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.
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.