Date of Award

9-1975

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Religious Sciences

Supervisor

Paul Younger

Abstract

This in a study of a Rammohun Roy's participation in the development of Hindu religious thought. It is an attempt to understand Hindu religious thought through the writings of Rammohun Roy by examining why so much of what he said, wrote, and did was contentious.

It has been customary, in studies of Rammohun Roy's religious thought, to concentrate on his opposition to the use of images in worship. This emphasis has made it appear that Rammohun Roy's most substantial contribution to the development of Hindu religious thought has been to draw attention to polytheism and image worship, and to make it clear that these do not represent the best expressions of Hindu theology and worship.

That issue forms part of this study, but this study is considerably broader. It discusses Rammohun Roy's theological position both in terms of the polytheism which he opposed and the monotheism which he supported. But it includes more than his theological position. It analyzes the authority upon which he based his theology. That discussion has two dimensions: firstly there is Rammohun Roy's criticism of what he perceived to be the accepted basis of authority, and secondly there his suggestion for a more adequate basis of authority. This study also analyzes the debates which Rammohun Roy had with some of his contemporaries about the qualifications which were expected of those involved in theological discussion.

This study indicates that Rammohun Roy's religious thought was contentious in many areas, and that the theological issues were not necessarily the most contentious. In fact, it is misleading to study the debates between Rammohun Roy and his contemporaries in purely theological terms, since that fails to account for the vehemence of some of the opposition which he encountered. The most contentious issues between Rammohun Roy and some of his contemporaries were not definitions of God, but questions about people's capacity to benefit from theological discussions and questions about the qualifications expected of those who engaged in such discussions.

The study suggests that in this situation theological debate was contentious as much because of the context in which it occurred as because of the actual theological positions enunciated in the debate. It suggests that the distinctions between the insider and outsider, initiate and uninitiate, and qualified and unqualified are distinctions of great importance in religious discussion, and that if the implicit boundaries these categories are disregarded, serious disagreement will result. The study concludes that Rammohun Roy challenged the traditional boundaries between these categories, and that this challenge was the most important reason for the opposition to him.

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