The Strides of Vishnu: Hindu Culture in Historical Perspective

Oxford University Press
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Books about Hinduism often begin by noting the immense size and complexity of the subject. Hinduism is vast and diverse, they say. Or it doesn't exist at all - Hinduism is merely a convenient (and foreign) term that masks a plurality of traditions. In either case, readers are discouraged by the sense that they are getting only a tiny sample or a shallow overview of something huge and impossible to understand. This book is designed to be accessible and comprehensive in a way that other introductions are not, maintaining an appealing narrative and holding the reader's interest in the unfolding sequence of ideas through time and place. Each of the 13 chapters combines historical material with key religious and philosophical ideas, supported by substantial quotations from scriptures and other texts. The overarching organizational principle is a historical narrative largely grounded in archaeological information. Historic places and persons are fleshed out as actors in a narrative about the relation of the sacred to ordinary existence as it is mediated through arts, sciences, rituals, and philosophical ideas. Although many books purport to introduce the Hindu tradition, this is the only one with a broad historical focus that emphasizes archaeological as well as textual evidence. It will nicely complement Vasuda Narayanan's forthcoming introduction, which takes the opposite approach of focusing on the lived experience of Hindu believers.
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About the author

Ariel Glucklich is Professor of Theology at Georgetown University. He is the author of many books, including Sacred Pain: Hurting the Body for the Sake of the Soul (OUP 2003) and Climbing Chamundi Hill.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
May 9, 2008
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Pages
256
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ISBN
9780199718252
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Language
English
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Genres
Religion / Hinduism / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Why would anyone seek out the very experience the rest of us most wish to avoid? Why would religious worshipers flog or crucify themselves, sleep on spikes, hang suspended by their flesh, or walk for miles through scorching deserts with bare and bloodied feet? In this insightful new book, Ariel Glucklich argues that the experience of ritual pain, far from being a form of a madness or superstition, contains a hidden rationality and can bring about a profound transformation of the consciousness and identity of the spiritual seeker. Steering a course between purely cultural and purely biological explanations, Glucklich approaches sacred pain from the perspective of the practitioner to fully examine the psychological and spiritual effects of self-hurting. He discusses the scientific understanding of pain, drawing on research in fields such as neuropsychology and neurology. He also ranges over a broad spectrum of historical and cultural contexts, showing the many ways mystics, saints, pilgrims, mourners, shamans, Taoists, Muslims, Hindus, Native Americans, and indeed members of virtually every religion have used pain to achieve a greater identification with God. He examines how pain has served as a punishment for sin, a cure for disease, a weapon against the body and its desires, or a means by which the ego may be transcended and spiritual sickness healed. "When pain transgresses the limits," the Muslim mystic Mizra Asadullah Ghalib is quoted as saying, "it becomes medicine." Based on extensive research and written with both empathy and critical insight, Sacred Pain explores the uncharted inner terrain of self-hurting and reveals how meaningful suffering has been used to heal the human spirit.
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