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Vedānta in Practice

Project Leaders

Rembert Lutjeharms, James Madaio

Project Outline

This project seeks to redress a palpable imbalance in critical discourse pertaining to the tradition of Vedānta.  The academic study of vedāntic traditions (sampradāya) has often been framed in relation to the Western disciplines of theology and philosophy.  This is not without good reason. Vedāntins employ sophisticated forms of exegesis, developing complex theological arguments in relation to foundational sources.  Vedānta is also synonymous with dexterous methods of logical reasoning and dialectics that are acutely evidenced in the famed polemical works of respective vedāntic sampradāyas. Attention to this kind of high-culture vedāntic literary production, whether in the form of commentaries or independent treatises, has overwhelmingly shaped the scholarly representation of Vedānta. The upshot of this has been the neglect of vedāntic text genres detailing practical exercises, such as contemplative, yogic, and devotional disciplines. Historically, such methods of self-fashioning, along with the broader ecology of vedāntic praxeology, have played an indispensable role in the lives of vedāntic practitioners, particularly those who fall outside the narrow confines of specialist forms of paṇḍita scholasticism. This project aims to bring to light and critically examine salient praxeological currents across textual and material vedāntic environments in order to rethink Vedānta outside the confines of scholasticism.  The long-term aim of the project is to develop a new understanding of Vedānta that draws across methodological boundaries, including text-historical, philosophical, anthropological, theological, and visual culture.

Project Outcome

The project will establish a research network of scholars working on vedāntic traditions. The first conference of the research network will be held at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies in June 2020. This conference will lead to an edited volume of papers and/or journal articles.