These lectures will reflect on metaphysical speculation in the history of Indian religions paying particular attention to the ways in which doing, or practice, connects with thinking, or philosophy, and how metaphysical concerns address problems of the relation of self to world, the nature and meaning of sacrifice, the category of the self in relation to person and transcendence, and the nature of language. Although the chronological span of these lectures will be wide, we will nevertheless focus on the early medieval (i.e., the post-Gupta) period for by this time the different schools were established and there is a history of discourse that we can examine. The implicit thesis of the lectures is that action, and in particular ritual action, is the backbone of tradition and that philosophical reflection emerges from the nature of humans as creatures who act. We will not simply present and assess arguments, but rather try to open out or enter into the world in which metaphysical thinking occurs through examining ritual and meditative literature as well as philosophical commentaries and independent works. Examples chosen will mostly be from the religions of Śiva and the Goddess but not exclusively so.
Lecture 3: Explicit metaphysics of Non-Dual Śaivism
Week 8, 9th March, 2.00-3.00
The dualist school of the religion Śiva, the Śaiva Siddhānta, is rooted in ritual action which it regards as salvific. Through certain acts following initiation by the master who embodies Śiva for the duration of the rite, the practitioner can be saved from suffering in the cycle of action. Metaphysics here is on the leash of the ritual act. By contrast the non-dual Śaivas regarded the distinctions of human reality to be based on a misguided cognition that needs to be replaced by the recognition (prayabhijñā) that cognition or gnosis (jñāna) not action, is salvific. This philosophy is supported by the appropriation of the philosophy of language. We will present a description of this system and raise questions about coherence and meaning.