Violence Denied: Violence, Non-Violence and the Rationalization of Violence in South Asian Cultural History

Violence Denied: Violence, Non-Violence and the Rationalization of Violence in South Asian Cultural History

Violence Denied: Violence, Non-Violence and the Rationalization of Violence in South Asian Cultural History

Violence Denied: Violence, Non-Violence and the Rationalization of Violence in South Asian Cultural History

Synopsis

In the course of millennia of dealing with problems of violence, South Asia has not only elaborated the ideal of total avoidance of violence in a unique manner, it also developed arguments justifying and rationalizing its employment under certain circumstances. Some of these arguments seemingly transform all sorts of violence into non-violence. Historical and cultural aspects of the tensions between violence and its denial and rationalization in South Asia are taken up in the contributions of this volume which deal with topics ranging from the origins of the concept of ahim's , to the iconography and interpretation of a self-beheading goddess, and violent heroines in Ajñeya's Hindi short stories.

Excerpt

duṣṭaṃ hiṃsāyāṃ, “evil in the case of violence.” This brief statement refers to an evil Brahmin. It is not meritorious to offer such a Brahmin food, the commentary further explains. Which Brahmins are called wicked? The answer is that Brahmins are wicked when they use violence (hiṃsā). The text thus denounces Brahmins using violence rather than violence itself. Violence is permitted, indeed, even obligatory, for instance in the case of Kṣatriyas.

The statement quoted above was discussed at a seminar on the theme of “Violence in South-Asian cultural traditions,” which was organized by Indologists of the Kern Institute, Leiden University. The discussion was opened by one of the editors of this volume, Karel R. van Kooij, who argued that in the epic tradition—the Bhagavad-Gītā included—the use of violence is not condemned. On the contrary, it is glorified. The greatest heroes practice the most extreme forms of violence on the battlefield and are praised nevertheless. Furthermore, Hindu and Buddhist iconography seem to reflect a positive attitude towards violence which at first sight is not expected in a culture which is usually associated with non-violence. These viewpoints aroused lively reactions.

In the course of time, other views were presented during similar small-scale seminars, and furthermore at a symposium on “Religions and War,” which was held 12 april 1996, jointly organized by the Research School CNWS and the Leiden Institute for the Study of Religions. At this symposium Lambert Schmithausen presented a paper which is included in this

Vaiśeṣika-Sūtra 6.1.10. Problems in the interpretation of this and conjoining sūtras (contextually dūstam seems to refer to ‘a bad Brahmin’ and is explained thus by commentators, though one would expect duṣṭaḥ in that case) have been discussed in Harunaga Isaacson's “Materials for the study of the Vaiśesika system,” Dissertation Leiden University 1995, p. 87 and note 31.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.