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Nepal

(5,117 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel
Until 2006, Nepal declared itself to be the only constitutionally Hindu kingdom in the world; Hinduism was the official state religion, and many other forms of religion such as Buddhism were more or less declared to be part of Hinduism. Given such claims, the statistics provided by the Nepalese government are difficult to trust. According to the 2001 census, some 87% of people were officially Hindus, while only 5–7% were officially Buddhist. Most of the Buddhists that live in the eastern hills, …
Date: 2019-01-30

Saṃskāras

(5,126 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel
Saṃskāra is the Sanskrit term mostly used for Brahmanical-Sanskritic life-cycle rituals that are mainly widespread between Hindu and other (Buddhist, Jaina) communities. They belong to a category of Sanskritic domestic rituals ( karman, kriyā) that generally includes vedic sacrifices ( homa, yajña, iṣṭi, bali) and mantras, but sometimes also forms of religious services ( pūjā, upacāra, sevā), oaths ( vrata), or pilgrimages ( tīrthayātrā). The Hindu tradition knows up to 40 saṃskāras, of which 16 have achieved an almost canonical status (see below) and of which …
Date: 2019-01-30

Ātman

(282 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel
[German Version] is a Sanskrit masculine reflexive pronoun and noun meaning "self, soul, true personality." It is cognate with German Atem, "breath." Since the early Upaniṣads, it has been the Indian term representing various notions of the soul or self. "Ātman" denotes oneself in contrast to someone else; it can mean the breath-soul (cf. Gk πνεῦμα/ pneúma), a homunculus, the individual soul (sometimes in transmigration), the immortal spirit in a mortal body, or mind and consciousness. Already in the Upaniṣads ( Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad 3, 7, 3ff.) the …

Avatāra

(175 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel
[German Version] (Sanskrit, masc., lit. “descent”) is the Sanskrit expression, already attested as early as around the 5th century bce, for the appearance or incarnation of a Hindu god, especially of the high god Viṣṇu. The Mahābhārata and Purāṇa texts disseminate the idea that the gods descend from their residences and assume human or animal fo…

Ahiṃsā

(156 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel
[German Version] The ethical requirement of ahiṃsā (fem.; lit. “noninjury [of living things]”) is common to Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Based on an early Indian criticism of animal sacrifice and the idea of reincarnation, it began to emerge c. 500 bce, initially as an ideal of ascetic living, later as a general virtue of the upper castes. Above all, ahiṃsā forbids the killing of animals, especially cattle, for food (one result being widespread vegetarianism). M. Gandhi transformed ahiṃsā into a commandment of political non-violence and religious love for all living beings. Axel M…

Liṅga and Yoni

(309 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel
[German Version] In Hinduism a liṅga (Sanskrit: “sign, distinguishing symbol, phallus”) is a phallic symbol of Śiva, common in or near temples of Śiva as a cylindrical pillar with a rounded top. It usually stands on a yoni (Sanskrit: “womb, vulva, source”), a bowl-shaped pedestal with a channel. The two together are considered a sign of creative energy and fertility and a symbol of Śiva and Śakti. What is probably the earliest liṅga, dating from the 2nd or 1st century bce, stands in Gudimallam in southeast India. There is no textual evidence of liṅga worship before the Mahābhārata epic. Liṅga…

Darśana

(99 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel
[German Version] In Hinduism, darśana (Sanskrit, neut., literally “vision, sight”) designates: (a) the mutual beholding of believer and divinity in worship (Pūjā), and (b) a philosophical system, especially the six “orthodox” schools of Vaiśeṣika, Nyāya, Sāṃkhya, Yoga, Mīmāṃsā and Vedānta. In Buddhism, the term denotes either a rational insight or the meditative vision of a celestial Buddha or Bodhisattva. Axel Michaels Bibliography E. Frauwallner, Geschichte der indischen Philosophie, vol. I, 1953; vol. II, 1956; ET: History of Indian Philosophy, 1973 D. Eck, Darśan: Seeing …

Brahman

(249 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel
[German Version] (Sanskrit: neut. bráhman, accented on the first syllable; masc. brahmán, nom. brahmā). Brahman is a fundamental concept of Indian thought. In the earlier Veda, bráhman (neut.) means a formulaic utterance, hymn, or saying; later it comes to mean also the truth indwelling the utterance, the sacral power that controls even the gods. The masculine form denotes bearers of this power, for example priests (Brahmin). In the Brāhmaṇas (after c. 1000 bce), this power becomes the primordial ground ( Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad 1.4.10: “Verily, in…

Caitanya

(194 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel
[German Version] (Feb 27, 1486, Nadia/Navadvīpa – c. Jul 9, 1533, Puri), commonly known as Viśvambhara Miśra, also as Kṛṣṇa-Caitanya (lit. “one whose consciousness is Kṛṣṇa ”). After a mystical encounter with Kṛṣṇa ¶ (Kṛṣṇa) Caitanya became a leading holy man of (Bengali or Gauḍīya-) Vaiṣṇavism and of bhakti piety. The brahmin Caitanya preached a personal, loving Brahman and a unio mystica with Kṛṣṇa, which is understood to be expressed in his unification with his lover, the cowherd Rādhā. His followers honor him as an avatāra of Kṛṣṇa or as an androgynous …

Brāhmaṇas

(134 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel
[German Version] (Sanskrit; pl. of brāhmaṇa, neut.). The Brāhmaṇas, a collection of sacrificial texts dating from the centuries just after 1000 bce, constitute the second oldest stratum of the Vedas. They comprise in part lengthy prose texts appended to the Vedic collections of the Rigveda, the Sāmaveda, and the Yajurveda, which they discuss and explain. The Brāhmaṇas embody a ritualistic form of religion, in which sacrifices correctly offered (Sacrifice: VIII)…

Benares,

(148 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel
[German Version] Indian city on the Ganges. The name is an anglicized rendering of the name Vārāṇasī, “city between the rivers Varaṇā and Asī.” Benares is a sacred place for Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists. Founded around the 6th cent. bce, the city numbered more than a million residents in 1991. It is a pilgrimage destination, a center of Sanskrit scholarship, a meeting place for various ascetic groups, and the location of the sanctified death at the Ma…

Āśrama

(273 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel
[German Version] (Sanskrit, masc. & neut., lit. "spiritual abode, stage of life"). Since roughly the 6th-4th century bce, "āśrama" has referred to the classic Hindu doctrine of stages of life, usually four. A common compound with varṇa, "caste," is varṇāśramadharma, "the law (Dharma) governing the four castes and four stages of life," which comprises the moral and legal norms of those Hindus with whom Brahmin priests are concerned, above all the three upper castes (brahmins, kßatriyas, vaiśyas) (Caste). The four stages in the classical àśrama system and their primary duties are: 1. bra…

Brahmin

(160 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel
[German Version] (anglicized form of Sanskrit masc. brāhmaṇa, “priest, scholar”). In classical Hinduism, the Brahmins constitute the highest of the four castes (I), namely priests and scholars. A Brahmin is the bearer of Brahman; his hereditary status entitles and obligates him to learn the Vedas by heart and to offer sacrifice. The Brahmin caste includes not only …

Phenomenology of Religion

(1,708 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel | Bergunder, Michael
[German Version] I. Religious Studies The phenomenology of religion is the study of manifestations of religious phenomena (Phenomenon, Phenomenology), or their comparative morphology. The prime task is the recording of elements constituting religion, for example sacred objects, sacred sites, sacred times, actions, holy scriptures or people and groups, and also forms of religiosity. But the phenomenology of religion was usually less interested in finding analogies and parallels than in “grasping the essence” ( Wesenserfassung, Lanczkowski) of religious phenomena. In the fi…

Religionsphänomenologie

(1,511 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel | Bergunder, Michael
[English Version] I. Religionswissenschaftlich R. ist die Erforschung der rel. Erscheinungsformen bzw. der vergleichenden Morphologie rel. Phänomene (Phänomenologie). Im Vordergrund steht die Aufnahme religionskonstituierender Elemente wie z.B. heiliger Gegenstände, Orte (heilige Stätten), heiliger Zeiten, Handlungen, heiliger Schriften oder Menschen und Gruppierungen sowie Formen von Religiosität. Dabei kam es der R. aber meist nicht auf die Feststellung von Analogien und Parallelen, sondern auch …

Rites de passage

(734 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel | Heimbrock, Hans-Günter
[English Version] I. Religionswissenschaftlich R. (franz., »Übergangsriten«) ist ein von Arnold van Gennep 1909 eingeführter Begriff für die Feier oder Zelebration von Passagen zw. zwei Lebensstufen oder Seinszuständen. In erster Linie sind damit lebenszyklische (Lebenszyklus) Übergänge (sanskrit saṃskāra) wie Geburt, Initiation, Hochzeit oder Tod (Sterben) gemeint. In Frage kommen aber auch Prüfungen, jahreszeitliche Übergänge (z.B. Neujahr, Neu- bzw. Vollmond, Ernte) oder Weihen (z.B. Haus- oder Priesterweihe). Van Gennep arbeitete ein dreistufiges Muster …

Rites of Passage

(886 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel | Heimbrock, Hans-Günter
[German Version] I. Religious Studies “Rites of passage” (Fr. rites de passage) is an expression introduced in 1909 by Arnold van Gennep to mark transitions between two stages of life or conditions of being. It refers primarily to transitions in the life cycle (Sanskrit saṃskāra) such as birth, initiation, marriage, and death (Dying); then also to examinations/ordeals, seasonal transitions (e.g. New Year, new or full moon, harvest), and consecrations (e.g. of a house, or ordination of a priest). Van Gennep elaborated a three-level model that divided rites of passage into …

Body Control Techniques

(1,198 words)

Author(s): Sullivan, Lawrence | Engelhardt, Ute | Michaels, Axel
[German Version] I. Religious Studies – II. Taoism – III. Indian Religions I. Religious Studies Against the background of the significance of the body for religious experience, many religions have developed techniques with the aid of which the body can become the instrument of religious and spiritual transformation. These body control techniques are imbedded in an overall religious context that e…

Bhakti

(1,018 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel | Aleaz, K.P.
[German Version] I. History of Religions – II. Missiology I. History of Religions Bhakti (Sanskrit, “participation, devotion, love”) is a devotional, in some respects ecstatic, adoration of God and personal experience of God. It originated in southern India in the 7th century and spread to northern India from the 12th/13th centuries. The novelty in this often popular bhakti piety was the fact that …

Caste

(1,741 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel | Jeyaraj, Daniel | Forrester, Duncan
[German Version] I. India – II. Caste and Christianity (in History) – III. Missiology I. India “Caste” (from Port. casta, “pure, unadulterated, chaste”) is the term used to denote Indian social groups based on criteria of consanguinity and, in part, fictional genealogy; they are distinguished by common occupations, names, and traditions, especially norms governing marriage and diet (Dietary laws: VIII). Traditional Hindu society adopts a hierarchic model of four classes (Skt. varṇa, often mislabeled “castes”) (Hinduism: III, 2). Castes are charact…
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