OCHS Newsletter, Winter 2009: Hindu Studies in China

January 20th, 2009 | Posted by ww-seva in writing - (Comments Off)
ganges-varanasi

From the latest Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies newletter, Winter 2009 (http://www.ochs.org.uk) Hindu studies in China The Department of Cultural and Religious Studies (CRS), at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), – the oldest department of religious studies in the Chinese speaking world – has raised funding for a professorship in Indian Religions and Culture. This post was held by OCHS Fellow, Dr Kenneth Valpey in its inaugural year. Students taking Dr Valpey’s courses were from different academic and cultural backgrounds (from Hong Kong, Mainland China, and overseas). In addition to formal teaching, Dr. Valpey also organised several film appreciation meetings for students and staff to introduce the Hindu traditions in an enjoyable way. Dr Valpey attended a conference on religious experience jointly organized by CRS and the Department of Religious Studies, Peking University, held in Beijing in 2008. His paper on ‘The Experience of Authority and the Authority of Experience: The Bhagavad-gita in Dialogue with Modern “Religious Experience” Discourse’ was subsequently accepted for publication by Beida Journal of Philosophy, a journal published by the Peking University Press and widely recognised as one of the best known journals in philosophy and religious studies published in China. Following Dr Valpey’s work, a meeting took place in July 2008 between Prof. Lai Pan-chiu (Chairman and Professor of …
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caitanya.jpg

A major portion of the writings given to the world by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada consists of his English translation of and purports (commentaries) to the canonical biography of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, theCaitanya-caritamrta, written in the early 17th century by Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami. Srila Prabhupada’s commentary to the verses of Caitanya-caritamrtaconsist largely of direct translations of the Bengali commentary written by his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. However, on occasion Srila Prabhupada either elaborated on the previous commentary or wrote his own for a particular verse. In several of these purports Srila Prabhupada refers, in general terms, to persons and circumstances following the demise of his spiritual master-persons who were, like Srila Prabhupada, disciples of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, and circumstances related to the progress or lack of progress in Gaudiya Vaisnava missionary activity. In such instances, apparently in response to criticisms from various quarters, Srila Prabhupada wanted to make clear that the society he founded in 1966, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, is an institution to be recognized as authentically representing and realizing the wishes of his own spiritual master and of the previous acaryas (revered teachers in the succession of teachers reaching back to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu). It is also clear that he sought to warn and immunize his own disciples against the …
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Arcana as Yoga in the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava Tradition

October 7th, 2008 | Posted by ww-seva in writing - (Comments Off)
prabhupada-performing-arati

There are interesting parallels between the classical eightfold Yoga system delineated in the Yoga-sūtras of Patañjali and the bhakti-yoga system delineated in the Bhagavad-gītā and Bhāgavata Purāṇa, both traditionally attributed to Kṛṣṇa-Dvaipāyana Vyāsa. Yet at least as striking as the similarities are the differences between the two systems, both in their philosophical underpinnings and in their practices. In this context, the integrative character of bhakti, whereby the bipolar features of yoga and worship[1] come together, is especially worthy of consideration. The most visible, and at the same time most formalized, practice of the bhakti-yogasystem is called arcana, involving carefully prescribed ritual practices which together constitute worship of images, known as arca-vigrahas or arca-mūrtis. In this paper I wish to briefly outline these practices as they reflect the stages of yogapractice in classical Yoga, and to touch on how the philosophical understanding of God as the absolute in the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava tradition of bhakti brings a fundamentally different understanding to the word yoga than is found in the classical Yoga system. The philosophy and process of arcana, or formal worship of images, is delineated for Vaiṣṇavas-worshipers of Viṣṇu as the Supreme-in a collection of texts known as Pañcarātra. Though generally considered of relatively recent origin,[2]  the tradition itself identifies them as canonical, carrying equal validity with the original four Vedic Saṁhitās, yet conveying greater import for the present degraded age of Kali. Even more important for Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas is …
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krishna-arjuna

This is an essay I wrote for a seminar, “Christ in Light of Hindu Theology” at the Graduate Theological Union in 1997. Professor Francis X. Clooney, S.J., who later became my doctoral supervisor, led the seminar. This is an exploratory essay, preliminary thoughts on a theme that could be developed further. While reflecting on some of Bede Griffiths’ observations about the Bhagavad-gita in his Christian commentary River of Compassion I was somewhat dissatisfied with his perhaps too simple contrast of the Gita with the Judeo-Christian perspective in regard to time and historicity. As he writes, whereas cosmic religion (i.e. Indian religion) is cyclic in its view of time, “the religion of Israel concerns God’s revelation not in the cosmos but in history, and this is constantly emphasized in contemporary Biblical studies.”[1] With ideas culled from Marcus Borg’s bookMeeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary Faith I am tempted to explore a possible softening of this distinction, especially in light of what Borg calls “macro-stories” of the Bible, in the interest of bringing the two traditions closer together for mutual benefit.[2]             In the context of current discussion on narrative theology, Borg identifies three basic narratives which define the Judeo-Christian faith experience — the Exodus Story, the Story of Exile and Return, and the Priestly …
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Kshetra Samachar – News from the Field

September 21st, 2008 | Posted by ww-seva in from field | news - (Comments Off)
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Kshetra Samachar – News from the Field

December 21st, 2007 | Posted by ww-seva in from field | news - (Comments Off)
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Goat Sacrifice

September 16th, 2007 | Posted by ww-seva in writing - (Comments Off)
Akash-Bhairab

Last Tuesday I began my university lecture (in a course called “Tradition and Modernity in India”) on the ancient Indian brahmanical ritual tradition by first showing on the digital projector screen a news item from the BBC with the headline “Goats sacrificed to fix Nepal jet”. Here is the link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6979292.stm According to the report, the recent sacrifice (to “Akash Bhairab” – Bhairava being a fierce form of Shiva popular in Nepal) seemed to be successful, because soon thereafter the persistently troubled Nepal Airlines jet was fixed so that it could make its flight to Hong Kong. Aside from this intriguing blend of religion with technology, with questions one might raise about this incident and its ramifications for contemporary life, one wonders what might a Vaishnava best comment about it (especially if she or he is talking to a Shaivite). Thoughts anyone?

Kshetra Samachar – News from the Field

September 2nd, 2007 | Posted by ww-seva in from field | news - (Comments Off)
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