February 26, 2010

This very diversity gets labelled as a single thing, “Hinduism”

Did Hinduism exist? by Amod Lele on Aug.11, 2009

My father, Jayant Lele, has often liked to say of Hinduism that it doesn’t exist. His view made a lot of sense to me when I first travelled around India – first encountering claims that Hindus were vegetarians because of their deep respect for animals, and then visiting the temple in Calcutta where the priest suggested I stick around to watch them sacrifice a goat. Could there be anything in common here?
I’ve moderated my own views on the subject a little. I think there is such a thing as Hinduism now; it’s just a relatively recent invention. The first person to use the word “Hinduism” was Rammohun Roy, a modern reformer who wanted to see a modernized, politically active Hinduism. I have no problem using the term “Hinduism” and “Hindu” to refer to modern Hindus who follow Roy’s example (like Gandhi, Aurobindo, the Arya Samaj, or Swami Vivekananda). Hinduism, then, is something closely parallel to Yavanayāna Buddhism: a modern reform movement that can be intellectually honest as long as it recognizes itself as such.
Before that, things get hazy. True, Muslims in India referred to non-Muslim Indians as “Hindu.” But it was a generic term for exactly that: non-Muslim Indians. When “Hinduism” is used to mean anything other than the 19th-century reform movement, it means little more than “miscellaneous Indian traditions”: Indians who are not Muslim or Christian, and in more recent cases not Buddhists or Jains or Sikhs. (Muslim chroniclers like al-Biruni would have been startled to hear Buddhists called anything other than Hindu.)
I’m fairly comfortable, then, in saying that premodern “Hinduism” doesn’t really exist. But let me be clear on this point, as it’s one of the things that’s got me into trouble with Hinduism’s would-be defenders before: this isn’t a criticism. I like the fact that in early India, “religious” boundaries were so porous: the same king might pay homage to Buddhist monks and Śaivite bhakta mystics. Early India is comparable more to “Greek and Roman religion,” or perhaps to “Chinese religion,” than it is to Judaism or Christianity: a set of philosophies, practices, supernatural beings moving around between traditions. If you were going to give yourself to a certain idea wholeheartedly (as a monk would do), your loyalty might have needed to be more absolute – as it would have been in Greece for those who wanted to follow Epicurus in his garden. For most people, though, it wasn’t, and the point strikes me as something worth learning from now. Wisdom can be found in many places, and we do well to look for it in as many of those places as possible, rather than refusing to look at ideas and practices that aren’t Christian – or are Christian, depending on where our allegiance has been declared. al-BiruniEpicurusJayant LeleRammohun Royreligion 2 Comments for this entry

Shankara would of course have recognised that Buddhism had arisen out of the Vedic matrix to put it at its most general but he did at the same time regard it as unorthodox and applied himself to exposing its epistemological and ontological errors. It might then be said that he was instrumental in the creation of boundaries and differentiation. Even within the orthodox fold he could hold that although the Sankhya were in the tent they promulgated error also.

Certainly there were boundaries being created – the āstika/nāstikadistinction being a particularly important one, mattering for someone like Śakara. I don’t want to suggest that there were no claims of orthodoxy in classical India; clearly there were many. The same holds true, I think, for classical Greece and China; you’ll see Confucians striving to place Mozi outside the fold, and Epicureans not admitting those outside the tradition. But in all these places, it seems to me, the boundaries were more fluid than in European Christianity or Arabian Islam, with more movement back and forth across the traditions that stake out their territory; that’s what I like about those non-Abrahamic traditions.
The trick with “Hinduism” is that then this very diversity gets labelled as a single thing, in a way that it usually doesn’t in Greece and China. The āstika philosophical traditions don’t correspond very well with what we now think of as Hinduism. The bhakti movements of Kabir and Basavanna rejected the Vedas (and are thus nāstika pretty much by definition), and the caste system along with them; but they’re part and parcel of Hindu tradition as Muslims, British and North Americans have understood it.

One reason I turn back to premodern philosophies so much is that they often show us questions larger than those generally asked in philosophy today. Especially important among these: “what kind of life should I live?” What sorts of major life decisions should I make? It still surprises me how rarely academic philosophers concern themselves with these questions, when we spend so much time teaching people in their late teens and early twenties – for whom these questions are in the foreground.

February 24, 2010

Overcoming the natural psychology of human animality and ego through yoga practice

Sinomania by Perry Anderson Posted by rcarlson
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We include spiritual teaching in the term "education"

International Seminar on                Hindu Organizations in Education, Health and Development Work: 2, 3, 4 March 2010    
            We invite papers for a seminar on the varied Hindu organizations involved in education and development work, both in India and the diaspora (primarily in the context of the project’s three major country foci: India, the US and the UK). This includes guru shishya parampara, akhaadas and sampradyas; organizations set up in the late 19th and early 20th century for social and religious reform in response to colonial attacks on Hinduism and to resist conversions; institutions set up during the freedom movement, as well as after Independence, as part of nation building endeavors by leading freedom fighters; schools and hostels set up by caste groups to promote "modern" education among their respective caste brethren; institutions built by sect leaders for development work and to provide education and health care; organizations working among scheduled tribes and scheduled castes, mainly to combat Christian missionary activity and counter the influence of NGO's supported by western funding agencies; institutions set up to promote Hindu culture through Yoga, Ayurveda and other Indic knowledge systems.
The present seminar is the sixth in a two-year network project series exploring the “Public Representation of a Religion called Hinduism,” funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council in the UK: Among the areas of special interest are case studies involving specific interventions in the education and development sectors by Hindu organizations, and how these interventions are helping to shape social relations, both in India and the Diaspora (and across the divide between these two):
  • Do these institutions exemplify and offer a uniquely Hindu religious worldview? What are the theological, core beliefs of the founders of these institutions? 
  • How do these institutions relate to the theological aims of the parent body and function in practice over its history?
  • How do the religious beliefs, traditions and structures of these groups or sects relate to the educational and developmental work that they undertake? Is their outreach limited to Hindus or to particular sects? How is the institution different from secular educational and social work institutions?
  • How is Hinduism represented in different types of teaching material used by religious as well as secular educational organizations?
  • To what extent are the services delivered perceived as religious in nature? What patterns emerge out of the mix of religious beliefs and educational and development activities?
  • Why have some initiatives grown rapidly, others merely survived, while others are in decline, or no longer exist?
  • What is the social, political and economic impact of these religious groups on the sections of the population they seek to reach, especially among the poorest and least educated social groups and regions of India?
How does the transnational profile of some organisations affect the ways in which services are delivered?

From: K.V. Dear Friends,
This is to invite you to at participate in an International Seminar on "Hindu Organizations in Education, Health and Development Work" being held on 2nd, 3rd, 4th, March 2010. The seminar is being organized by the Indic Studies Project, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in collaboration with Nehru Memorial Museum and Library at Teen Murti House.
This is perhaps the first of its kind seminar. In addition to academic papers, we have also invited a select group of faith practitioners and spiritual leaders, many of whom are scholars in their own right, to speak about the inspirational philosophy of their respective organizations and faith traditions. We hope that this experiment at creating a space for dialogue between scholars and faith leaders will lead to a fresh approach to study of our faith traditions.
Shankracharya designate, Swami Avimukteshwaranand Saraswati of Jyotirmath will deliver the inaugural address.
The term "Hindu" is being used in its broadest sense and we include spiritual teaching in the term "education."  Many of the practitioners speaking in the conference do not identify themselves as "Hindu" but prefer terms like Sanatan Dharma.
Among the scholar practitioners scheduled to make presentations are:
  • Srivatas Goswami of Radha Raman Ashram, Vrindavan,
  • Kripa Prasad Singh of Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram,
  • Nandita Pathak of Deendyal Research Institute and Chitrakoot Gramodaya Vishwavidyalya,
  • Swami Agnivesh of Arya Samaj,
  • Rajiv Vora of Swaraj Vidyapeeth,
  • Shraddhalu Ranade of Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Auroville,
  • Rajendra Singh of Tarun Bharat Sangh and Ganga Yamuna Satyagraha.
  • Kiran Walia and Rajiv Khosla, followers of Ma Nirmala Devi's Sahajyog.
  • Shivamurthy Swamiji of Taralbalu Math, Karnataka.
Academic papers include the following:
  • Gurus and Education: Hindu monastery (matha)-run schools in Karnataka" : Aya Ikegama.
  • The Ashram as Utopia: The Fate of Tagore's Santiniketan: by Sanjeeb Mukherjee;
  • Engaging Faith for Work: The Role of Nivedita Girls' School and Matri Bhavan of Sri Sarada Math and Ramakrishna-Sarada Mission : Subrata Bagchi;
  • Annam Bahu Kurvita:The Indian Discipline of Growing and Sharing Food in Plenty: JK Bajaj.
  • Pravritti & Nivritti: An Anthropological Account of Religious and Cultural Ways in the Care of the Elderly: Meenakshie Verma;
  • Cultural Assimilation and Development: Study of Gahira Guru Cult among the Tribes of Chhattisgarh: Govind Chandra Rath;
  • Hinduizing India through Colonial Education: by Vikas Gupta
  • Under the Sign of Secular: Religion and Faith at Work: Deepa Reddy.
  • Engaging the Practitioner: Boundary Politics in the Academic Study of Hinduism: Maya Warrier 
Those presenting academic papers as well as scholar- practitioners have been requested to address the following set of questions:
  • What is the self identification of the institution? What are the theological, core beliefs behind the founding of that particular institution?
  • Reasons why the institution accepts or refuses to adopt the label "Hindu"? What is the distinctive religious/ spiritual, worldview that influences that particular institution?
  • How do the religious beliefs, traditions and structures of the particular institution relate to the social, educational and developmental work that is being undertaken?
  • Is its outreach limited to any particular group or sects? How is the institution different from "secular" educational and social work institutions?
  • How are the spiritual values of that particular faith tradition represented in the teaching material used by the organization?
  • To what extent are the services delivered perceived as religious in nature?
  • What patterns emerge out of the mix of religious beliefs and educational and development activities?
  • What is the financial support base of the organization?
We have kept adequate time for discussions after each presentation. The final schedule will reach you by the 25th of February. We hope you will find time to join in the deliberations on all three days. Yours sincerely, 
Madhu Purnima Kishwar, Director, Indic Studies Project,
Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, 29 Rajpur Road, Delhi 110054
Phone: 011-23978851

Madhu Purnima Kishwar Editor, Manushi Journal,
Founder, Manushi Sangathan Tel: 011 23978851, 23916437.
Visit Manushi Madhu Kishwar blog at 

Posted by nizhal yoddha at 2/23/2010 09:44:00 AM