Episodes
This interview features a candid conversation with Greg Bailey, seasoned scholar of Sanskrit narrative Literature, on his multi-decade work on the Purāṇas and Mahābhārata, and on his new novel In Search of Bliss: A Tale of Early Buddhism (Vanguard Press, 2019). About the novel: Kshemapala is a monk from the North who has been tasked with an important scholarly mission: fill in the gaps in the history of the monk, Ananda, the Buddha's close companion, about whom there are legends but few...
Published 07/22/21
During the height of Muslim power in Mughal South Asia, Hindu and Muslim scholars worked collaboratively to translate a large body of Hindu Sanskrit texts into the Persian language. Translating Wisdom reconstructs the intellectual processes and exchanges that underlay these translations. Using as a case study the 1597 Persian rendition of the Yoga-Vasistha—an influential Sanskrit philosophical tale whose popularity stretched across the subcontinent—Shankar Nair illustrates how these early...
Published 07/15/21
This book provides a rigorously researched, critically comparative introduction to yoga. Anya P. Foxen and Christa Kuberry's Is this Yoga?: Concepts, Histories, and the Complexities of Modern Practice (Routledge, 2021) recognizes the importance of contemporary understandings of yoga and, at the same time, provides historical context and complexity to modern and pre-modern definitions of yogic ideas and practices. Approaching yoga as a vast web of concepts, traditions, social interests, and...
Published 07/14/21
In early twentieth century British India, prior to the arrival of digital medias and after the rise of nationalist political movements, a small-town paper from the margins of society became a key player in Urdu journalism. Published in the isolated market town of Bijnor, Madinah grew to hold influence across North India and the Punjab while navigating complex issues of religious and political identity.  In Print and the Urdu Public: Muslims, Newspapers, and Urban Life in Colonial...
Published 07/08/21
The traditional Indian method of learning Sanskrit is through oral transmission, by first memorizing texts and then learning their meaning. The Western academic approach methodically teaches the alphabet, declensions, grammar, syntax, and vocabulary building. Zoë Slatoff's Yogavataranam integrates the traditional and academic approaches for a full and practical experience of Sanskrit study. Yogavataranam: The Translation of Yoga (North Point Press, 2015) approaches language systematically and...
Published 07/01/21
Is it possible to integrate scholarly study with contemplative practice? What are the benefits and potential pitfalls of doing so? Join us as we speak to Dr. Ben William about Naropa University’s vision of Contemplative Education along with their brand-new Masters in Yoga Studies program. Raj Balkaran is a scholar, educator, consultant, and life coach. For information see rajbalkaran.com. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices Support our show by becoming a premium...
Published 06/30/21
This interview features Drs. Peter Bisschop (Leiden University) and Yuko Yokochi (Kyoto University) and their work on the monumental Skandapurāṇa project. Started in the 1990's, the project is aimed at creating a critical edition of the Skandapurāṇa along with documenting its variations over time as well producing important studies of the text. Their latest instalment of this project (Volume 5, featuring Chapters 92-112 of the Skandapurāṇa, with an introduction and annotated English...
Published 06/24/21
We can sometimes forget that “India”—or the idea of a single unified entity—is not a very old concept. Indian history is complicated and convoluted: different societies, polities and cultures rise and fall, ebb and flow, as the political makeup of South Asia changes. Namit Arora, author of Indians: A Brief History of a Civilization (Penguin Viking, 2021), details some of these changing cultures. From the early Harappans, to the Buddhist centers of Nagarjunakonda and Nalanda, and ending at...
Published 06/24/21
The Mahabharata preserves powerful journeys of women recognized as the feminine divine and the feminine heroic in the larger culture of India. Each journey upholds the unique aspects of women's life. Feminine Journeys of the Mahabharata: Hindu Women in History, Text, and Practice (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021) analytically examines the narratives of eleven women from the Mahabharata in the historical context as well as in association with religious and cultural practices. Lavanya Vemsani brings...
Published 06/21/21
Michael Nichols's Malleable Mara: Transformations of a Buddhist Symbol of Evil (SUNY Press, 2020) is the first book to examine the development of the figure of Māra, who appears across Buddhist traditions as a personification of death and desire. Portrayed as a combination of god and demon, Māra serves as a key antagonist to the Buddha, his followers, and Buddhist teaching in general. From ancient India to later Buddhist thought in East Asia to more recent representations in Western culture...
Published 06/17/21
What insights on the human experience can we find in ancient Indian mythology? Join us as we speak to Dr. Brian Collins (Associate Professor, Chair Department of Classics and Religious Studies, Ohio University) about his work on Paraśu-Rāma, the brahmin who decapitates his own mother and annihilates 21 generations of the warriors. You can also listen to Brian on the NBN here.  Raj Balkaran is a scholar, educator, consultant, and life coach. For information see rajbalkaran.com. Learn more...
Published 06/16/21
He's the destroyer of evil, the pervasive one in whom all things lie. He is brilliant, terrifying, wild and beneficent. He is both an ascetic and a householder, both a yogi and a guru. He encompasses the masculine and the feminine, the powerful and the graceful, the Tandava and the Laasya, the darkness and the light, the divine and the human. What can we learn from this bundle of contradictions, this dreadlocked yogi? How does he manage the devotions and duties of father, husband and man of...
Published 06/10/21
To what extent should scholarship foreground the beliefs and experiences of the scholar producing it? Where does the scholar-practitioners fit at the academy today? Join us as we explore such issues in conversation with Dr. Francis Clooney, Jesuit Priest and Harvard Professor of Comparative Theology, specializing in Catholic and Hindu traditions. Raj Balkaran is a scholar, educator, consultant, and life coach. For information see rajbalkaran.com. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit...
Published 06/09/21
Jon Keune's book Shared Devotion, Shared Food: Equality and the Bhakti-Caste Question in Western India (Oxford UP, 2021) is about the deceptively simple question: when Hindu devotional or bhakti traditions welcomed marginalized people-women, low castes, and Dalits-were they promoting social equality? This the modern formulation of the bhakti-caste question. It is what Dalit leader B. R. Ambedkar had in mind when he concluded that the saints promoted spiritual equality but did not transform...
Published 06/03/21
Karen Ruffle's Everyday Shi'ism in South Asia (John Wiley & Sons, 2021) is an introduction to the everyday life and cultural memory of Shi’i women and men, focusing on the religious worlds of both individuals and communities at particular historical moments and places in the Indian subcontinent. Ruffle draws upon an array primary sources, images, and ethnographic data to present topical case studies offering broad snapshots Shi'i life as well as microscopic analyses of ritual practices,...
Published 05/26/21
What does the Mahābhārata – a gargantuan epic tale from ancient India – have the teach about life wisdom? Learn three core themes of the ancient Sanskrit epic – along with a story of one of its most compelling female characters – from Dr. Arti Dhand, Associate Professor at the University of Toronto and host of The Mahābhārata Podcast. Raj Balkaran is a scholar, educator, consultant, and life coach. For information see rajbalkaran.com. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit...
Published 05/26/21
Breaking box office records, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has achieved an unparalleled level of success with fans across the world, raising the films to a higher level of narrative: myth. Michael D. Nichols's Religion and Myth in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (McFarland, 2021) is first book to analyze the Marvel output as modern myth, comparing it to epics, symbols, rituals, and stories from world religious traditions. Nichols places the exploits of Iron Man, Captain America, Black Panther,...
Published 05/21/21
Jacqueline Fewkes and Megan Adamson Sijapati edited volume Muslim Communities and Cultures of the Himalayas: Conceptualizing the Global Ummah (Routledge, 2020) explores individual perspectives and specific iterations of Muslim community, Muslim practice and experience of Islam in the Himalayan region as well as the concept of the general Islamic community the Ummah. A multidisciplinary analysis of Muslim communities and historical and contemporary Islamicate traditions, the book shows how...
Published 05/19/21
What does it mean to be a Swami? This podcast features words of wisdom from ISKCON Leader Bhakti Marg Swami. In drawing from his ISCON journey which began in 1973, we broach topics of devotion, detachment, and surrender. Raj Balkaran is a scholar, educator, consultant, and life coach. For information see rajbalkaran.com. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/indian-religions
Published 05/12/21
Welcome to The Academic Life. You are smart and capable, but you aren’t an island, and neither are we. So we reached across our mentor network to bring you podcasts on everything from how to finish that project, to how to take care of your beautiful mind. Wish we’d bring in an expert about something? Email us at cgessler@gmail.com or dr.danamalone@gmail.com. Find us on Twitter: The Academic Life @AcademicLifeNBN. In this episode you’ll hear about: the benefits and challenges of working...
Published 05/10/21
This podcast features Brenda Beck’s lifelong work on the Tamil folk epic Ponnivala. In addition to her forthcoming new English translation of the epic (“Land of the Golden River”), we also discuss her 1982 study of the epic The Three Twins (now open-access), her full color graphic novel of the epic (available in Tamil and English), and her 13-hour animated video of the epic. The interview discusses the significance of folks traditions in understanding Indian religions, along with the power of...
Published 04/30/21
Join Raj Balkaran as he talks with Dr. Kate Hartmann, Assistant Professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of Wyoming and Director of Buddhist Studies Online, a new educational platform providing coursework on the history, philosophy, and practices of Buddhism. Founded in 2021 by Seth Powell as a sister institute to Yogic Studies, Buddhist Studies Online provides accessible, affordable, and high-quality courses for the broader community interested in learning more about Buddhism in a...
Published 04/30/21
Gil Ben-Herut and Jon Keune's book Regional Communities of Devotion in South Asia: Insiders, Outsiders, and Interlopers (Routledge, 2019) explores the key motif of the religious Other in devotional (bhakti) literatures and practices from across the Indian subcontinent. The primary aim of this book is to reconsider and challenge inherited notions of the bhakta's or devotee's Other and unmask processes of representation that involve adoption, appropriation, and rejection of different social and...
Published 04/28/21
Preparing online materials since 2005 (including Hindusim the EBook, 2016), Dr. Hillary Rodrigues has been working on a fantastic resource for anyone interested in studying or teaching world religions. See www.robinest.org.  Designed as an introductory reader for a World Religions course, the eBook World Religions Reader: Understanding Our Religious World (ROBINEST, 2020) provides key texts from Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Confucianism, Daoism, Shintoism, Judaism, Christianity, and...
Published 04/23/21
Birinder Pal Singh's book Sikhs in the Deccan and North-East India (Taylor & Francis, 2018) is a major intervention in the understanding of the dynamics of internal migration in South Asia. It traces the historical roots of certain migrant Sikh communities to the south and north-east India; chronicles their social, religious and economic practices; and examines peculiar identity formations. This first-of-its-kind empirical study examines the socio-economic conditions of Sikhs in the...
Published 04/23/21