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Hindu Lockdown Stories

Hindu Lockdown Stories

Hindu Lockdown Stories

Dear Friends,

Wishing you all a happy new year, hope you are all well and safe.

The Leicester Friends group would like to invite you to our next talk, and we have the pleasure of Shaunakaji, director of the OCHS talking about Lockdown and our scriptures.

Hindu Lockdown Stories

A talk by Shaunaka Rishi Das
of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies

As we begin a new year, a new strain of virus, and a new lockdown, some of us may think 2020 was not so bad after all. What is clear is the fact that isolation and social distancing are a new reality we can’t avoid. 

We know that sages and sadhus have made a virtue of social distancing, often abandoning society altogether to meditate in the Himalayas. But that seems not to be an easy option for mere mortals – especially as we can’t even travel there.

Happily, there are many ways to meditate, and hearing stories of dharma, avatars, and sadhus – katha – is a most popular form. Meditating on these stories can touch our lives with their spirit and lift us from our own isolation and social difficulty.

This talk draws from the Ramayana and the Bhagavata Purana to explore a Princess’s year long isolation; the lockdown of an entire community, and the spreading of disease that threatened to destroy the environment.

Saturday 16th Janurary 2021
At 4pm GMT

Join Zoom Meeting:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87071275191

Or join by phone:
Meeting ID: 870 7127 5191
Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kdPHscZczx

These talks are open to all; please share links with friends and family.

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Warm regards,
LeicesterFriends of the OCHS
Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies
E: lf@ochs.org.uk
W: www.ochs.org.uk

Hinduism and the Goddess – Śāktism and Śākta traditions

Hinduism and the Goddess – Śāktism and Śākta traditions

Śākta Traditions Online Lecture Series MT20

Watch the final lecture of the Śākta traditions Online Lecture Series by Dr Bjarne Wernicke-Olesen.

Abstract: Hinduism cannot be understood without the Goddess and the goddess-oriented Śākta traditions. Worship of the Goddess pervades Hinduism at all levels, from village deities to high-caste pan-Hindu goddesses to esoteric, tantric goddesses. Nevertheless, these highly influential forms of South Asian religion have only recently begun to draw a more broad scholarly attention. The Goddess and her network of Śākta traditions is often subsumed under the broad category of ‘Śāktism’, which is by many considered one of the major branches of Hinduism next to Śaivism and Vaiṣṇavism. Śāktism is, however, less clearly defined than the other major branches and sometimes surprisingly difficult to discern from Śaivism in its tantric forms. These sometimes very complex and challenging forms of Śākta religion therefore provide a test case for our understanding of Hinduism and raise important theoretical questions with regard to the study of religious traditions in South Asia.
In this lecture I wish to go up from the particular and provide a brief overview of the state of research. I will address some of the problems and challenges we face in the study of Śākta traditions and propose a model for how we may meaningfully speak of Śāktism as a major Hindu tradition, relating textual details with broader theoretical questions and the longue durée of the history of Śākta traditions.
 
 
All of the Lectures in this series can be watched here on our YouTube channel. 
Lockdown and the darkness ahead: Coping through Meaning and Means

Lockdown and the darkness ahead: Coping through Meaning and Means

Lockdown and the darkness ahead: Coping through Meaning and Means

A talk by Dr. Ramesh Pattni DPhil (Oxford)
OBE of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies
 
We are going through unprecedented times not experienced in recent history where suffering and death is a persisting existential reality. Human beings have tried to make meaning of suffering and death and solutions have been formulated by religious traditions through millennia. Vedanta and Yoga offer tools and techniques for dealing with suffering in the moment and liberation ultimately from all suffering. The Sanskrit term Sādhanā literally means “that by which something is performed” or more precisely “means to an end.” In the sphere of religion, it is always used to indicate the essential discipline that leads to the attainment of the liberation and release from suffering. Find out what are the Sādhanā-s and Siddhi-s in the traditions of Vedanta and Yoga and how these can help us not only to move towards the final goal of liberation but give us the benefit of mental wellbeing in these times of the lockdown and the coming winter. There will be a guided meditation to demonstrate the effects of the practice of dhyāna.
Kali, Karma and Global Transformation

Kali, Karma and Global Transformation

Kali, Karma and Global Transformation.

A talk by Dr. Raj Balkaran
of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies

This talk draws from the wellspring of Hindu teachings to make sense of the tumultuous times we’re living through. First, we look to classical Hindu philosophy to outline four types of karma, and consider the relationship between personal and collective karma. Secondly, we examine the rich narratives of Kālī to show what she represents and how she functions in human life. Thirdly, we dovetail karmic theory with the teachings of Kālī to provide a framework for making sense of the massive shifts occurring across the globe – indeed for finding meaning amid the chaos of our times.

Śākta Traditions Online Lecture Series MT20

Śākta Traditions Online Lecture Series MT20

Śākta Traditions Online Lecture Series MT20

On Wednesday, 16 December from 2.00-3.00 we will have our final lecture in the Śākta Traditions Online Lecture Series this term. The final lecture is given by Dr Bjarne Wernicke-Olesen and the title is “Hinduism and the Goddess – Śāktism and Śākta traditions”. 

Abstract: Hinduism cannot be understood without the Goddess and the goddess-oriented Śākta traditions. Worship of the Goddess pervades Hinduism at all levels, from village deities to high-caste pan-Hindu goddesses to esoteric, tantric goddesses. Nevertheless, these highly influential forms of South Asian religion have only recently begun to draw a more broad scholarly attention. The Goddess and her network of Śākta traditions is often subsumed under the broad category of ‘Śāktism’, which is by many considered one of the major branches of Hinduism next to Śaivism and Vaiṣṇavism. Śāktism is, however, less clearly defined than the other major branches and sometimes surprisingly difficult to discern from Śaivism in its tantric forms. These sometimes very complex and challenging forms of Śākta religion therefore provide a test case for our understanding of Hinduism and raise important theoretical questions with regard to the study of religious traditions in South Asia.
In this lecture I wish to go up from the particular and provide a brief overview of the state of research. I will address some of the problems and challenges we face in the study of Śākta traditions and propose a model for how we may meaningfully speak of Śāktism as a major Hindu tradition, relating textual details with broader theoretical questions and the longue durée of the history of Śākta traditions.
 
 
All of the Lectures in this series can be watched here on our YouTube channel. 

Programme for Michaelsmas Term 2020

Śākta Traditions Online Lecture Series: Work in Progress

Śāktism among the Śaivas

Prof. Alexis Sanderson
21 & 28 October 2020, 2.00-3.00 and 12 November 2020, 2.00-4.00
 

Abstract: In the first of these three lectures Professor Sanderson covers the history of Śaivism, setting out his view of its principal divisions, their historical development, and their interaction, and locating on this map the entry point of an influx of Śākta Śaiva forms of ecstatic religion into what had previously been a cluster of austere, highly ascetic traditions. In the second he narrows his focus to examine the history of Śaivism in Kashmir, concentrating on the nature of its Śākta Śaiva elements, notably the traditions of the Trika and Krama, but stressing the importance of seeing how these were embedded within, and interacted with, more exoteric forms of the religion. In the third lecture, he presents evidence that these Śākta Śaiva traditions developed and flourished outside Kashmir in most regions of the subcontinent and that though much of their later highbrow literature was modelled on the learned exegesis of Abhinavagupta and Ksemarāja there are reasons to conclude that they had pre-Kashmirian histories.

The second and third lectures demonstrate incidentally the inappositeness of the widely used term ‘Kashmir Śaivism’ to refer to the Trika and related Śākta Śaiva systems, the second by showing that these systems co-existed in Kashmir with non-Śākta, Saiddhāntika Śaivism, and the third by refuting or casting doubt on the notion that the Śākta Śaiva systems that received such learned attention in Kashmir in the tenth century were Kashmirian in origin

Prof. Alexis Sanderson: after a training in Classics, began his Indological career as a student of Sanskrit at Balliol College, Oxford in 1969. After graduation he spent six years studying the Kashmirian Śaiva literature in Kashmir with the Śaiva scholar and guru Swami Lakshman Joo from 1971 to 1977 while holding research positions at Merton and Brasenose Colleges. From 1977 to 1992 he was Associate Professor (University Lecturer) of Sanskrit in the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Wolfson College. In 1992 he was elected to the Spalding Professorship of Eastern Religions and Ethics at Oxford and thereby became a Fellow of All Souls College. He retired from that post in 2015. Since then he has been preparing a critical edition, with a translation and commentary, of the Tantrāloka, Abhinavagupta’s monumental exposition of the Śākta Śaivism of the Trika.

Link to handout for lecture 1 & 2: download
Link to handout for lecture 3: download

Theology and Social Change in Śākta Tradition

Prof. Gavin Flood
4 November 2020, 2.00-3.00
 
Abstract: Conversion to new tantric forms of Hinduism took place over a relatively short period within the history of Indic religions, the period from the eighth to early eleventh century. This period of about two hundred years is about eight generations. While it might not be appropriate to call this ‘sudden’ conversion, it nevertheless falls into the paradigm of conversion if by that we mean a process of realignment over time rather than a sudden event (Rambo 1993). In this lecture I wish to use the period of the development of the Tantras, with particular reference to the Netra, as a case study of relatively rapid change and religious innovation in which beliefs of many people altered and how this change impacted upon politics and society as a whole. Although the socio-economic paradigm has explanatory force, it is not the whole story and in specifying the constraints that led to the outcome of Śākta religion, we also need to take into account internal, theological concerns.
 
gavin floodProf. Gavin Flood: is Professor of Hindu Studies and Comparative Religion at Oxford University, Academic Director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, and Senior Research Fellow at Campion Hall. His publications include Religion and the Philosophy of Life (2019), The Truth Within: A History of Inwardness in Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism (2013), The Importance of Religion: Meaning and Action in Our Strange World (2012), and The Ascetic Self: Subjectivity, Memory, and Tradition (2004). He is also the General Editor of the series ‘The Oxford History of Hinduism’ and is a Fellow of the British Academy.

Śāktism in Europe

Prof. Knut A. Jacobsen
18 November 2020, 2.00-3.00
 
Abstract: In this presentation I make some observations about the presence of Śākta traditions in contemporary Europe. The majority of Hindu traditions in Europe are Śaiva and Vaiṣṇava, but Śāktas and Śākta traditions are not absent. In the presentation I suggest some ways to identify them and the analysis focuses on the role of Śākta temples, the use of the text Devīmāhātmya, the presence of other forms of Hindu goddess worship, and finally female Hindu gurus in Europe being identified with the great goddess. The lecture argues that there is much creativity and freedom of expression involved in the Śākta worship in Europe. The foundation of Śākta temples are often based on the presence and revelations of the goddess at particular places in Europe with the goddess expressing the wish for being present in temples at these places. The goddess has also a living presence in Europe in the female gurus who are believed by the devotees to be the goddess or her avatāra. The recitation of the text Devīmāhātmya makes the goddess present, and she is celebrated all over Europe in festivals associated with the narratives of this text.
 
Prof. Knut Axel Jakobsen: is professor in the study of religions at the University of Bergen, Norway. Jacobsen’s main research fields are Hindu Studies, classical and contemporary Sāṃkhya and Yoga, South Asian pilgrimage traditions and ideas and rituals of space and time, and diasporas and the globalization of South Asia religions. He is the author of Prakṛti in Sāṃkhya-Yoga: Material Principle: Religious Experience, Ethical Implications (Peter Lang, 1999), Kapila: Founder of Sāṃkhya and Avatāra of Viṣṇu (Munshiram Manoharlal, 2008), Pilgrimage in the Hindu Tradition: Salvific Space (Routledge, 2013) and Yoga in Modern Hinduism: Hariharānanda Āraṇya and Sāṃkhyayoga (Routledge, 2018). Other recent publications include the edited volumes Routledge Handbook of Contemporary India (Routledge, 2016). Jacobsen is the founding Editor-in-Chief of the six volumes Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism (Brill, 2009-2015) and the Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism Online, and editor of the two volumes Handbook of Hinduism in Europe (Brill, 2020).

Hinduism and the Goddess - Śāktism and Śākta traditions

Dr Bjarne Wernicke-Olesen
16 December 2020, 2.00-3.00
 
Abstract: Hinduism cannot be understood without the Goddess and the goddess-oriented Śākta traditions. Worship of the Goddess pervades Hinduism at all levels, from village deities to high-caste pan-Hindu goddesses to esoteric, tantric goddesses. Nevertheless, these highly influential forms of South Asian religion have only recently begun to draw a more broad scholarly attention. The Goddess and her network of Śākta traditions is often subsumed under the broad category of ‘Śāktism’, which is by many considered one of the major branches of Hinduism next to Śaivism and Vaiṣṇavism. Śāktism is, however, less clearly defined than the other major branches and sometimes surprisingly difficult to discern from Śaivism in its tantric forms. These sometimes very complex and challenging forms of Śākta religion therefore provide a test case for our understanding of Hinduism and raise important theoretical questions with regard to the study of religious traditions in South Asia.
In this lecture I wish to go up from the particular and provide a brief overview of the state of research. I will address some of the problems and challenges we face in the study of Śākta traditions and propose a model for how we may meaningfully speak of Śāktism as a major Hindu tradition, relating textual details with broader theoretical questions and the longue durée of the history of Śākta traditions.
 
Dr Bjarne Wernicke-Olesen: is a Research Lecturer at the centre and tutor in Hinduism, Buddhism and Sanskrit at the Faculty of Theology and Religion. He teaches courses, seminars and tutorials in Sanskrit, Pāli and Indian religions as well as courses and seminars on manuscript reading and theory and method in the Study of Religion. He is currently leading and managing a research project on Śākta Traditions and a research programme on the Comparative Study of Religion together with Prof. Gavin Flood. He is the founder of the OCHS Kathmandu Office and also the founder and supervisor of a student exchange programme with Aarhus University.
 
Interview between Dr Raj Balkaran and Daniel Simpson

Interview between Dr Raj Balkaran and Daniel Simpson

Interview Between Dr Raj Balkaran and Daniel Simpson

DECEMBER 3 2020

As part of his wide-ranging and informative podcast series, New Books in Hindu Studies, Dr Raj Balkaran interview Daniel Simpson on his new book, The Truth of Yoga. Raj and Daniel are two of our best (and best-liked) tutors so this is of special interest to the OCHS and its students. You can access it here.

In a former life, Daniel was a foreign correspondent for the New York Times and in his book here he uses his prodigious skills at making big stories digestible to some of Hinduism’s biggest stories.

They also talk about the wonders of online learning in the age of covid; different learning and teaching styles; exploring and reconciling the tensions between practice and theory; and (a key OCHS goal) taking the deep thought of the world’s best scholars and making them accessible.

They also talk about our upcoming New Directions in Yoga Studies weekend school at which Daniel will be speaking and which Raj has curated and will be hosting.

Oxford Handbook of Meditation

Oxford Handbook of Meditation

The Oxford Handbook of Meditation

Our two fellows Prof. Gavin Flood and Dr Bjarne Wernicke-Olesen have both contributed with an article in the recently published Oxford Handbook of Meditation edited by Miguel Farias, David Brazier, and Mansur Lalljee. Prof. Flood’s article is on Tantra and Dr. Wernicke-Olesen has written about Yoga. Below are the two abstracts borrowed from Oxford Handbooks Online website.

‘Tantra’ abstract:
Meditation has been integral to Hindu and Buddhist tantric traditions, in particular involving visualization or visual contemplation, practiced as part of ritual and also in its own right in order to achieve the goals of liberation from the cycle of reincarnation and also to achieve pleasure or power in this and other worlds. Visual contemplation is particularly focused on the body envisioned as being pervaded by a vertical axis at a subtle level, along which are located different levels of experience associated with different levels of the hierarchical cosmos. Power is awakened through meditation that rises up through these levels up to the very highest realization. This visual contemplation is thought to be of the subtle body as the support of the soul that leaves the physical body at death. There is also meditation without visualization that emphasizes the flow of pure awareness. This essay examines these practices in the major Hindu tantric traditions focused on the deity Śiva with some reference to the traditions of the Goddess, Viṣṇu, and Buddhism. These traditions influence the later Yoga tradition and have been transformed in the modern West.

‘Yoga’ abstract:
Yoga, meditation, and asceticism have been intimately linked throughout Indian religious history since the early beginnings in the ascetic reformism of India’s “axial age.” Traditional yoga addresses the main concerns of the ascetic reformism and is a practical method to solve the problem of suffering and attain liberation from this world. It primarily refers to the practice of meditation as described and systematized in the later classical yoga of Patañjali, where yoga is a synonym for non-cognitive samādhi, the highest state of consciousness. As indicated in the Upaniṣads and the yoga-auxiliaries, meditation consists in stilling the body, the senses, and the mind through a withdrawal of the senses, breath-control, and fixing the mind on a single point (including god or īśvara) as a way to reach samādhi. These techniques were combined with Sāṃkhya philosophy and other ideas and terminology (especially Buddhist) from the ascetic reformism discourse and systematized into a whole by Patañjali in the Pātañjalayogaśāstra in the fourth century ce. Via this kind of Brahmanical Sanskritic adaptation of ascetic practices, yoga and meditation became gradually incorporated into the mainstream of Indian religious life and were successfully exported to the Western world almost two millennia later. 

For a link to the handbook click here

Covid-19 update

Covid-19 update

Until we meet again

Dear all, 

The centre is currently closed due to the Covid-19 restrictions. All lectures and seminars will be held online. For access, please contact the convenors or lecturer by email. For access to the Hinduism: Sources and Formation and Sanskrit Prelims lectures, please contact the Faculty of Theology and Religion. The Śākta Traditions lectures will be available on the OCHS YouTube channel.

The current situation also means that all of our Wednesday lunches are cancelled this term. We are very sorry about this and look forward to welcoming you all back (hopefully) soon.

In the meantime we encourage you to follow and engage with us on social media. We miss all of you and would love to stay in touch. 

Stay safe and well, 

The OCHS team

Covid-Chronicles with Shaunaka Rishi Das

Covid-Chronicles with Shaunaka Rishi Das

Covid-Chronicles with Shaunaka Rishi Das

How do faith communities stay connected while in isolation? How does religious practice carry on while members are so far apart? In this recent episode of the Covid-Chronicles hosted by Dr Ed Kessler from the Woolf Institute in Cambridge, OCHS director Shaunaka Rishi Das discusses the impact of COVID-19 on religious communities:

link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxDPbH4SeG4&feature=share

Beyond Belief BBC 4 Radio with Shaunaka Rishi Das

Beyond Belief BBC 4 Radio with Shaunaka Rishi Das

Beyond Belief BBC Radio 4 with Shaunaka Rishi Das

Listen to OCHS Director Shaunaka Rishi Das, joined by other experts discuss the impact of prayer in recent BBC Beyond Belief episode “Prayer” with Ernie Rae.

Click on link to listen
https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/brand/b006s6p6

Or download on apple podcast
https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/prayer/id261779770….

The programme can be listened to here:
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000m577