Johannes Bronkhorst

Johannes Bronkhorst
University of Lausanne | UNIL

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298
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1,271
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Publications (298)
Article
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This article shows in detail that the widely held view according to which the Sarvadarśanasaṃgraha has a hierarchical structure is mistaken. It further argues that at least some parts of the texts were independent essays before being incorporated into the Sarvadarśanasaṃgraha .
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Indology and sociology
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Attempts have been made to correct the text of the Sarvadarśanasaṃgraha on the basis of the texts that its author used—and sometimes refers to by name—while composing his work. This procedure is promising in texts like the Sarvadarśanasaṃgraha, which makes abundant use of other works, and might in principle give results that are independent of, and...
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Ascetics have impressed foreign visitors to India from an early time onward. The Greek Megasthenes, who spent time in eastern India around the year 300 BCE, described ascetics that remained motionless for a whole day in one single position. More than a thousand years later, Arab travellers marvelled at men in India who remained motionless for years...
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This article first predicts, on the basis of an analysis of deep absorption, a number of features of mystical and related states of consciousness. It then observes that these very same features appear in beliefs held by people who have never experienced deep absorption. Moreover, many people engage in activities that, though not normally leading to...
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The puzzle presented by Musīla and Nārada (both have attained the same knowledge/insight, but one is an Arhat, the other one is not) has raised questions regarding the Buddhist path to liberation from the time of La Vallée Poussin onward. The present paper argues that the final stages of this path had become obscure to at least certain members of t...
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Innovation in Indian Philosophy in Context. Comments on Some Recent Proposals by Jonardon Ganeri This article draws attention to the fact, often overlooked, that innovation is not foreign to the history of Indian philosophy. Three such episodes are briefly discussed (in reverse chronological order): (1) the innovations introduced by Raghunātha and...
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Setting Out on the Great Way brings together different perspectives on the origins and early history of Mahāyāna Buddhism and delves into selected aspects of its formative period. As the variety of the religion which conquered East Asia and also provided the matrix for the later development of Buddhist Tantra or Vajrayāna, Mahāyāna is regarded as o...
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This article shows how Brahmanism was a regional tradition, confined to the northwestern parts of the Indian subcontinent, that passed through a difficult period—which it barely survived—roughly between the time of Alexander and the beginning of the Common Era. It then reinvented itself, in a different shape. No longer primarily a sacrificial tradi...
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There are good reasons to think that Brahmanism initially belonged to a geographically limited area, with its heartland in the middle and western parts of the Gangetic plain. It was in this region that Brahmanism was at that time the culture of a largely hereditary class of priests, the brahmins, who derived their livelihood and special position in...
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Historians of astronomy, linguistics or ancient Indian medicine are expected to be more or less familiar with the modern counterparts of these disciplines. What about philosophy? What is more, is there in ancient India such a thing as philosophy whose history one might study? If so, who will be its best exegete? The philosopher attentive to systema...
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This article claims that the study of religion has overlooked a feature of the human mind that may yet help to explain certain aspects of religion. Awareness, it is here argued, can vary along a dimension that is characterized by the density of associations and other inputs that accompany it. The mechanism behind this is concentration, including th...
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This essay argues that the many discontinuities and innovations in the history of Jaina meditation stem from the confusing descriptions of meditation in canonical texts, including the Āyāraṅga and the Uttarajjhayaṇa . The term used to denote meditation, dhyāna (or jhāna ), is also used for non-meditative mental activity, but canonical lists of four...
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A great number of classical Sanskrit texts, most of them philosophical, refer to the Cārvākas or Lokāyatas (also Laukāyatikas, Lokāyatikas, Bārhaspatyas) who must have constituted a school of thought which has left us almost no literary documents. They once possessed a Sūtra text and several commentaries thereon, for fragments have been preserved i...
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The ultimate aim of permanent and universal peace led in practice to ceaseless and relentless war. It makes sense to distinguish two major currents in the post-Mauryan intellectual history of India: the Brahmins and the Buddhists. The thinkers of these two currents dealt quite differently with the inherited ideal of permanent and universal peace. T...
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The two grammarians Patañjali and K¯ aty¯ ayana have been associated with two Vedic schools: that of the Paippal¯ adins and that of the V¯ ajasaneyins respectively. A renewed reflection on the dates and regions in which they lived and worked may throw light on the whereabouts of these schools. I will not waste words on Patañjali's date. I agree wit...
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The Brahmanical tradition has exerted a profound influence on India, from an early time onward. This tradition, like all traditions, had a certain vision of the past, and its enormous success has given it ample opportunity to impose that vision. The task of the historian, here as elsewhere, is to verify the prevailing vision of the past, and correc...
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This article argues that in early Mīmām{dot below}sā the view was current that there are objects in the world corresponding to all words of the Sanskrit language. Evidence to that effect is primarily found in passages from Bhartr{dot below}hari's works, and in some classical Nyāya texts. Interestingly, Śabara's classical work on Mīmām{dot below}sā...
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In this article the argument is that there are rites, or parts of rites, that can be understood by all concerned without recourse to symbolical interpretation. This position is illustrated with the help of examples from different cultures and religions that impose a social hierarchy: typically there is one person or party that is superior, another...
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This paper deals with the theme of giving away the body or parts of it. This theme is frequent in Buddhist literature, but also finds expression in the real life custom, attested in India and more so in China, of burning one’s own body as an act of religious fervour. The paper studies the potential link of this theme with the Vedic sacrificial trad...
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This article argues that a model of the mind held by a number of Indian and Tibetan philosophical schools, both Brahmanical and Buddhist, could be extremely useful, even today, and has, if suitably adjusted, great explanatory power with regard to a number of phenomena that we usually call religious. According to this model, there are two fundamenta...
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This chapter examines karma according to Brahmanism. One of the most central claims of Brahmanism is that there is a hierarchical order of human beings. There is a fundamental division into four classes, the highest of which is the class of the Brahmins, a largely hereditary class of priests. The Brahmins derived their livelihood and special positi...
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This chapter examines the mental state at the precise moment of death according to Jainism, Buddhism, and the Brahmanical tradition. The mental state at the precise moment of death is widely believed to be important for determining the nature of the next existence. In a certain sense this is not in conflict with the belief in karmic retribution, bu...
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This chapter examines the origins and religious use of the belief in karma—that is, belief in rebirth and karmic retribution. It begins with a historical presentation of a number of early religious movements in northern India, with particular emphasis on God and gods in Indian religions. It shows that religion in the Indian situation is not always...
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This book concludes with a discussion of the scheme of rebirth and karmic retribution in India. It first looks at developments outside the Indian subcontinent, focusing on the belief in reincarnation and the westward spread of Indian notions of rebirth and karmic retribution. In particular, it considers the role of Brahmanism, Buddhism, and the rel...
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This chapter examines concepts that oppose the notion of karma. The importance of karma is emphasized in texts belonging to both Brahmanism and Buddhism, including the Padma Purana and the Buddhist Abhidharmakosha Bhashya. However, earlier deeds are not always presented as the only factor that determines present events. Present experiences are ofte...
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This chapter examines karma in and after Greater Magadha, the region east of the Vedic homeland, that is, east of the confluence of the Ganges and the Jumna, in the eastern Ganges plain. Magadha was a kingdom in the eastern Ganges valley that became the center of an empire in the fourth century B.C.E., and at its height unified most of the Indian s...
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This chapter examines how the Indian philosophical tradition, in its various manifestations, dealt with questions relating to rebirth and karmic retribution. The philosophical systems of classical India often present themselves as being expressions of the insight required to attain liberation. They paid at least lip-service to the idea that a thoro...
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This chapter examines a variant of karma: the notion of gaining merit through transfer and of incurring demerit. The belief in transferring merit to deceased ancestors may have absorbed elements from the Vedic custom (known as shraddha) of ritually feeding the ancestors. Inscriptional and other evidence suggests that this belief became extremely po...
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Some ten years ago an interesting discussion took place in the pages of this journal. It began with an article by Arindam Chakrabarti (2000) whose title betrays its intention: "Against Immaculate Perception: Seven Reasons for Eliminating Nirvikalpaka Perception from Nyāya." There followed a response by Stephen H. Phillips (2001), "There's Nothing W...

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