The Sermon on the Mount is one of the most commented upon and interpreted biblical passages, yet in a real sense Gandhi's interpretation of it represents a unique and significant point in the reception history of the Bible as a whole. Here we have a Christian scripture being reverently received and dynamically applied by a man who remained all his life a devoted adherent of the Hindu faith. This article argues that Gandhi's particular responses to the concepts contained in the Sermon on the Mount must be understood not only in the context of his dialogue with Christianity, but in the terms of his own Hindu faith as he understood and lived it. His interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount can only be properly understood through analysis of how he applied it in his political campaigns in South Africa and India. In this context it is important to consider what the text meant to Gandhi himself; what it meant to his, at least nominally Christian, opponents; and how it impacted on the struggle and dialogue between them.
For more than 2,000 years, Hindu communities have flourished outside the subcontinent of India. Despite the prohibitions against traveling across the ocean found in many Hindu texts, Indians settled in Malaysia and Singapore probably before the first millennium CE. Trading communities seem to have been set up in Cambodia by the first century CE. In the nineteenth century, indentured workers arrived in Fiji and in the Caribbean. By the time indentured labor was abolished in 1919, there were more than 60,000 Indians in Fiji. Hindus, who had come to work on plantations, settled in Uganda and other African countries in the early twentieth century and eventually became successful business entrepreneurs. Many kinds of Hindu communities exist in the United States. Perhaps the most noticeable feature of Hindu communities that settled outside of India is the tremendous time, monies, and energy expended on the building of temples. Just as the Hindu tradition appropriated and utilized print and audiovisual technologies, the Internet revolution has also been used to help articulate traditions and create communities.
David M. Knipe
In a survey of the extensive, complex, and cumulative history of Hinduism, it might be opportune to divide personal and cosmic eschatologies. Similarly, it could be convenient to separate the early from the classical history of Hinduism and concentrate solely on the latter. The early history, framed by a sacrificial world view and veering toward an almost mechanistic understanding of gods and the cosmos, is entirely dependent upon the eternal Vedas. With certain sectarian and modernizing exceptions, a generally acknowledged set of contemporary Hindu beliefs and practices would include the following: acceptance of the Vedas as basic authority, belief in transmigration and the effects of human action (karma) on rebirths, devoted recognition of certain divine beings (gods, goddesses, living and departed saints), acknowledgment of a class and caste social hierarchy, ritual attention to ancestors, and a general understanding of life as moral progress toward an eventual liberation from rebirths. This article examines Hindu eschatology, focusing on Hindu beliefs such as immortality, metaphors of regeneration, brahman, Aranyakas, Upanishads, classical Sanskrit texts, preta, and world dissolution.
Religious diversity is a central issue in the study of religion. To begin with, there are the diverse religions that are conventionally listed minimally as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism. But the more we extend the scope of the term “religions,” the greater the diversity. But whereas in the other traditions, religious diversity has happened in spite of their centralizing beliefs and practices and is historical in nature, within Hinduism, it is theological and philosophical in nature, a nature that finds expression in its history. The tolerant and even welcoming attitude toward religious diversity is evidenced in Hinduism at several levels: deities, scriptures, scriptural interpretation, sects, and so on. The religious variety within Hinduism has had profound implications for the way it looks at other religious traditions. It tends to view these traditions as a further extension of its own variety and, therefore, in principle capable of being assimilated within it. This has major implications for Hindu identity.
O. P. Dwivedi
A society's cultural and spiritual underpinnings of environmental stewardship can be a solid source of strength as well as a benefit to that society. One does not have to go too far to locate such underpinnings, because each society's spiritual heritage can be used to provide new ways of valuing, thinking, and acting that are necessary to nurture the respect for nature and to be prepared to avert future ecological disasters. Hinduism (as well as other world religions in their own way) offers a unique set of moral values and rules to guide human beings in their relationship with the environment. This essay examines the Hindu concept of divinity being present in creation and as such exhortations for Hindus to treat nature with respect, the concept of an extended family of Mother Earth, our dharma and karma to the environment, and environmental challenges facing Hindus and India.
Emotion is viewed in both positive and negative ways in the Hindu religious and philosophical traditions. In those traditions that are more ascetic and emphasize mental control, emotions are distractions which need to be stilled. In those traditions that emphasize love of a deity, emotions are valuable—but they must be directed and transformed. However, in order to study emotion in the Hindu tradition, we must first look at the meaning of the term “Hinduism.” There are at least six major types of Hinduism: Hindu folk religion, Vedic religion, Vedantic Hinduism, yogic Hinduism, dharmic Hinduism, and bhakti or devotional Hinduism. All of these involve emotion in various ways, but two traditions—those of Bengali Vaishnavism and raja yoga—have written about emotion in greatest depth. This article examines what the term “emotion” means in India, and then describes the beliefs about emotion in Vaishnavism and Yoga in greater detail. In discussing the nature of emotion, it considers bhava and rasa. Finally, the article discusses the literature on emotion in Hindu tradition, focusing on religious poetry.
Over the course of 3000 years, Hindu intellectual culture has not only embraced differing notions of the divine, but also a variety of different ‘atheisms’—the most famous of these being the Carvaka, or Lokayata, school. This essay charts the history of Hindu ‘atheism’ in the various forms it has taken from the classical to modern periods, including scepticism regarding the supernatural, the soul and an afterlife, non-theistic approaches to divinity, and critical or subversive responses to religion. It also engages with and explains a number of key ideas within Hindu thought and practice, including Dharma and personalism. Finally it outlines a ‘Hindu axis of atheism’ by highlighting some of the key themes on which Indian critiques have centred.
The notion of conversion is closely associated with a particular notion of religion, namely, that the membership of a religion involves exclusive religious identity, as is typically the case with the Abrahamic religions. The idea of conversion from one religion to another makes eminent sense in such a context and so does the idea of proselytization. Hinduism as a religion, however, is typically quite comfortable with multiple religious participation, multiple religious affiliation, and even with multiple religious identity. This chapter explores the significance of this feature of Hinduism for understanding the word “conversion,” especially as this feature of Hinduism is shared by several Asian religions.
Guy L. Beck
This chapter discusses the theoretical and practical dimensions of music in Hinduism, including the philosophy of sacred sound (Nāda-Brahman), the aesthetics of rasa (“taste”), the rise of Saṅgīta (music) as a component of pūjā (worship) and early drama, the Sanskrit musical treatises of Bharata and Dattila, the development of rāga (melodic pattern) and tāla (rhythmic cycle) from early scales and Sāma-Gāna (Sama-Veda chant), musical instruments, bhakti (devotion), and various classical and devotional genres of Bhakti-Saṅgīta, including Kriti, Dhrupad, Khyāl, Haveli-Saṅgīta, Samāj-Gāyan, Bhajan, and Nām-Kīrtan, within southern (Carnatic) and northern (Hindustani) traditions. Music is essential to Hindu mythology, where divine beings perform and instruct humans in the gentle art that facilitates both enjoyment (bhukti) and liberation (mukti). Prevalent in sacrifices, temple rites, domestic worship, sectarian movements and films, music is invariably part of Hindu worship in India or the Diaspora.
Hinduism represents the religion and philosophy that originated in India. It is the religion of 16 per cent of the world's population, and India is home to more than 90 per cent of the world's Hindus. Today many historians and philosophers of science have started reviewing the dynamic events and historical processes that led to what is called the European Enlightenment and modern science. This article focuses on how Hinduism as a religion has coexisted with scientific pursuits, the underpinnings of such partnerships, and the significant contributions of such dialogues to the current engagements between science and spirituality. The discussion follows how apparently different enterprises of experience and reporting of experience were given a common space, as well as what the areas of convergence are that Hinduism posits for dialogues between and within science and spirituality. The article particularly looks at the Vedantic (Upanishads) tradition.
Distinguishing between “religious” and “secular” in terms of activity (worship), setting (temple), content (deities), intent (edification) is problematic in Hinduism, whose aesthetics often hovers ambiguously between transcendent values and worldly pursuits, while sometimes claiming to constitute a third and distinct domain. Sacred and profane are often superposed, such that the artistry may consist in playing upon the opposed registers, holding them together even while keeping them apart, or refusing to recognize the very distinction. This is best illustrated by the deployment of “humor” around the clown of the Sanskrit drama, whose obvious purpose is vulgar entertainment though his stereotyped role and characterization is intelligible only in terms of a “religious” function. Six fundamentally different approaches to the “sacred” are distinguished: sacrifice (Veda), renunciation, secularization (kingship), possession, devotion (bhakti), and transgression (tantra). This chapter extends the vantage point of Abhinavagupta’s poetics of rasa to the art of storytelling, riddling, and joking.
Hindu culture possesses unique ways of seeing and shaping religious art; this chapter explores the “keys” that are needed to interpret some of its characteristic art-forms. The visual arts, like music, provide a universal language that unites the immensely diverse regions of South Asia. Hindu art, in particular, reflects the belief in a polycentric and pervasive divinity that becomes visible in the plastic arts. Rooted in medieval traditions of aesthetic philosophy and ritual divinization, Hindu Art pervades the daily experience of the community, encountered in elaborate ornamental styles, spirits and gods crowding the temple-towers, ritually consecrated sacred architecture, statues and posters that are “alive” with the god’s presence, and evocative films that help the viewer to stay receptive to the effect of these intense art forms.
Denise M. Ackermann
This chapter addresses two main questions: First, what critical issues raised by globalization in southern Africa will define the spaces for feminist theologies over the next decades? Second, how can a feminist theology that is attentive to its public voice and its interest in just and liberating praxis “interrupt” globalizing processes by offering alternative ways of addressing this complex reality? A few comments on the enigmas of using the term “southern Africa” are the starting point for addressing the first of these two questions. This is followed by comments on the multiple understandings of feminist theologies in this part of the world. Thereafter, the potential and the perils of globalization for women are discussed with reference to selected issues, such as employment, poverty, information technology, the environment, human rights, HIV and AIDS, and Christian attitudes. These issues are chosen as being pivotal to women's well-being, in fact to the well-being of all those for whom it is a daily struggle to survive. Turning to the second question, various features of a public feminist theology of praxis that can “interrupt” present “global-speak” and offer other ways of approaching globalization are described.
Hugh B. Urban
This article deals with the temporal framework of Hindu religion, which consists of four yugas—Satya, Treta, Dwapar, and Kali. All four combined create a “manvantara”, after a thousand of which, the entirity of creation is destroyed and then begins another thousand manvantara. The total cycle is called kalpa, which is a recurring one. This article describes the incarnation of Lord Vishnu throughout the four yugas, to salvage man. The last incarnate, Kalkin, is supposed to manifest in the present age. Several holy men such as Chaitanya, Ramakrishna Paramhansa, and Sri Sathya Sai, have been proclaimed as incarnates in Kaliyug. In the course of suppressive colonial rule, militant nationalism emerged in messianic attire. Spiritual nationalist Sri Aurobindo described it as a religion directly presented by God. The new age came up with lifestyle gurus such as Osho Rajneesh, who asserted a symbolic end of time by surrendering typical lifestyle practices.
Jane Naomi Iwamura
Mass media, especially the news industry, played a crucial role in the changing attitudes and consciousness of the 1960s. Surprisingly, the stories that stirred the most interest were not those that covered religiously motivated conflict in Asia or the example of a conventionally recognized religious leader. Rather, Americans' provocative and widespread initiation into an alternative worldview came through the media's intense focus on the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and his Spiritual Regeneration Movement in the late 1960s. Mahesh's relationship with the Beatles and other high-profile Western celebrities made for good copy and hurled the guru, as well as Indian spirituality, into the headlines. Before the 1960s, coverage and references to Indian religions, especially Hinduism, were consigned to the international pages of newspapers and magazines. The Orientalist divide between a backwards India and the modern West was perpetually reinforced by American news reporters and cultural commentators. But it became much more difficult to maintain in the case of the Maharishi Mahesh. This article focuses on news coverage and popular press reports of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the 1960s.
David N. Lorenzen
One way of thinking about Hindu religion and society is to distinguish between the traditional religious society led mostly by brahmans and the large number of popular movements that have been led mostly by members of other caste groups. In India, religious movements are associated not only with different social classes but also with different castes. The followers of those popular Hindu movements that are led by non-brahmans are usually open to members of all castes, including scheduled castes. The social ideologies of brahman-led and non-brahman Hindu movements differ most clearly over the religious status of varna asrama dharma, the ideology of the caste system itself. This article discusses a few important regional non-brahman movements whose social dynamics have been well studied and which embody fairly explicit elements of dissent against the religious and social ideology of brahmanical Hinduism. These non-brahman Hindu movements include those of the Naths or Kanaphata Yogis, the Virasaivas or Lingayats of the Karnataka region in South India, and panths associated with poet-saints Kabir and Ravidas.
This chapter investigates the place of destructive acts against oneself—such as starvation and self-mutilation—in the spectrum of violent actions performed in the name of religion. Self-starvation and self-mutilation share some of the ideological and performative features of violence in the name of religion. The self-sacrifice of Quang Duc was demonstrative of a time-tested Buddhist form of bodily practice known in Buddhist studies in the West as self-immolation. It is revealed that self-directed violence can be both an act of devotion and an act of protest. Self-immolation and hunger-striking employ the body as a means of resistance. Like self-conflagration, the hunger strike has become a global phenomenon used on every continent of the world.
T. N. Madan
Although Hinduism is associated with one region of the world—South Asia—it is a global religion in two senses of the term. It has provided a religious complement to the diaspora of Hindus around the world and thus contributed to pluralist cultures in such disparate places as contemporary Fiji and England. Moreover, throughout its history Hinduism has embodied the spirit of pluralism. At its most basic, Hinduism may be defined as the religion of Hindus—the way they affirm their inner faith and order their everyday life. India is, of course, where most of the Hindus of the world live and where they have the status of the dominant religious community. There they constitute 82 percent of India's more than one billion person population. This article examines the pluralistic character of Hinduism; the relationship between Hinduism, caste, sect, and the family; the revival and reinterpretation of Hinduism; and the flowering and communalism of Hinduism.
Joseph W. Elder
When one uses the term “Hinduism” for the religious culture of India that has influenced much of Asia, one thinks of the brahmanical tradition. Europeans labeled as Hindus those people on the Indian subcontinent who were not Buddhists, Jains, Jews, Christians, Muslims, or Zoroastrians. Europeans adopted the generic term, Hinduism, for all of these people's widely varying religious observances, beliefs, and practices. One common feature among all of these Hindus throughout much of the Indian subcontinent was their labeling of certain priests as brahmans. Key elements of traditional brahmanical society go back to the Rig-Veda, Hinduism's earliest revealed, authorless text considered true from the beginning of time. The post-sixth century BCE cryptic Sutras and versified Shastras provide instructions for human conduct and domestic rituals. Preeminent among the Shastras is one on correct behavior (dharma) attributed to Manu, believed to be a progenitor of the human race. Manu's Dharma Shastra refers to the four original categories of humans as the four varnas (ranks, colors) and distinguishes between the twice-born and once-born varnas.
This chapter explores how a certain anxiety around violence might be rendered as integral to the imagination of an ethical life in Hindu texts and practices. It also describes some contemporary examples of violence and non-violence, and addresses how new forms of collective life such as the imaginary of the nation can shape the expression and experience of violence. The figure of the animal is significant in understanding violence. The chapter argues that the link between sovereignty and the subjugation of violence is the dominant theme of any story of sovereignty. It is observed that Draupadi and Gandhari became the causes for the destruction of the Kshatriyas and of Krishna's dynasty, respectively. The voice of the woman becomes the voice that questions the vanities of Dharma.