Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Vedanta of Adi Sankara


In the second part of the July 19 lecture, Dr. Hebbar began discussing Vedanta as expounded by Adi Shankara (आदि शङ्कर). He spoke about the rope-snake illusion (rajju-ahi bhrama), in which one mistakenly perceives a rope as a snake in the dark. The way to correct this illusion is by shining a lamp onto the object.

The metaphysical interpretation of the rope-snake illusion is as follows:

The rope represents God
The "snake" represents gods, souls, and matter, that is, mulitiplicity
The illusion itself is Maya (माया)
The lamp represents spiritual discernment, or viveka (विवेका)

Maya and ignorance, that is, avidya conceal the real (the rope), project the false (the snake), and confuse the real and false (the person stumbling around in the dark).


I attended Dr. Hebbar's lecture on Indian philosophy last Saturday, July 20.

In the previous lecture on Saturday, July 13, Dr. Hebbar began talking about the (Purva-)Mimamsa system in terms of epistemology, or the study of knowledge. Last Saturday, he talked about Mimamsa ontology (the study of construction of reality), theology (the study of God), psychology (in its original sense as the study of the psyche), and soteriology (the study of salvation or liberation). He compared and contrasted the philosophies of Prabhakara and Kumarila, the two principal exponents of Mimamsa.

Observing the 25th anniversary of anti-Tamil riots in Sri Lanka

This article from the International Herald Tribune discusses two exhibits that prod the Sinhalese majority to confront the civil war ignited when 2000 Tamils were killed in riots provoked by the killing of 13 soldiers.

One exhibit, by photographer Anoma Rajakaruna, features photos of Tamil victims of the riots and the civil war. The other exhibit features paintings by Chandraguptha Thenuwara that remind people of the peaceful doctrines of Buddhism, the dominant religion of Sri Lanka.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Where I've been, what I've been doing

Hard to believe that it's been two months since I last blogged, which does NOT mean that I have been oblivious to hot button issues such as the aborted land transfer to the Amarnath shrine board or the Centre's lining up new support for the US-India nuclear agreement.

For the last month, I've been attending lectures on Indian philosophy presented by Professor B.N. Hebbar at Durga Temple here in Fairfax County. How I found out about the lecture series was something of a fluke. I subscribe to mailing lists from the local temples, even though I am not affiliated with a temple. A month ago, I received an email from Durga Temple announcing this series, and the lecture series was to begin that very day! I called one of the contacts listed, and he told me to just come on down, I could still get the second half of the lecture.

To date, Dr. Hebbar has covered Vedic Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. Now he is undertaking a discussion of the six darshanas of Classical Hinduism: today, he covered Nyaya-Vaishesika and Sankhya-Yoga and began discussion of (Purva-)Mimamsa (as opposed to Uttara-Mimamsa, or Vedanta).

I'm going to be on vacation beginning tomorrow, but plan to blog on the lecture series when I return.