Episodes
Katherine Young, Turbulent Transformations: Non-Brahmin Śrīvaiṣṇavas on Religion, Caste and Politics in Tamil Nadu (Orient Blackswan, 2021) studies the interlinking of religious, social and political identities in modern Tamil Nadu. Through interviews with non-Brahmin Śrīvaiṣṇavas of many castes, but especially belonging to the lower-caste groups, it analyses their histories of discrimination, their negotiation of lived realities, and hopes for the future. In addition, the author also...
Published 10/21/21
An Introductory Sanskrit Reader: Improving Reading Fluency (Brill, 2021) aims to help students start reading original Sanskrit literature. When we study ancient languages, there often is quite a gap between introductory, grammar-based classes and independent reading of original texts. This Reader bridges that gap by offering complete grammar and vocabulary notes for 40 entertaining, thought-provoking or simply beautiful passages from Sanskrit narrative and epic, as well as over 130 subhāṣitas...
Published 10/14/21
Exploring the Sikh Tradition is based on an in-depth filmed conversation between Howard Burton and Eleanor Nesbitt who is Professor Emeritus of Education Studies at University of Warwick and a poet. Eleanor Nesbitt is an expert on Hindu and Sikh culture and her interdisciplinary approach straddles religious studies, educational theory, ethnography and poetry. After inspiring insights about the time Eleanor Nesbitt spent in India and her academic path, this wide-ranging conversation provides a...
Published 10/12/21
Turning the Mirror: A View From the East is based on an in-depth filmed conversation between Howard Burton and award-winning writer Pankaj Mishra. The conversation provides behind-the-scenes insights into several of Pankaj’s books, including From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia and An End To Suffering: The Buddha In The World, and his motivations to write them. Howard Burton is the founder of the Ideas Roadshow, Ideas on Film and host of the Ideas Roadshow Podcast. He...
Published 10/07/21
The Rādhā Tantra is an anonymous 17th-century tantric text from Bengal. Mans Broo's The Rādhā Tantra: A Critical Edition and Annotated Translation (Routledge, 2019) offers a lively picture of the meeting of different religious traditions in 17th century Bengal, since it presents a Śākta version of the famous Vaiṣṇava story of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. This book presents a critically edited text of the Rādhā Tantra, based on manuscripts in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, as well as an annotated...
Published 10/07/21
Raj Balkaran speaks with Wendy Doniger about her new book Winged Stallions and Wicked Mares: Horses in Indian Myth and History (University of Virginia Press, 2021), along with her translation of the final four books of the Mahābhārata's Critical Edition translation project, the power of the purāṇas, cultural appropriation, and more! Raj Balkaran is a scholar, educator, consultant, and life coach. For information see rajbalkaran.com. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit...
Published 10/05/21
The Ubiquitous Siva: Somananda's Sivadrsti and His Philosophical Interlocutors (Oxford UP, 2021) is a sequel to a volume published in 2011 by OUP under the title The Ubiquitous Siva: Somananda's Sivadrsti and his Tantric Interlocutors. The first volume offered an introduction, critical edition, and annotated translation of the first three chapters of the Sivadrsti of Somananda, along with its principal commentary, the Sivadrstivrtti, written by Utpaladeva. It dealt primarily with Saiva...
Published 10/01/21
Gidi Ifergan's new book The Psychology of the Yogas (Equinox Publishing, 2021) explores the dissonance between the promises of the yogic quest and psychological states of crisis. Western practitioners of yoga and meditation who have embarked upon years-long spiritual quests and who have practiced under the guidance of a guru tell of profound and ongoing experiences of love, compassion and clarity: the peaks of spiritual fulfillment. However, after returning to the West, they reported...
Published 09/30/21
This podcast interviews Kusumita Pedersen on the first book-length study of the thought of Sri Chinmoy (1931-2007) and his teaching of a dynamic spirituality of integral transformation. The Philosophy of Sri Chinmoy: Love and Transformation (Lexington, 2021) is a straightforward and unembroidered account of his philosophy, allowing Sri Chinmoy to speak for himself in his own words, in poetry as much as in prose. Raj Balkaran is a scholar, educator, consultant, and life coach. For information...
Published 09/22/21
In the first complete English translation of a monumental 14th century Sanskrit philosophical text, the Jewel of Reflection on the Truth about Epistemology (Bloomsbury 2020), Stephen Phillips introduces modern readers to a classic of Indian philosophy. The author of the Jewel, Gaṅgeśa, is a comprehensive examination of epistemology and its interrelationship with metaphysics, taking up topics in philosophy of language and logic along the way. The translation itself includes a commentary by...
Published 09/20/21
Paula Richman and Rustom Bharucha's book Performing the Ramayana Tradition: Enactments, Interpretations, and Arguments (Oxford UP, 2021) examines diverse retellings of the Ramayana narrative as interpreted and embodied through a spectrum of performances. Unlike previous publications, this book is neither a monograph on a single performance tradition nor a general overview of Indian theatre. Instead, it provides context-specific analyses of selected case studies that explore contemporary...
Published 09/16/21
Rewriting Buddhism: Pali Literature and Monastic Reform in Sri Lanka, 1157–1270 (UCL Press, 2020) is the first intellectual history of premodern Sri Lanka’s most culturally productive period. This era of reform (1157–1270) shaped the nature of Theravada Buddhism both in Sri Lanka and also Southeast Asia and even today continues to define monastic intellectual life in the region. Alastair Gornall argues that the long century’s literary productivity was not born of political stability, as is...
Published 09/15/21
Medieval Kashmir in its golden age saw the development of some of the most sophisticated theories of language, literature, and emotion articulated in the pre-modern world. James D. Reich's book To Savor the Meaning: The Theology of Literary Emotions in Medieval Kashmir (Oxford UP, 2021) examines the overlap of literary theory and religious philosophy in this period by looking at debates about how poetry communicates emotions to its readers, what it is readers do when they savor these...
Published 09/09/21
Dr. Don Davis (Professor and Chair, Department of Asian Studies) speaks about the newly launched Resource Library for Dharmaśāstra Studies, a digitized open educational resource hosted at the University of Texas, Austin. We discuss the genesis and utility of this important online resource, highlighting the herculean efforts of Dr. Patrick Olivelle. Raj Balkaran is a scholar, educator, consultant, and life coach. For information see rajbalkaran.com. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit...
Published 09/09/21
How do religious groups reinvent themselves in order to attract new audiences? How do they rebrand their messages and recast their rituals in order to make their followers more diverse? In Branding Bhakti: Krishna Consciousness and the Makeover of a Movement (Indiana UP, 2021), Nicole Karapanagiotis considers the new branding of the Hare Krishna Movement, or the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). Branding Bhakti not only investigates the methods the ISKCON movement uses...
Published 09/02/21
First Words, Last Words: New Theories for Reading Old Texts in Sixteenth Century India (Oxford UP, 2021) charts an intense "pamphlet war" that took place in sixteenth-century South India. Yigal Bronner and Lawrence McCrea explore this controversy as a case study in the dynamics of innovation in early modern India, a time of great intellectual innovation. This debate took place within the traditional discourses of Vedic Hermeneutics and its increasingly influential sibling discipline of...
Published 08/26/21
What is Open Access Publishing and why is it important? Listen in as Raj Balkaran interviews Dominik A. Haas on his Fair Open Access Publishing in South Asian Studies (FOASAS) initiative which maintains a list of relevant publishers, journals, book series and other publication media. The list is available here. If you know of any other FOA publishers, journals etc. with an emphasis on Indological / South Asia-related research, or have feedback about the list, feel free to contact Dominik...
Published 08/26/21
Noted for their haunting melodies and enigmatic lyrics, Bauls have been portrayed as spiritually enlightened troubadours traveling around the countryside in West Bengal in India and in Bangladesh. As emblems of Bengali culture, Bauls have long been a subject of scholarly debates which center on their esoteric practices, and middle class imaginaries of the category Baul.  Adding to this literature, the intimate ethnography presented in Kristin Hanssen's book Women, Religion and the Body in...
Published 08/19/21
Listen in as Raj Balkaran speaks with Amir Hussain (Chair, Theological Studies at Layola Marymount University) about his scholarship on Muslims in America, his work as the Editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion (2011-2015), his role as the Vice President of the American Academy of Religion, and overall trends in the field of Religious Studies. Raj Balkaran is a scholar, educator, consultant, and life coach. For information see rajbalkaran.com. Learn more about your ad...
Published 08/16/21
Today I talked to Dr. Emilia Bachrach about In the Service of Krishna: Illustrating the Lives of Eighty-Four Vaishnavas from a 1702 Manuscript in the Amit Ambalal Collection (Mapin, 2020). The Pushtimarg, or the Path of Grace, is a Hindu tradition whose ritual worship of the deity Krishna has developed in close relationship to a distinct genre of early-modern Hindi prose hagiography. This bookintroduces readers to the most popular hagiographic text of the Pushtimarg which tells the sacred...
Published 08/12/21
Jainism evokes images of monks wearing face-masks to protect insects and mico-organisms from being inhaled. Or of Jains sweeping the ground in front of them to ensure that living creatures are not inadvertently crushed: a practice of non-violence so radical as to defy easy comprehension. Yet for all its apparent exoticism, Jainism is still little understood in the West. What is this mysterious philosophy which originated in the 6th century BCE, whose absolute requirement is vegetarianism, and...
Published 08/11/21
Raj Balkaran speaks with Jacob Kyle about the genesis and vision of the online educational platform Embodied Philosophy. Over the course of their rich conversation, they touch on contemplative studies, the journal Tarka, yoga in the West, the scholar-practitioner, the state of online education, the ethics of entrepreneurship and the integration of spiritual and scholarly paradigms. Raj Balkaran is a scholar, educator, consultant, and life coach. For information see rajbalkaran.com. Learn more...
Published 08/11/21
Every day millions of Tamil women in southeast India wake up before dawn to create a kolam, an ephemeral ritual design made with rice flour, on the thresholds of homes, businesses and temples. This thousand-year-old ritual welcomes and honors Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and alertness, and Bhudevi, the goddess of the earth. Created by hand with great skill, artistry, and mathematical precision, the kolam disappears in a few hours, borne away by passing footsteps and hungry insects. This is...
Published 08/05/21
Listen in as we speak with McComas Taylor (Associate Professor and Reader in Sanskrit, The Australian National University) about his brand-new translation of the Viṣṇu Purāṇa. This is the second time the Viṣṇu Purāṇa has been translated into English, the last time being nearly two centuries ago. Attentive to out the aesthetics of out-loud utterance, this beautiful translation is in blank-verse, faithful to the original Sanskrit, and available Open Access. We also speak about the World...
Published 07/29/21
What do we really know about how and where religions began, and how they spread?  Robin Derricourt considers the birth and growth of several major religions, using history and archaeology to recreate the times, places and societies that witnessed the rise of significant monotheistic faiths. Beginning with Mormonism and working backwards through Islam, Christianity and Judaism to Zoroastrianism, Creating God: The Birth and Growth of Major Religions ( Manchester UP, 2021) opens up the...
Published 07/29/21