Rethinking the Sacred – Philosophies of the Divine Nature in Indian and Western Sources: Session two (HT20)

Location: OCHS Library
Speaker: Dr Jessica Frazier
Date: February 13, 2020
Time: 2.00pm – 3.00pm

These four seminars rethink the ways that the sacred is defined in the world today. Questioning current assumptions about science, reality and religion, it draws on both western and Indian scholastic philosophy to explore ideas of the divine as: 1) The creative ground of a sacred continuum between nature and ‘super-nature’; 2) The material and foundation of existence; 3) The impetus of all dynamic movement and development; 4) A basis for new emerging forms of existence and value.

Classical debates about creation, immutability, Being and transcendence in the Western philosophical tradition remain unresolved, and these seminars seek new solutions in Indian conversations about these ideas. We draw on sources in the Bhedābheda Vedāntic tradition of Indian thought to suggest different ways of formulating the divine nature. Typically, we see the divine paradoxically as something more than the world’s realm of mere transient and finite forms, yet the ground and creative source of them all. This way of thinking was continually challenged by Buddhist theories of mereology, change, and anti-essentialism, leading to an evolution of the original doctrines through novel and innovative new approaches. Yet we also see how this Hindu theory of a ‘sacred continuum’ challenges the way that Western ideas of God tend to oppose ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’, human vs divine will, and the supposed conflict between the religious and the secular.

Week 4, Thursday 13 February – Divine Foundation and Omnipresence: Metaphors of Clay, Milk, Crystal

Here we look at formulations of divine creation and omnipresence in both Western and Indian sources, contrasting their approach. We look at Indian debates about substance, grounding, and transformation (prakṛti, pradhāna, pariṇāma, upadāna karaṇa, adhiṣṭhāna, etc.). that led to a view of the divine as the ‘clay’ of reality. But we also consider debates about properties and perception (guṇa, viśeṣa, rūpa and svarūpa, upādhi, adhyāsa, āvidya, etc.) that led to a view of the divine as more like a clear canvas.