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
  • 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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