or brahmin priests
pandit -
a teacher, scholar, expert who has mastered one or multiple elements of Hindu tradition
***despite communal observances,
is also highly personal and frequently practiced individually and in the home
collections of mythological narratives

compiled 500-1500CE

a total of 18 - 6 about Vishnu, six about Brahma, six about Shiva
Brahma (creator) - Left
Vishnu (preserver) - Center
Shiva (destroyer) - Right
Vaishnavites (devotees of Vishnu and his avatars)

Shaivites (devotees of Shiva)

Shaktas (devotees of the Deva)

**These are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Practitioners often practice devotion to multiple deities. Although, sometimes practitioners practice devotion to only one deity. Some practitioners may acknowledge other deities as manifestations of just one deity.
Match each goddess to her association.
1) Durga

2) Kali

3) Saraswati

4) Lakshmi
a. ten arms with ten weapons, vanquishes demons that threaten the dharma
b. named for a mystical river and associated with knowledge, the arts, and music
c. the embodiment of wealth, good fortune, and beauty
d. depicted with a necklace of skulls symbolizing her aspect as destroyer
Taproot India
eternally chaste
two aspects, one being
lingam within a yoni
Kumbha Mela 2013
Allahabad where the Jumna River meets the Ganges and the mystical Saraswati
Estimated over 30 million people bathed on Mauni Amavasya
festival of lights

twenty days after the close of Durga Puja or Dussehra beginning on the night of the new moon

lunar calendar corresponding to late fall

return of Rama after exile, the puja of Lakshmi, or New Year

cleaning house, bringing records up-to-date, illumination, feasting, gift-giving

Holi from Holika
approach of the vernal equinox beginning on the full moon
Vedic philosophies
Roots in Vedic literature and meditative practice

Ethics central to orderly social life

The cause of samsara is ignorance of the true Self or Atman

Samkhya – dualistic; purusha (true Self) vs. Prakriti (the cause of the material universe)

Advaita Vedanta – monistic; single reality – atman and Brahman are one; confusion caused by maya, power by which the Absolute veils itself


paths to liberation
The Gita (400 BCE – 400 CE) expounds the idea that there are three paths to liberation not just the renouncer path:

The path of action (karma-yoga) is detachment from the fruits of action; asceticism and contemplation

Path of devotion (bhakti –yoga) Thru devotion and the grace of God attain liberation. A bond of love between human and divine- devotion to personal deity

Path of knowledge/rational inquiry (jnana-yoga) Liberating knowledge associated with renunciation

Later Hindu teachers add Path of Raja Yoga (mental concentration/meditation) to this list; although, it is perhaps an even older tradition (200 BCE)

Yoga then and now...here and there...
According to Andrea Jain, what is at stake in the yoga debates, and what does she add to the conversation?

Is this a case of cultural appropriation, and if so, what is to be done about the gap between the original context and practice of
, and what Jain calls 'popular postural yoga' in the West?

Are there similarities between the original tradition and the popularization of this practice? How so?

Should Westerners practice yoga?
Origins in the civilization that formed along the Indus River (in present day Pakistan)
India is the original context for many Hindu traditions and still the primary contemporary context
the vedas
The goal for Hindu renouncers is to achieve liberation from the cycle of rebirth, rather than to fulfill one's dharma in the hopes of a better rebirth.

Householders are focused on achieving the best rebirth. Also, those at the top of the social hierarchy are invested in maintaining the system of social obligation.

Later multiple systems are worked out to allow for both the fulfillment of dharma and liberation.

The Arjuna episode signals the emergence of the bhakti or devotional tradition and the idea that one can achieve liberation alongside fulfillment of duty and through devotion, in this case, devotion to Krishna, one of Vishnu's primary avatars.
Shiva :: Parvati (Ganesh)
a Shaivite renunciate. Shiva is a favorite of Hindu renunciates as he is thought to be the Great Ascetic.
note the Shiva-like hairstyle.
Does anyone know the legend of Holika?
This model is outlined in the Laws of Manu, one of the authoritative albeit inspired texts in Vedic societies.
These are articulated in and through interpretations of the epics and particularly through devotional orientations to the tradition.
The foundational ideas of the early Hindu renunciates are found in which of the Vedas?
Rig Veda
Bhagavad Gita
The Vedas are part of the Hindu scriptures that are considered inspired or
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