Graduate Seminars in Indic Religion: Session Four

Location: OCHS Library
Date: May 30, 2014
Time: 4:00pm to 5:00pm

Capturing the Other Side: Difficulties Facing Religious NGO Groups in India

Ved Patel, Worcester College

Hindu NGOs currently play an integral part in social and disaster relief projects in India. Despite this, they are faced with critiques that can be grouped under the general categories of religious innovation and religious nationalism. On one hand, Hindu NGO groups have been criticized for lacking substantial Hindu theological or textual sources that support or encourage such work. This attempt at engagement, then, is passed off as mimicry of western or Christian based models of social involvement. Alternately, these acts of service have been labeled as nationalistic and supportive of RSS and BJP ideals. Both of these designations can impede additional Hindu NGOs from engaging in a voluntary sector that demands increased participation. This paper will discuss some of the specific critiques that have been aimed at these groups and some of the plausible methods that can be implemented to increase voluntary involvement

Śrībhāya of Rāmānuja: A Modern and Contextual Reading

Ionut Moise, Wolfson College

Śrībhāṣya of Rāmānuja (c.12th AD) provides a new commentary on the Vedanta classic text Brahma-Sutra of Bādarāyaṇa (c. 2nd -3rd AD) in the light of the Viśiṣṭādvaita, a branch of Vedanta (one of the six major Hindu philosophical schools). The text expounds Rāmānuja’s interpretation, particularly his doctrine of Karman, or bhakti, whose knowledge, he maintains, is essential for salvation (mokṣa). It is more of a theological work, as he discusses the idea of a personal god (Parama-Puruṣa), endowed with qualities, on which grounds Śaṅkara is frequently criticised. Rāmānuja maintains also the reality of cosmos and the individual souls (ātman). The majority of scholars continue to regard Śrībhāṣya as the most fundamental work of Rāmānuja and Viśiṣṭādvaita, and in modern time has opened new perspectives in the zone of applied theology, and inter-religious dialogue. Here I seek to provide a modern and contextual re-reading of the text.