Sources of Indian Religion and Philosophy

The concept of spirituality is a powerful analytic tool when it comes to the examination of various binaries in Western culture: the sacred and the secular, society and the individual, authority and the subject, the this-worldly and the other-worldly. In some instances, 'spirituality' as a form of life emphasizes the shift in importance from one to the other elements of binary sets (from institutional authority to the subject); in others, it even challenges the binary (between this- and other-worldly concerns). This module seeks to bring the insights and disciplines of Asian (and other) studies to bear on the theories that arose in Western contexts. In this way, a richer, global understanding of paradigms, trends and presuppositions can emerge in the study of spirituality and its relationship to religion, society, secularism, modernity and other conceptual categories. The module will look at experiences of Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and Shinto (amongst other) traditions in order to query the binaries mentioned above in very different, complementary and sometimes incompatible ways relative to those familiar to the Western, (post-)Christian experience. The major topics will be: Situating the concepts of religion and spirituality in Asian traditions; Practical Spirituality: asking for this world; Practical Spirituality and Pilgrimage; Possession: healing beyond mind/body dualisms; Possession: class, religious and gender identities; The Goddess: What has She done for women?; Sexing spirituality: and Hindu women's rituals; Religion, Spirituality and the environment. There will be weeks given over to student presentations and discussions.

Upon successful completion of the module, the student will have gained knowledge of the relevance of the concept of 'spirituality' in Asian religious and cultural traditions; explored various theoretical and empirical strategies in the study of Asian spiritualities; and learnt to study spirituality in Asian traditions in terms suited to and derived from their native contexts.

Select bibliography

Alter, Joseph. 2004. Yoga in Modern India: The Body Between Science and Philosophy. Princeton: PUP

Davdal, Sonal (ed.). 2006 Looking for directions: Towards an Asian spirituality, Sutton: South Asian Concern

Ghadially, R. (ed.) . 1988. Women in Indian Society: A Reader. New Delhi: Sage Publications

Gosling, D.L. 2001. Religion and ecology in India and South East Asian. London: Routledge

Obeyesekere, G. 1981. Medusa's Hair. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

Pintchman, Tracy. 1994. The rise of the Goddess in the Hindu tradition. Albany: State University of New York Press

Ramaswamy, Vijaya. 1997. Walking naked: women, society, spirituality in South India. Shimla: Indian Institute of Advanced Study

Reader, I. and George Tanabe. 1998. Practically religious: worldly benefits and the common religion of Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press