The Feminine in Hinduism — Syllabus

The following is the Syllabus of the course I am to teach here in Berkeley, at one of the theological schools that collectively form the ecumenical consortium GTU (Graduate Theological Union). The school that hired me is the Jesuit School of Theology, which actually is a department of the University of Santa Clara.

This course will offer a two-pronged approach to interreligious dialogue: a) reading primary sources in the Vedas, especially with regard to the Divine Mother image of the deity, and subsequent tradition and b) reflection on them in the light of lived experience. The course will emphasize the ecclesial nature of interreligious dialogue (see Vatican II, Nostra Aetate), and will examine this dimension in Blessed Teresa of Calcutta’s non-dual experience of the Absolute (advaita) through her service to the poor and the dying destitute as she lived a practical and contemplative form of interreligious dialogue. Her mystical experience and her positive relationship with Hindus and others will be compared with the life and teaching of a contemporary Hindu woman mystic, Anandamayi Ma. Students will recognize the interplay between faith and culture in addressing the theological and/or pastoral issues that emerge in the Hindu cultural context. Students will be invited to share, and reflect upon, their own interreligious connections. Lecture/Discussion. One-page reflection for each class meeting except the first, plus a final paper. This course fulfills the requirement for course credits in inter- religious dialogue and history of religions.

The students will read, study, and critically reflect upon, the interfaith context and relations of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Anandamayi Ma, and others, in the light of the Catholic Church’s view of, and relationship with, these faiths and their adherents. The students will explore how people today, in contact with persons of faith belonging to various traditions, can through dialogue deepen their own life of faith and spiritual journey.

COURSE MATERIALS: Daily required readings will be posted on Moodle (40-60 pages); a bibliography will be provided, plus the following:

Thomas Matus. Ashram Diary: In India With Bede Griffiths. Washington D.C.: O Books, 2009. ISBN 978 1 84694 161 0

Thomas Matus. Yoga and the Jesus Prayer. Washington D.C.: O Books, 2010. ISBN 978 1 84694 285 3

I—A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO THE CHURCH’S ATTITUDE/RELATIONSHIP with regard to other faiths and spiritual traditions. Dialogue as an ecclesial practice and as a personal commitment, in the spirit of a critical fidelity to Catholic tradition, as expressed in the documents of the Second Vatican Council, especially Nostra Aetate. In what way, and to what degree, have Hindu sacred texts become part of twentieth-century Western culture? [Read Nostra Aetate; understand how interreligious dialogue is integral to the Church’s mission, in service of the faith that does justice].

II—THE UNCLEAR AND INDISTINCT CONCEPTS OF BOTH ‘RELIGION’ AND ‘HINDUISM’ in the context of the Church’s own efforts to affirm her own, and Christ’s, ‘uniqueness’ [Read selections from Zaehner, Hinduism; Panikkar, The Vedic Experience; reflect on the range of texts held as sacred by Hindus as well as on so-called ‘heterodox’ traditions in India: Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism; see also Dominus Jesus and subsequent debate].

III—HINDUISM AS A WAY OF ‘SEEING’ (DARSANA): image and word in Indian religious traditions as compared to Christianity; the feminine image of God in Hindu Texts and in the Christian revelation [Read from Eck, Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in Hinduism; Hawley and Wulff, Devi: Goddesses of India; Clooney, Divine Mother, Blessed Mother; Panikkar, The Vedic Experience].

IV—THE WEST AND CHRISTIANITY IN RELATION TO RECENT HINDUISM: the social condition of women in India and female voices of Hinduism in today’s context, against the backdrop of the nineteenth-century Hindu revival [Read from Bumiller, May You Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons. Reflect on the renewal of Hinduism through the Brahmo Samaj, Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda and the founding of the first Hindu ‘religious order’; Sri Aurobindo; Ramana Maharshi and the quest for the Self; read from Zaehner, op.cit.; Heehs, The Lives of Sri Aurobindo; Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi; Lipski, Anandamayi Ma].

V—GURU AND DISCIPLE: The non-hierarchical transmission of India’s civilization and spiritual teachings through lineages of gurus; the new lineages established by Anandamayi Ma and other recent gurus [Read from Lipski, Anandamayi Ma; reflect critically on cultural and spiritual transmission in the West in general and in the Catholic Church in particular; reflect also on the changing image of a ‘guru’ in modern Hinduism and in the West].

VI—SANNYASA AND YOGA, or ‘Renunciation’ and ‘Integration’ as inherent elements of the inner dynamic of Indian spirituality [Read passages from the Bhagavad Gita and from Ashram Diary; examine the historical and spiritual link between sannyasa and yoga, and between Hinduism and Buddhism].

VII—SYNCRETISM AND INCULTURATION: ‘Syncretism’ as intrinsic to Hinduism in general. Hindu worship of Jesus. Was Blessed Teresa’s ascetical practice and Christian devotion in the Indian context a form of ‘inculturation’? [Reflect on translated passages from Germani, Il pensiero di Teresa di Calcutta; Matus, Ashram Diary; reflect on the practice of ‘Oriental techniques’ in the West: Matus, Yoga and the Jesus Prayer].

VIII—NON-DUAL EXPERIENCE AND THE SERVICE OF THE POOR: Blessed Teresa’s life as a comment on Abhishiktananda’s and Bede Griffiths’ understanding of Vedanta and Christian doctrine; did she attain an authentic ‘non-dual’ experience of the Absolute, and is her experience a form of ‘syncretism’? [Read from Germani, Il pensiero di Teresa di Calcutta; Abhishiktananda, Saccidananda: A Christian Approach to Advaitic Experience; reflect on the difficulties of connecting Hindu and Christian thought at the conceptual level].

IX—NEW POSSIBILITIES FOR AN EXPERIENTIAL APPROACH TO HINDUISM through the practice of contemplative virtues and active service. [Read from Germani, Il pensiero di Teresa di Calcutta; Matus, Yoga and the Jesus Prayer; understand how a Christian’s opening to Hinduism can lead to absorption of Hindu elements into one’s global vision as a Christian].

X—VARIOUS THEOLOGICAL HYPOTHESES on Hinduism and other traditions in relation to human salvation by, through, and in Jesus Christ [no class session, but these questions and hypotheses must be examined by reading from one or more of the following authors: Karl Rahner; Jacques Dupuis; Jules Monchanin; Abhishiktananda; Clooney, Divine Mother, Blessed Mother].

About ashramdiary

Thomas Matus, who blogs this Ashram Diary, was born 1940 in Hollywood, California. Academics: A.B. in music from Occidental College (Los Angeles); S.T.L. in ecumenical theology from Athenaeum Anselmianum (Rome, Italy); Ph.D. in comparative mysticism from Fordham University (New York). Initiated into Kriya Yoga (by direct disciples of Paramahansa Yogananda) in 1958. Became a Catholic in 1960 and entered New Camaldoli Hermitage (Big Sur, California) as a novice monk in 1962. Lived for more than 30 years at the Monastery of Camaldoli in Italy. Traveled to India some 20 times; made frequent retreats at Saccidananda Ashram (Shantivanam) in southern India. Was in Brazil, off and on, from 1999 to 2006. Now back in California, he lives at the Hermitage in Big Sur and Incarnation Monastery in Berkeley, California. See:
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3 Responses to The Feminine in Hinduism — Syllabus

  1. Edniv says:

    Great stuff. I wish I was attending.

  2. Indian Vedic contribution is a reservoir of Vibrant Information and
    Harmonious Creativity. May the womb of nature embrace all with
    tranquil blessings from this day forward? Let this attract one’s
    attention affecting them positively. It is a Sanctuary of the Self a
    Creative Venue which serves as an Enduring Expression of Lightness,
    where a peaceful Atmosphere with Sunlight Flows and serene atmosphere

    In the storm of life we struggle through myriads of stimuli of
    pressure, stress, and multi problems that seek for a solution and
    answer. We are so suppressed by the routine of this every life style
    that most of us seem helpless. However, if we look closely to ancient
    techniques we shall discover the magnificent way to understand and
    realize the ones around us and mostly ourselves. If only we could stop
    for a moment and allow this to happen. May all beings be happy (Loka
    Samastha Sukhino Bhavanthu)
    The ancient Hindu philosophy of keeping mind and body for the well
    being has entered the managerial, medical and judicial domain of the
    world. Today it has found its place as an alternative to the theory of
    modern management and also as a means to bring back the right path of
    peace and prosperity for the human beings. Let me bow to Indian
    Maharishi Veda Vysa with folded hands, who helped in removing the
    impurities of the mind through his writings on Vedas, impurities of
    speech through his writings on puranas, and impurities of body through
    his writings on other sacred texts.

  3. Danyel Stinemetz says:

    Hinduism is perhaps the oldest continuing religion in the world, with sacred texts estimated to date back to 3000 B.C. Many of its traditions have lasted for eons, with origins lost in time. A Hindu wedding, one of the most sacred of rites, incorporates many of these timeless rituals and customs. In ages past, these traditions and rituals would extend over several days, but in today’s hectic society, such a schedule is difficult to accommodate. Today, many of these traditions are performed the night before and the day of the wedding ceremony. The Hindu ceremony centers not just on the bride, but celebrates the coming together of two families. To illustrate this theme, many customs involve both families.,

    See the latest piece of writing on our personal blog site

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