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Date of Award

10-1975

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Religion

Supervisor

Paul Younger

Co-Supervisor

David Kinsley

Abstract

Of the eighteen traditionally recognized Purānas in Indian religious literature, the Bhāgavata is indisputably the most famous. Scholarly consensus (van Buitenen, T.J. Hopkins, Winternitz, Farquhar, et. al.) regards the text as being a "unified composition" of twelve skandhas (books) or 18,000 verses written about the 10th century A.D. is Southern India. This places the Purāna in a cultural context which had come under the popular and powerful influence of the Ālvār and Nāyanār bhakti saints and of the renowned teacher, Śankarācārya. Added to this was the presence of Vedic brahmins from the north whose migration had been supported by southern kings and whose teachings had become respected as normative for those societies. Although many of these Smārta brahmins, as they were called, were theistic, they carefully defined themselves off from sectarian groups such as the Vaisnavites who worshipped only Visnu.

What will be investigated in this study is the Vaisnavite response to the challenge presented by the Advaitin (non-dualist) teachings of Śankara being spread by the respected Smārta tradition. More specifically, the aim of this thesis is to explore the pedagogy employed by the Vaisnavite author of the Bhāgavata Purāna in presenting a conciliatory understanding of the relationship between the teachings of bhakti and the doctrines of the Smārtas.

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