Hinduism: Past and Present / Edition 1

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Overview

Hinduism is currently followed by one-fifth of humankind. Far from a monolithic theistic tradition, the religion comprises thousands of gods, a complex caste system, and hundreds of languages and dialects. Such internal plurality inspires vastly ranging rites and practices amongst Hinduism's hundreds of millions of adherents. It is therefore not surprising that scholars have been hesitant to define universal Hindu beliefs and practices. In this book, Axel Michaels breaks this trend. He examines the traditions, beliefs, and rituals Hindus hold in common through the lens of what he deems its "identificatory habitus," a cohesive force that binds Hindu religions together and fortifies them against foreign influences. Thus, in his analysis, Michaels not only locates Hinduism's profoundly differentiating qualities, but also provides the framework for an analysis of its social and religious coherence.

Michaels blends his insightful arguments and probing questions with introductions to major historical epochs, ample textual sources as well as detailed analyses of major life-cycle rituals, the caste system, forms of spiritualism, devotionalism, ritualism, and heroism. Along the way he points out that Hinduism has endured and repeatedly resisted the missionary zeal and universalist claims of Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists. He also contrasts traditional Hinduism with the religions of the West, "where the self is preferred to the not-self, and where freedom in the world is more important than liberation from the world."

Engaging and accessible, this book will appeal to laypersons and scholars alike as the most comprehensive introduction to Hinduism yet published. Not only is Hinduism refreshingly new in its methodological approach, but it also presents a broad range of meticulous scholarship in a clear, readable style, integrating Indology, religious studies, philosophy, anthropological theory and fieldwork, and sweeping analyses of Hindu texts.

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Editorial Reviews

Religious Studies Review - Frederick M. Smith
Despite several recent, and very good, introductions [to Hinduism] in the last fifteen years, this is the one that will likely find its way into the classroom most often—and for good reasons. Highly recommended not only for students, but for mature scholars as well, who will learn a great deal from this excellent volume.
From the Publisher

One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2004

"[An] encyclopedic survey of Hinduism that is amazing in its comprehensive charts, theoretical sophistication, and illustrative detail. . . . Michaels wants to present living Hinduism in contrast to text-dominated descriptions."--Choice

"A wide-ranging, rigorously argued analysis of important ideas."--Library Journal

"Despite several recent, and very good, introductions [to Hinduism] in the last fifteen years, this is the one that will likely find its way into the classroom most often--and for good reasons. Highly recommended not only for students, but for mature scholars as well, who will learn a great deal from this excellent volume."--Frederick M. Smith, Religious Studies Review

Choice
[An] encyclopedic survey of Hinduism that is amazing in its comprehensive charts, theoretical sophistication, and illustrative detail. . . . Michaels wants to present living Hinduism in contrast to text-dominated descriptions.
Religious Studies Review
Despite several recent, and very good, introductions [to Hinduism] in the last fifteen years, this is the one that will likely find its way into the classroom most often—and for good reasons. Highly recommended not only for students, but for mature scholars as well, who will learn a great deal from this excellent volume.
— Frederick M. Smith
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691089539
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 12/8/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 456
  • Sales rank: 852,708
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.22 (h) x 1.07 (d)

Table of Contents


List of Illustrations ix

List of Tables xi

Preface xiii

Pronunciation of Indian Words xvii

THEORETICAL AND HISTORICAL FOUNDATIONS

CHAPTER 1. Theoretical Foundations 3

Is India Different? 3

The Identificatory Habitus 5

What Is Hinduism? 12

Hinduism and Hindu-ness 13

Religion and Dharma 15

Hindu Religions and Hindu Religiosity 21

Great and Little Hinduism 25

Continuity and Change 27

CHAPTER 2. Historical Foundations 31

Epochs in the History of Religions 31

First Epoch: Prevedic Religions 31

Second Epoch: Vedic Religion 33

Third Epoch: Ascetic Reformism 36

Fourth Epoch: Classical Hinduism 38

Fifth Epoch: Sects of Hinduism 43

Sixth Epoch: Modern Hinduism 45

Religious Literature 47

Vedic Literature 50

The Literature of the Ascetic Reformism 57

The Literature of Classical Hinduism 58

The Literatures of the Hindu Sects 62

Literatures of Modern Hinduism 66

RELIGION AND SOCIETY

CHAPTER 3. Stages of Life and Rites of Passage 71

Initiation 71

The Salvational Goal of Initiation 72

The Second Birth 77

Pre-Rites 77

Tonsure 85

Natural Birth, Ritual Birth, New Birth 88

The Sacred Thread 92

Consecration of the Ascetic, Consecration of the Student, Consecration of the Man 94

Childhood and Socialization 99

The Early Years 102

Parentage and the "Oceanic Feeling" 104

Sacred Fatherhood 108

Wedding and Matrimony 111

The Wedding 113

The Daughter as Gift 115

Kinship, Alliance, and Descent 120

The Situation of the Woman 124

Death and Life after Death 131

The Brahmanic Ritual of Dying and Death 132

Ancestor Worship 144

Widow-Burning and Religiously Motivated Suicide 149

The Ban on Killing and Ahim? 153

Karma and Rebirth 154

Mortality and Immortality 157

CHAPTER 4. The Social System 159

Social Stratification 159

The Caste Society 160

Segmentation 165

Social Contacts 175

Greeting 176

Touching 178

Eating 180

Purity and Impurity 184

Religious and Social Hierarchy 187

Priests and the Supremacy of the Brahmans 188

Religious and Economic Centrality 194

Hierarchies of the Gift 197

CHAPTER 5. Religiosity 201

The Idea of God and the Pantheon 201

Equitheism and Homotheism 202

Visnu, Krsna, and the Centrality of the Gods 211

Siva in the Great and Little Traditions 215

Ganesa and the Miracle 221

Wild and Mild Goddesses 223

Elements of Religiosity 226

Prayer 227

Looks 230

Ritual Acts 233

Ritualism 235

The Brahmanic-Sanskritic Morning Ritual 236

Divine Worship (puja) 241

Sacrifice 246

Devotionalism and Theistic Traditions 252

Bhakti Movements 252

The Grace of the Gods 255

Spiritualism and Mysticism 259

The Identification Doctrine of the Upanishads 259

The Psycho-Physical Identifications of Samkhya and Yoga 264

Samkara's Doctrine of Nonduality 269

Special Features of Indian Mysticism 270

Heroism and Kingship 272

Akharas: Religious Centers of Strength 273

Power and Authority of the King 276

King and Ascetic 279

FROM DESCENT TO TRANSCENDENCE

CHAPTER 6. Religious Ideas of Space and Time 283

Religious Awareness of Space 284

Spaces and Directions as Sacred Powers 284

Pilgrimage Sites and Their Hierarchy 288

Astrology and the Cosmic Place of Man 291

Religious and Scientific Concepts of Space 292

Religious Awareness of Time 295

Ancient Indian Cosmogonies 296

Creation in Classical Mythology 298

The Doctrine of the Ages of the World 300

Cyclical and Linear Time: The Calendar 304

Unity of Space and Time: Festivals 310

Religious and Scientific Ideas of Time 313

CHAPTER 7. Immortality in Life 315

Asceticism: Life in Transcendence 315

Ascetic Practice and Sects 316

Asceticism and Sacrifice 322

The Salvation of Identifications 325

The Socioreligious Function of Norms of Purity 326

Descent and Autonomy 329

The Logic of the Identifications 332

The "Theology" of the Hindu Religions: Identity of God and Man 340

Notes 345

Glossary 375

References 381

Index 419

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