Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
In this magisterial volume of essays, Wendy Doniger enhances our understanding of the ancient and complex religion to which she has devoted herself for half a century. This series of interconnected essays and lectures surveys the most critically important and hotly contested issues in Hinduism over 3,500 years, from the ancient time of the Vedas to the present day.
The essays contemplate the nature of Hinduism; Hindu concepts of divinity; attitudes concerning gender, control, and desire; the question of reality and illusion; and the impermanent and the eternal in the two great Sanskrit epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Among the questions Doniger considers are: Are Hindus monotheists or polytheists? How can atheists be Hindu, and how can unrepentant Hindu sinners find salvation? Why have Hindus devoted so much attention to the psychology of addiction? What does the significance of dogs and cows tell us about Hinduism? How have Hindu concepts of death, rebirth, and karma changed over the course of history? How and why does a pluralistic faith, remarkable for its intellectual tolerance, foster religious intolerance?
Doniger concludes with four concise autobiographical essays in which she reflects on her lifetime of scholarship, Hindu criticism of her work, and the influence of Hinduism on her own philosophy of life. On Hinduism is the culmination of over forty years of scholarship from a renowned expert on one of the world's great faiths.
dangerous the senses can be—and likens them to horses: ‘For, just as a horse in full gallop, blinded by the energy of his own speed, pays no attention to any post or hole or ditch on the path, so two lovers blinded by passion in the friction of sexual battle are caught up in their fierce energy and pay no attention to danger.’6 It is, I think, significant that the senses were analogized not to unglamorous tame animals like pigs or dogs, nor to violent wild animals like lions or crocodiles, but to
animals may also have been a reaction to the increasing number of animals sacrificed in more and more elaborate ceremonies. Sacrifice was still violent, and sacrifice was still power, but a murmur of protest and discontent was growing steadily stronger, soon to find its voice, faintly in the Upanishads and loudly in the Mahabharata. ASHOKA, C. 304-232 BCE An important moment in the history of ambivalence toward the killing of animals in India came during the reign of the emperor Ashoka, in
horses; contemporary breeders now add calcium, manganese, iron and salt to the horses’ diet. After Independence, Indian breeders found some places suitable for breeding (though I heard Hindu and Parsi stud owners complain, still in 1996, that Pakistan got the best grazing land). Today, in Punjab, Maharashtra and Karnataka there is some horse-breeding, and Pune, Mumbai and Calcutta are breeding centres for thoroughbred horses. But the difficulties in breeding large horses are perennial. Kathiawar
literature, based as it is on geometry (the measurement of the sacrificial altar, one reason why mathematics developed so early in India) and grammar (the central paradigm out of which all sacred commentary develops). The rice-powder designs are a woman’s way of abstracting religious meanings; they are a woman’s visual grammar.26 The analogy between the kolam designs and the Vedic sacrificial hall has further implications of impermanence, for the hall was burnt down after the ritual. Like these
heaven; they were all permitted to die because by this time all their children were dead. [16.8.16-24] The association of women with fire is worthy of note. Draupadi, who does not die on her husbands’ funeral pyres (because [a] she dies before them and [b] they don’t have funeral pyres—they walk up into heaven at the end of the story), begins rather than ends her life in fire: she is born out of her father’s fire-altar: Drupada performed a sacrifice in order to get a son who would kill his