RELG 207 Lecture Notes - Lecture 11: Arvind Sharma, Vedic Period, Harpercollins

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The Study of World Religions Hinduism
Hindu Traditions
Readings:
Arvind Sharma, Hinduism, in Our Religions, Harper Collins
Vasudha Narayanan, The Hindu Tradition, In World Religions: Eastern Traditions, Oxford
UP
Topics:
Introduction to South Asia and India
Issues with Studying Religion in South Asia
Multiple Hinduisms
History
Texts
Tenets
1. Introduction to South Asia and India
Religions in South Asia by Majority and Minority (**Image of Map**):
Buddhist
Christian
Hindu
Jain (noteworthy minority)
Muslim
Sikh
Tribal
Zoroastrian (noteworthy minority)
Top 10 Largest Hindu Populations (**Image of Map**)
India: 755,135,000
Nepal: 18,354,000
Bangladesh: 15,995,000
Indonesia: 7,259,000
Sri Lanka: 2,124,000
Pakistan: 1,868,000
Malaysia: 1,630,000
USA: 1,032,000
South Africa: 959,000
Myanmar: 893,000
2. Issues with Studying Religion in South Asia
Problems with the terms Western Traditions and Eastern Traditions
Idol in the Chapel of the King of Calicut (Kozhikode, Kerala) : German artist Jog Breus
illustration of Ludovico di Varthemas book Itinerario, based on his travels in South India
(1503-1508)
A commentary on Hindu Culture in the 19th century: Hindu idolatry has ever been, and still
is, the one chief cause of all the demoralization and degradation of India. Every Hindu home
is still polluted with idols and the muttering of senseless incantations. The children drink in
the hideous spirit of demons with their mothers milk (30-33)
The Civilizing Mission
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An Assessment of Tibetan Buddhism by a Jesuit of the 18th century: The veneer and
facade of their elaborate sect hides deceit behind pretty tinsel as if the Devil had crafted a
beautiful artifice with which to trap Tibetans in the errors of denying a Creator and asserting
emptiness as the fundamental dogma
Changing Perspective in the Study of Religions of South Asia
There are no religions which are false. All are true in their own fashionall answer, though
in different ways, to the given conditions of human existence
It is only in the 20th century that a Pluralist viewpoint dominates academic study of religion;
it accepts the idea of cultural relativism expressed above
As a field, Religious Studies has become interdisciplinary: anthropology, classical & modern
language studies, political science, sociology, philosophy, post-colonial studies, history and
so on
What do we understand by the term religion?
Historical tendency to look at other religions in ethnocentric Christian terms:
Sacred text, central religious authority, monotheistic, exclusive religious identity,
singularity of religious practice; in other words as isms, or unified abstractions
This Judeo-Christian viewpoint did not fit well in South Asia
Religions in South Asia has been historically marked by :
Diversity of practice
Competing models of divinity
Regional distinctiveness
Inclusive religious identity and so on
The Word Hindu (Otherness, Definition, Identity)
Sankrit word Sindhu > Greek Indos > Persian Hindus
How do Hindus define religions?
Indian languages do not have a word comparable to religion; the closest equivalents are
dharma, ethics, duty, code of conduct, and panth: community, collective
19th century Hindu reformers re-interpreted Hindu traditions as one uniform tradition, called
Sanatana Dharma
1903 publication of the textbook Sanatana Dharma (The External Truth)
Interpretive Categories and the Academic Study of Religion
Emic = Insiders ; The emic perspective focuses on the intrinsic cultural distinctions that are
meaningful to the members of a given society
Etic = Outsiders ; The etic perspective relies upon the extrinsic concepts and categories
that have meaning for scientific or academic observers
3. Multiple Hinduisms
Hinduisms self-conscious self-definition in the confrontation with the other
The emergence of Jain and Buddhist traditions
Muslim invaders and rulers (Mughals)
British colonialism
Hindu Reformers
1) Ram Mohan Roy (1772-1833) Brahmo Samaj
2) Swami Dayananda Saraswati (1825-1883) Arya Samaj
3) Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) The Ramakrishna Movement Speaker at the 1893
World Parliament of Religions in Chicago **Read: Narayanan Hindu Traditions p.66-68
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