Lecture List Hilary Term 2021

Due to Covid restrictions and in line with University Policy, all lectures and seminars will be held online. For access, please contact the convenors or lecturer by email. For access to the ‘Hinduism 2: Modern Hinduism’ and ‘Sanskrit Prelims’ lectures, please contact the Faculty of Theology and Religion. The Śākta Traditions lectures will be available on the OCHS YouTube channel.

Hinduism 2: Modern Hinduism

Week 1-8, Friday 4.00-5.00, Faculty of Theology & Religion
Dr Rembert Lutjeharms

This paper traces the development of Hinduism from the medieval period through to modernity. The course will examine Hindu scholasticism, devotional and tantric traditions, and modern Hindu thought. The lectures will explore themes of liberation, the soul and the divine, Tantra and meditation, devotional literature and the formation of modern Hindu identity.

Readings in Middle Bengali Devotional Literature: Female Gurus

Readings in Vedānta: Madhva’s Anuvyākhyāna

Week 1-8, Wednesday 10.00-11.00, OCHS Library
Dr Rembert Lutjeharms (rembert@ochs.org.uk)

Vedānta—theology grounded in the systematic exegesis of the Upaniṣads—has for centuries been the primary discourse for Vaiṣṇava thought. These reading sessions are intended for students who have at least an introductory knowledge of Sanskrit and are interested in Vedānta texts. This term we will be reading Madhva’s Anuvyākhyāna, his principal commentary on the Brahma-sūtras.

Sanskrit Prelims 2

Week 1-8, Monday 2.00-3.00, Friday 9.30-11.30
Dr Bjarne Wernicke-Olesen

The course provides an introduction to Sanskrit for the preliminary paper of the Theology and Religion Faculty in Elementary Sanskrit. A range of relevant Hindu and Buddhist texts will be chosen for translation and philological comment. The class is designed to introduce students of Theology and Religion to the essentials of Sanskrit grammar, syntax, and vocabulary and its importance for the exegesis of Sanskrit texts. Students will learn to appreciate the interpretative nature of translation as a central discipline for the study of religions.
 By the end of the course students will have gained a basic competency in translating classical Sanskrit and reading relevant passages from texts, such as the Chāndogya Upaniṣad, the Bhagavadgītā and the Buddhist Heart Sūtra. The course book will be Walter Maurer’s The Sanskrit Language. Sanskrit Prelims continues throughout Michaelmas and Hilary Terms and for the first four weeks of Trinity.

Readings in Phenomenology

Weeks 1-8, Monday 12.00-1.00
Gavin Flood (gavin.flood@theology.ox.ac.uk)

Phenomenology is one of the most important developments in philosophy in the twentieth century, and it has also had a deep impact on other theoretical fields more widely conceived. This series continues the reading of Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time.

Readings in Middle Bengali Devotional Literature: Female Gurus

Weeks 1-8, Thursday 4.00-5.00
Lucian Wong (lucian@ochs.org.uk)  

In these sessions, we read and discuss prominent Middle Bengali religious texts. This term we will focus on sections from key texts among the Vaiṣṇava hagiographical corpus that portray women as leaders in the early modern Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava tradition. Some proficiency in the Bengali language is a requirement for attending these sessions.

Other Lectures

Śākta Traditions Online Lecture Series: Contributions to a growing field of Śākta Studies

Lecture I: Before they were foxy ladies, they were lady foxes. Yoginīs and Ḍākinīs in Hindu and Buddhist Tantra

Week 2, Wednesday 2.00-3.00, OCHS YouTube channel
Prof. David G. White

Abstract: Before there was ‘tantric sex’ there was ‘tantric violence’, which saw tantric yogis venturing alone into cremation grounds and other fearsome landscapes in the dead of night to offer their bodies up to Yoginīs and Ḍākinīs, noisy nocturnal hordes of flesh-eating female creatures that preyed on the living and the dead. The early tantric scriptural record, which relates the conditions under which males voluntarily offered themselves up for possession and consumption by these ferocious shape-shifters, offers a window onto the unique tantric appropriation of a pre-existing South Asian (if not pan-Eurasian) demonological substratum. In this lecture, I juxtapose scriptural and art historical data to demonstrate the persistence of this demonological paradigm across South, Inner and East Asian tantric traditions.

Prof. David G. White is the J. F. Rowny Professor of Comparative Religions at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he has been teaching since 1996. Prior to coming to Santa Barbara, he taught at the University of Virginia between 1986 and 1996. There, he founded the University of Virginia Study Abroad Program in Jodhpur, India in 1994. White is the sole foreign scholar to have ever been admitted to the Centre d’Études de l’Inde et de l’Asie du Sud in Paris, France, where he has been an active Research Fellow since 1992. His current research interest concerns contacts and exchanges in matters of demonology. Prof. White’s book publications include The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali (Princeton University Press, 2014), Yoga in Practice (Princeton University Press, 2012), Sinister Yogis (University Press of Chicago, 2009), Kiss of the Yogini: “Tantric Sex” in its South Asian Context (University Press of Chicago, 2003), The Alchemy Body: Siddha Traditions in Medieval India (University Press of Chicago, 1996). 

Lecture II: New Light on Śāktism and Haṭhayoga

Week 4, Wednesday 2.00-3.00, OCHS YouTube channel
Dr James Mallinson

This lecture will build upon, and in many ways revise, ideas first presented in a lecture entitled ‘Śāktism and Haṭhayoga’, which I gave at the OCHS Śākta Traditions conference held in Oxford in 2011. I shall present a more detailed analysis of the Śākta contributions to Haṭhayoga as formalised in Sanskrit texts from the eleventh century onwards, focusing specifically on Buddhist, Śaiva and Vaiṣṇava tantric traditions. I shall argue that the distinctive techniques of haṭhayoga were innovations in Indian religious practice and show how the different Śākta traditions introduced different methods of physical yoga practice. 

Dr James Mallinson is Reader in Indology and Yoga Studies at SOAS University of London. He is Chair of SOAS’s Centre for Yoga Studies and the Principal Investigator of the ERC-funded Hatha Yoga Project, for which he is preparing five critical editions of Sanskrit texts on physical yoga and a monograph on its early history. Dr Mallinson is the author of several books and articles on yoga, and the co-author, with Dr. Mark Singleton, of Roots of Yoga (Penguin Classics 2017).

Lecture III: Assessing medieval Śākta history in the light of Indian inscriptions

Week 6, Wednesday 2.00-3.00, OCHS YouTube channel
Dr Bihani Sarkar

This lecture focuses on the historical insights epigraphical evidence offers for our understanding of the development of the Goddess’s worship. Between the 7th and the 13th centuries CE, many epigraphs, etched on copper or stone slabs, on cave-temple entrances, or on the bases of statuary, were commissioned by subcontinental rulers and communities, which formalized grants to powerful forms of the Goddess and asserted devotion to them. These sources attesting Śākta piety plot the process of patronage of the Goddess cult, the consolidation of political authority through such patronage, strategies involved in the formation of kingdoms, who the worshippers of the Goddess were, modes of her worship, and the chief geographical centres of her influence.

Dr Bihani Sarkar: is Lecturer (Hourly-Paid, fixed term) in Religious Studies: Hinduism and Buddhism (University of Winchester), Associate Faculty Member of the Oriental Institute (University of Oxford), and Research Member of Common Room, Wolfson College (University of Oxford). Bihani’s publications include Heroic Shāktism: The Cult of Durgā in Ancient Indian Kingship, (Oxford University Press, 2017) and Classical Sanskrit Tragedy: the concept of suffering and pathos in Medieval India (Bloomsbury, forthcoming 2021).

Tantric Elements Embedded in a Purāṇic Context: the Example of the Māhātmyakhaṇḍa of the Tripurārahasya

Week 8, Wednesday 2.00-3.00, OCHS YouTube channel
Dr Silvia Linder

Abstract: The Tripurārahasya (TR) is a Sanskrit work of South Indian origin, probably composed around the 15th –16th century CE, and associated with the Śākta tradition of Tripurā, later known as Śrīvidyā. This lecture focuses on some Tantric ritual elements embedded in the Purāṇic-like mythical narrative of the Māhātmyakhaṇḍa (mk), the first of the two extant sections of the work, which celebrates the deeds of Tripurā and of the goddesses who are regarded as her manifestations, or shares. The topics discussed include: the initiation ceremony (dīkṣa), the mantra of Tripurā (Śrīvidyā), and the method of her worship (pūjā). A crucial component of this worship is the Śrīcakra, the yantra that is both the diagrammatic, yet dynamic, form of the Goddess, and the essential support for her meditation and ritual worship. In the mk of the TR, the Śrīcakra is transposed into a narrative element, and becomes the centre of the abode of Tripurā in the Island of Jewels (maṇidvīpa), as well as the pattern according to which the stronghold of Lalitā is constructed. It will be shown how the maṇidvīpa and the Śrīcakra retain their Tantric character and meaning in the TR, even as they are incorporated into a mythical narrative.

Dr Silvia Schwarz Linder has lectured in the past at the Leopold-Franzens-Universität in Innsbruck and at the University Ca’ Foscari in Venice. Presently she is Research Associate at the Institut für Indologie und Zentralasienwissenschaften of the University of Leipzig, and is affiliated with the Śākta Traditions project at the OCHS led by Professor Gavin Flood and Dr Bjarne Wernicke-Olesen. Her interests focus on the Tantric religious traditions of the Śrīvidyā and of the Pāñcarātra, specifically on the philosophical and theological doctrines expressed in the relevant South Indian Sanskrit textual traditions. She has also translated into Italian texts from the Sanskrit narrative and devotional literature, for editions aimed at a general readership