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By Frederick Smith

The Self Possessed is a multifaceted, diachronic learn reconsidering the very nature of faith in South Asia, the end result of years of extensive learn. Frederick M. Smith proposes that confident oracular or ecstatic ownership is the most typical type of non secular expression in India, and that it's been linguistically wonderful from unfavourable, disease-producing ownership for millions of years.In South Asia ownership has constantly been broader and extra assorted than within the West, the place it's been nearly solely characterised as "demonic." At top, spirit ownership has been considered as a medically treatable mental disease and at worst, as a situation that calls for exorcism or punishment. In South (and East) Asia, ecstatic or oracular ownership has been broadly practiced all through historical past, occupying a place of admire in early and up to date Hinduism and in sure kinds of Buddhism.Smith analyzes Indic literature from all ages-the earliest Vedic texts; the Mahabharata; Buddhist, Jain, Yogic, Ayurvedic, and Tantric texts; Hindu devotional literature; Sanskrit drama and narrative literature; and greater than 100 ethnographies. He identifies a number of varieties of ownership, together with pageant, initiatory, oracular, and devotional, and demonstrates their multivocality inside quite a lot of sects and spiritual identities. ownership is usual between either women and men and is practiced via contributors of all social and caste strata. Smith theorizes on notions of embodiment, disembodiment, selfhood, own identification, and different key concerns in the course of the prism of ownership, redefining the connection among Sanskritic and vernacular tradition and among elite and renowned faith. Smith's examine is usually comparative, introducing significant fabric from Tibet, classical China, glossy the US, and elsewhere.Brilliant and persuasive, The Self Possessed offers cautious new translations of infrequent fabric and is the main complete research in any language in this topic. (127.3)

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Additional info for The Self Possessed: Deity and Spirit Possession in South Asian Literature and Civilization

Sample text

Denied all value to possession states and they were screened out of brahmanical religion. To be possessed is to lose one’s self-awareness and self-control. ”23 Gombrich’s remarks were to some extent responsible for alerting me to the possibility of possession in Sanskrit texts. While it is true that brahmanism inculcates control, to what extent, I wondered, did brahmans strictly observe brahmanism, and to what extent was this aspect of brahmanism an instigating force in a broad sampling of Sanskrit texts?

69 Because of possession’s complexity—āveśa, praveśa, or any other variety of it—we might say that it directly engages and affects the person, the puruùa (though no Sanskrit text speaks of it in quite this way) or attabhāva. Possession may in certain cases, for example in initiatory possession described in tantric texts, help illumine a self, but it occurs within and is mediated by complex systemic units that we might call persons or puruùa. Thus I am careful to keep discussion of possession within the domain of personhood, with the cultural and behavioral environments that these perforce require and refer to emergent selfhood when the context dictates.

6 Therefore, discussion of it has been avoided or denounced by the self-conceived (and, by no accident, highly literate) orthodox among both scholars and indigenous practitioners. And among scholars, even when this stigma has not been inflicted, possession as the exclusive property of lower-ranking individuals has been assumed so casually as to preclude a search for it among other groups and individuals. Even the eminent sociologist Louis Dumont declares possession a “mystic ecstasy . . ”7 The present study aims to rectify these shortcomings.

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