2002 Indic Colloquium
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Rita Sherma

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Claremont Graduate University
171 E. Tenth Street
Claremont, CA 91711-6160



(607) 277-6127





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Background Information

Rita DasGupta Sherma holds a M.A. in Women's Studies in Religion, and a Ph.D. in Theology & Ethics from Claremont Graduate University (CGU), Claremont Calif. She chairs the Council for Hindu Studies at CGU, and is the past president of the Himalayan Arts and Religion Council. Her scholarship has been presented at numerous academic conferences. Her published essays include:

1996 "Earth, Immanence, and the Divine Feminine." Journal of Feminine Wisdom, vol. 3. 2 .

1999 "Sacred Immanence: Reflections of Ecofeminism in Hindu Tantra" in Lance E. Nelson, ed., Purifying the Body of God: Ecological concern in Hindu India. Albany: State University of New York Press.

2000 "SA HAM - I AM SHE: Woman as Goddess" in Alf Hiltebeitel and Kathleen Erndl, eds., Feminism and the Hindu Goddess. New York University Press.

"Plural Religious Identities and Households" in Rosemary Ruether and Rosemary Keller, eds., The Encyclopedia of Women and Religion in North America. Indiana University Press, (2003).

A volume on constructive Hindu theology titled "Eros, Ecology and Enlightenment: Towards a New Vision of Hindu Theology," is forthcoming in 2003.


Power and Potentiality: The Reclamation of Hindu Theology
for A Contemporary Ethical and Ecological Application

While Christianity, with its closed canon and epistemological resources limited primarily to scripture, has continued to re-envision its theological ethos to address issues unique to each period, Hinduism, with its relatively open canon, and variety of valid epistemic resources (the pramanas), has been far less dynamic in recent centuries, in reclaiming and renewing its theological vision to speak to the concerns of each new era. The reason for this loss in momentum in theological reflection and ethical reconstruction has been the pressures and politics of the colonial era. A people under domination tend towards a defensive posture towards the preservation--not reconstruction--of their threatened culture. This instinctual sense of preservation as survival and appologetics as method is not easily erased from the minds of a people oppressed for centuries.

Today, as the first truly global culture emerges, Indic civilization is no longer confined by the boundaries of South Asia. As in earlier times when the much of South East Asia was informed by the religious philosophies, mythic vision, and arts of the Indian subcontinent, we are witness to a time when the dissemination of Indian civilizational influences is, once again, on the move.

The international proliferation of the Indian Diaspora and its impact on transnational organizations, political groups, sectors of the economy, as well as the pervasive influence of Indic thought on contemporary Western spirituality, the New Age movement, yoga, and new directions in complementary medicine over the past several decades has thrust the Hindu civilizational ethos into the global arena. Yet, despite the dissemination and integration of Indic civilizational influences into the cultural ethos, the overarching paradigm of the Indic worldview in terms of its implications for an alternate understanding of the nexus of science and religion, ethics, and society still remain, for the most part, in the shadows--largely absent from the erudite discourse of the intelligentsia and represented only marginally in American higher education.

It is the catalyzation of this reclamation and renewal, articulation and re-presentation of the potential inherent in Hindu theology as an alternate paradigm for understanding the nature of reality and the dynamics of society that is the aim of this paper. Using, as my point of departure, the fundamental trans-theistic conceptualization of Ultimate Reality as presented in seminal upanishadic doctrines, I bring into conversation the theistic renderings of these doctrines in the Shakti/Shiva (Power/Potentiality) ethos and their possibilities that inhere in such interpretations in terms of science, ethics, and the environment.

Read the entire paper in PDF format (48K, 12 pp.)