Divine Self, Human Self

Divine Self, Human Self : The Philosophy of Being in Two Gita Commentaries

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Winner of the Best Book in Hindu-Christian Studies Prize (2013/2014) from the Society for Hindu-Christian Studies.

The Gita is a central text in Hindu traditions, and commentaries on it express a range of philosophical-theological positions. Two of the most significant commentaries are by Sankara, the founder of the Advaita or Non-Dualist system of Vedic thought and by Ramanuja, the founder of the Visistadvaita or Qualified Non-Dualist system. Their commentaries offer rich resources for the conceptualization and understanding of divine reality, the human self, being, the relationship between God and human, and the moral psychology of action and devotion. This book approaches their commentaries through a study of the interaction between the abstract atman (self) and the richer conception of the human person. While closely reading the Sanskrit commentaries, Ram-Prasad develops reconstructions of each philosophical-theological system, drawing relevant and illuminating comparisons with contemporary Christian theology and Western philosophy.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 168 pages
  • 138 x 216 x 17.78mm | 204g
  • Bloomsbury Academic USA
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • New
  • 1441154647
  • 9781441154644

Table of contents



1. The ground of being/non-being, and the divine self: Sa?kara on brahman and K???a

2. Being and the God other than being: Ramanuja on brahman and K???a

3. A comparative study of Sa?kara and Ramanuja on self and person, gnosis and loving devotion


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Review quote

Professor Ram-Prasad brings to his subject an unusual degree of experience in interreligious dialogue as well as a formidable scholarship in his own tradition, and he develops in these pages a fresh and sophisticated analysis of some of the most complex questions arising around the idea of selfhood, agency, self-knowledge and liberation in the classical commentaries on the Gita by Sankara and Ramanuja. It is a major contribution to all interested in the conversation between Christian and Hindu thinking, taking us well beyond the conventional characterisations of this encounter. -- Rowan Williams, Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge University, UK, and formerly the Archbishop of Canterbury Divine Self, Human Self intends to defy categories. The book is neither a traditional commentary on the Gita, nor a work in Indological history of Sankara and Ramanuja, nor a theology or philosophy in the traditional 'Western' sense. Divine Self, Human Self is something more luminous: taking two Sanskrit commentaries on the Gita as resources for how we think about divinity, being, and self, the book is a rigorous invitation to readers from all cultures to think through these fundamental questions anew. In the past few decades scholars have argued that Indian forms of thought can be a window onto the ontological and metaphysical questions of our emerging global cultures. But these same scholars have struggled to find a way to do so without losing the traditional structures that give these forms of thought their unique power. Ram-Prasad's book does exactly that, and the results are fresh and startling. -- Laurie L. Patton, Durden Professor of Indian Religions and Dean, Arts & Sciences, Duke University, USA This work by Ram-Prasad (Lancaster Univ., UK), on philosophy of being in the Gita commentaries, despite what the title and table of contents might suggest is not a study of the Bhagavad Gita. Further, the author does not seek to provide a subcommentary on the commentaries of either Sankara or Ramanuja. Rather, he borrows from Christian theology and asserts his approach as one of constructive theology. Beginning with an introduction to the various texts, this volume then delves into an understanding of the nature of divinity, selfhood, and being, and the relationships between them. By illustrating the dialectic between how Sankara understands Krsna and a metaphysics of being and Ramanuja's perspective, the author draws readers into a rich discussion of the various ways of understanding divinity in the Gita. The juxtaposition also enables a clear understanding of these differing conceptions of the self and its relationship with the divine. Again, while this volume does not serve as a traditional or synoptic commentary on the Gita, it nonetheless provides a new and insightful lens through which to approach the text and is rich commentaries. Summing Up: Upper-level undergraduate and graduate students. -- C.A. Barsley, Transylvania University * CHOICE * The author presents both a re-thinking of the traditional interpretations of the commentaries and new thinking about their implications for contemporary theology, including the moral psychology of action and devotion ... The book will be of interest and value especially to libraries supporting graduate programs in comparative theology, metaphysics and epistemology, Hindu philosophy and religious studies, or East-West studies. -- Robert R. Rahl * Catholic Library World * The human self is divine and the divine Self manifests in humanity. Being and identity have been complex issues leading to elaborate commentaries and glosses on various scriptures. The Bhagavadgita, in particular, has been commented on by numerous scholars, traditional and modern alike. This book attempts to unravel the ground of being and the divine Self, both from the perspective of Acharya Shankara and Ramanuja. The author tries to interpret their commentaries on the Gita to 'develop two competing visions of the relationship between metaphysics and theology, and therefore of how one may relate inquiry to fath' (xx). In this task, the author has been remarkably successful and he also gives us a wonderful comparative study of Shankara and Ramanuja. Anyone interested in these two thinkers should definitely read this volume. * Prabuddha Bharata *
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About Professor Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad

Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad is Professor of Comparative Religion and Philosophy in the Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion, and Associate Dean for Research, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, at Lancaster University, UK. He is the author of Knowledge and Liberation in Classical Indian Thought (Palgrave, 2001), Advaita Epistemology and Metaphysics: An outline of Indian non-realism (Routledge, 2002), Eastern Philosophy (Wiedenfield and Nicholson, 2005), India: Life, Myth and Art (Duncan Baird, 2006), which has been translated into French, Polish and Finnish, and Indian Philosophy and the Consequences of Knowledge (Ashgate, 2007). He is a member of the Academic Advisory Council at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies and a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4's Beyond Belief and Sunday Programme.
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