In Dialogue with Classical Indian Traditions: Encounter, Transformation and Interpretation, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

In Dialogue with Classical Indian Traditions

Encounter, Transformation and Interpretation, 1st Edition

Edited by Brian Black, Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad


282 pages

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Dialogue is a recurring and significant component of Indian religious and philosophical literature. Whether it be as a narrative account of a conversation between characters within a text, as an implied response or provocation towards an interlocutor outside the text, or as a hermeneutical lens through which commentators and modern audiences can engage with an ancient text, dialogue features prominently in many of the most foundational sources from classical India. Despite its ubiquity, there are very few studies that explore this important facet of Indian texts. This book redresses this imbalance by undertaking a close textual analysis of a range of religious and philosophical literature to highlight the many uses and functions of dialogue in the sources themselves and in subsequent interpretations.

Using the themes of encounter, transformation and interpretation – all of which emerged from face-to-face discussions between the contributors of this volume – each chapter explores dialogue in its own context, thereby demonstrating the variety and pervasiveness of dialogue in different genres of the textual tradition.

This is a rich and detailed study that offers a fresh and timely perspective on many of the most well-known and influential sources from classical India. As such, it will be of great use to scholars of religious studies, Asian studies, comparative literature and literary theory.


‘This edited volume offers a number of case studies using theological, philosophical, and philological approaches to identify, interpret, and discuss dialogue in the literatures of ancient India. This is a timely topic, and the book includes a rich collection of approaches and traditions.’ – Knut A. Jacobsen, University of Bergen, Norway

Table of Contents


Brian Black and Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad


Part 1: Encounter

1 Sources of Indian secularism? Dialogues on Politics and Religion in Hindu and Buddhist Traditions

Brian Black

2 Dialogues with Solitary Buddhas

Naomi Appleton

3 Refutation or Dialogue? Śaṃkara’s Treatment of the Bhāgavatas

J.G. Suthren Hirst

4 ‘We Resort to Reason’: The Argumentative Structure in Veṅkatòanātha’s Sesìvaramīmāmòsā

Elisa Freschi

5 ‘Speakers of Highest Truth’: Philosophical Plurilogues About Brahman in the Early Upaniṣads

Jessica Frazier


Part 2: Transformation

6 Outer and Inner Dialogues as Transformative Disciplines in the Yogavāsiṣṭha

James Madaio

7 Being Human, Dialogically

Lynn Thomas

8 Dialoguing the Vārkari Tradition

Monika Kirloskar-Steinbach

9 Convincing the King: Jain Ministers and Religious Persuasion through Dialogue

Jonathan Geen 


Part 3: Interpretation

10 Careful Attention and the Voice of Another

Maria Heim

11 Mahābhārata Dialogues on Dharma and Devotion with Kṛṣṇa and Hanumān

Bruce M. Sullivan

12 Models of Royal Piety in the Mahābhārata: The Case of Vidura, Sanatsujāta and Vidurā

James M. Hegarty

13 Dialogue in Extremis: Vālin in the Vālmīki Rāmāyana

Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad



Laurie L. Patton

About the Editors

Brian Black is Lecturer in Religious Studies in the Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion at Lancaster University, UK. His research interests include Indian religions, comparative philosophy, the use of dialogue in Indian religious and philosophical texts, and Hindu and Buddhist ethics. He is author of the book The Character of the Self in Ancient India: Priests, Kings, and Women in the Early Upani?ads.

Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad is Fellow of the British Academy, and Distinguished Professor of Comparative Religion and Philosophy at Lancaster University, UK. He has published several books, including Advaita Metaphysics and Epistemology, Knowledge and Liberation in Classical Indian Thought, and Divine Self, Human Self: The Philosophy of Being in Two Gita Commentaries. His most recent book is Human Being, Bodily Being: Phenomenology from Classical India.

About the Series

Dialogues in South Asian Traditions: Religion, Philosophy, Literature and History

Face-to-face conversation and dialogue are defining features of South Asian traditional texts, rituals and practices. Not only has the region of South Asia always consisted of a multiplicity of peoples and cultures in communication with each other, but also performed and written dialogues have been indelible features within the religions of South Asia; Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and Islam are all multi-vocal religions. Their doctrines, practices and institutions have never had only one voice of authority, and dialogue has been a shared tactic for negotiating contesting interpretations within each tradition.

This series examines the use of the dialogical genre in South Asian religious and cultural traditions. Historical inquiries into the plurality of religious identity in South Asia, particularly when constructed by the dialogical genre, are crucial in an age when, as Amartya Sen has recently observed, singular identities seem to hold more destructive sway than multiple ones. This series approaches dialogue in its widest sense, including discussion, debate, argument, conversation, communication, confrontation and negotiation. Opening up a dynamic historical and literary mode of analysis, which assumes the plural dimensions of religious identities and communities from the start, this series challenges many outdated assumptions and representations of South Asian religions.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / Subjects & Themes / Religion
RELIGION / General
RELIGION / Buddhism / Sacred Writings
RELIGION / Comparative Religion
RELIGION / Eastern
RELIGION / Hinduism / Sacred Writings
RELIGION / Jainism
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Regional Studies