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OCHS Graduate Conference: Soteriology in Hinduism

Campion Hall (morning) & OCHS Library (afternoon)
Prof. Gavin Flood
Wednesday, 21 February 2018 -
10:00am to 5:00pm

It is a common claim of Indic philosophical texts that salvation from suffering, envisaged as a repetition of non-identical births in this and other worlds, is the text’s purpose. This may often simply be an expected rhetorical trope for some texts, but it is a serious concern for others. Furthermore, practices of asceticism and yoga have been central to religious traditions focused on different deities, whose explicit purpose is liberation from the cycle of suffering. The metaphysical claims behind such a broad conceptualisation are varied, such as whether liberation is through effort or through the grace of a putative theistic reality. The aim of this conference is to raise some of the issues in the history of Hinduism. To what extent is ‘soteriology’, a term developed in the context of Christian Theology, an appropriate translation of the ‘science of liberation’ (mokṣaśāstra)? Can we distinguish this science of liberation from the path to liberation (mokṣamārga)? Is Martin Reisebrodt’s characterisation of religion as ‘the promise of salvation’ accurate with regard to Hinduism? What is the relation between soteriology and politics in the Indian context? To what extent is Dumont’s distinction between the householder concerned with duty and responsibility (dharma) and the renouncer concerned with liberation (mokṣa) accurate? Is it fair to say that Hinduism has soteriology, which is individual, but no eschatology, which is collective? What are the values regarding the world (environment) and human transaction implied by the idea of Hindu soteriology? The conference is intended for graduates to present their research orientated to some of these questions.