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Religious Doctrines in the Mahabharata
Religious Doctrines in the Mahabharata

Religious Doctrines in the Mahabharata

by Nicholas Sutton

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Product ID:3760

Language

English

Publisher

Motilal Banarsidass

ISBN

8120817001 - Year: 2000 - Pages: 477

Binding

Paperback

Nicholas Sutton
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Author: Nicholas Sutton
Publisher: Motilal Banarsidass
Year: 2000
Language: English
Pages: 477
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8120817001

Description

This study offers an analysis of the epic's teachings and the specific answers it gives to major questions of religious thinking such as the nature of God, ethics etc.

Though it is widely known as an epic text that recounts the exploits of heroes, gods and villains, the Mahabharata is equally significant as a repository of the principal religious doctrines of the Hindu tradition from the period immediately following the rise of Buddhism in India. Without imposing any reconceived theory of overall meaning, this study delineates the major themes of religious ideology offered by the great epic in a way that does justice to the rich variety of material contained in its corpus.

It thus functions on one level as a catalogue of doctrines, indicating where specific religious ideas are presented in the Mahabharata in a manner that allows sections equal merit whether they be a part of the central narrative or the didactic interludes that punctuate the principal story.

This study further offers an analysis of the depicts teachings by seeking to identify its principal doctrinal tendencies and the specific answers it gives to major questions of religious thinking such as the nature of God, the path to Salvation, cosmic and personal eschatology, ethics and the authority of scripture.

Ultimately it is recognized that whilst it is legitimate to speak of 'epic thought' in a general sense, the Mahabharata represents above all the rich diversity of Hindu religious ideas. It does not have merely one aim or one ideology but allows various concepts and systems of thought to exist alongside each other, challenging the reader to accept diversity rather than a rigid creed and to explore rather than resolve the inevitable tensions existing in the varied human responses to the phenomenon of religion.

Contents

Introduction

CHAPTER 1
BACKGROUND TO AND MAJOR THEMES OF EPIC THOUGHT
ò Introduction
ò The Epic Period
ò Complexities and Contradictions
ò Major Themes in Epic Thought
ò Summary and Conclusion

CHAPTER 2
ò Introduction
ò Review of Works Referred to by the Mahabharata
ò The Mahabharata's View of its Own Status
ò The Mahabharata's View of the Vedas and Previous Scriptures
ò The Nation of Wisdom as opposed to Scriptural Learning
ò Reinterpretation of the Vedas
ò Summary and Conclusions

CHAPTER 3
RELIGIOUS ORGANISATION IN THE MAHABHARATA
ò Introduction
ò The Mahabharata's Teachings on Social Structure
ò Communal Religious Practice and Worship
ò Religious Organisation from the perspective of Nivrtti
ò Religious Organisation from the perspective of Bhakti
ò Summary and Conclusions

CHAPTER 4
EPIC SOTERIOLOGY
ò Introduction
ò Definition of the Problem of Life in this World
ò Attainment of Svarga-loka
ò The Path to Complete Salvation, Moksa-Dharma
ò The Soteriology of the Bhagavad-Gita
ò Summary and Conclusions

CHAPTER 5
EPIC THEISM : THE NATURE OF GOD
ò Introduction
ò The Iconography of Narayana in the Mahabharata
ò The Concept of Avatara in the Mahabharata
ò Non-Vaisnava Theism
ò Syncretism of Visnu and Siva
ò Epic Monotheism
ò Additional Features of Epic Theism
ò The Existence of God in Relation to Humanity
ò Conclusion

CHAPTER 6
EPIC ESCHATOLOGY
ò Introduction
ò Cosmic Eschatology
ò Individual Eschatology
ò Samsara, The Doctrine of Rebirth
ò The Concept of Moksa
ò The State of Salvation According to the Doctrine of Bhakti
ò The State of Moksa According to the Bhagavad-Gita
ò Conclusion

CHAPTER 7
THE MAHABHARATA'S TEACHINGS ON ETHICS
ò Introduction
ò The Ethics of Sva-dharma
ò Ethics and Morality
ò The Ethics of the Ascetic Tradition
ò The Tensions Between the Different Ethical Tendencies
ò The Ethics of the Bhagavad-Gita
ò Overview and Conclusions

CHAPTER 8
THE MAHABHARATA'S UNDERSTANDING OF HUMANITY
ò The Distinction Between the Self and Matter
ò The Divine Nature of the Self
ò The Epic's Understanding of Human Psychology
ò The Presence of the Atman in the Prana, and as a Manikin in the Heart
ò The Uniqueness of Humanity
ò The Hierarchy of Humanity
ò The Questions of Human Perfectibility
ò Summary and Conclusions

CHAPTER 9
THE CONTROL OF DESTINY OVER HUMAN EXISTENCE
ò The Role of Destiny in the Epic
ò The Predestined Nature of Humanity
ò The Conflict of Opinion over Destiny
ò Conclusions

CHAPTER 10
CREATION : THE EPIC'S TEACHINGS ON THE ORIGINS OF THE WORLD
ò Eternality and Repeated Creations
ò The Mythic Understanding of Creation
ò The Samkhya Concept of Creation
ò Conclusions
ò Theodicy : The Problem of Suffering in Creation

CHAPTER11
THE MAHABHARATA'S TEACHINGS ON GENDER
ò Introduction
ò Passages Offering Teachings on Gender
ò Female Characters in the Epic Narrative
ò Conclusions regarding Dharma-sastra and the Narrative
ò The Ascetic Tradition
ò Overview

CHAPTER 12
CONCLUSION : THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE MAHABHARATA'S TEACHINGS
ò Introduction
ò The Question of Right Action
ò Ritual and Virtue in Religious Belief
ò The Yoga View of the World
ò Understanding of the Nature of God
ò Political and Social Action
ò Approach to Establishing Doctrine
ò Conclusions

Bibliography
Index

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