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Hidden Lives of Brahman, The

Sankara's Vedanta through His Upanisad Commentaries, in Light of Contemporary Practice

Joël André-Michel Dubois

Publication Year: 2013

Uses both textual and ethnographic sources to demonstrate that in Śaṅkara’s vedānta, brahman is an active force as well as a transcendent ultimate.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Cover

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p. C-C

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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Pronunciation of Sanskrit Words

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pp. xi-xii

The pronunciation of Sanskrit words is made easier than it might at first seem by the fact that the language is extraordinarily consistent. Unlike English, each distinct sound is represented in only one way. Therefore, any given letter of the alphabet, even in transliteration, is to be pronounced in one—and only one—manner....

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Foreword

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pp. xiii-xiv

The Vedānta tradition has a long, glorious history. The Vedas serve as the foundation for the ritual life of India. Their associated Upāniṣads comprise the philosophical substratum for all later schools of Indian thought. Vedic seers or ṛṣis composed hymns and taught them to their children and grandchildren. The oral transmission of the Vedas and Upāniṣads texts has ensured...

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Preface

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pp. xv-xx

The term vedānta (“the limit of veda”) most literally refers to upāniṣads. These are works found towards the limit, or end, of the collection of hymns, ritual formulas, proclamations and stories known as “veda,” which Hindu brāhmaṇas (Brahmins) chant and memorize up to the present day. The term “vedānta” also implies that such sources describe the limit, the highest goal,...

Abbreviations

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pp. xxi-xxii

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Chapter 1

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pp. 1-26

Most interpreters have regarded Śaṅkara’s works as an intellectual tradition concerned primarily with brahman, understood as the ultimate reality transcending all particular manifestations, words, and concepts. Śaṅkara’s primary teaching, this view asserts, is that the transcendent ...

Part 1

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Chapter 2

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pp. 29-50

Upāsana refers most broadly to the way brāhmaṇas throughout history have envisioned and venerated deities, sacred entities, and natural elements that reveal some aspect of the formless expanse of brahman. In contemporary brāhmaṇa practice, upāsana is typically directed towards sunrise, sunset, and food prepared for consumption, envisioning these simple...

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Chapter 3

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pp. 51-74

In this chapter I describe the lived reality of upāsana practice, so far analyzed primarily in terms of verbal and ritual details: the communities of brāhmaṇas who throughout history have sought to perceive brahman through upāsana. Observing upāsana as a living practice in contemporary brāhmaṇa communities, and then hearing what brāhmaṇas say about that ...

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Chapter 4

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pp. 75-104

Given the wide-ranging influence of the upāsana rituals described in the previous two chapters, which involve engagement with phenomena (vedic recitation, yajña and more condensed brāhmaṇa rituals) encompassed by ancient uses of the term “brahman,” it is not surprising to find Śaṅkara using upāsana-like declarations, designed to inspire contemplation of the...

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Chapter 5

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pp. 107-148

Apart from training in upāsana practice, there is another layer of cultural particularity that frames Śaṅkara’s proclamations of trans-cultural truth, equally essential to his teaching method: the grammar, aesthetics, and logic learned by studying the Saṁskṛta language. Śaṅkara values the way Saṁskṛta grammar, aesthetics, and logic work together to condition the ...

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Chapter 6

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pp. 149-178

In this chapter I describe the social context, alluded to in the previous chapter, which frames Śaṅkara’s reliance on the widely influential forms of Saṁskṛta conditioning surveyed there: the world of brāhmaṇa teachers who have throughout history trained students in analyzing and deploying Saṁskṛta words to protect and praise the brahman-power inherent in vedic ...

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Chapter 7

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pp. 179-238

Given the frequent emphasis on aesthetic sensitivity in the Saṁskṛta training described in previous chapters—which enables brāhmaṇas to defend and artfully glorify the brahman-power of vedic rituals and sources, and thus confirms their being “of brahman” (brāhmaṇa)—it is not surprising that Śaṅkara makes distinctively artful and imaginative use of imagery and...

Part 3

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Chapter 8

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pp. 241-284

The preceding chapters have noted that Śaṅkara strongly emphasizes brahman’s radically transcendent nature, stressing that it is the blindness of avidyā—the antithesis of brahman-insight—that perceives a world of diversity and thereby causes the bondage of saṁsāra, cycling from birth to birth. Yet like Suthren Hirst (2005, 90) in her emphasis on “the pedagogical ...

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Chapter 9

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pp. 285-304

In this chapter I describe the actual people who take most seriously Śaṅkara’s call for discriminating the constant from the inconstant, the first of Śaṅkara’s prerequisites for inquiry into brahman: contemporary followers of vedānta living lives of renunciation. The fact that the most visible of those committed to this teaching are formal renouncers, who have set aside ...

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Chapter 10

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pp. 305-346

Just as understanding mīmāṁsā goals and methods is the key to understanding Śaṅkara’s characterization of Prajāpati in BUbh1 (chapter 8) and Śaṅkara’s multilayered response to the diversity of ways people approach saṁnyāsa (chapter 9), so too such understanding reveals that Śaṅkara assumes many seekers will experience constant brahman-insight dawning...

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Conclusion

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pp. 347-348

To those familiar with Śaṅkara’s teaching primarily via later interpreters, the culturally particular practices highlighted in preceding chapters might initially seem peripheral to Śaṅkara’s central concern with realizing brahman, the expansive, mysterious interconnection of all things, regarded as each individual’s true nature. It is by working in from the periphery, ...

Appendix

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pp. 349-352

Notes

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pp. 353-394

Bibliography

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pp. 395-404

Index

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pp. 405-424


E-ISBN-13: 9781438448077
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438448053

Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: SUNY series in Religious Studies

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Śaṅkarācārya.
  • Upanishads -- Criticism, interpretation, etc.
  • Vedanta.
  • Brahman.
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