The Oxford History of Hinduism: Hindu Practice

ISBN : 9780198733508

Gavin Flood
464 Pages
153 x 234 mm
Pub date
Jul 2020
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Traditions of asceticism, yoga, and devotion (bhakti), including dance and music, developed in Hinduism over long periods of time. Some of these practices, notably those denoted by the term yoga, are orientated towards salvation from the cycle of reincarnation and go back several thousand years. These practices, borne witness to in ancient texts called Upanisads, as well as in other traditions, notably early Buddhism and Jainism, are the subject of this volume in the Oxford History of Hinduism. Practices of meditation are also linked to asceticism (tapas) and its institutional articulation in renunciation (samnyasa). There is a range of practices or disciplines from ascetic fasting to taking a vow (vrata) for a deity in return for a favour. There are also devotional practices that might involve ritual, making an offering to a deity and receiving a blessing, dancing, or visualization of the master (guru). The overall theme-the history of religious practices-might even be seen as being within a broader intellectual trajectory of cultural history. In the substantial introduction by the editor this broad history is sketched, paying particular attention to what we might call the medieval period (post-Gupta) through to modernity when traditions had significantly developed in relation to each other. The chapters in the book chart the history of Hindu practice, paying particular attention to indigenous terms and recognizing indigenous distinctions such as between the ritual life of the householder and the renouncer seeking liberation, between 'inner' practices of and 'external' practices of ritual, and between those desirous of liberation (mumuksu) and those desirous of pleasure and worldly success (bubhuksu). This whole range of meditative and devotional practices that have developed in the history of Hinduism are represented in this book.


Gavin Flood: Introduction: A History of Hindu Practice
Part I: Textual Sources
1 Cezary Galewicz: Ritual, Ascetic, and Meditative Practice in the Veda and Upaniṣads
2 Johannes Bronkhorst: Historical Context of Early Asceticism
3 John Brockington: Religious Practices in the Sanskrit Epics
Part II: History of Ascetic Institutions
4 Patrick Olivelle: The Early History of Renunciation
5 Sondra Hausner: The Later Institution of Renunciation
Part III: Histories of Practice
6 Natalia R. Lidova: Pūjā
7 Arcana Venkateshan: Bhakti
8 Philipp Maas: Patañjali's Yoga-sūras and Traditions
9 James Mallinson: History of Haṭha Yoga
10 Jason Birch: The Quest for Liberation-in-Life in Early Haṭha and Rājayoga
11 Gavin Flood: Śaiva Practice
12 Rich Freeman: Possession as Spiritual Practice
13 Lynne Bansat-Boudon: Theatre as Religious Practice
14 Richard David Williams: Sounding Out the Divine: Musical Practice as Theology in samāj gāyan
15 Tracy Pinchman: Women's Observances (Vrata)
Part IV: Asceticism and Yoga in Modern Hinduism
16 Faisal Devji: Modern Political Religious Practice
17 Sunila S. Kale and Christian Lee Novetzke: Legal Yoga
18 Elizabeth de Michelis: Modern Yoga
19 Dan Gold: Guru Focused Spiritual Practice

About the author: 

Gavin Flood is Professor of Hindu Studies and Comparative Religion at Oxford University and a Senior Research Fellow of Campion Hall. He is also Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies and Yap Kim Hao Visiting Professor of Comparative Religious Studies at Yale-NUS, Singapore. Before coming to Oxford, he taught at the universities of Stirling and Wales (Lampeter). He has research interests in Hindu tantric traditions, comparative religion, and phenomenology.

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