Posts Tagged ‘Hinduism’

March 28th, 2017

Scholar or retailer of import goods? Reza Aslan, his guru, and his critics

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Image via Ken Wieland [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons“I came to Varanasi India to do a show about Hinduism, about karma, reincarnation, the caste system, and a little known Hindu sect called the Aghori. That’s when things got out of hand,” Reza Aslan narrates in the opening minute of his new show, Believer. The narration is accompanied by shots of Aslan riding down the Ganges on the bow of a boat, saffron robed Hindu holy men, fires burning on the ghats, cows, and ascetics covered in ashes.

Aslan’s new show is a kind of Anthony Bourdain, but for religion. Each week our fearless host embeds with a different religious community. It’s spiritual adventure television. In the debut episode, Aslan visits Varanasi to spend time among the Aghori, a small sect of ascetics that attempt to dismantle distinctions between pure and impure by engaging in rituals of defilement. After making him bathe in the Ganges, the Aghori guru promises to teach Aslan the ways of the Aghori. They offer Aslan human brains and charred human remains to eat. They cover him in ashes from the cremation ground. While the episode shifts focus later to a group of middle-class Aghori that use the rejection of purity distinctions to fight against caste discrimination and pursue social justice, it is the exotic images of the ascetics on the riverbank that dominated the advertising for the show and the reaction to it afterward.

May 15th, 2014

The complicated case of Narendra Modi’s visa

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Monday, May 12th, marked the ninth and final phase of India’s general elections, and the results announced in coming hours will likely declare Narendra Modi as India’s prime minister. Modi, the candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance, would then lead the world largest democracy—one with a staggering 814.5 million registered voters—but has been denied entry into ours: for almost a decade, the Department of State has banned Modi from entering the United States. Looking back at how this came to be highlights the uneven history of religious freedom as part of American foreign policy.

July 3rd, 2013

Judge rules yoga not a threat to separation of church and state

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A judge in California ruled on Monday that teaching yoga in public schools does not violate the U.S. Constitution’s separation of church and state. The ruling came as a response to a lawsuit brought forth by parents in the Encinitas school district, in which the parents argued that teaching yoga in public schools was a form of indoctrination.

May 2nd, 2012

Religious freedom as crisis claims

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Adopted in 1950, Article 17 of the Indian Constitution legally abolished untouchability—the ancient Hindu system of social discrimination—forbade its practice in any form, and made the enforcement of any discrimination arising out of this disability a criminal offence. At the same time, the Indian Constitution guaranteed freedom of religious belief and practice under Article 25 and autonomy of religious institutions under Article 26. The discussion of Employment Division v. Smith in Winnifred Sullivan’s post and subsequent comments reminded me of the very substantial jurisprudence surrounding Article 26.

April 26th, 2012

The problem of translation: A view from India

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What is the politics of religious freedom? For the past decade and more, those who would like to see the active promotion of religious freedom at the “core” of foreign policy in the U.S. and now in Canada would have us understand that religious freedom is the foundation of democracy, the basis for political stability and first step to all other freedoms. The mission statement of the Office of International Religious Freedom in the U.S. Department of State links its promotion of religious freedom to human rights and to political “stability” for “all countries.” Referring to the establishment of a new Office of Religious Freedom within his government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in a statement to the United Nations last year, the Canadian UN Ambassador declared, “History has shown us that where religious freedom is strong, democratic freedom is strong.”

April 23rd, 2012

Whose Yoga?

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NPR’s Margot Adler reports on the current popularity of yoga in the United States, and its disassociation with Hinduism. She explores the perception of yoga as a form of relaxation and physical exercise, contrasting this with the efforts of the Hindu American Foundation to “take back yoga”.  Some American Hindus claim that something important is lost when yoga is understood narrowly, that is, without the importance philosophy and lifestyle have for its practice

January 5th, 2012

Axial axioms

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The word “magisterial” in publishers’ blurbs usually means little more than “too long,” and indeed Religion in Human Evolution is very long, but it is also magisterial in many of the ways that the Oxford English Dictionary suggests: “Of, relating to, designating, or befitting a master, teacher, or other person qualified to speak with authority; masterly, authoritative, commanding.”   It is certainly all of those, a book full of the wisdom and erudition that comes only when someone quite brilliant has thought about a big subject for many years.

September 19th, 2011

A blast from the past: lessons in eastern religion and philosophy

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Fifty years ago, Alan Watts popularized ideas of eastern philosophy and religion. Open Culture shares a relic of the past.

October 13th, 2010

Hinduism, prosperity, and India’s rising middle class

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The tendency in recent years of some U.S. evangelical and Pentecostal Christian preachers to celebrate immense wealth, rather than critique it—what is known as the “prosperity gospel”—is not unique to those forms of Christianity or to the United States. According an article by Mary Fitzgerald in The Irish Times, Meera Nanda’s new book, The God Market, chronicles a similar movement emerging in India.

August 3rd, 2010

Peter Berger on multilateral globalization

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Globalization is not defined by one-way Westernization, argues Peter Berger in his new blog at The American Interest Online. Rather, it is a far more complex process than is commonly imagined, and this is indicated, for starters, by the often overlooked influence of Eastern traditions on contemporary Western culture.

August 3rd, 2010

“The Animated Avadhuta”

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Trent Gilliss, senior editor of Speaking of Faith, shares the thought-provoking and beautifully drawn short “The Animated Avadhuta.”

June 30th, 2010

“The Lady Twilight”

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Over at Killing the Buddha, William Dalrymple is excerpting his new book, Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India.

January 4th, 2010

The Indian religious marketplace

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Hartosh Singh Bal explores why, even as India’s religious marketplace has grown more vibrant, the Hindu political party is on the decline.