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This introductory work proposes a fresh take on the ancient Indian concept dharma. By unfolding how, even in its developments as "law" and custom, dharma participates in nuanced and multifarious understandings of the term that play out in India’s great spiritual traditions, the book offers insights into the innovative character of both Hindu and Buddhist usages of the concept. Alf Hiltebeitel, in an original approach to early Buddhist usages, explores how the Buddhist canon brought out different meanings of dharma. This is followed by an exposition of the hypothesis that most, if not all, of the Hindu law books flowered after the third-century BC emperor Asoka, a Buddhist, made dharma the guiding principle of an entire realm and culture. A discussion built around the author’s expertise on the Sanskrit epics shows how their narratives amplified the new Brahmanical norms and brought out the ethical dilemmas and spiritual teachings that arose from inquiry into dharma. A chapter on the tale of the Life of the Buddha considers the relation between dharma, moksa/nirvana (salvation), and bhakti (devotion). Here, Hiltebeitel ties together a thread that runs through the entire story, which is the Buddha’s tendency to present dharma as a kind of civil discourse. In this sense, dharma challenges people to think critically or at least more creatively about their ethical principles and the foundations of their own spiritual values. A closing chapter on dharma in the twenty-first century explores its new cachet in an era of globalization, its diasporic implications, its openings into American popular culture, some implications for women, and the questions it is still raising for modern India.
Female Ascetics in Hinduism provides a vivid account of the lives of women renouncers—women who renounce the world to live ascetic spiritual lives—in India. The author approaches the study of female asceticism by focusing on features of two dharmas, two religiously defined ways of life: that of woman-as-householder and that of the ascetic, who, for various reasons, falls outside the realm of householdership. The result of fieldwork conducted in Vaµran|aµsi (Benares), the book explores renouncers’ social and personal backgrounds, their institutions, and their ways of life. Offering a first-hand look at and an insightful analysis of this little-known world, this highly readable book will be indispensable to those interested in female asceticism in the Hindu tradition and women’s spiritual lives around the world.
Religion and the Fate of Agriculture
The costs of industrial agriculture are astonishing in terms of damage to the environment, human health, animal suffering, and social equity, and the situation demands that we expand our ecological imagination to meet this crisis. In response to growing dissatisfaction with the existing food system, farmers and consumers are creating alternate models of production and consumption that are both sustainable and equitable. In Growing Stories from India: Religion and the Fate of Agriculture, author A. Whitney Sanford uses the story of the deity Balaram and the Yamuna River as a foundation for discussing the global food crisis and illustrating the Hindu origins of agrarian thought. By employing narrative as a means of assessing modern agriculture, Sanford encourages us to reconsider our relationship with the earth. Merely creating new stories is not enough—she asserts that each story must lead to changed practices. Growing Stories from India demonstrates that conventional agribusiness is only one of many options and engages the work of modern agrarian luminaries to explore how alternative agricultural methods can be implemented.
Gurus in America provides an excellent introduction to the guru phenomenon in the United States, with in-depth analyses of nine important Hindu gurus—Adi Da, Ammachi, Mayi Chidvilasananda, Gurani Anjali, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Osho, Ramana Maharshi, Sai Baba, and Swami Bhaktivedanta. All of these gurus have attracted significant followings in the U.S. and nearly all have lived here for considerable periods of time. The book’s contributors discuss the characteristics of each guru’s teachings, the history of each movement, and the particular construction of Hinduism each guru offers. Contributors also address the religious and cultural interaction, translation, and transplantation that occurs when gurus offer their teachings in America. This is a fascinating guide that will elucidate an important element in America’s diverse and ever-changing spiritual landscape.
Most Americans know about the "Hare Krishnas" only from encounters in airports or from tales of their activities in the East Village and Haight-Ashbury in the 1960s. This entertaining and sensitive book deepens our knowledge by tracing the paths of those Western Hare Krishnas who eventually traveled to or lived in India. The charismatic leader of the sect, the Indian monk Swami Bhaktivedanta, aimed to save Westerners from what he saw as materialism and atheism by converting them to worship of the Hindu god Krishna. In addition, he hoped that Western disciples would inspire Indians to rediscover their own religious heritage. Charles Brooks describes in full detail the work of the "reverse missionaries" in the town of Vrindaban--which, since it is traditionally considered to be identical with Krishna's spiritual world, is one of the holiest places in India and the site of some of its most engaging rituals.
Have the Western Hare Krishnas really become part of Indian culture? Can it be that Indians accept these foreigners as essentially Hindu and even Brahman? Brooks answers in a way that radically challenges our accepted images of Indian social dynamics. Analyzing the remarkable success of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and their temple complex in Vrindaban (where Bhaktivedanta was buried in 1977), Brooks describes the intricate social, economic, and religious relationships between Westerners and Indians. He demonstrates that social rank in the town is based not only on caste but also on religious competence: many Indians of Vrindaban believe, in Bhaktivedanta's words, that "Krishna is for all."
Originally published in 1989.
The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.
Hindu Mythology and the Critique of Sacrifice
S. Cromwell Crawford breaks new ground in this provocative study of Hindu bioethics in a Western setting. He provides a new moral and philosophical perspective on fascinating and controversial bioethical issues that are routinely in the news: cloning, genetic engineering, the human genome project, reproductive technologies, the end of life, and many more. This Hindu perspective is particularly noteworthy because of India’s own indigenous medical system, which is stronger than ever and drawing continued interest from the West. The Hindu bioethics presented in this book are philosophically pluralistic and ethically contextual, giving them that conceptual flexibility which is often missing in Western religions, but which is demanded by the twenty-first century’s complex moral problems. Comprehensive in scope and passionate in nature, Crawford’s study is an important resource for analyses of practical ethics, bioethics, and health care.