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Title: A modern Advaita-Vedāntin : locating Swami Chinmayananda and his understanding of consciousness in the context of scripture and the contemporary world
Author: Khanna, Varun
ISNI:       0000 0004 9353 9602
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2016
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Questions of the nature of the Self and the purpose of life have been of interest to mankind for millennia, culminating in the study of Consciousness in various civilizations. Amidst the milieu of ancient and contemporary theories of Consciousness is the ancient Indian philosophy of advaita-vedānta, or the system of non-duality. This dissertation explores the nature of the Self as Consciousness according to the well-known 20th Century philosopher of advaita-vedānta and Hindu guru, Swami Chinmayananda (1916-1993), drawing upon the core texts of Vedānta, the Upaniṣads, and the works of the chief systematizer of Advaita philosophy and the head of Chinmayananda’s monastic order, Śaṅkara (788-820 CE), and locates Chinmayananda and his work within the contemporaneous and ongoing dialogue regarding Hinduism. Understanding that the Upaniṣads are cryptic in nature and that we need a lens through which we can study them, we begin by providing a biography and analysis of the life of Swami Chinmayananda, the lens we have chosen for this dissertation, in the first two chapters. The circumstances in which he was raised, particularly the struggle for India’s independence, would influence his interpretation and presentation of Advaita philosophy. We then analyze his interpretation itself in the third and fourth chapters in the form of an intellectual biography, by presenting the philosophy in its traditional sequence, comparing and contrasting Chinmayananda’s interpretation with his predecessors, especially Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) and Śaṅkara. In the fifth and final chapter we attempt to situate him in the ongoing hermeneutical process of Hinduism by assessing his particular position within three broad strands of research: Hinduism and science, Hinduism and modernity, and Hinduism and diaspora configurations. We conclude that there is something to be learned from the Upaniṣads about Consciousness that augments our contemporary understanding of it, and that the voice of Chinmayananda must not be lost within the dialogue regarding Consciousness, the Self, and Hinduism, for his work has helped to shape the discussion about Hinduism as it stands today.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: advaita-veda¯nta ; philosophy ; self