Lecture tag: Comparative Studies

The Habit of Prayer and Prayer in a Habit (MT 14)

Religious Practice in Comparative Perspective Series

The routine activity of the ‘hours of prayer’ forms a major part of the daily life of the different Christian religious orders.  This talk will consider what function this prayer plays in the life and goals of religious communities.

Dr. Martin Ganeri O.P. is Vice Regent of Blackfriars Hall, University of Oxford and Director of the Centre for Christianity and Interreligious Dialogue at Heythrop College, University of London.  His recent and forthcoming publications include, ‘Theology and Non-Western Philosophy’ in O. Crisp, G. D’Costa, M. Davies and P. Hampson (eds) Theology And Philosophy: Faith and Reason, London: T&T Clarke, 2012 and ‘Selfhood, Agency and Freewill in Rāmānuja’ in E.F. Bryant (ed.) Free Will, Agency, and Selfhood in Indian Philosophy, New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Practice and Making Perfect: Why There are Some Good Habits Too in Southern Buddhism (MT 14)

Religious Practice in Comparative Perspective Series

This lecture examines the idea of habit from a Buddhist perspective: the need to cultivate good habits and the necessity of regular practice to develop concentration and mindfulness for a fulfilling life.

Dr Sarah Shaw is a lecturer in the Oriental Studies Faculty at Oxford and Honorary Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies. She is an expert in Theravāda Buddhism, particularly meditation, the Abhidhamma, and early Buddhist narratives. She is the author of An Introduction to Buddhist Meditation (Routledge 2008); Buddhist Meditation: an Anthology of Texts (Routledge, 2006), and The Jātakas: Birth Stories of the Bodhisatta (Penguin 2006). She was also co editor with Linda Covill and Ulrike Roesler of Lives Lived, Lives Imagined: Biographies of Awakening  (Wisdom Books, 2010). 


Comparative Religion: Its Failures and Its Challenges (HT 14)

This is an analysis of the success and limitations of comparative religion. The presentation will propose the need for new academic categories, and will discuss the relevance of the Gandhian experience to the study of religions.

Professor Sushil Mittal is a fellow philosophical traveler with Mahatma Gandhi, Sushil Mittal is (full) Professor of Religion in the Department of Philosophy and Religion and Founding Director of the Mahatma Gandhi Center for Global Nonviolence at James Madison University, a post he held for five years (2005–2010).  Dr. Mittal joined JMU in Fall 2004.

He earned his B.A. from McGill University in Montreal, M.A. from Carleton University in Ottawa, and Ph.D. from University of Montreal.  He has served on the faculties of the University of Florida in Gainesville and Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois.

His discipline by training is cultural anthropology, but he is located in a department of religion where he teaches Hinduism and Gandhian thought.  He has conducted archival and field research in Canada, India, South Africa, and the United States at intervals during the last two decades.  The recipient of numerous grants and fellowships, his book publications include Development and Change in India (1993), Surprising Bedfellows: Hindus and Muslims in Medieval and Early Modern India (2003), The Hindu World (2004), Religions of South Asia: An Introduction (2006), and Studying Hinduism: Key Concepts and Methods (2008).

His current work-in-progress includes The Living Hindu WorldEncyclopedia of Hindu Studies, and The Gandhi Reader.

He is the (Founding) Editor of the International Journal of Hindu Studies (1997- ) and the International Journal of Gandhi Studies (2012- ).

Professor Mittal was born in Canada (his “janma-bhumi”) buthas now dedicated himself to working in the United States(his “karma-bhumi”) and he looks to India as the mainsource of his spiritual inspiration (his “dharma-bhumi”).

‘Till all nations hear’: enhancing the legacy of the American Baptist Missionary Union in Nagaland

In the 19th century, led by their desire to convert the Shans of Upper Burma and ultimately reach China, missionaries from the American Baptist Missionary Union ended up in the plains of Assam in Northeast India and from there embarked on a dangerous evangelising mission among the ‘wild’ and ‘uncivilised’ Naga tribes inhabiting the hills bordering Assam. What proved to be a slow and difficult beginning resulted in the mass conversion of the Naga to Christianity which gave them reason to proudly proclaim by the end of the 20th century that they were the most Christian state in the world. Building up on the example of the American missionaries, Naga Christianity nowadays is characterised by a distinct evangelical zeal which has led Naga missionaries all over the world. The paper will seek to elucidate the ideology and some of the challenges which underpin this contemporary missionary endeavour.

Hinduism and Globalisation

Hindu religions and oriental spirituality have travelled West during the last two centuries, and adapted in many ways to the cultures and societies of the West. The presentation first looks briefly at the processes of migration of Indian religions and spirituality to the West and second to a case of return to their place of origin in the East through modern global institutions. The lecture discusses issues of identity, conversion and the emerging of a globalised Hinduism in Sweden and in India that challenges local social, cultural and religious communities. It is based on field work, participant observation, and interviews of informants conducted among others in Stockholm and West Bengal during 2011 and 2012. Ferdinando Sardella is based at Uppsala University and he is a fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. He is the author of Modern Hindu Personalism: The History, Life, and Thought of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati(2013) published by Oxford University Press.

Towards a Comparative History of Inwardness (MT12)

Religion and the Human Person Series

This first lecture raises the topic of the human person in the context of comparative religion. It asks the question ‘how can we map the self across cultures?’ and ‘can inwardness be a topic of comparison?’ I propose firstly to present some general comments on inwardness and spiritual practice and the relationship between ‘subjectivity’ and ‘individuality’ (arguing that a traditional subjectivity is not individual but collective). Secondly I propose that we need to examine these questions about inwardness, subjectivity, body and world in three areas of method, history, and comparison. The lecture will make reference to classical phenomenology, particularly Heidegger’s early work on the phenomenology of the religious life.

Bishop Appasamy and Comparative Theology in India

A.J. Appasamy (1891-1975) was a Harvard, Oxford and Marburg trained Tamil Christian theologian who served as an Anglican priest and seminary professor in India before Independence, and post-Independence, as the first Bishop of Coimbatore in the Church of South India. Working from the premise that doctrines and theological systems are largely cultural and linguistic negotiations, and therefore provisional rather than permanent constructs, Appasamy’s earliest interest was in recasting Christianity as a living bhakti (‘devotional’) tradition in the Subcontinent. As his comparative practice matures there is a noticeable shift in his thinking away from larger generalized groupings of ‘religions,’ such as ‘Christianity’ and ‘Hinduism,’ and increasingly towards particular interaction with specific thinkers, texts and traditions. Concurrent to this he began to develop a methodology by which to do so that employs the Vedantic epistemological categories known as pramanas (‘evidences’). This paper will consider how Appasamy’s theological project and method might fruitfully be applied to the field of scholarship known today as ‘comparative theology,’ especially as it pertains to the Indian context. Building on Appasamy’s use of the pramanas, I will add my own proposal that comparative theologians from all traditions might draw further benefit from the clarity of the dialectical structure of the Vedantic commentarial tradition. Brian Dunn is currently pursuing his doctoral research in the field of comparative theology at the Theology Faculty, Oxford. His present focus is on the life and writings of a South Indian Christian theologian, Ayadurai Jesudason Appasamy, and his particular comparative interaction with Hindu philosophical and theological conceptions of divine embodiment.

Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati and the West

This year marks the 75th anniversary of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati’s (1874–1937) passing away. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was the founder of the Gaudiya Math and the inspirator of a wide range of Vaishnava movements that have been established in the West from the 1930s and onwards, among others ISKCON or the Hare Krishna Movement. The lecture discusses the relationship of Bhaktisiddhanta with modernity, his theological ideas in relation to Christianity, and his approach to Western culture. Bhaktisiddhanta launched a missionary effort in the 1930s to London that involved members of the British cabinet. The lecture will also present some of the latest research on Bhaktisiddhanta featuring the recent discovery of his diary and an autobiographical sketch. The lecture is based on Sardella’s monograph titled “Modern Hindu Personalism: The Life, Place and Works of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati” to be published by Oxford University Press. Dr. Ferdinando Sardella is based at the Department of Theology, Uppsala University (Sweden) and is a Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies.

God, Being and Beyond: Outlines of a Comparative Theology

While the differences between Sankara’s and Ramanuja’s systems as found in their respective commentaries on the Brahmasutras are relatively well-known, much commented on and highly influential in the living traditions, there has been surprisingly little attention paid to a comparative understanding of their Bhagavad Gita commentaries. Yet, in those works, they offer interpretations particular to the nature and structure of the Gita that do not map directly onto their other standard works. Using an interpretive vocabulary that engages with currents in postmodern Christian theology, I offer readings of each of their treatments of the relationship between the self-declared nature of the divine person, Krsna and his diverse mentions of the mysterious brahman. I suggest that strikingly original views of theology and its connections to metaphysics are found in these great commentaries – views that can contribute to the actual content (and not just the metatheory) of comparative theology.