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Religious Studies
RELS 303
Elizabeth Rohlman

Edward Said – scholar/professor at Columbia – wrote monumental book “Orientalism” published in 1978 o Biases of certain white persons like Said effected the teaching of Hinduism- they viewed it from a Protestant bias Altar of Fire – Movie notes - Abrahman is eligible for this ritual only if he keeps three sacred fires burning in his home for all of his life - The only woman is a high class brahman who is hidden behind a parasol - Not only ritualistic, but the social component, and a holy experience (center of miracles) - Memory is crucial- vast memorization of prayers and meditations- must be said correctly - Fire which is common to all men - There are 14 goat sacrifices, though in this ritual they decided to omit goat sacrifice - 29 chants and recitations - indra: king of the gods - the “soma cow” goat- used to find the soma o animal sacrifice was part of the vedic times- goats and horses in particular o sometime after the Upanishads many hindus, tho not all, start to practice vegetarianism- this is because of the idea of the reincarnated soul o the goal is to remain as true to the vedic texts as possible without harming animals o soma: extracting juice from the stalks of the soma plant- don’t know identity of original plant - why is the alter temporary? o At the end of the puja’s there is the dissolving of the idols that were worshipped o The gods are invited to be present in the worldly space during these rituals- at the end there is a signal to release the gods from the favor they are bestowing upon humans to be present in the space o Sign of respect – notion of grace- gods are gracing humans with their presence o - Vedangas: “the arm” – commentarial of the vedas- - “Don’t cut yourself off from heaven, don’t cut yourself off from the world” – part of the mantras o certain space as sacred o rituals as being a way of communicating btw the two spheres - Vedic religion based on tripartite – earth and heaven being separated by air/atmosphere o The idea of heaven persists even after the introduction of reincarnation in the Upanishads o Humans and gods very separate- no one would wear a bracelet that says “what would Krishna do” because he does things we cannot do nor should we- we should not try to be like God/s - goal of ritual is to maintain rta- cosmic order o proper balance btw sat/asat: being and non being Discussion on the Readings in blue book - purusa: the primordial cosmic man- kind of the divine model for human beings- symbolic notion of the primordial human being and the sacrifice of this human being as creating everything as we know it o prajapti is the sacrificer o prajapati can also mean being- only this one being has knowledge of what came before o the acknowledgment that we cant possibly know o polytheistic pantheum of gods associated with natural phenomena o more abstract than a god- prajapati is more like creation/existence itself - Usha: a deity who is connected with/describing natural phenomena - Indra and the dragon story: the original word means serpent but now instead dragon is used- serpent has a positive connotation in later Hinduism and Buddhism also o Victory of a god over a demon- using the term serpent to represent something negative doesn’t fit in with the Hindu world view o The dragon is a cloud/vapor- maintaining order in natural world as well- creation of the rains (two months of monsoon in these regions- these two months are crucial for the rest of the year) o Really a story of how indra created the rains Upanishads – philosophical speculation and meditative experience - set of text that according the Indic tradition are part of the Vedas - sacred literature of Hinduism - Sruti literature (that which is heard/revealed) to rsis (those who it is revealed to) - Religion that is expressed is very different than that in the older Vedas - 1000 years separate the composition of the earliest rg veda and the earliest Upanishads - btw 600-500 BCE - something amazing and fascinating happened in SEAsia in this century but we don’t really know what it was- enormous religious renaissance in India- the time of the Buddha too- time of Mahavira the creator of Jainism lives too – big time!! - Upanishads, Buddhism, and Jainism all have in common: holds that the end result of this paths is empirically verifiable- the idea that if you practice it long enough you will experience this - The beginning of Brahmanical Hinduism- what we think of as Hinduism today - Religious Paths o Karma marga: the path of action – religious path of ritual action o Jnana marga: the path of knowledge – focusing on introspection, meditation, and cultivation of knowledge- profound understanding of the nature of the world/divine/soul Cosmology of the Upanishads - samsara: o reincarnation o fear of death o marked by enormous suffering o like a trapped hamster on a wheel o preoccupied with death- waste everything you learned and are thrown back to the beginning - maya: o illusion o ignorance o everything we experience in a physical was as human beings is ultimately an illusion- entrapment in this illusion is what keeps us stuck in samsara o world denying religion o renounce life in social world and focus 24/7 on gaining spiritual knowledge - Moksa: o Liberation o Comes from the Sanskrit verb which means to release The Nature of the Divine - Atman o Tho non-dualistic o “self” or soul o nir-guna o immutable and intangible o our atman is the same as Brahman- same substance – not separate o simply knowing this is not enough to reach moksha- you need to have a comprehensive knowledge of this and yogic discipline of the mind - Brahman o Asingle divine presence/substance that pervades all of existence o Nir-guna: without qualities- does not have time, gender, appearance, it is not a living being or deity o Sa-guna: the gods of the Vedas- deities- Indra for instance- with qualities- these qualities are equally illusory o (Brahmin = caste of priests, and Brahma is a god jsyk) o cannot be described in human language- the only way to describe it is with “not’s” – not changing/immutable, etc. o can be argued that it is monotheistic- Christianity says there is one God with 3 forms and Hinduism says there is one God with 330,000,000 (infinite) forms - Moksha: it is a permanent space o To contrast it with nirvana- buddhist’s think there is a spontaneous moment of enlightenment and then your death comes later-in Moksha there is no spontaneous event, it is more about the path- about obtaining jnana- moksha as the moment of release -Mahavakyas: “great” “statement/s” – distill all Upanishadic teachings down into one sentence - 4 Mahavakyas that are used/repeated most in Upanishads - Prof is just teaching us one: Tat vam asi: “Thou art that” – you, your soul, is that: Brahman the divine o this one is the most often repeated, the other 3 basically mean the same thing -Experiential Elements of the Upanisads - upanisad: “To sit down near” the feet of the teacher - life as a samnyasi - a renunciate - committed him/sometimes herself to fulltime spiritual religious questions- the attainment of jnana and moksha -you forsake human social life - when someone becomes a samnyasi there is a type of funeral ritual- signifies the death of their social identity, ideally once you have embarked on this path you should maintain distance even from your own family -in the past they were mostly forest dwellers - after 8 century they began to live more so in monastery’s - a samnyasi studies with a guru - guru-student relationship - parampara: “tradition” (also a pre made curry to buy) - knowledge is passed down from one guru to one student - this has profound implications of what knowledge is - profound spiritual knowledge is always embodied- it is always passed down from a human guru -even tho everything is illusion, there is value placed on the human form - meditation and contemplation - this falls under the rubric of yoga -helps develop discipline - yoga - cognate to our English word Yoke (like put on cattle)- means discipline - to discipline primarily your mind - also physical discipline, disciplining your body is a way of disciplining your mind -renunciating in general is a type of physical discipline - yoga like the exercise we know - great feats of asceticism or self denial as well earliest Vedas are remarkably unconcerned with what happens to us after we die o Upanisads are much more focused on death- escaping the process of death -reinterpretation of karma o constantly reinterpreted o Vedas: literally means a physical action- and religious sesne means physical actions of performing rituals o Upanisads: closer to our modern concept of Karma- related to the moral qualities of our actions- those moral qualities of our actions can effect our next birth  Accumulation of karma from this life/past lives that determines quality of our next life - Jainism: sheer karma effects your rebirth, tho Hindus think intention comes into play- more similar to Buddhism Smrti Literature (every other piece of literature we will learn of from here on out it smrti) - has an author - none of these authors are human as we are human – they are superior - dharma sutras and sastras: o within the Vedangas there are the Kalpasutras -> srauta, grhya, dharma o srauta (rituals) and gryhya (home rituals) o dharma sutras (meant to organize our lives- how the religious elements is to be lived out in daily life) – dharma sastras as well (sastra is difficult to translate- “treatise” or “science” “non fiction”) o laws of manu (manu is the first thman man- not primordial man)  comments from the 14 century written on this, thus many argue they are obviously important and have been for a long time  - epics - puranas Dharmas and its Decline - Dharma: o “duty” o “religion” (in its broadest sense) o “law” o “ethics” o adharma: “that which is not dharma” or “sin” - Yugas: o Krta or satya (make/creation and youth) o Treta (three) (cow of dharma has 3 legs) o Dvapara (two) (two legs) o Kali (black age) – age we are in now- (difficult to live as a moral human in this age) Aspects of Dharma I: Purusarthas – religious goals to try to attain throughout your life - Dharma – gain spiritual knowledge- knowledge of dharma or of the ultimate reality - Kama – pleasure (sexual pleasure) – related to family life – what you should be doing/seeking - Artha – wealth – related to family life – what you should be doing/seeking - Moksa – moved from householder phase then one should focus on moksa Aspects of Dharma II: Responsibilities - Purity and Pollution o Some substances are spiritually and physically polluting and others are purifying o Any bodily excretion is polluting o Attached to caste- food is a big issue- very orthodox brahman would only eat food made in his home, by his own wife, before she has eaten - Three Debts o Gods o Seers – those who received the revealed literature o Ancestors o Daily offerings made to these three - Five Sacrifices o Gods o Brahmins o Ancestors o Spirits o Seers Aspects of Dharma III: Varnasrama Dharma - Varnas (caste) o Brahmin o Ksatriya o Vaisya o sudra - Varna vs Jati o Jati means birth group- sub caste o Jati is an ancestral lineage that is attached to a heritage occupation (from father-son, etc.) - Asramas o Brahmacarya (phase of celibate student- boy from twice born classes) o Grhastha (longest phase- householder phase- focus on 2 and 3 of the 4 rd goals) o Vanaprastha (forest dweller- retirement) hand over running of the household onto the next generation- don’t enter until you have sprouted your first great hair and your first grandson is born- finished your obligations to your children in particular- still live with your family in this phase o Samnyasi – only a select few people choose to do this- renunciate – performing a ritual funeral Discussion for Samnyasi Movie - the vying tension between the worldly and other worldly – the president vs the pope - one cannot pursue both- not enough time - the varnasrama dharma says you can have your cake and eat it too- being a student, a householder, a retiree, and then a renouncer - if everyone renounced, who would give alms to the beggers- if no one did who would have the wisdom? - One samnyasi said to him “you are thinking of renouncing because you are experiencing problems, not experiencing wisdom. Once you fix your problems you will not feel this way anymore.” - In practicing reality exceptions will always arise- humans will apply their humanity to all rules/laws – for instance if aliens were to come down and see our law books, they would assume from year 1950-2100 all humans drove below 100km/hr- this obviously is not true- we cannot think that past laws/rules/dharmas were reality Mahabharta - Similar to the Greek epics - 100,000 verses long and tells one story in a highly complex way - This is smrti literature - Itihasa (means history) cognate to our English word o Written in a simple poetic meter o Portions that are regarded as poetry because the language itself is to beautiful o Considers the Mahabharata and the Puranas - Kavya: means literature designed for pleasure- plays for instance Cast of the Mahabharata - tragic war - individuals who are cousins but are raised together as brothers (grew up in the same household, and shared the same guru thus have same knowledge) - this war btw them will wird out the human race - this is what ended the 3 Yuga and ushered us into the Kali Yuga - the Mahabharata is most commonly referred to as “the fifth veda”- saying it is as important as the Vedas - all of human knowledge is contained in it (and in the Vedas, thus it contains all of the knowledge of the vedas) - It presents this knowledge as a story - Good people having to make difficult moral choices under very difficult circumstances - Pandu: King of the Pandavas (Pandavas are the sons of Pandu) o He has two wives, and they have 5 sons btw them - Five Pandu Sons o Yudisthira: son of Kunti by Dharma (human incarnation of morality on earth
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