Faith in Hinduism

John Dunne jdunne at
Thu Aug 14 17:12:06 UTC 1997

John Powers wrote:

>A student of mine is doing a research project on the role (fi any) of faith
>in Hinduism, both (or either) classical and contemporary. I really can't
>think of any sources that discuss this topic, but if anyone else can, I'd
>greatly appreciate it if you could share them. I'll pass them on to my

As has already been noted, the answer to your query, John, depends somewhat
on how you are using "faith." If by "faith" you mean the type of piety
associated with devotionalism, then your student might best examine Bhakti
in Indian traditions. The term "research project" suggests that your
student may not be terribly advanced, and a study of bhakti would probably
be easier for such a student, as opposed to a study of the use of "sraddhaa
or abhisampratyaya in philosophical contexts.

There are quite a few materials in English that treat devotionalism in
Hinduism, and although I am a by inclination and training,
I've been exposed (with considerable enjoyment) to a number of these works.
On Tamil "Saiva devotionalism, Glenn Yocum's _Hymns to the Dancing "Siva_
is an excellent work, and it is accessible to those unfamiliar with the
source languages (Yocum's book may be hard to obtain; it was published by
South Asia Books, 1982). John Carman and Vasudha Narayanan have produced a
volume called _The Tamil Veda : Pillan's interpretation of the
Tiruvaymoli_, a study of the Nammalvar's famous opus. The pre-publication
ms. I read some time ago included an extensive introduction and notes.
Naryanan's _The Way and the Goal_ covers a similar theme. Of course, the
best known work on Nammalvar's tradition of Vai"snava devotionalism is A.K.
Ramanujan's _Hymns to the Drowning_, which is a good read even if one has
no particular interest in the topic. Ramanujan also came out with a
companion volume on "Saiva bhakti (primarily not Tamil) entitled, _Speaking
of "Siva_. Both of Ramanujan's works contain excellent
introductions/afterwords and explanations of the brilliantly translated
poetry. Julius Lipner's _The Face of Truth_ is a serious philosophical
examination of  the theology of Raamaanuja's (the paramaguru of
vi"si.s.taadvaita); Raamaanuja's work is the philosophical counterpart of
Tamil Vai"snava devotionalism. 

A work that focuses on more recent forms of Hinduism is C.J. Fuller's _The
Camphor Flame_. I have not had an opportunity to read it as yet, but it
comes highly recommended. As I recall, the approach is somewhat more
anthropological. Fuller's work does include an extensive bibliography,
which may point you to other useful sources.

As I suggested above, for many students "faith" in Hinduism amounts to
devotionalism, and if this is the area that your student wishes to pursue,
the sources listed above should be helpful. There are, however, many other
works on this topic (including some on North Indian bhakti--the works I
listed focus on the south); you may be able to find a bibliography at the
RISA-L website. Let me know if you have difficulty finding the site.



John Dunne
Study Of Religion
Harvard University

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