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HINDUISM: DEFINED AND DESCRIBED
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian subcontinent. Hinduism is often referred to as Sanātana Dharma, a Sanskrit phrase meaning "the eternal law" by its adherents. Generic "types" of Hinduism that attempt to accommodate a variety of complex views span folk and Vedic Hinduism to bhakti tradition, as in Vaishnavism. Hinduism also includes yogic traditions and a wide spectrum of "daily morality" based on the notion of karma and societal norms such as Hindu marriage customs. Hinduism is formed of diverse traditions and has no single founder. Among its roots is the historical Vedic religion of Iron Age India, and as such Hinduism is often called the "oldest living religion" or the "oldest living major religion".
Demographically, Hinduism is the world's third largest religion, after Christianity and Islam, with more than a billion adherents, of whom approximately 1 billion live in India. Other significant populations are found in Nepal (23 million), Bangladesh (14 million) and the Indonesian island of Bali (3.3 million). A large body of texts is classified as Hindu, divided into Śruti ("revealed") and Smriti ("remembered") texts. These texts discuss theology, philosophy and mythology, and provide information on the practice of dharma or religious living. Among these texts, the Vedas are the foremost in authority, importance and antiquity. Other major scriptures include the Upanishads, Purāṇas and the epics Mahābhārata and Rāmāyaṇa. The Bhagavad Gītā, a treatise from the Mahābhārata, spoken by Krishna, is of special importance. Readers are advised to google Hinduism for the vast literature on the subject.
MY STUDY OF HINDUISM
In 1964-5 I took a course in comparative religion while majoring in history and philosophy at McMaster University in Hamilton Ontario. This was my first introduction to a study of Hinduism. I was 20 years old. In the more than half a century since then I have taken an interest in this "oldest religion" in the world. This webpage on Hinduism is the central hub of my interests and study of this ancient religion. The subject is vast and, as the years have advanced, certain aspects of Hinduism have attracted my attention.
Some practitioners and scholars refer to Hinduism as Sanātana Dharma, "the eternal law" or the "eternal way" beyond human origins. Scholars regard Hinduism as a fusion or synthesis of various Indian cultures and traditions, with diverse roots and no founder. This "Hindu synthesis" started to develop between 500 BCE & 300 CE, after the Vedic times. Hinduism prescribes the eternal duties, such as honesty, refraining from injuring living beings (ahimsa), patience, forbearance, self-restraint, compassion, among others. For a useful overview of Hinduism go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinduism
Beginning in the 19th century, Indian modernists re-asserted Hinduism as a major asset of Indian civilisation, meanwhile "purifying" Hinduism from its Tantric elements and elevating the Vedic elements. Western stereotypes were reversed, emphasizing the universal aspects, and introducing modern approaches of social problems. This approach had a great appeal, not only in India, but also in the west. Major representatives of "Hindu modernism" are Raja Rammohan Roy, Vivekananda, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Mahatma Gandhi.
Raja Rammohan Roy is known as the father of the Hindu Renaissance. He was a major influence on Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), who, according to Gavin D. Flood (1996) in his An Introduction to Hinduism(Cambridge University Press, 1996) was "a figure of great importance in the development of a modern Hindu self-understanding and in formulating the West's view of Hinduism." Central to his philosophy is the idea that the divine exists in all beings, that all human beings can achieve union with this "innate divinity", and that seeing this divine as the essence of others will further love and social harmony. According to Vivekananda, there is an essential unity to Hinduism, which underlies the diversity of its many forms. According to Flood, Vivekananda's vision of Hinduism "is one generally accepted by most English-speaking middle-class Hindus today." Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan sought to reconcile western rationalism with Hinduism, "presenting Hinduism as an essentially rationalistic & humanistic religious experience."
This book by Flood provides a much-needed thematic and historical introduction to Hinduism, the religion of the majority of people in India. Dr Flood traces the development of Hindu traditions from their ancient origins, through the major deities of Visnu, Siva and the Goddess, to the modern world. Hinduism is discussed as both a global religion and a form of nationalism. Emphasis is given to the tantric traditions, which have been so influential; to Hindu ritual, which is more fundamental to the life of the religion than are specific beliefs or doctrines; and to Dravidian influences from south India. An Introduction to Hinduism examines the ideas of dharma, particularly in relation to the ideology of kingship, caste and world renunciation. Dr Flood also introduces some debates within contemporary scholarship about the nature of Hinduism. It is suitable both for the student and for the general reader. FOR MORE GO TO:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinduism
history of hinduism
A. James Mill (1773–1836), in his The History of British India (1817), distinguished three phases in the history of India, namely Hindu, Muslim and British civilisations. This periodisation has been criticised for the misconceptions it has given rise to. Another periodisation is the division into "ancient, classical, mediaeval and modern periods". An elaborate periodisation may be as follows:
Prevedic religions (pre-history and Indus Valley Civilisation; until c. 1750 BCE);
Vedic period (c. 1750-500 BCE);
"Second Urbanisation" (c. 500-200 BCE);
Classical Hinduism (c. 200 BCE-1100 CE);[note 20]
Pre-classical Hinduism (c. 200 BCE-300 CE);
"Golden Age" (Gupta Empire) (c. 320-650 CE);
Late-Classical Hinduism - Puranic Hinduism (c. 650-1100 CE);
Islam and Sects of Hinduism (c. 1200-1700 CE);
Modern Hinduism (from c. 1800).
B. For more go to:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinduism#History
Hinduism is a fusion or synthesis of various Indian cultures and traditions. Among the roots of Hinduism are the historical Vedic religion of Iron Age India, itself already the product of "a composite of the indo-Aryan and Harappan cultures and civilizations", but also the Sramana or renouncer traditions of northeast India, and mesolithic and neolithic cultures of India, such as the religions of the Indus Valley Civilisation, Dravidian traditions, and the local traditions and tribal religions.
This "Hindu synthesis" emerged after the Vedic period, between 500 BCE and c. 300 CE, the beginning of the "Epic and Puranic" c.q. "Preclassical" period, and incorporated śramaṇic and Buddhist influences and the emerging bhakti tradition into the Brahmanical fold via the smriti literature. From northern India this "Hindu synthesis", and its societal divisions, spread to southern India and parts of Southeast Asia.
This book provides a much-needed thematic and historical introduction to Hinduism, the religion of the majority of people in India. Dr Flood traces the development of Hindu traditions from their ancient origins, through the major deities of Visnu, Siva and the Goddess, to the modern world. Hinduism is discussed as both a global religion and a form of nationalism. Emphasis is given to the tantric traditions, which have been so influential; to Hindu ritual, which is more fundamental to the life of the religion than are specific beliefs or doctrines; and to Dravidian influences from south India. An Introduction to Hinduism examines the ideas of dharma, particularly in relation to the ideology of kingship, caste and world renunciation. Dr Flood also introduces some debates within contemporary scholarship about the nature of Hinduism. It is suitable both for the student and for the general reader.
C. Gavin Dennis Flood (born 1954)FBA is a British scholar of comparative religion specialising in Shaivism and phenomenology, but with research interests that span South Asian traditions. From October 2005 through December 2015 he served in the Faculty of Theology University of Oxford and as the Academic Director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies which is a Recognised Independent Centre of the University of Oxford. In 2008 Flood was granted the title of Professor of Hindu Studies and Comparative Religion from the University of Oxford. In 2014 he was elected a Fellow of the British Academy. In November 2015, it was announced that Dr. Flood would become the inaugural Yap Kim Hao Professor of Comparative Religious Studies at Yale-NUS College in Singapore; taking up the position from January 2016. Flood's publications include; An Introduction to Hinduism, Body and Cosmology in Kashmir Saivism and Beyond Phenomenology: Rethinking the Study of Religion. He is also the editor of The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism.
The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Ramayana. Besides its epic narrative of the Kurukshetra War and the fates of the Kaurava and the Pandava princes, the Mahabharata contains much philosophical and devotional material, such as a discussion of the four "goals of life" or purusharthas. Among the principal works and stories that are a part of the Mahabharata are the Bhagavad Gita, the story of Damayanti, an abbreviated version of the Ramayana, and the Rishyasringa, often considered as works in their own right. For more of this general overview of the Mahabharata go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahabharata
Many people in India believe that, because the Mahabharata, the ancient epic poem in Sanskrit about a disastrous fratricidal war, is such a tragic, violent book, that it is dangerous to keep the whole text in your house. Most people who have it stow one part of it somewhere else, just to be on the safe side. The Mahabharata, in any case, takes up quite a lot of shelf space: it contains about 75,000 verses, sometimes rounded off to 100,000, or three million words. It is some 15 times the combined length of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, or seven times the Iliad and the Odyssey combined; and a hundred times more interesting as far as your average reader is concerned.
It has remained central to Hindu culture since it was first composed, during the period from before 300 BCE to after 300 CE. A.K. Ramanujan used to say that no Indian ever hears the Mahabharata for the first time. Attipate Krishnaswami Ramanujan (1929-1993), also known as A. K. Ramanujan, was an Indian poet and scholar of Indian literature who wrote in both English and Kannada. Ramanujan was a poet, scholar, a philologist, folklorist, translator, and playwright. His academic research ranged across five languages: English, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, and Sanskrit. He published works on both classical and modern variants of this literature and argued strongly for giving local, non-standard dialects their due. Though he wrote widely and in a number of genres, Ramanujan's poems are remembered as enigmatic works of startling originality, sophistication and moving artistry. He was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award posthumously in 1999 for his collection of poems, "The Collected Poems".
For centuries, Indians heard the Mahabharata in the form of public recitations, or performances of dramatised episodes, or in the explanations of scenes depicted in stone or paint on the sides of temples. More recently, they read it in India’s version of Classic Comics, the Amar Chitra Katha series, or see it in the hugely successful televised version, 94 episodes, based largely on the comic book. The streets of India were empty, or as empty as anything ever is in India, during the broadcast hours on Sunday mornings, from 1988 to 1990. The people of India have also seen various Bollywood versions, or the six-hour film version (1989) of Peter Brook’s nine-hour theatrical adaptation (1985). And now they can read Chindu Sreedharan’s ‘Epicretold’, posted on Twitter, one 140-character tweet at a time. For more of this review of John Smith's translation of The Mahabharata(Penguin, 834 pages, 2009) go to: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n19/wendy-doniger/how-to-escape-the-curse
The Upanishads are a collection of philosophical texts which form the theoretical basis for the Hindu religion. They are also known as Vedanta ("the end of the Veda"). The Upanishads are considered by Hindus to contain revealed truths, Sruti, concerning the nature of ultimate reality, brahman, and describing the character and form of human salvation, moksha. The Upanishads are found mostly in the concluding part of the Brahmanas and Aranyakas, and have been passed down in oral tradition. For more on this subject go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upanishads
THE BAGAVAD GITA
For a review in The New York Review of Books on 4/12/'14 entitled "War and Peace in the Bhagavad Gita" by Wendy Doniger go to:
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/dec/04/war-and-peace-bhagavad-gita/?insrc=toc The book under review is: The Bhagavad Gita: A Biography by Richard H. Davis(Princeton University Press, 250 pages). The review begins: "How did Indian tradition transform the Bhagavad Gita(the “Song of God”) into a bible for pacifism? When it began life, sometime between the third century BC and the third century CE, the Gita was an epic argument persuading a warrior to engage in a battle, indeed, a particularly brutal, lawless, internecine war. Doniger writes that for this to happen it has taken a true gift for magic or, if you prefer, religion, particularly the sort of religion in the thrall of politics that has inspired Hindu nationalism from the time of the British Raj to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi today.
The Gita (as it is generally known to its friends) occupies eighteen chapters of book 6 of the Mahabharata, an immense (over 100,000 couplets) Sanskrit epic. The text is in the form of a conversation between the warrior Arjuna who, on the eve of an apocalyptic battle, hesitates to kill his friends and family on the other side, and the incarnate god Krishna, who acts as Arjuna’s charioteer (a low-status job roughly equivalent to a bodyguard) and persuades him to do it. For more of this review go to: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/dec/04/war-and-peace-bhagavad-gita/?insrc=toc
Hindu philosophy refers to a group of philosophies that emerged in ancient India. The mainstream Hindu philosophy includes six systems (saddarsana) –Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Mīmāṃsā and Vedānta. These are also called the Āstika, "orthodox" Indian philosophical traditions and are those that accept the Vedas as authoritative, important source of knowledge. Ancient and medieval India was also the source of philosophies that share philosophical concepts but rejected the Vedas, and these have been called Nastika(heterodox or non-orthodox) Indian philosophies. Nastika Indian philosophies include Buddhism, Jainism, Carvakas, Ajivikas and others. For more go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindu_philosophy
Rabindranath Tagore(1861-1941) was a Bengali polymath who reshaped his region's literature and music. Author of Gitanjali and its "profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse", he became the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913. In translation his poetry was viewed as spiritual and mercurial; however, his "elegant prose and magical poetry" remain largely unknown outside Bengal. Tagore introduced new prose and verse forms and the use of colloquial language into Bengali literature, thereby freeing it from traditional models based on classical Sanskrit. He was highly influential in introducing the best of Indian culture to the West and vice versa, and he is generally regarded as the outstanding creative artist of modern South Asia. For more on Tagore go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabindranath_Tagore
In this complex and difficult review of Selected Poems by Rabindranath Tagore, edited by Sukanta Chaudhuri(Oxford India, 449 pages, 2004) we read the following: "Edward Said’s Orientalism, published in 1978, gave intellectuals and writers from once colonised nations (themselves often migrants, like Said) a language that liberated and shackled in almost equal measure. Said’s critical perspective gave both Europeans and non-Europeans a shrewder and more unillusioned sense of the subterranean ways in which power operated through the cultures of empire. This notion of power is now so familiar that it’s easily taken for granted. Eurocentrism is alive and well, and takes new and unexpected forms in every political epoch."Edward Wadie Said (1935-2003) was a Palestinian literary theoretician, professor of English, history and comparative literature at Columbia University, and a public intellectual who was a founder of post-colonial studies. A Palestinian Arab born in Jerusalem in the days of Mandatory Palestine, Edward W. Said was an American citizen by way of his father, Wadir Said, a U.S. Army-veteran of the First World War; having moved from Jerusalem as a young boy, Said would later advocate for the political and human rights of the Palestinian people." Fore more on Said go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Said
In this review entitled "Two Giant Brothers" by Amit Chaudhuri, published in the London Review of Books in 2006, Chaudhuri continues: "The limitations of Said’s seminal study have to do with the ideas it’s given us about ways the postcolonial might engage with the coloniser’s culture, and with history; &, explicitly, the way the European engages with non-European antiquity. We’re left with somewhat monochromatic types, defined almost exclusively by questions of power and appropriation, whose culture and past are at once static and strangely blurred. Orientalism, at first glance at least, doesn’t seem to explain where its author, in his many-sidedness, comes from: Western metropolitan intellectual; radical political activist; postcolonial critic; champion of canonical European literature; classical pianist."
Yet the book contains a celebration of Raymond Schwab, the author of La Renaissance Orientale, and gives us, in Schwab, an outline of another idea of, and way of responding to, the Orient, and, by extension, to a culture other than one’s own. Schwab himself, Said notes, looked back to another figure: Abraham-Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron (1731-1805), ‘an eccentric theoretician of egalitarianism, a man who managed in his head to reconcile Jansenism with orthodox Catholicism and Brahmanism’, and who ‘travelled as far east as Surat’ in India There he found a cache of Avestan texts to complete his translation of the Avesta’. Said quotes Schwab on what the latter saw as Anquetil-Duperron’s legacy; it is one of the most affirmative and exuberant passages on cultural contact ever written:
In 1759, Anquetil finished his translation of the Avesta at Surat; in 1786 that of the Upanishads in Paris – he had dug a channel between the hemispheres of human genius, correcting and expanding the old humanism of the Mediterranean basin … Before him, one looked for information on the remote past of our planet exclusively among the great Latin, Greek, Jewish and Arabic writers … A universe in writing was available, but scarcely anyone seemed to suspect the immensity of those unknown lands. The realisation began with his translation of the Avesta, and reached dizzying heights owing to the exploration in Central Asia of the languages that multiplied after Babel. Into our schools … he interjected a vision of innumerable civilisations from ages past, of an infinity of literatures. For more of this review go to: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n08/amit-chaudhuri/two-giant-brothers
The film Avatar has been out for more than 6 years(12/09 to 3/16) after being in development since 1994. I have read many reviews, listened to many comments and discussed it’s style and content with many both in cyberspace & in our wide-wide-world. This prose-poem tries to encapsulate some of my initial thoughts on this blockbuster. I discuss the film's initial reception & some of its meaning drawing as I do on several sources of comment during these last six years.
James Cameron who wrote, produced and directed the film, stated in an interview that an avatar is an incarnation of one of the Hindu gods who takes on flesh-form. In this film, though, avatar has more to do with human technology in the future being capable of injecting a human's intelligence into a remotely located body, a biological body. "It's not an avatar in the sense of just existing as ones and zeroes in cyberspace,” said Cameron; “it's actually a physical body." The great student of myth, Joseph Campbell should have been at the film’s premier in London on 10 December 2009. I wonder what he would have said. Fore more on Campbell go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Campbell
Composer James Horner scored the film, his third collaboration with Cameron after Aliens and Titanic. A field guide of 224 pages for the film's fictional setting of the planet of Pandora was released by Harper Entertainment in late November 2009. The guide was entitled Avatar: A Confidential Report on the Biological and Social History of Pandora. With an estimated $310 million to produce the film and $150 million for marketing, the film has generated a myriad positive reviews from film critics as well as its share of criticism especially over what many reviewers refer to as the film’s simplistic content.
Roger Ebert, one of the more prestigious of film critics, wrote: “An extraordinary film: Avatar is not simply sensational entertainment, although it is that. It's a technical breakthrough." Avatar has had overwhelming success as a work of cinematic-art. Its enormous visual power, its thrilling imaginative originality, its excitingly effective use of the 3-D technology seems bound to change permanently the nature of cinematic experience henceforth.--Ron Price with thanks to Wikipedia, 5 April 2010.
Like viewing Star Wars back in ’77
some said/an obvious script with an
earnestness & corniness/part of what
makes it absorbing/said another/Gives
you a world, a place/worth visiting/eh?
Alive with action and a soundtrack that
pops with robust sci-fi shoot-'em-ups...
A mild critique of American militarism
and industrialism.....yes the military are
pure evil........the Pandoran tribespeople
are nature-loving, eco-harmonious, wise
Braveheart smurf warriors…….Received
nominations for the Critics' Choice Awards
of the Broadcast Film Critics Association &
on and on go the recommendations for the
best this and that and everything else. What
do you think of all this Joseph Campbell???
You said we all have to work our own myth(1)
in our pentapolar, multicultural-dimensional
world with endless phantoms of our wrongly
informed imagination, with our tangled fears,
our pundits of error, ill-equipped to interpret
the social commotion tearing our world apart
and at play on planetizing-globalizing Earth.(2)
(1) If readers google Joseph Campbell they can find some contemporary insights in his many volumes of analysis and his comments on the individualized myth that Campbell says we all have to work out in our postmodern world.
(2)The Prophet-Founder of the Bahá'í Faith, Bahá'u'lláh, has been presented as an avatar in India beginning, arguably, in the 1960s. There were only 1000 Baha’is in India in 1960 and now 2 million(circa). Baha’u’llah has been associated in the Bahá'í teaching initiatives with the Kalki avatar who, according to a major Hindu holy text, will appear at the end of the kali yuga, one of the four main stages of history, for the purpose of reestablishing an era of righteousness.
There are many examples of what one might call a cross-cultural messianism at the core of the Bahá'í teachings. This applies in India and in/to many other countries and religious communities. This approach has included: (a) emphasizing the figures of Buddha and Krishna as past Manifestations of God or avatars; (b) making references to Hindu scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita, (c) the substitution of Sanskrit-based terminology for Arabic and Persian terms where possible; for example, Bhagavan Baha for Bahá'u'lláh, (d) the incorporation in both Bahá'í song and literature of Hindu holy spots, hero-figures and poetic images and (e) using heavily Sanskritized-Hindi translations of Baha'i scriptures and prayers.
Footnote: For an excellent analysis of James Cameron’s films and especially Avatar go to the following link and my quotes below:
Cameron’s real attraction, as a writer and a director, has always been for the technologies that turn humans into super-humans. However “primitive” they have seemed to some critics, the Na’vi—with their uniformly superb, sleekly blue-gleaming physiques, their weirdly infallible surefootedness, their organic connector cables, their ability to upload and download consciousness itself—are the ultimate expression of his career-long striving to make flesh mechanical. The problem here is not a patronizingly clichéd representation of an ostensibly primitive people; the problem is the movie’s intellectually incoherent portrayal of its fictional heroes as both admirably pre-civilized and admirably hyper-civilized, as a-technological and highly technologized. Avatar ‘s desire to have its anthropological cake and eat it too suggests something deeply un-self-aware and disturbingly unresolved within Cameron himself.
Cameron’s films depend for their effects—none more than Avatar—on the most sophisticated technologies available. Cameron tells himself that the technology that is the sine qua non of his technique isn’t as important as people think. In fact what makes Avatar special is the “human interest” story particularly the love story. But there is a large flaw in Avatar—one that’s connected to Cameron’s ambivalence about the relationship between technology and humanity.
The message of what is now James Cameron’s most popular movie thus far, and the biggest-grossing movie in history—like the message of so much else in mass culture just now—is, by contrast, that “reality” is dispensable altogether; or, at the very least, whatever you care to make of it, provided you have the right gadgets. In this fantasy of a lusciously colourful trip over the rainbow, you don’t have to wake up. There’s no need to go back home to the grey world. If you are really lucky you can stay immersed in the wonders of modern technology with the end of effort and the triumph of sensation. Whatever its futuristic setting, and whatever its debt to the past, Avatar is very much a movie for our time.
5 April 2010 to 7 March 2016
Some of my internet posts and the words of some others below in relation to Hinduism and related topics are found at the links below:
V.S. NAIPAL INDIA AND HINDUISM
In a review back in 2007 of A Writer’s People: Ways of Looking and Feeling by V.S. Naipaul(Picador, 193 pages, 2007) we read: "In a wonderful short story called ‘Haha Huhu’, written in Telugu in the early 1930s, Vishvanatha Satyanarayana (1893-1976) describes an accidental traveller to England: a gandharva, a flying half-man half-horse from classical India, who loses his wings and crash-lands in Trafalgar Square. His encounter with English society as he lies captive in his cage and waits for his wings to grow back is an occasion for Satyanarayana to comment wryly on many things: among them, cultural difference, the nature of scientific progress, and the resources that Indian culture may still possess even though under colonial rule. It is not a romantic text, nor is it a militant call for the revival of old Hindu values. But Satyanarayana, who had a distinctly modern literary sensibility while still being wholly immersed in the long literary tradition of Telugu and Sanskrit, is not much read today outside Andhra Pradesh. His gandharva ends the story by soaring off into the sky, destination unknown, calling out to his perplexed English captors that he’d never seen a ‘more childish race’. It’s a subtle piece of work, but Satyanarayana’s version of the encounter between the West and the non-West has nearly been lost to us.
The fame that eluded Satyanarayana has been granted of late to other authors from India and of Indian origin, mostly writing in English. In their forefront is the author of this collection of opinion pieces and reminiscences. A quarter of the way into it, V.S. Naipaul offers the reader an insight into his thinking: "I had criticised others from my background for their lack of curiosity. I meant curiosity in cultural matters; but the people I criticised would have had their own view of the relative importance of things and they would have been astonished by my lack of political curiosity. As soon as I begin to examine the matter I see that this ignorance of mine (there is no other word for it), this limited view, was an aspect of our history and culture. Historically, the peasantry of the Gangetic plain were a powerless people. We were ruled by tyrants, often far off, who came and went and whose names we very often didn’t know. It didn’t make sense in that setting to take an interest in public affairs, if such a thing could be said to exist." For more on Naipal and India go to:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v29/n21/sanjay-subrahmanyam/where-does-he-come-from
INDIA AND WOMEN
The following is a review of these two books: Beyond the Pale: White Women, Racism and History by Vron Ware, Verso, 263 pages, 1992; and Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation by Mary Louise Pratt, Routledge, 257 pages, 1992.
Vron Ware is described on the dust-jacket of Beyond the Pale, her study of the difficulty white feminists have had in being fair to brown races which appear to oppress their women. Ware is ‘a journalist and feminist design consultant’. Ware is the co-author of At Women’s Convenience: A Handbook on the Design of Women’s Public Toilets. There is a vast gulf separating India and England, where women’s toilets apparently disappoint only in their design and not in the frequency of their occurrence. Indian women have greater troubles to bear than the absence of public conveniences. The problems of life begin early for the Indian girl, before birth indeed now that amniocentesis can determine for the sufficiently affluent urban parent whether the precious son, or merely another unwanted daughter, is about to be born. Despite official efforts to stop sex-related abortions, aborted foetuses remain overwhelmingly female. For more details and more of this review go to:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v14/n11/kathryn-tidrick/the-instructive-story-of-william-beveridges-mother
XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS
After I had finished teaching ancient Greek history in the early 1990s to matriculation students and just before retiring from full-time teaching in 1999, Xena: Warrior Princess appeared on the lighted-chirping box. The problem of religious plurality has been explored not only in philosophical and theological works, but also in popular culture. Xena: Warrior Princess explores this issue par excellence in her several mythological milieux of which ancient Greece is but one. The series ran for six seasons with the syndication beginning in 1995. By the time the series concluded in 2001 I had retired from full-time teaching in Western Australia, had taken a sea-change to Tasmania and was on a pension.
The beautiful and relatively unknown Lucy Lawless stars as Xena. She journeys through the ancient world and interacts with seminal figures, stories, and ideas from various religious and mythological traditions. The television series constructs the stories in a way that makes provocative suggestions about the truth and usefulness of religion in general, about the truth-claims of specific religious traditions, and about the ontological relationships among the metaphysical claims of various religions. The various answers to the problem of religious plurality suggested in Xena: Warrior Princess are compared to standard philosophical and theological approaches.
As globalization has brought religious communities into greater contact with one another and religious diversity to the forefront of public awareness, the problem of religious plurality is addressed not just in philosophical and theological treatises, but also in popular culture texts.. The Xena character was created as an evil warlord and temptress in the series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. The spin-off series involving Xena begins with Xena undergoing an unexplained conversion in which she renounces evil and resolves to spend the rest of her days doing good in order to atone for the misdeeds of her past. Over the course of six seasons of episodes, Xena interacts not only with the gods of classical Graeco-Roman mythology, but also with key figures from several of the world’s religious traditions, through storylines that construct complicated relationships among the religious and mythological systems involved.
Xena does not interact with Islam. This is quite understandable. Islam did not emerge until the sixth century C.E. Though Xena’s travels through the Xenaverse cover a span of roughly 1200 years of Earth history, they end long before the sixth century. So when Xena travels through what we now know as Islamic territories, she encounters either the pre-Islamic jinn or the kind of comic-book stereotypes of pre-Islamic Arabia that caused Arab activists to protest Disney’s Aladdin film.-Ron Price with thanks to David Fillingim, “By the Gods—or Not: Religious Plurality in Xena: Warrior Princess,” Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, Volume 21, No.3, Fall, 2009.
As I was finishing my career as a teacher
a Xenaverse appeared where all religions
and mythologies were true, but some were
truer than others in the lighted-chirping box.
Despite Xena’s preference to remain aloof
from spiritual concerns and promote a wide
pragmatic humanism, both Christianity and
Hinduism both turned out to be true in the
most ultimate of senses. It should not be a
surprise that Hinduism and Christianity both
received top billing in a TV series that capped
the 20th century. After all, in the 20th century,
it was through the influence of Tolstoy’s take on
Jesus’ teaching that the Hindu Gandhi awakened
to the way of satyagraha. And it was in the Hindu
practice of Gandhi that the Christian Martin Luther
King, Jr., saw the non-violent love of Jesus.....This
process was described as passing over and coming
back-the spiritual/ethical stance for a post-Auschwitz,
a post-Hiroshima, post-modern world, that is our own.
Xena’s pragmatic, humanistic commitment
to the good of others guides her interactions
with the spiritual traditions she encounters...
To blindly accept religious authority—or any
other authority for that matter—is dangerous—
so went the wisdom of this television oracle.
But a stance rooted in one tradition, open to the
collective wisdom of other spiritual and ethical
traditions & sources, and committed to the good
of all people promises the best possibility for us
to meet the ethical challenges in this very very
globalized techno-bureaucratic age: amen! Xena!
13 March 2010
PS This is the 2nd edition of this prose-poem. The author is a Canadian living in Australia and has been a Bahá'í for 50 years.
THE BAHA'I FAITH AND REINCARNATION
Belief in reincarnation, that is, the return of man’s spirit or some aspect of his reality to the material world after death, has risen from 21 to 25% in the U.S. in the 1990s according to a Gallop Poll. Believers in this concept are now found amongst the adherents of most religions and even among non-religionists. Given the overwhelming impact that this ideology can have on the lives and beliefs of people and society, we will briefly explore this concept in various Sacred Texts and then offer the perspective of the Bahá’í Writings. The following essay describes how the Bahá’í Faith does not uphold reincarnationist belief as literally understood. It accepts the return of attributes and qualities, yet maintains that the essence or the reality of things cannot be made to return.
This essay seeks to see meaning and purpose coming from all those who have adopted reincarnationism and will demonstrate a far-reaching belief system that acknowledges God’s love for man and his companionship as the purpose behind his creation. Man’s physical birth along with the creation of his spirit are the first steps in his spiritual progress towards the acquisition of virtues and noble qualities. Thus, the Bahá’í Faith also changes man’s age-long motivation for doing good from anticipation of heaven vs. hell to continuous, uplifting spiritual progress. It describes man’s soul and its relationship to the physical body. It further describes man’s spirit as being God’s supreme talisman, traversing the innumerable spiritual worlds, each full of unconditional love and boundless grace, towards the court of His Presence. He leaves behind the world of dust, limitations, weaknesses, and darkness for the world of light, freedom and perfection, just as he left the embryonic womb of limitations for the material world of colors, sounds and fragrances. For the fill essay go to:http://irfancolloquia.org/pdf/lights6_bayat.pdf
Baha'is consider that Baha'u'llah has fulfilled the prophecies of the Lord Krishna when he said: Whenever there is a decline in righteousness, O Bharat, and the rise of irreligion, it is then that I send forth My spirit. For the salvation of the good, the destruction of the evil-doers, and for firmly establishing righteousness, I manifest myself from age to age. (1)
Hindus are awaiting the coming of the Kalki Avatar at the end of this present age, Kali Yuga. Baha'is believe that we are already at this time. We are at the end of the Kali Yuga and Baha'u'llah is the Kalki Avatar. This age in which we live is an age of the decline of righteousness. And, as promised in the Bhagavad Gita, the Lord has manifested Himself again, this time with the name Baha'u'llah. This name means `the Glory of Bhagwan' or `the Splendour of Ishvara'. The coming of Baha'u'llah is therefore the start of the Sat or Krta Yuga (Golden Age). It is the time when people will return to righteousness and the world will be at peace.Section 2:
Baha'is have pointed to the prophecies in the Hindu scriptures and stated that all of these have been fulfilled in this age. There are many passages in the Hindu writings which describe the condition of the world at the end of the Kali Yuga (Dark or Iron Age). Baha'is would say that what is described in the Hindu books is exactly what we are seeing in the world today. Among the most striking of these passages from the Hindu holy books are the following:
A. In the Kali Yuga, wealth alone will be the deciding factor of nobility [in place of birth, righteous behaviour or merit]. And brute force will be the only standard in establishing or deciding what is righteous or just.
B. Mutual liking [and not family pedigree, social status, etc.] will be the deciding factor in choosing a partner in marriage; cheating will be the order of the day in business relations; satisfaction of sexual pleasure will be the only consideration of male or female excellence and worthiness; and the wearing of the sacred thread (Yajnopavita) [and not pious behaviour or Vedic or Shastric learning] will be the outward index of being a Brahmin.(2)
C. In the Kali Yuga, only one quarter of each of the four feet of Dharma [penance, truthfulness, compassion and charity] remains. And that too goes on decreasing day by day while the `feet' of Adharma [unrighteousness] increase greatly. So that in the end Dharma becomes extinct.
In that [Kali] age, people will be greedy. They will take to wicked behaviour. They will be merciless, indulge in hostilities without any cause, unfortunate, extremely covetous for wealth and women. (1) High social status will be attained by Sudras, fishermen and such other classes...
When deceit, falsehood, lethargy, sleepiness, violence, despondency, grief, delusion, fear, and poverty prevail, that is the Kali Yuga...
... mortal beings will become dull-witted, unlucky, voracious, destitute of wealth yet voluptuous, and women, wanton and unchaste.(2)
Countries will be laid waste by robbers and vagabonds; the Vedas will be condemned by heretics; kings will exploit their subjects, and twice-borns like Brahmanas will only think of the gratification of their sexual desires and other appetites.
Celibates of the Brahmacarya ashrama will cease to observe their vows of study, purity and celibacy; householders will take to begging instead of giving alms; hermits of the vanaprastha ashrama will resort to villages leaving their retreats in the forests; and Sannyasins will be extremely greedy for money. In short, the whole system of the Varnashrama Dharma will have broken down. Petty-minded people will conduct business transactions and merchants will be dishonest. In the Kali Yuga, men will abandon their parents, brothers, friends, and relatives. They will establish their friendships on a sexual basis. People who are ignorant of religion will occupy high seats and pulpits and will pretend to preach religion. People will have their minds weighed down with constant anxiety and fear. This will be due to devastating famines and heavy taxation. The land will not grow food-crops, and the people will always be in fear of impending droughts.(3)
There are similar prophesies in many other passages of the Hindu scriptures such as the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Vishnu Purana.(4) Baha'is believe that all of the conditions described in these books have come about today. And so we are living in the age prophesied in these books. Baha'u'llah describes the condition of the world at present thus: The world is in travail, and its agitation waxeth day by day. Its face is turned towards waywardness and unbelief. Such shall be its plight, that to disclose it now would not be meet and seemly. Its perversity will long continue. (5)
Prominent contemporary Indian writers have also agreed with this assessment of Baha'u'llah. Swami Vivekananda wrote, for example: But greater than the present deep dismal night...no pall of darkness had ever before enveloped this holy land of ours. And compared with the depth of this fall, all previous falls appear like little hoof-marks. (6) There are also prophecies of the breakdown of the caste system that we are seeing today and the abandonment of religion: The observance of caste, order, and institutes will not prevail in the Kali Yuga; nor will that of the ceremonials and rituals enjoined by the Sama, Rig and Yajur Vedas. Marriages, in this age, will not conform to the ritual; nor will the rules that connect the guru and his disciple be in force. The laws that regulate the conduct of husband and wife will be disregarded; and oblations to the gods with fire will no longer be offered ... The doctrines and dogmas of anyone will be held to be scripture... In the Kali Yuga, those who practise fasting, austerity and liberality will do so in whatever way they please [and not according to the Law]. And men will call this righteousness... Men of all degrees, filled with conceit, will consider themselves to be equal with Brahmins.....In the Kali Yuga, men, corrupted by unbelievers, will refrain from adoring Vishnu, the lord of sacrifice, the creator and lord of all. They will say: `Of what authority are the Vedas? What are gods, or Brahmins? What need is there for purification with water?' (7)
All the Hindu scriptures are agreed that when conditions have reached this point, when things have deteriorated and mankind has sunk to the lowest depths of moral degradation, then the Lord will again manifest Himself as the Kalki Avatar: When Vedic religion and the dharma of the law books have nearly ceased and the Kali Yuga is almost exhausted, then a part of the creator of the entire universe...the blessed Lord Vasudeva [Vishnu], will become incarnate here in the universe in the form of Kalki.(8)
Some Baha'i scholars have even demonstrated that the prophecies in the Manu Srmiti and other books indicate the exact date of the end of the Kali Yuga and the coming of the Kalki Avatar. This date, 1844, is also the year of the beginning of the Baha'i Faith (see Chapter 8).(9) Therefore Baha'is believe that, faithful to the promises and prophesies recorded in the Hindu holy books, the Lord has now manifested Himself again in the form of the Kalki Avatar. Baha'is believe that this is Baha'u'llah. The purpose of Baha'u'llah's coming is to fulfil the prophecies in the Hindu scriptures and to give us the teachings that will bring in the new Sat or Krta Yuga (Golden Age). As foretold in the Vishnu Purana: He will then establish righteousness upon the earth and the minds of the people will be awakened and become pure as crystal. And these men, the remnant of mankind, will thus be transformed... And these offspring will follow the ways of the Krta Age. (10)
Baha'is believe that through the teachings of Baha'u'llah, which are described in this book, these prophecies will be fulfilled. As a result the Sat or Krta Yuga (Golden Age) will be established. Text taken from Hinduism and the Baha'i Faith © Moojan Momen 1996. All Rights Reserved
1. Bhagavad Gita 4:7-8.
2. Bhagavata Purana XII, 2:2-3.
3. Bhagavata Purana XII, 3:24, 25, 30-33, 35, 37-39.
4. For prophecies from the Ramayana and Mahabharata, see H.M. Munje, The Whole World is but One Family, pp. 32-40; from the Vishnu Purana, 4:24. See also Bhagavata Purana, vol. 12, 2:1-15.
5. Baha'u'llah, Gleanings, LXI, p. 118.
6. Vivekananda, Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, vol. 6, p. 187.
7. Vishnu Purana 6:1.
8. Vishnu Purana 4:24. See also Bhagavata Purana XII, 2:16.
9. See Munje, 1844 A.D. - The Pinpoint Target of all Faiths and also Mishra, Kalki Avatar. 10. Vishnu Purana 4:24.
Some sites at which I have posted on the subject of Hinduism: