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Lectures by Prof. Yoshitsugu Sawai

Rudolf Otto's Perspective of Indian Religious Thought

5 Jun 2013

In the early modern period since the seventeenth century, after contact between East and West became vigorous, Indian religious thought was introduced to the West and attracted the attention of Western intellectuals. One of these intellectuals was the Lutheran theologian Rudolf Otto (1869–1937). In his works on Indian religious thought, Otto focused on Vedanta philosophy, represented by Sankara and Ramanuja, and on Vaisnava faith in Hindu religious tradition. According to his framework of religions, the Hindu tradition as the “bhakti religion” corresponds to the Christian tradition in the West. From a comparative viewpoint of religions, based on his Christian theological studies, he argued that religions provided “parallel lines of development” in the East and the West. In my lecture, I would like to clarify the characteristics of Otto’s perspective of Indian religious thought from a hermeneutical perspective of religion and to re-examine to what extent his view may be adequate for the understanding of Hindu tradition.Prof. Yoshitsugu Sawai is Professor of the History of Religions and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Tenri University (Japan), as well as Advisor of the Japan Association of Religion and Ethics. He is the author of The Faith of Ascetics and Lay Smartas: A Study of the Sankaran Tradition of Srngeri (Sammlung De Nobili).

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Guru-śiṣya-saṃbandha: The Structure of Faith in the Śaṅkaran Vedānta Religious Tradition

30 Oct 2018

This lecture focuses on the Śaṅkaran Vedānta religious tradition of Śṛṅgeri in contemporary Indian society. In India, Śaṅkara, whose date is about 700-750, was a famous Indian philosopher who advocated the advaita (non-dual) Vedānta philosophy. At the same time, he has been traditionally believed to be the founder of this religious tradition whose center is located in Śṛṅgeri. In this lecture, I would like to clarify the “relationship of a teacher with his disciples” (guru-śiṣya-saṃbandha) as one of the main characteristics of this religious faith. In this religious tradition, there is such a relationship at the dimension of the saṃnyāsins (world-renouncers) and at that of lay adherents. In particular, I will focus on the relationship between the Jagadguru (a world teacher) and his disciples, whether they are saṃnyāsins or lay people. From the perspectives of religious studies, my lecture aims to explore the nature of the two kinds of faith, i.e., the religious commitments of saṃnyāsins and lay adherents.Prof. Yoshitsugu Sawai is Professor of the History of Religions and former Dean of the Faculty of Human Studies at Tenri University (Japan), as well as Advisor of the Japan Association of Religion and Ethics. He is the author of The Faith of Ascetics and Lay Smartas: A Study of the Sankaran Tradition of Srngeri (Sammlung De Nobili).

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Semantics of Indian Philosophy: Toshihiko Izutsu’s “Oriental Philosophy”

1 Nov 2018

The purpose of this lecture is to elucidate the characteristics of Indian philosophy on reality and consciousness, from the semantic perspectives of the famous Japanese philosopher Toshihiko Izutsu (1914-93). Through his semantic attempt to construct an “Oriental Philosophy,” Izutsu interpreted such Indian philosophical texts as the Upaniṣads and Śaṅkara’s commentaries on the Upaniṣadic texts. In this lecture, while clarifying the hermeneutical structure of his “Oriental Philosophy,” I would like to argue how he semantically interpreted the structure of reality and consciousness in Indian philosophy, focusing on Śaṅkara’s advaita (non-dual) Vedānta philosophy. For Izutsu, among various Indian thoughts, Śaṅkara’s philosophy is the most representative thought in Izutsu’s Oriental philosophical reflection. In Izutsu’s view, the main stream of Oriental philosophy, including Indian philosophy, has been traditionally “anti-cosmic,” i.e., ontologically destructive.Prof. Yoshitsugu Sawai is Professor of the History of Religions and former Dean of the Faculty of Human Studies at Tenri University (Japan), as well as Advisor of the Japan Association of Religion and Ethics. He is the author of The Faith of Ascetics and Lay Smartas: A Study of the Sankaran Tradition of Srngeri (Sammlung De Nobili).

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