Lecture List
Michaelmas Term 2023

Sunday 8th October – Saturday 2nd December

Library opening hours are Monday to Friday, 9.30-4.30.

Hinduism 1: Sources and Formations

Weeks 1-8, Friday 4.00-5.00
Faculty of Theology and Religion, Gibson Building
Dr Rembert Lutjeharms

These lectures offer a thematic and historical introduction to the sources and development of Hindu traditions from their early formation to the medieval period. We will explore the formation of Hindu traditions through textual sources, such as the Vedas, Upaniṣads and Bhagavad Gītā, along with the practices and social institutions that formed classical Hindu traditions. The lectures will include an introduction to Hindu philosophy.


Week 1-8, Wednesday 4.30-5.30, Friday 10.00-12.00 
OCHS Library 
Prof. Gavin Flood

The course provides an introduction to Sanskrit for the preliminary paper of the Theology and Religion Faculty in Elementary Sanskrit. Students of Pali will join the Sanskrit course in Michaelmas Term and for the first four weeks of Hilary Term. From week 5 of Hilary Term, Sanskrit and Pali will be taught as two separate courses, i.e. Sanskrit Prelims and Pali for Sanskritists. 

Sanskrit Prelims: A range of relevant Hindu and Buddhist texts will be chosen for translation and philological comment in the Sanskrit course. 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, the Haṭhayogapradīpikā 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. 

Pali Prelims: The Pali course is designed to provide an easy philological introduction to Pali Buddhist texts via Sanskrit and introduce students of Theology and Religion to the essentials ofPali grammar, syntax, and vocabulary. A range of relevant Pali Buddhist texts will be chosen for translation and philological comment. We will read classical Theravāda Buddhist discourses from the Pāli Canon such as the Fire Sermon (Ādittapariyāya-sutta) and Dependent Origination (Paṭiccasamuppāda) as well as passages from the Dhammapadaand the Jātaka tales. Students will learn to appreciate the interpretative nature of translation as a central discipline for the study of religions. The course book will be Dines Andersen, A Pāli Reader and Pali Glossary, 2 vols(1901) supplemented by Rune E. A. Johansson, Pali Buddhist Texts: An Introductory Reader and Grammar (1981).  

Pali students will attend the same ‘Sanskrit and Pali’ classes as Sanskrit students in Michaelmas Term and weeks 1-4 of Hilary Term. From week 5 of Hilary Term, Pali and Sanskrit students will study in separate classes.

Lectures of the J.P. And Beena Khaitan Visiting Fellow

Sleep, Perception, and Other Problems: Somānanda's Arguments Against the Dualist Naiyāyikas

Week 3, Wednesday, 25th October 3.00-4.00
OCHS Library
Prof. John Nemec

It has been known for some time that the non-dual Śaiva philosopher Utpaladeva (fl. c. 925-975 C.E.) turned away from arguing with Naiyāyikas and Vaiśeṣikas in his Īśvarapratyabhijñākārikās, even while his teacher Somānanda  (fl. c. 900-950 C.E.) engaged those schools extensively.  The arguments the latter offered to oppose the views of these dualist “Hindu” interlocutors, however, have to date hardly been explored.  In this talk, I will outline two major lines of argumentation offered against these competing schools of thought.  One involves the nature of sleep, and the nature of the perceptual process by which awakening from sleep might be explained.  Somānanda argues that the dualists’ model simply cannot account for such a mundane phenomenon, because the knower, the self or ātman, cannot play any decisive role in the same.  The second argument involves a comprehensive critique of the two-step perceptual process by which sense-organs convey knowledge to the ātmanvia the “mind” or manas.  Here, the dualism of the system in question, which suggests that the sense-organs and the manas have form or are mūrta, could in no way logically be linked to the ātman, which is said to be amūrtaor to have no form—unless, that is, Somānanda’s Śaiva non-dualism of all-as-the-consciousness-of-Śiva were to be implicitly adopted.

Prof. John Nemec is Professor of Indian Religions and South Asian Studies in the Department of Religious Studies of the University of Virginia. He is the author of The Ubiquitous Śiva: Somānanda’s Śivadṛṣṭi and His Tantric Interlocutors (Oxford University Press, 2011), which includes a critical edition, annotated translation, and extended study of the founding work of the famed Śaiva tantric philosophical school known as the Pratyabhijñā, as well as a sequel volume, The Ubiquitous Śiva: Somānanda’s Śivadṛṣṭi and His Philosophical Interlocutors (Oxford University Press, 2021), which also edits and translates a portion of the same text and deals with the same author’s arguments against Buddhist philosophical opponents and competing Hindu philosophical schools. A third book, entitled Brahmins and Kings, examines the intersection of religious authority and temporal power in the Sanskrit narrative literatures and is currently under peer review. Nemec serves as Editor of the Religion in Translation Series of the American Academy of Religion, and he is a Trustee of the American Institute of Indian Studies (2020-2023). He holds a Ph.D. degree in South Asia Studies from the University of Pennsylvania (2005), an M.Phil. in Classical Indian Religions from the University of Oxford (2000), an M.A. in Religious Studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara (1997), and a B.A. in Religion from the University of Rochester (1994). He was a Fulbright Scholar in India in the 2002-2003 academic year and Directeur d’études invité (DEI) at the École Pratique des Hautes Études (Paris) in the spring of 2016. His current research examines not only tantric philosophical works but also the larger intellectual and cultural context of the Valley of Kashmir of the ninth to twelfth centuries, and currently he is beginning a book on the study of religion and the place of historical and textual studies in the same.

Lectures of the Shivdasani Visiting Fellow

The Self / No-Self Debate in Classical Indian Philosophy: Difficulties for the Buddhist

Week 1, Thursday 12th October 11.00-12.00
OCHS Library
Prof. Alex Watson

In the first part of the talk we will identify what was at stake in the Indian ātman debate between Nyāya and Buddhism.  Next, we will examine a Nyāya argument against Buddh­ism.  Finally, we will look at three new arguments from Rāmakaṇṭha, a Kashmir–ian author from the 10th century, belonging to the tradition of Śaiva Sid­dhānta.  They are ‘new’ both in the sense that no one had advanced them prior to Rāmakaṇṭha, and in the sense that they had not been mentioned in contemporary secondary literature prior to my work on this author.

Indian Logic and the Existence of God 1: The Atheist's Arguments

Week 3, Thursday 26th October, 11.00-12.00
OCHS Library
Prof. Alex Watson

This is the first of two lectures on Jayanta’s treatment of the question of God’s existence in his magnum opus ‘Blossoms of Reasoning‘ (Nyāyamañjarī), written in Kashmir at the end of the 9th century.  Here we will see how Jayanta articulates the case against theism, drawing on primarily Mīmāṃsā, but also Buddhist and Cārvāka, argu­ments.  The arguments will be viewed through the lens of Indian logic.  They amount to claiming that the standard inference of God’s existence is ‘unestablished’ (asiddha), ‘in­con­clusive’ (anaikāntika) and ‘contradictory’ (viruddha).

Indian Logic and the Existence of God 2: The Theist's Response to the Atheist's Arguments

Week 5, Thursday 9th November, 11.00-12.00
OCHS Library
Prof. Alex Watson 

In the previous lecture we saw how Jayanta, writing in the voice of the atheist opponent (pūrvapakṣin), argued against the existence of God.  In this lecture we see how Jayanta switches to writing in his own voice and presents his actual view (siddhānta).  He argues that if the atheist’s rejection of the God-inference were accepted, then we would have to reject the validity of all inference, including the paradigmatic inference of fire from smoke.

Prof. Alex Watson is Professor of Indian Philosophy at Ashoka University, prior to which he was Preceptor in Sanskrit at Harvard.  His DPhil was from the University of Oxford.  He is author of The Self’s Awareness of Itself (2006) and, with Dominic Goodall and Anjaneya Sarma, An Enquiry into the Nature of Liberation (mokṣa) (2013), as well as numerous articles on the History of Indian Philosophy.  He works on debates between Śaivism, Nyāya, Mīmāṃsā and Buddhism.

Other Lectures and Seminars

Readings in Vedānta

Week 1-8, Thursday 11.00-12.00
OCHS Library
Dr Rembert Lutjeharms

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.

Seminar on Indian Philosophy

Week 2 (18th October) and Week 8 (15th November), Wednesday 4.30-6.00
OCHS Library
Convened by Dr Jessica Frazier

This series of regular seminars brings together scholars and students working on Indic philosophies and religions. It focuses on topics of current research: in each session, two people will present a context they are investigating for 20min, and then open it for discussion on key questions. All researchers, graduates and finalists in all areas are welcome to join.

Week 2, Wednesday, 18th October, 4.30-6.00

Prof. Alex Watson: Dharmakīrti, Rāmakaṇṭha and Galen Strawson on the existence of selves
My OCHS lecture on Wednesday of Week 1 looked at how the Buddhist can easily respond to the Naiyāyika argument for a self, but faces a more difficult challenge from Rāmakaṇṭha’s arguments. Today I introduce Galen Strawson’s Buddhistic position and consider which of Rāmakaṇṭha’s arguments present a difficulty for it.

Brett Parris: The metaethics of Patañjali’s yoga
Metaethics may be characterised as the philosophical framework in which a tradition’s implicit normative ethical theory and its practical ethical precepts are embedded. Patañjali’s Yogasūtra is grounded in the dualist Sāṃkhya system and was influenced by early Buddhism. The Yogasūtra’s ethical precepts, as well as ‘the Lord’, Īśvara, play important roles for Patañjali. I argue that Patañjali’s Yoga emerged from early theistic Sāṃkhya, resisted Buddhist idealism, and yields a moral realist metaethics which may be understood as a form of natural law theory, but one quite unlike anything found in the Western traditions.

Week 8, Wednesday, 29th November, 4.30-6.00

Prof. John Nemec: On the effects of causes and causes that could have an effect: The Śaiva theory of the eternality of what is produced
This presentation explores the manner of manifestation and non-manifestation of objects of cognition in a Śaiva satkāryavāda explanation.  The problem is that if the effect preexists its manifestation in the form of its identity with its cause, then it should be perceptible even before it is manifested.  In an argument against the Sāṅkhya, Somānada offers the “sadāsatkāryavāda” or doctrine of the perpetual real existence of the effect.  In looking at the text, we will find that it has a nice conceptual twist and turn to it.

Jacob Mortimer: The canonical roots of Buddhist phenomenalism
This presentation argues that there is a substantial overlap between the Yogācāra doctrine of vijñaptimātra (‘mere representation’) and expressions of phenomenalism found in early Buddhist texts such as the Sabba Sutta. I argue that the phenomenalism of early Buddhism offers a justification of key doctrines such as no-self and the denial of a creator god, and that it might furthermore be an implicit assumption of later schools of Buddhist philosophy including Abhidharma and Madhyamaka. This theory suggests that the innovations of Yogācāra are more subtle than previously thought; it also suggests that philosophical challenges that have until now been considered unique to Yogācāra (particularly the threat of solipsism) might be faced by other Buddhist schools. 

Readings in Phenomenology

Weeks 1-8, Mondays 12.00-1.00
OCHS Library
Prof. Gavin Flood

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 term we read Husserl, The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology trans David Carr (Evanson: Northwestern UP, 1970).

Concepts of Self in the History of Hinduism

Weeks 3 and 8, Thursday, 2.00-3.00
OCHS Library
Prof. Gavin Flood 

There is a history to ideas about the self. These two lectures will sketch some shifts in the ways the self has been conceptualised in that history and will in particular pay attention to tensions in Brahmanical thinking between different metaphysics of the self and social, transaction reality of persons as social actors.

Lecture 1: The sacrificial and transcendent self

Week 3, Thursday 26th October, 2.00-3.00
OCHS Library
Prof. Gavin Flood 

In this opening lecture we will examine a first tension between the Vedic notion of sacrifice on the one hand and Upanishadic view of the self as transcendent, on the other. This also entails different concepts of redemption and differing understandings of the purpose of human life. We might offer a hypothesis that they both, in a sense, are the inverse of the other. We will focus on Mīmāṃsaka, Vedāntic and even Buddhist sources in our exploration and raise the question of how metaphysical conceptualisations relate to historical, social reality, gender roles, and notions of the common good, if at all.

Lecture 2: The possessed self, the personal self, transcendence, and its collapse

Week 8, Thursday 30th November, 2.00-3.00
OCHS Library
Prof. Gavin Flood

Moving forward in time to the eve of modernity, we will contrast an older view of self as being able to be possessed by supernatural powers in the Śākta tradition (that God­frey Lienhardt called the ‘passiones’ model of the self), with a view of the self that emerged in the sixteenth century with Caitanya (1486-1533) and the emergent devo­tional tradition, contrasting this with the collapse of transcendence to immanence with Raghunātha Śiromaṇi (c. 1460-1540) of the Navya Nyāya, once the tantric kingdoms (apart from Nepal) were gone. We will offer a hypothesis that these conceptions of self present a new vision by re-tooling older ideas of both possession and transcendence. We will raise questions about whether such new conception has potential for social critique and how these new ideas affected modern concepts of self and society in India.

Forgotten Irish Figures in Indian Religions

Week 2, Thursday 19th October, 2.00-3.00
OCHS Library
Prof. Brian Bocking

This lecture will be about ‘forgotten’ or at least neglected Irish figures influential within Asian religions from the decades around 1900. This will include, as well as Buddhists like U Dhammaloka and Charles Pfoundes, Hindu, Sikh and other Irish figures including Annie Besant, Sister Nivedita (Margaret Noble), and Max Arthur Macauliffe.

Prof. Brian Bocking has had a long career in Religious Studies, publishing in a number of areas. He is Professor emeritus of University College Cork where he established Ireland’s first Study of Religions Department, serving previously as Professor of the Study of Religions at SOAS. In recent years his research has turned to neglected figures in the study of religions, especially Irish men and women involved in Asian religions in the period around 1900.

Artist in Residence Talk: Art, Non-dualism, and the Divine

Week 6, Thursday 16th November, 2.00-3.00
OCHS Library
Rosanna Dean

Rosanna will discuss how her art practice is led by her study of yoga, philosophy & Sanskrit alongside a broader focus on the importance of female authorship of cultural foundational stories. Her work brings together divergent ways in which the divine is represented from East to West and are meditations on non-dualism and how the stories we are told shape our future. She is currently using painting, meditation, physical yoga & sound to explore concepts such as Para, the point at which form again touches formlessness and the Sadhana’s psychosomatic efforts to assimilate one’s body to higher and higher levels of cosmic body pattern. She will pose questions about where this work can be positioned, authorship and the importance of listening.

Rosanna Dean is a multi-disciplinary artist living in London. She received her MA from the Royal College of Art (2019), studied old master painting in Florence at the Angel Academy (2014). She has spoken on spiritual practice in contemporary art at the Courtauld Institute of Art and following a year residency at the Florence Trust received EU funding to develop her work exploring and converging different ways of representing the divine. Her journey with yoga began 12 years ago discovering ashtanga following a sudden and traumatic experience with death. In 2020 she went to India to deepen her yoga practice, qualifying as an Ashtanga yoga teacher in Mysore and researching ritual practices including Tantra and Theyyam in Karnataka.

Connecting the Epistemology of Nyaya to 20th Century Analytic Epistemology

Week 6, Friday 17th November, 2.00-3.00
OCHS Library / Zoom
Prof. Anand Jayprakash Vaidya

This lecture will present how and why it is important to study cross-cultural epistemology. I will focus on Nyaya and Analytic epistemology, especially Gangesha, the Oxford Realists, such as H.A. Pritchard and T. Williamson, the Los Angeles Externalist, T. Burge, and the Pittsburgh Disjunctvist, J. McDowell. I will discuss three topics. First, the analysis of knowledge and justification. Second, the philosophy of perception. Third, the relevance of the theory of certification in Nyaya as an intervention into Analytic epistemology. Along the way I will suggest some revisions to Gangesha so as to update how his theory can engage contemporary epistemology.

Prof. Anand Jayprakash Vaidya is Professor in the Department of Philosophy, San Jose State University. Among his research interests is the epistemology of modality or how we come to know what is possible and necessary for the variety of kinds of particulars that there are. He defends an epistemological approach to show how we can know what is metaphysically possible and necessary.