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Teaching Religion and Violence$
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Brian K. Pennington

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780195372427

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195372427.001.0001

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Striking the Delicate Balance

Striking the Delicate Balance

Teaching Violence and Hinduism

(p.19) Chapter 1 Striking the Delicate Balance
Teaching Religion and Violence

Brian K. Pennington

Oxford University Press

This essay presents a topical approach to the teaching of Hinduism and violence that highlights Vedic sacrifice, the development of non-violent ideals (ahiṃsā), the king’s obligation to rule by force (rājadharma), asceticism, the fierce gods of the Hindu pantheon, devotional acts that inflict violence on the self, and contemporary conflict involving Hindus, Muslims and Hindus in India related to communalism. By conducting a historical survey that introduces students to these or other topics an instructor can cultivate a nuanced appreciation of the complexity of Hindu thought on force or harm that balances the tradition’s powerful rationalizations of violence against its equally compelling demands for the renunciation of violence. Such an approach can also equip students to analyze and interpret specific acts of religious violence and see them as highly contextual episodes that are products of contingent factors.

Keywords:   sacrifice, ahiṃsā, non-violence, communalism, riot, Hinduism and violence, rājadharma

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