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RS 121 Test 3 Study Notes Includes lecture notes from Modules 10-12

Religious Studies
Course Code
Marybeth White
Study Guide

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RS 121 Study Notes
Test 3 Study Notes
Module 10: Gandhi and Hinduism on Evil
PART A: About Gandhi and Hinduism
Mohandas Gandhi widely known as Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma is an honorific title meaning “Great Soul”
Studied law in England, became a lawyer
1894-1915 worked as a legal consultant in South Africa, where he encountered racism
Organizes first fight against racial discrimination discovers that racism is very widespread; tied to
Europeans have convinced themselves that they are intellectually, morally, and physically superior to the
people they have conquered
See themselves as good people raising up these lower humans
Gandhi’s response is rooted in his Hindu identity reformulation of classic teachings
His response is a kind of nationalism a legitimate nationalism is one that is open and universalist, inclusivist
Seen as the synthesis of the Vedic religion
Vedic religion was the religion of a group of central Asians who moved into northern India around 1500
Hinduism is a combination of their religion and that of the existing local beliefs
Vedics focused on sacrifice the gods took the energy of the sacrifice to maintain order in the universe
The Caste System
1. Brahmins Priests
2. Kshatriyas Warriors/Governors
3. Shudras Servants
4. Outcastes/Harijan perform polluting labor
The indigenous people became the Shudras class
As this system spread, some groups were so out of it socially or religiously, that they were left entirely out of
the caste system
System is hereditary
“It is better to do one’s own dharma, than the dharma of another poorly.”
Caste system was universalized in India
Hindu Beliefs
An important development was the writing of the Upanishads and Arayanka, works of speculative philosophy
What was the reality beneath the surface?
What is it in the universe that is unchanging?
Dharma- Eternal principle on which the universe is built
It organizes the energizes the universe
It is unchanging, permanent
Dharma comes from a word meaning “that which holds”
Brahman in understood sometimes as a god, sometimes as more of a principle or energy
- The Brahman is ineffable you can’t really describe it
- Anything you say about the Brahman is inadequate it’s everything; it permeates the universe, it’s
the source of the universe
Atman because the Brahman is the soured of us, there is in each of us a piece of that original energy,
spirit or principle
- Understood correctly, the Atman is the Brahman

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RS 121 Study Notes
- Ultimate meaning is found inside yourself
- The journey outward and the journey inward are really the same thing
The Bhakti Tradition- The path to devotion
Emphasis on personal god and devotion to that personal god
This devotion is called Puja worship of the Hindu god
The most widespread is Vishnu; also Sheva and Devi
Religious path seen as an attempt to become united with the god who is understood as the source of the
universe; creator and destroyer
Focus is on unity with the god through devotion; does not exclude yoga and meditation these are all
equally valid paths
Trying to get out of samsara: the cycle of life and death and rebirth (reincarnation)
- Being born again is not a victory over death it’s a failure
- Hindus are striving not for more life, but for liberation from the cycle of life, death, and rebirth
- What’s keeping you in that circle is yourself your karma
- The problem is that you’re ignorant you don’t know your true self so you make mistake the
human urges you have for the real goal of life
- Ignorance creates desires which cause you to take action, which creates karma which determines
PART B: Gandhi on Ultimate Reality
Ultimate reality is not a personal god, it is truth
God is truth, truth is God
It is not a person, but a disembodied principle that is biased towards the good
Gandhi described ultimate reality as:
1. A pure or disembodied consciousness
2. Acting in a rational or orderly manner
3. Active and representing infinite energy
4. Pervading, informing, and structuring the entire universe
5. Benevolent did all of this out of love
6. Mysterious we can’t nail it down or define If you can’t describe your god perfectly then you’ve got a
very small god
7. Omnipotent self-limiting; it doesn’t predetermine human behaviour
This doesn’t mean that he has given up on the Bhakti tradition/devotion one’s attitudes towards truth
should be the same as one’s attitude towards one’s god
Gandhi was an admirer of the Bhagavad Gita (book extracted from the “Great Epic of India”) which has a
discussion between Arjuna, a great warrior, and his charioteer, who turns out to be Krishna (an incarnation of
Vishnu), who teaches that the proper attitude is complete devotion and dependence on Vishnu, expressed in
selfless action
Religious Pluralism:
Gandhi’s teaching on ultimate reality is tied to his religious pluralism
His concept of religious pluralism strongly informed his attitudes towards people in conflict
Ultimate reality, truth eludes all of us it is beyond our grasp
We are all searching, but no one has it
The proper relationship to ultimate reality is humility
If I want to learn about ultimate reality in all of its dimensions, I have to learn from my enemies and their
Hindus don’t have all the answers: they can learn from Muslims
History of Hindu-Muslim Relations:
From 16th-18th century India was ruled by Muslim invaders
In the north there was a great conflict the Muslim rulers would try to suppress Hinduism by destroying
temples, statues etc.

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RS 121 Study Notes
Indians reacted by isolating themselves and protecting themselves from Muslims (initial outcasting of
Muslims aimed at rulers, not the poor)
At the same time, there is some interaction between the two Sikhism and Sufism
When the British invaded, they pittied Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs against each other, worsening
relations between the groups
Some Hindus responded to this with a Hindu nationalism, which outcasted Muslims
Gandhi rejected this, arguing for an India that embraced all its religious traditions
Developed a religious vision in which he, as a Hindu, could appreciate the religious truth of Islam
1924 fasted for Hindu-Muslim unity
1947 India granted independence, but first divided India into Pakistan (Muslim) and India (Hindu)
- A great violence erupted referred to as Communalism
- 500,000 lives were lost before Gandhi undertook a fast unto the death for the sins of the Indian
- Violence stopped when Gandhi near death
Conflict between Hindus and Muslims continue to this day in India and Pakistan nuclear devices
PART C: Gandhi’s Response to Imperialism
The Modern Period in India
Invasion of the British through the East India Tea Company to facilitate trade
When the Indians refused to cooperate the British moved in formally
Gandhi developed a response to that invasion rooted in Hindu tradition
When British invaded, Indians had a variety of perspectives:
1. Adapt Hinduism to Western culture; Indians should assimilate to Western culture
2. Rejection of Western thinking in favour of tradition belief that the West will destroy itself
3. Accept Western political/economic/military development, but complement that with Indian spirituality
4. Identify Hinduism with Indian Nationalism; us vs. them; Hinduism unites the Indians against the British
Hindus united by language, religion, and cultures/traditions this is the focus of the nationalism
Nationalism as a project sometimes successful, sometimes not
Indian Nationalism has always been very fragmented because of differences in religion, culture,
language, geography, and economics
Some argue that the British created India they were united by a rejection of British imperialism
PART D: Yes and No to Nationalism: An Ethical Approach
Nationalism can be a problem, but not always sometimes it is the solution, but there should be an ethical
approach to it
Gandhi argues:
1. Nationalism can either be closed or open; when it is closed, it is dangerous
- Who is the Nation?
- The nation is ALL the people of India
- The concept of nation is rooted in culture not race
2. The nation must be democratically defined
- The nation is the people not the princes
- Swaraj is self-rule or self-determination; a democratic concept it is not defined by the will to
power, but by the desire for self-determination through self knowledge and self control
- Gandhi refuses violent resistance whose interests are being served? Violence serves self-interest
- Motivation has to be pure and selfless must strive for liberation of Indians and the British; the
British are wounding themselves by being slave holders, imperialists
“My patriotism does not teach me to allow people to be crushed under the heel of Indian princes if only the
English retire. If I have the power, I should resist the tyranny of Indian princes just as much as that of the
English. By patriotism I mean the welfare of the whole people and if I could secure it at the hands of the
English, I should bow down my head to them. If any Englishman dedicated his life to securing the freedom of
India, resisting tyranny, and serving the land, I should welcome that Englishman as an Indian.”
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