Professor Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad Fellow of the British AcademyDistinguished Professor
Areas of Expertise
Indian (Hindu, Buddhist, Jain) and comparative phenomenology, epistemology, metaphysics, theology, and philosophy of religion; religion, politics and conflict; South Asian religious identities in contemporary Britain; the conceptual sources of modern Hindu life and beliefs.
Books and other publications
Papers: Around fifty papers in a wide range of journals like Philosophy East and West, Journal of Indian Philosophy, Ageing and Society, Contemporary South Asia, Journal of Hindu Studies, etc., and edited volumes.
Knowledge and Liberation in Classical Indian Thought, Library of Philosophy and Religion, Palgrave, Basingstoke, 2001
Advaita Epistemology and Metaphysics: An Outline of Indian Non-Realism, Routledge Curzon, London, 2002
Eastern Philosophy, Weidenfield and Nicholson, London, 2005
India: Life, Myth and Art, Duncan Baird, London, 2006
Indian Philosophy and the Consequences of Knowledge: Themes in metaphysics, ethics and soteriology Ashgate, Aldershot, 2007
Divine Self, Human Self. The Philosophy of Being in Two Gita Commentaries, Bloomsbury, New York, 2013 Winner of the Best Book 2011-15, Society for Hindu Christian Studies
Human Being, Bodily Being: phenomenological case studies from classical India, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2018
Current research projects:
1. I am working on a book project on developing a philosophical anthropology of emotion through a reading of classical Indian narrative and aesthetic texts.
2. I am Co-I on a Leverhulme project with Profs Phiroze Vasunia and Francesca Orsini and Dr Maddalena Italia, 'Comparative Classics', which explores conceptions of the classical in Sanskrit, Greek, Latin and Indo-Persian, and interrogates their modern and contemporary understandings in India and the West.
Recent and past research projects:
3. Conceptions of bodily being in classical Indian thought. I recently published a book that looks at how different intuitions about the bodily nature of phenomenology are expressed in different genres of classical Indian materials - a medical compendium, the Caraka Saṃhitā (c 1st c); narrative of a debate on gender and metaphysics from the Mahābhārata (c 1st c); distinctive contemplative practices in Buddhaghosa's 5th c Pāli manual, the Visuddhimagga; and the erotic poetry of Śrī Harṣa's major court poem, the Naiṣadhacarita (12th c).
4. Dialogue and its possibilities: I was CI on an AHRC project with Brian Black (PI), 'In Dialogue With the Mahābhārata', 2016-18, which focussed on the implications of the many and varied dialogues narrated in that the great Sanskrit composition. From careful textual and contextual study, we sought to open up the study of dialogue and its purposes, not only in other Indian compositions and genres, but cross-culturally.
5. Religion and politics, with a focus on the theoretical possibilities offered in interpeting political and public religion in the world, outside the constraints of the modern liberal Western experience, especially through a comparative theological analysis of the politics of secularism. In the more specific area of religion and identity in Britain, I worked under a Home Office Grant with Gwen Griffith-Dickson of the Lokahi Foundation, London, to develop an account of integration of Hindus and Muslims into British society. My interest in the role of comparative theology in the political understanding of secular society has led toworking withthe Hindu-Christian Forum in the UK under the auspices of the Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and chairing the then-Archbishop's engagement with Hindu religious teacher-leaders in India in 2010. My project, 'Religion, Immigration and Integration', ran within the ESRC funded Centre for Corpus Approaches to Linguistics at Lancaster University, within which I was a CI (PI, Tony Mcenery): http://cass.lancs.ac.uk/, with Carmen Dayrell as Research Associate.
6. Comparative study of Indian and Chinese philosophies, especially on the issues of self and knowledge. I was the founding co-chair of the Comparative Studies in the Philosophy and Religion of India and China Group at the American Academy of Religion Conferences starting in 2011. This followed a successful five-year Seminar Series on the same topic. I also sit on the Board of the Working Papers Series on India and China of the India-China Institute at the New School, New York.
7. Theories of self: I was PI on a major AHRC research project: Self: HinduResponses to Buddhist Critiques (http://www.lancs.ac.uk/fass/projects/self/index.htm) (2008-11). My work for this project was primarily on i) arguments for the diachronic unity of consciousness and the relationship between subject unity and theories of self; ii) the relationship between personal identity and the unity of consciousness, especially with regard to memory; and iii) the theological and ethical dimensions of Hindu conceptions of human and divine self. An outgrowth of this project, tied also to some elements of 3., below, has been an interest in the neurophilosophical aspects of meditative states, focussing on the conceptual debates about consciousness and selfhood between Hindu and Buddhist practices of meditation. In this regard, I have worked with members of the Mind Life Institute, after presenting papers on Hindu theories of consciousness and contemporary neuroscientific and cognitive scientific issues at Mind Life Institute's first major public conference in India in the presence of HH the Dalai Lama.
8. Theories of consciousness derived from classical Indian thought, for which I held an award from the John Templeton Foundation. My work at the National Institute for Advanced Studies, Bangalore in 2006-07 was primarily on the reconceptualisation of the cognitive science agenda through classical Indian theories of consciousness.
I studied Politics, Sociology and History at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute for Higher Learning in India, and took a doctorate in Philosophy at Oriel College, Oxford. I taught at the National University of Singapore and held Research Fellowships at Trinity College, Oxford and Clare Hall, Cambridge before joining Lancaster. I have also been Visiting Fellow at Benares Hindu University, Ecole Francaise d' Extreme Orient, Pondicherry, De Nobili College, Pune, and Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles and the National Institute for Advanced Studies, Bangalore.
I have a range of interests in global and comparative studies. I sit on the academic advisory council of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, and I am a Senior Fellow of the Mind Life Institute. I also previously sat on the academic council of the Global Religion and Ethics Forum and I was Asia advisor for the Templeton Foundation's Global Perspective on Science and Spirituality Programme, 2004-6, and sat on the Board of the Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy, 2009-11.
I served as the South Asia Reviews Editor of Philosophy East and West (2004-14); and sit on the editorial and advisory board of the Online Forum of the Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy, Blackwell Compass Religion, Diskus, the online journal of the British Association for the Study of Religion, and Fu Jen International Religious Studies.
I am General Editor for Mysticism and Spirituality for the Oxford Research Encyclopedia for Religion, and Editor of the Bloomsbury Research Handbooks on Asian Philosophy.
I regularly lecture at universities in the US, Europe, East Asia and India. Apart from many invited conference talks and plenary lectures, major lectures have included the Weidenfield Lecture, Glasgow University, 2006; the Bimal Matilal Memorial Lecture, Jadavpur University, 2007; the Swami Haridas Memorial Lecture, Madras University, 2007; the inaugural Comparative Theology lecture at Harvard Divinity School, 2008, Dahlem Humanities lectures, Free University Berlin, 2011, Majewski Lecture, Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, 2012, the Huntington Lecture, Chapman University, 2103; Royal Institute of Philosophy Lectures in 2012-13 and 2015; the Engelsberg Seminar on the Future of Religion, 2014; the Akhil Gupta Lecture on 'Hindu View of Life' at Harvard University, 2018; etc.
In 2017, I was elected a Fellow of the British Academy. In 2019 I was appointed to its Council.
Selected News and Events
Lectures and discussions
HowTheLightGetsInFestival, 2020, Individualism:The Different Places of the Self'
HoeTheLightGetsIn Festival 2020, Interview on Ideas of the Self
Rutgers University, The Anna Morgan Fund Lecture, March 2021: 'Why Must a Good Hindu Not Believe in God? The Orthodox Answer'
HowTheLightGetsIn Festival 2019: 'A History of the Conscious World'
Keynote, Multicultural Philosophy, Manchester Metropolitan University, July 2019
'Decolonzing Philosophy', Debate for the Insititute of Art and Ideas, HowTheLightGetsIn Festival, Hay-on-Wye
The Akhil Gupta Lecture, Hindu Views of Life, Harvard University, September 2018:
Huntington Lecture at Chapman University on the Hindu woman mystic and poet Ānṭāl in September 2013
November 2010: I took part in the Mind Life Institute's public conference on neuroscience and meditation in Delhi, in the presence of HH the Dalai Lama.I presented two papers, one on general challenges facing the neuroscientific study of Indian meditative practices and the role of a proper understanding of the classical philosophical arguments that inform those practices; and the other on the specific Hindu school of Advaita Vedanta.
December 2010: Together with my colleague Dr Brian Black, and former colleague Dr Irina Kuznetsova, I conducted a workshop at Gresham College where we sought to present to a wider audience some key findings from the AHRC major research project, Self: Hindu Responses to Buddhist Critiques.
Here are links to some episodes in In Our Time in which I have participated:
The Bhagavad Gītā
Hindu Ideas of Creation
The Goddess Lakshmi
A documentary on the Kumbh Mela
A lecture on gender in the Mahābhārata is podcast by New England Public Radio (NEPR)
BBC World Service, The Forum with Bridget Kendall
BBC Radio 4, Beyond Belief. On Space
[Michaelmas Term 2020
PPR 260: Indian Philosophical and Religious Thought
PPR 362: Religion and Violence
IR100: International Relations, Weeks 5-7
Lent Term 2021
EPR 100: Ethics, Philosophy and Religion - Hinduism and Buddhism, Weeks 6-10
PPR 253 [with Dr Shuruq Naguib]: Religion and Gender
PPR 492d: Religion and Conflict
Comparative philosophy, especially phenomenology, epistemology, metaphysics and theories of consciousness; comparative studies of India and China; classical Indian thought; history of Hinduism; Hindu theology; contemporary Indian politics and religion; multiculturalism and British society; comparative political philosophy
PhD Supervision Interests
Indian Philosophy - classical and modern, especially in: metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, consciousness studies
Comparative Philosophy, especially Indian and Western: metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, consciousness studies,and political thought
Comparative Hindu and Christian theology
Religion and politics: South Asia, and comparative studies
Multiculturalism and British society
Comparative Classics: Greece, Rome, India
01/04/2021 → 31/03/2024
ESRC centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science - CASS
31/03/2013 → 30/03/2018
Hindu senses of self: Critiques of Buddhist Reductionism
01/01/2008 → 31/03/2011
Discourses around Religion, Citizenship and Integration