Lecture tag: Politics

Osho, spirituality and the politics of national identity: Examining intersecting discourses

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religions

The charismatic New Age mystic Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (1931-1990), otherwise known as Osho, was a highly popular and prolific spiritual figure in the 20th century who counted thousands of individuals, both in India and around the world, as his followers. Born and educated in India, Osho offered his followers an iconoclastic spiritual philosophy that sought to liberate individuals from the shackles of mind and morality. His avowed emphasis on multiplicity, pluralism, anti-authoritarianism, and lack of institutional structure might suggest that his spiritual discourse stands in opposition to the discourse of Hindu nationalism, which stresses singular conformity to a religious ideal. However, I argue that even while emphasizing the apolitical, non-ethical, and transcendental nature of spirituality, Osho’s brand of spiritual discourse surreptitiously incorporates a Neo-Vedāntic worldview. This Neo-Vedāntic understanding always prefigures his commentaries on diverse South Asian texts and traditions. Through an analysis of the genealogy of modern spiritual movements in India, as well as a close reading of some of Osho’s own work, I will argue that Osho betrays his own claim of offering a truly neutral, emancipatory, and universal spirituality by demonstrably employing an epistemological framework conditioned by modern conceptions of Vedānta, and in so doing, effectively helps to consolidate Hindu nationalist discourse.

Hinduism, non-violence and the costs of terrorism: towards an Indian mediation service?

This talk will address research into the history and philosophy of non-violence in Indian religious traditions, including Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. It will ask whether the stress on ahimsa in the Indian philosophical tradition is something worth preserving, even in the face of terrorist attacks such as most recently in Mumbai, and if so, how can that be done? The proposal to launch an Indian Union Mediation Service will be presented as one intelligent way to square this ethical circle of idealism versus realpolitik.

Dr Thomas C. Daffern is a specialist in peace studies, comparative philosophy and the history of ideas who has taught at the Universities of London and Oxford and also works in the secondary school sector as a religious studies teacher. He founded and directs the International Institute of Peace Studies and Global Philosophy, as a unique international academic network for thinkers interested in research into peace, conflict prevention and global philosophical and intellectual discourse between different cultures and civilisations. A former educational coordinator of the Gandhi Foundation, he has travelled extensively in India and taught at the Jain University in Rajasthan. See www.lulu.com/iipsgp or www.educationaid.net or for further details.

Two Kashmiri lives in the Calukya Deccan

From the eleventh century, there is evidence of a remarkable pattern of the circulation of goods, men, and texts between two seemingly unlikely corners of southern Asia: the Valley of Kashmir and the western Deccan (in what is now Karnataka). The broad contours of this mobile world can be traced through a variety of methods, including political history, numismatics, archeology, and the history of art.

In this presentation, however, Dr Cox will concentrate on literary evidence, touching on the lives of two Kashmirian brahmans who found employment in the court of the Kalyani Calukya emperor Vikramaditya VI. One of these men was a state official whose public career took place in the midst of a period of great institutional change; the other was a leading court poet and biographer of his royal patron. Looking at these two emigres together, we can better understand the world and mindset of the cosmopolitan Brahman literatus, and can begin to better chart the changing nature of the early-second millennium South Asia social order.

Whitney Cox is lecturer in Sanskrit at SOAS. His research work focuses on the history of textual creation and dissemination in the far South of the Indian subcontinent in the early second millennium of the Common Era, focusing especially on Sanskrit and Tamil. Dr. Cox was awarded his Ph.D. in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations of the University of Chicago in 2006 for a doctoral dissertation on the medieval Saiva author Mahesvarananda. He is currently at work on a book manuscript tentatively entitled Empire of Wisdom: Mobility, Belonging, and Things Made of Language in Medieval India.