When did Hinduism forbid overseas travel?

When did Hinduism forbid overseas travel?

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Reading a comment made on this site, I saw something very curious:

Why not blame it on the ancient Hindu belief that traveling overseas pollutes a person irredeemably, thereby stunting the growth of Indian naval technology and ensuring Europeans came to India rather than vice versa?

Searching on Google, I find quite a few people debating whether there are current rules against overseas travel, or what the penalties are, but I haven't been able to find anything about this belief in ancient days.

I know that Hinduism did spread to Indonesia at one point, so I imagine there was no prohibition against overseas travel in those days. So, to be more specific:

When did Hinduism first prohibit overseas travel, and when did it stop prohibiting overseas travel?

According to this article in Hinduism Today (July/August/September 2008), samudrayana (ocean voyage) is forbidden in the Shastras, but it may not be binding on current followers -- instead they may go through ritual purification after travel. The relevant passage is below:

The Baudhayana Sutra, one of the Hindu Dharma Shastras, says that "making voyages by sea" (II.1.2.2) is an offense which will cause pataniya, loss of caste. It offers a rather difficult penance: "They shall eat every fourth mealtime a little food, bathe at the time of the three libations (morning, noon and evening), passing the day standing and the night sitting. After the lapse of three years, they throw off their guilt."

The term in Sanskrit "Sagara Ullanghana" or "Samudra Ullanghana" is the term mainly used to prohibit upper caste i.e. Brahmins who have learnt Vedas and do daily 'Pujas' and 'Sandhyavandanam' from crossing the sea or ocean. This article Hindus and Ocean Taboo gives the complete picture of it and also what a Brahmin says about "making voyages by sea".

Baudhayana Dharma and Grahya Shastra and Manu Smriti extensively mentions castes and imposes strict rules to be followed by those castes. But most of them concentrate on Brahmins and their Do's and Don'ts. But samudrayana was allowed to other castes because since Vedic period people from India have traveled across the world for trade. And another example is Hindu culture in Indonesia.

Samudrayana, overseas travel, has always been forbidden to an observant Hindu because it would necessarily involve coming into contact with a non Hindu, which is an uncleansable defilement. In itself, there is nothing wrong with travel, but to have contact with foreigners, with the Dasyu, and their food is a fundamental violation of Hindu Brama, purity of being.

In Hinduism, everything is gradation. Thus, a Brahman who defiles himself by martial activities becomes a Ksatriya, which in itself has its own honors, or perhaps something worse. The more defilement you bring upon yourself, the deeper your dishonor and degradation. This is what is meant by "loss of caste". Conversely, by right and pure conduct a person may ascend and become higher in grade, even a Brahman.

To have regular contact with unbelieving foreigners, the Dasyu, is considered to be so defiling that there is no coming back in one lifetime.

Raja Ram Mohan Roy was the first hindu Brahmin who ignored the old rule of ocean travelling prohibition… on 15th November 1830.

When did Hinduism forbid overseas travel? - History

The story of Hinduism is somewhat elusive.

There is no definitive starting point, no founder, no single holy text in the history of Hinduism. Even the term “Hinduism” as we know it today is the result of the British attempt, during colonial times, to group India’s numerous indigenous religions into a single, overarching tradition.

But though the formation of Hinduism is relatively recent, Hindu beliefs and practices derive from ancient customs going back thousands of years. Some scholars believe Hinduism is the oldest religion in the world.

The Formation of Hinduism

It’s difficult to trace the early history of Hinduism, but the word Hindu is from the Sanskrit word for the Indus River, “Sindhu.” It was first used by ancient Persians to refer to the people living near the Indus River in present-day Pakistan. Later, as Islam became a major influence in India, the word Hindu designated anyone who was not Muslim. During colonial times, the British used “Hindu” to mean anyone—Buddhist, Jain, Sikh included—who was not a Muslim, Christian, or Jew.

Scholars believe it was from this Indus Valley civilization that Hinduism emerged, prompted by cultural and political changes in the region. Nomadic tribes from eastern Europe and central Asia migrated into the valley around 1500 BC and brought with them their own social and spiritual beliefs that influenced and mingled with the religions of the Indus Valley people.

The Vedic Period, when sacred Hindu texts called the Vedas were composed, lasted from around 1500 BC to 500 BC, up to the time of Buddha. During this era, the priestly class of Brahmins used the Vedas—a vast collection of hymns, poems, and spiritual rituals in the ancient language of Sanskrit—to conduct religious rituals, perform fire sacrifices to gods, and stake their claim at the top of a caste system, which developed during Vedic times.

This social hierarchy, based on a division of labor, included priests, warriors, merchants, laborers, and those who did not fall into any category who were later called “untouchables.” Eventually, the rules of the caste system became entwined with the practice of Hinduism.

New Inspiration and Influences

As Vedic culture declined, new systems of belief emerged, including Buddhism and Jainism, that challenged the Brahmin priests and their caste hierarchy. However, the Epics and the Puranas—additional sacred Hindu texts—were probably composed during this time between 500 BC and AD 500. Many elements recognized in Hinduism today originate from these writings, including rituals, temple worship, festivals, and popular stories about Hindu gods. From AD 500, temple worship and devotion to deities such as Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma became popular.

“Hinduism has now grown to become the world’s third largest religion, after Christianity and Islam.”

By the seventh or eighth century AD, Islam was on the rise in northern India. Muslim armies invaded parts of India, sometimes destroying Hindu temples and restricting Hindus from worshiping their deities. Muslim rule in India lasted from around 1200 until the 1750s. Then, as European powers began their scramble for colonies in Asia, the British established themselves in India in 1757.

Under British rule, the fusion of India’s myriad philosophies, beliefs, and rituals began to take shape. The British “creation” of Hinduism was an attempt to organize the diverse, indigenous practices, and worship of gods and goddesses throughout India. With the help of Brahmin priests, British scholars interpreted the Vedas from Sanskrit and presented them as the uniform, authoritative texts of Hinduism.

At first, Hindus were allowed to practice their religion without interference, but soon the British advocated for westernizing India. This led to a rising alarm at the cultural changes taking place and set the stage for a Hindu reformer named Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi’s belief in universal truth (all paths lead to god) and nonviolence informed his hope for religious tolerance in India. He went on to lead a nonviolent movement for India’s independence, which it achieved in 1947. His teachings continue to be revered today by Hindus and non-Hindus alike.

Hinduism Today

Hinduism has now grown to become the world’s third largest religion, after Christianity and Islam. There are an estimated 950 million followers worldwide, and almost 80 percent of India’s population is Hindu. Hinduism is also common in Nepal and Sri Lanka and has attracted followers from Western cultures too.

One of the most famous converts was Beatles guitarist George Harrison to a branch of Hinduism called Hare Krishna. Following his death, Harrison’s ashes were scattered on the waters of India’s sacred Ganges river, believed to have its source at the god Vishnu’s feet. For Hindus, the scattering of ashes on the Ganges river symbolizes the soul’s journey toward becoming one with ultimate reality. Many Hindus travel to the banks of the sacred Ganges to await death, believing that if you die in this holy spot, your soul is released from the cycle of reincarnation and achieves salvation.

There remains a wide gap separating deep spiritual understanding from local, superstitious practices, but Hinduism continues to evolve in response to social and cultural changes in India. Whatever the changes, the view that all paths lead to god persists.

Leigh Merryman is a writer for IMB. She serves with her family in Southeast Asia.

Hinduism - Spread and Distribution

It considerably simplifies the study of Indian history by remembering how civilisation, learning, and political power gravitated eastwards and southwards by successive stages during these long centuries. During the Rig-Vedic Period, [1500 BC to 1000 BC ] Aryan civilisation spread itself over the Punjab, and the literature and the history of the age are the literature and the history of the Punjab. In the Vedic Age (1000 BC to 600 BC) the new colonies in Northern India attained a higher civilisation and political importance, and the literature and history of this age are mainly the literature and history of Northern India. In the third Age (600 BC to 400 BC ) the Brahmin kingdoms in Eastern and Southern India had risen to a higher political power, and the scenes of the greatest intellectual and religious movements of this age were laid in Eastern and Southern India.

A vast mass of Sutra literature sprang up all over India the schools of the Deccan and of Southern India rivalled those of the North and all nations of India were held together by these codes of Brahmin law, all prescribing the same rites and duties, all breathing the same spirit, all recognising the Vedas and Vedic sacrifices. Ancient Brahminism spread all over India more by its moral and intellectual influence than by the force of arms and that nations were held together as one great confederation less by political and military weapons than by a common religion, by the observance of common rites, and by codes of Brahmin law shaping and determining the conduct of all Aryans.

The Vaishnavas represented the deified heroes of India as successive incarnations of their god, thus utilising the doctrine of transmigration. The Saivas, on the other hand, took up the deities worshipped by the various tribes, and represented them as being manifestations or servants of Siva. Their system consequently does not present the same unity as that of their rivals: there are no broad lines by which to mark their working, and it is neccessary to gather together disjointed legends in every district of India to learn how they propagated their faith. The priests in many of the temples of these gods are not Brahmans, but members of other castes they not seeming to have cared to disturb the old arrangements for worship among those whom they proselytised, if they only acknowledged their supremacy. The whole object of the Saivas was to assimilate, not to eradicate, ancient usages. They seem to have been as compliant with regard to the moral practices of those whom they proselytised.

Amid the general anarchy in Northern India caused by the rise of the Rajputs the kingdom of Kanauj managed to survive. The city grew and prospered greatly and it became during the period of Rajput ascendency [648 AD - 1192 AD] the center of religious life in Northern India, its priesthood the acknowledged arbiter in all social and religious questions in the Hindu world. Here the new Hinduism had its principal seat, and it was here too that the new system of caste was evolved. Hitherto Brahmin caste had been a division of the people arising out of the development within the Aryan community of an aristocracy of priests and warriors.

A new principle became henceforth a basis of caste distinction, the principle of classification by occupation, and those who followed a particular calling began to form themselves into a separate caste with customs peculiar to themselves. Teachers from Kanauj were invited by kings to migrate from it to kingdoms so far distant as Guzerat, Bengal and Orissa, to reorganize society upon the model of Kanauj. Through the influence of Kanauj the new Hinduism spread to the four corners of India, and caste divisions grew and multiplied everywhere exceedingly.

Although almost all the world's Hindus live in India or Nepal, there are also overseas communities of Hindus. The first movement of Hinduism from India was to nearby areas of Southeast Asia. Hinduism spread over Burma, Siam, and Java. Great cities were erected with splendid temples and huge idols, the ruins of which still remain, though their magnificence has gone and they are covered to-day with the growth of the jungle. This powerful civilization of the Hindus, established thus in Malaysia, greatly affected the Malayan people on these islands, as well as those who came to the Philippines.

The mighty Himalayas formed the material barrier by which the northward spread of Hinduism was arrested. After a thousand years of conflict, Brahminism succeeded in expelling Buddhism from India, but it was powerless to dislodge it from the mountains and plateaux of the north. The sea of Brahminism rolled over the plain of Bengal, and covered the Deccan, but at the base of the Himalayas its advance was arrested. Here on these rocky heights, and from these mountains all across Thibet, Mongolia, and China, Buddhism was the supreme religion.

Mohammedanism moved westward over Africa and Europe, and was carried eastward as well. Animated by their faith, the Arabs became the greatest sailors, explorers, merchants, and geographers of the age. They sailed from the Red Sea down the coast of Africa as far as Madagascar, and eastward to India, where they had settlements on both the Malabar and Coromandel coasts. Thence Arab missionaries brought their faith to the Malay archipelago, overwhelming the Hindu states. In eastern Indonesia, Islamization proceeded through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, often in competition with the aggressive proselytization of Portuguese and other Christian missionaries. By modern times Hindu believers in Indonesia were relatively few outside of Bali, where they made up more than 93 percent of the population, number over 4 million people, the fourth largest Hindu population in the world.

By the end of the 20th Century Hinduism was the majority religion in India, Nepal, Mauritius, Guyana and Suriname. In a several other countries, including Malaysia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Fiji the USA and UK, Hindus constitute a significant minority. Of the world's 200 countries, Hindus are found in mesurable numbers in 114 countries. This wide distribution - notably to Guyana and Suriname - is attributable to the Indian diaspora that was initially a product of British imperialism and the of voluntary migration of Indians in search of better economic prospects. This movement of Hindus continues to this day as Indian professionals are sought after in various industries like engineering and information technology in countries around the world.

Hinduism, as an institution, offers very little to the poor and underprivileged within its fold. This is one of the prime reasons for voluntary conversion of Hindus from among its members. The erstwhile followers of Hinduism pose a major question mark to traditional Hinduism even today, and are its greatest critics, besides nursing strong resentment and seething anger against atrocities committed by upper caste Hindus in the past, which continues in certain areas of India even today. Hinduism has little to offer to the poor and the underprivileged from among its fold. That is why hordes of the poor and underprivileged left it earlier, when they did so voluntarily (of course there also was a considerable condemnable forcible conversion, which is not at issue here). And those who realize this fault from among the upper caste and/or the privileged class also leave it, or do not at least practice it beyond following some rituals.

What did the Christian missions offer the ordinary Hindu convert? They just tapped the basic needs of the Hindus from the deprived sections. They offered education through their wide network of Mission schools, and they offered medical help through their equally wide network of Mission hospitals. The game plan was that every town would have a hospital and school run by Christian missions. This ensured that the formative years of an individual were spent in a convent school, exposed at a tender age to the benefits of a quality education.


Lexically, chakra is the Indic reflex of an ancestral Indo-European form *kʷékʷlos, whence also "wheel" and "cycle" (Ancient Greek: κύκλος , romanized: kýklos). [9] [3] [4] It has both literal [10] and metaphorical uses, as in the "wheel of time" or "wheel of dharma", such as in Rigveda hymn verse 1.164.11, [11] [12] pervasive in the earliest Vedic texts.

In Buddhism, especially in Theravada, the Pali noun cakka connotes "wheel". [13] Within the central "Tripitaka", the Buddha variously refers the "dhammacakka", or "wheel of dharma", connoting that this dharma, universal in its advocacy, should bear the marks characteristic of any temporal dispensation. The Buddha spoke of freedom from cycles in and of themselves, whether karmic, reincarnative, liberative, cognitive or emotional. [14]

In Jainism, the term chakra also means "wheel" and appears in various contexts in its ancient literature. [15] As in other Indian religions, chakra in esoteric theories in Jainism such as those by Buddhisagarsuri means a yogic energy center. [16]

The term chakra appears to first emerge within the Hindu Vedas, though not precisely in the sense of psychic energy centers, rather as chakravartin or the king who "turns the wheel of his empire" in all directions from a center, representing his influence and power. [17] The iconography popular in representing the Chakras, states the scholar David Gordon White, traces back to the five symbols of yajna, the Vedic fire altar: "square, circle, triangle, half moon and dumpling". [18]

The hymn 10.136 of the Rigveda mentions a renunciate yogi with a female named kunamnama. Literally, it means "she who is bent, coiled", representing both a minor goddess and one of many embedded enigmas and esoteric riddles within the Rigveda. Some scholars, such as White and Georg Feuerstein, interpret this might be related to kundalini shakti, and an overt overture to the terms of esotericism that would later emerge in Post-Aryan Bramhanism. the Upanishad. [19] [20] [21]

Breath channels (nāḍi) are mentioned in the classical Upanishads of Hinduism from the 1st millennium BCE, [22] [23] but not psychic-energy chakra theories. The latter, states David Gordon White, were introduced about 8th-century CE in Buddhist texts as hierarchies of inner energy centers, such as in the Hevajra Tantra and Caryāgiti. [22] [24] These are called by various terms such as cakka, padma (lotus) or pitha (mound). [22] These medieval Buddhist texts mention only four chakras, while later Hindu texts such as the Kubjikāmata and Kaulajñānanirnaya expanded the list to many more. [22]

In contrast to White, according to Feuerstein, early Upanishads of Hinduism do mention chakras in the sense of "psychospiritual vortices", along with other terms found in tantra: prana or vayu (life energy) along with nadi (energy carrying arteries). [20] According to Gavin Flood, the ancient texts do not present chakra and kundalini-style yoga theories although these words appear in the earliest Vedic literature in many contexts. The chakra in the sense of four or more vital energy centers appear in the medieval era Hindu and Buddhist texts. [25] [22]

Shining, she holds
the noose made of the energy of will,
the hook which is energy of knowledge,
the bow and arrows made of energy of action.
Split into support and supported,
divided into eight, bearer of weapons,
arising from the chakra with eight points,
she has the ninefold chakra as a throne.

Yoginihrdaya 53–54
(Translator: Andre Padoux) [26]

The Chakras are part of esoteric medieval-era beliefs about physiology and psychic centers that emerged across Indian traditions. [22] [27] The belief held that human life simultaneously exists in two parallel dimensions, one "physical body" (sthula sarira) and other "psychological, emotional, mind, non-physical" it is called the "subtle body" (sukshma sarira). [28] [note 1] This subtle body is energy, while the physical body is mass. The psyche or mind plane corresponds to and interacts with the body plane, and the belief holds that the body and the mind mutually affect each other. [5] The subtle body consists of nadi (energy channels) connected by nodes of psychic energy called chakra. [3] The belief grew into extensive elaboration, with some suggesting 88,000 chakras throughout the subtle body. The number of major chakras varied between various traditions, but they typically ranged between four and seven. [3] [4] Nyingmapa Vajrayana Buddhist teachings mention eight chakras and there is a complete yogic system for each of them.

The important chakras are stated in Hindu and Buddhist texts to be arranged in a column along the spinal cord, from its base to the top of the head, connected by vertical channels. [5] [6] The tantric traditions sought to master them, awaken and energize them through various breathing exercises or with assistance of a teacher. These chakras were also symbolically mapped to specific human physiological capacity, seed syllables (bija), sounds, subtle elements (tanmatra), in some cases deities, colors and other motifs. [3] [5] [30]

Belief in the chakra system of Hinduism and Buddhism differs from the historic Chinese system of meridians in acupuncture. [6] Unlike the latter, the chakra relates to subtle body, wherein it has a position but no definite nervous node or precise physical connection. The tantric systems envision it as continually present, highly relevant and a means to psychic and emotional energy. It is useful in a type of yogic rituals and meditative discovery of radiant inner energy (prana flows) and mind-body connections. [6] [31] The meditation is aided by extensive symbology, mantras, diagrams, models (deity and mandala). The practitioner proceeds step by step from perceptible models, to increasingly abstract models where deity and external mandala are abandoned, inner self and internal mandalas are awakened. [32] [33]

These ideas are not unique to Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Similar and overlapping concepts emerged in other cultures in the East and the West, and these are variously called by other names such as subtle body, spirit body, esoteric anatomy, sidereal body and etheric body. [34] [35] [29] According to Geoffrey Samuel and Jay Johnston, professors of Religious studies known for their studies on Yoga and esoteric traditions:

Ideas and practices involving so-called 'subtle bodies' have existed for many centuries in many parts of the world. (. ) Virtually all human cultures known to us have some kind of concept of mind, spirit or soul as distinct from the physical body, if only to explain experiences such as sleep and dreaming. (. ) An important subset of subtle-body practices, found particularly in Indian and Tibetan Tantric traditions, and in similar Chinese practices, involves the idea of an internal 'subtle physiology' of the body (or rather of the body-mind complex) made up of channels through which substances of some kind flow, and points of intersection at which these channels come together. In the Indian tradition the channels are known as nadi and the points of intersection as cakra.

Contrast with classical yoga Edit

Chakra and related beliefs have been important to the esoteric traditions, but they are not directly related to mainstream yoga. According to the Indologist Edwin Bryant and other scholars, the goals of classical yoga such as spiritual liberation (freedom, self-knowledge, moksha) is "attained entirely differently in classical yoga, and the cakra / nadi / kundalini physiology is completely peripheral to it." [37] [38]

The classical eastern traditions, particularly those that developed in India during the 1st millennium AD, primarily describe nadi and chakra in a "subtle body" context. [39] To them, they are in same dimension as of the psyche-mind reality that is invisible yet real. In the nadi and cakra flow the prana (breath, life energy). [39] [40] The concept of "life energy" varies between the texts, ranging from simple inhalation-exhalation to far more complex association with breath-mind-emotions-sexual energy. [39] This prana or essence is what vanishes when a person dies, leaving a gross body. Some of this concept states this subtle body is what withdraws within, when one sleeps. All of it is believed to be reachable, awake-able and important for an individual's body-mind health, and how one relates to other people in one's life. [39] This subtle body network of nadi and chakra is, according to some later Indian theories and many new age speculations, closely associated with emotions. [39] [41]

Hindu Tantra Edit

Esoteric traditions in Hinduism mention numerous numbers and arrangements of chakras, of which a classical system of six-plus-one, the last being the Sahasrara, is most prevalent. [3] [4] [5] This seven-part system, central to the core texts of hatha yoga, is one among many systems found in Hindu tantric literature. Hindu Tantra associates six Yoginis with six places in the subtle body, corresponding to the six chakras of the six-plus-one system. [42]

Association of six Yoginis with chakra locations in the Rudrayamala Tantra [42]
Place in subtle body Yogini
1. Muladhara Dakini
2. Svadhisthana Rakini
3. Manipura Lakini
4. Anahata Kakini
5. Vishuddhi Shakini
6. Ajna Hakini

The Chakra methodology is extensively developed in the goddess tradition of Hinduism called Shaktism. It is an important concept along with yantras, mandalas and kundalini yoga in its practice. Chakra in Shakta tantrism means circle, an "energy center" within, as well as being a term for group rituals such as in chakra-puja (worship within a circle) which may or may not involve tantra practice. [43] The cakra-based system is a part of the meditative exercises that came to be known as yoga. [44]

Buddhist Tantra Edit

The esoteric traditions in Buddhism generally teach four chakras. [3] In some early Buddhist sources, these chakras are identified as: manipura (navel), anahata (heart), vishuddha (throat) and ushnisha kamala (crown). [46] In one development within the Nyingma lineage of the Mantrayana of Tibetan Buddhism a popular conceptualization of chakras in increasing subtlety and increasing order is as follows: Nirmanakaya (gross self), Sambhogakaya (subtle self), Dharmakaya (causal self), and Mahasukhakaya (non-dual self), each vaguely and indirectly corresponding to the categories within the Shaiva Mantramarga universe, i.e., Svadhisthana, Anahata, Visuddha, Sahasrara, etc. [47] However, depending on the meditational tradition, these vary between three and six. [46] The chakras are considered psycho-spiritual constituents, each bearing meaningful correspondences to cosmic processes and their postulated Buddha counterpart. [48] [46]

A system of five chakras is common among the Mother class of Tantras and these five chakras along with their correspondences are: [49]

  • Basal chakra (Element: Earth, Buddha: Amoghasiddhi, Bija mantra: LAM)
  • Abdominal chakra (Element: Water, Buddha: Ratnasambhava, Bija mantra: VAM)
  • Heart chakra (Element: Fire, Buddha: Akshobhya, Bija mantra: RAM)
  • Throat chakra (Element: Wind, Buddha: Amitabha, Bija mantra: YAM)
  • Crown chakra (Element: Space, Buddha: Vairochana, Bija mantra: KHAM)

Chakras clearly play a key role in Tibetan Buddhism, and are considered to be the pivotal providence of Tantric thinking. And, the precise use of the chakras across the gamut of tantric sadhanas gives little space to doubt the primary efficacy of Tibetan Buddhism as distinct religious agency, that being that precise revelation that, without Tantra there would be no Chakras, but more importantly, without Chakras, there is no Tibetan Buddhism. The highest practices in Tibetan Buddhism point to the ability to bring the subtle pranas of an entity into alignment with the central channel, and to thus penetrate the realisation of the ultimate unity, namely, the "organic harmony" of one's individual consciousness of Wisdom with the co-attainment of All-embracing Love, thus synthesizing a direct cognition of absolute Buddhahood. [50]

According to Geoffrey Samuel, the buddhist esoteric systems developed cakra and nadi as "central to their soteriological process". [51] The theories were sometimes, but not always, coupled with a unique system of physical exercises, called yantra yoga or ' phrul ' khor.

Chakras, according to the Bon tradition, enable the gestalt of experience, with each of the five major chakras, being psychologically linked with the five experiential qualities of unenlightened consciousness, the six realms of woe. [52]

The tsa lung practice embodied in the Trul khor lineage, unbaffles the primary channels, thus activating and circulating liberating prana. Yoga awakens the deep mind, thus bringing forth positive attributes, inherent gestalts, and virtuous qualities. In a computer analogy, the screen of one's consciousness is slated and an attribute-bearing file is called up that contains necessary positive or negative, supportive qualities. [52]

Tantric practice is said to eventually transform all experience into clear light. The practice aims to liberate from all negative conditioning, and the deep cognitive salvation of freedom from control and unity of perception and cognition. [52]

The more common and most studied chakra system incorporates six major chakras along with a seventh center generally not regarded as a chakra. These points are arranged vertically along the axial channel (sushumna nadi in Hindu texts, Avadhuti in some Buddhist texts). [54] According to Gavin Flood, this system of six chakras plus the sahasrara "center" at the crown first appears in the Kubjikāmata-tantra, an 11th-century Kaula work. [55]

It was this chakra system that was translated in the early 20th century by Sir John Woodroffe (also called Arthur Avalon) in the text The Serpent Power. Avalon translated the Hindu text Ṣaṭ-Cakra-Nirūpaṇa meaning the examination (nirūpaṇa) of the seven (ṣaṭ) chakras (cakra). [56]

The Chakras are traditionally considered meditation aids. The yogi progresses from lower chakras to the highest chakra blossoming in the crown of the head, internalizing the journey of spiritual ascent. [57] In both the Hindu kundalini and Buddhist candali traditions, the chakras are pierced by a dormant energy residing near or in the lowest chakra. In Hindu texts she is known as Kundalini, while in Buddhist texts she is called Candali or Tummo (Tibetan: gtum mo, "fierce one"). [58]

Below are the common new age description of these six chakras and the seventh point known as sahasrara. This new age version incorporates the Newtonian colors of the rainbow not found in any ancient Indian system. [53]

Sacred texts

The Vedas (“Knowledge”) are the oldest Hindu texts. Hindus regard the Vedas as having been directly revealed to or “heard” by gifted and inspired seers (rishis) who memorized them in the most perfect human language, Sanskrit. Most of the religion of the Vedic texts, which revolves around rituals of fire sacrifice, has been eclipsed by later Hindu doctrines and practices. But even today, as it has been for several millennia, parts of the Vedas are memorized and repeated as a religious act of great merit: certain Vedic hymns (mantras) are always recited at traditional weddings, at ceremonies for the dead, and in temple rituals.

Questions of influence on the Mediterranean world

There is no clear evidence to attest to the influence of Hinduism in the ancient Mediterranean world. The Greek philosopher Pythagoras (c. 580–c. 500 bce ) may have obtained his doctrine of metempsychosis (transmigration, or passage of the soul from one body to another see reincarnation) from India, mediated by Achaemenian (6th–4th century bce ) Persia, but similar ideas were known in Egypt and were certainly present in Greece before the time of Pythagoras. The Pythagorean doctrine of a cyclic universe may also be derived from India, but the Indian theory of cosmic cycles is not attested in the 6th century bce .

It is known that Hindu ascetics occasionally visited Greece. Furthermore, Greece and India conducted not only trade but also cultural, educational, and philosophical exchanges. The most striking similarity between Greek and Indian thought is the resemblance between the system of mystical gnosis (esoteric knowledge) described in the Enneads of the Neoplatonic philosopher Plotinus (205–270) and that of the Yoga-sutra attributed to Patanjali, an Indian religious teacher sometimes dated in the 2nd century ce . The Patanjali text is the older, and influence is probable, though the problem of mediation remains difficult because Plotinus gives no direct evidence of having known anything about Indian mysticism. Several Greek and Latin writers (an example of the former being Clement of Alexandria) show considerable knowledge of the externals of Indian religions, but none gives any intimation of understanding their more recondite aspects.


Douglas Harper states that the etymological origins of Puranas are from Sanskrit Puranah, literally "ancient, former," from pura "formerly, before," cognate with Greek paros "before," pro "before," Avestan paro "before," Old English fore, from Proto-Indo-European *pre-, from *per-." [16]

Vyasa, the narrator of the Mahabharata, is hagiographically credited as the compiler of the Puranas. The ancient tradition suggests that originally there was but one Purana. Vishnu Purana (3.6.15) mentions that Vyasa entrusted his Puranasamhita to his disciple Lomaharshana, who in turn imparted it to his disciples, [note 1] three of whom compiled their own samhitas. These three, together with Lomaharshana's, comprise the Mulasamhita, from which the later eighteen Puranas were derived. [17] [18]

The term Purana appears in the Vedic texts. For example, Atharva Veda mentions Purana (in the singular) in XI.7.24 and XV.6.10-11: [19]

"The rk and saman verses, the chandas, the Purana along with the Yajus formulae, all sprang from the remainder of the sacrificial food, (as also) the gods that resort to heaven. He changed his place and went over to great direction, and Itihasa and Purana, gathas, verses in praise of heroes followed in going over."

Similarly, the Shatapatha Brahmana (XI.5.6.8) mentions Itihasapuranam (as one compound word) and recommends that on the 9th day of Pariplava, the hotr priest should narrate some Purana because "the Purana is the Veda, this it is" (XIII.4.3.13). However, states P.V. Kane, it is not certain whether these texts suggested several works or single work with the term Purana. [21] The late Vedic text Taittiriya Aranyaka (II.10) uses the term in the plural. Therefore, states Kane, that in the later Vedic period at least, the Puranas referred to three or more texts, and that they were studied and recited [21] In numerous passages the Mahabharata mentions 'Purana' in both singular and plural forms. Moreover, it is not unlikely that, where the singular 'Puranam' was employed in the texts, a class of works was meant. [21] Further, despite the mention of the term Purana or Puranas in the Vedic texts, there is uncertainty about the contents of them until the composition of the oldest Dharmashastra Apastamba Dharmasutra and Gautama Dharmasutra, that mention Puranas resembling with the extant Puranas. [21]

Another early mention of the term 'Itihas-purana' is found in the Chandogya Upanishad (7.1.2), translated by Patrick Olivelle as "the corpus of histories and ancient tales as the fifth Veda". [22] [23] [note 2] The Brhadaranyaka Upanishad also refers to purana as the "fifth Veda". [25]

According to Thomas Coburn, Puranas and early extra-puranic texts attest to two traditions regarding their origin, one proclaiming a divine origin as the breath of the Great Being, the other as a human named Vyasa as the arranger of already existing material into eighteen Puranas. In the early references, states Coburn, the term Purana occurs in singular unlike the later era which refers to a plural form presumably because they had assumed their "multifarious form". While both these traditions disagree on the origins of the Puranas, they affirm that extant Puranas are not identical with the original Purana. [18]

According to the Indologists J. A. B. van Buitenen and Cornelia Dimmitt, the Puranas that have survived into the modern era are ancient but represent "an amalgam of two somewhat different but never entirely different separate oral literatures: the Brahmin tradition stemming from the reciters of the Vedas, and the bardic poetry recited by Sutas that was handed down in Kshatriya circles". [26] The original Puranas comes from the priestly roots while the later genealogies have the warrior and epic roots. These texts were collected for the "second time between the fourth and sixth centuries CE under the rule of the Gupta kings", a period of Hindu renaissance. [27] However, the editing and expansion of the Puranas did not stop after the Gupta era, and the texts continued to "grow for another five hundred or a thousand years" and these were preserved by priests who maintained Hindu pilgrimage sites and temples. [27] The core of Itihasa-Puranas, states Klaus Klostermaier, may possibly go back to the seventh century BCE or even earlier. [28]

It is not possible to set a specific date for any Purana as a whole, states Ludo Rocher. He points out that even for the better established and more coherent puranas such as Bhagavata and Vishnu, the dates proposed by scholars continue to vary widely and endlessly. [17] The date of the production of the written texts does not define the date of origin of the Puranas. [29] They existed in an oral form before being written down. [29] In the 19th century, F. E. Pargiter believed the "original Purana" may date to the time of the final redaction of the Vedas. [30] Wendy Doniger, based on her study of indologists, assigns approximate dates to the various Puranas. She dates Markandeya Purana to c. 250 CE (with one portion dated to c. 550 CE), Matsya Purana to c. 250–500 CE, Vayu Purana to c. 350 CE, Harivamsa and Vishnu Purana to c. 450 CE, Brahmanda Purana to c. 350–950 CE, Vamana Purana to c. 450–900 CE, Kurma Purana to c. 550–850 CE, and Linga Purana to c. 600–1000 CE. [8]

Mahapuranas Edit

Of the many texts designated 'Puranas' the most important are the Mahāpurāṇas or the major Puranas. [7] These are said to be eighteen in number, divided into three groups of six, though they are not always counted in the same way.In the Vishnu Puran Part 3 Section 6(21-24) the list of Mahapuranas is mentioned .The Bhagavat Puran mentions the number of verses in each puran in 12.13(4-9)

S.No. Purana Name Verses number Comments
1 Brahma 10,000 verses Sometimes also called Adi Purana, because many Mahapuranas lists put it first of 18. [31] The text has 245 chapters, shares many passages with Vishnu, Vayu, Markendeya Puranas, and with the Mahabharata. Includes mythology, theory of war, art work in temples, and other cultural topics. Describes holy places in Odisha, and weaves themes of Vishnu and Shiva, but hardly any mention of deity Brahma despite the title. [31]
2 Padma 55,000 verses A large compilation of diverse topics, it describes cosmology, the world and nature of life from the perspective of Vishnu. It also discusses festivals, numerous legends, geography of rivers and regions from northwest India to Bengal to the kingdom of Tripura, major sages of India, various Avatars of Vishnu and his cooperation with Shiva, a story of Rama-Sita that is different from the Hindu epic Ramayana. [32] The north Indian manuscripts of Padma Purana are very different from south Indian versions, and the various recensions in both groups in different languages (Devanagari and Bengali, for example) show major inconsistencies. [33] Like the Skanda Purana, it is a detailed treatise on travel and pilgrimage centers in India. [32] [34]
3 Vishnu 23,000 verses One of the most studied and circulated Puranas, it also contains genealogical details of various dynasties. [35] Better preserved after the 17th century, but exists in inconsistent versions, more ancient pre-15th century versions are very different from modern versions, with some versions discussing Buddhism and Jainism. Some chapters likely composed in Kashmir and Punjab region of South Asia. A Vaishnavism text, focused on Vishnu. [36]
4 Shiva 24,000 verses Discusses Shiva, and stories about him.
5 Bhagavata 18,000 verses The most studied and popular of the Puranas, [13] [37] telling of Vishnu's Avatars, and of Vaishnavism. It contains genealogical details of various dynasties. [35] Numerous inconsistent versions of this text and historical manuscripts exist, in many Indian languages. [38] Influential and elaborated during Bhakti movement. [39]
6 Narada 25,000 verses Also called Naradiya Purana. Discusses the four Vedas and the six Vedangas. Dedicates one chapter each, from Chapters 92 to 109, to summarize the other 17 Maha Puranas and itself. Lists major rivers of India and places of pilgrimage, and a short tour guide for each. Includes discussion of various philosophies, soteriology, planets, astronomy, myths and characteristics of major deities including Vishnu, Shiva, Devi, Krishna, Rama, Lakshmi and others. [40]
7 Markandeya 9,000 verses Describes Vindhya Range and western India. Probably composed in the valleys of Narmada and Tapti rivers, in Maharashtra and Gujarat. [41] Named after sage Markandeya, a student of Brahma. Contains chapters on dharma and on Hindu epic Mahabharata. [42] The Purana includes Devi Mahatmyam of Shaktism.
8 Agni 15,400 verses Contains encyclopedic information. Includes geography of Mithila (Bihar and neighboring states), cultural history, politics, education system, iconography, taxation theories, organization of army, theories on proper causes for war, diplomacy, local laws, building public projects, water distribution methods, trees and plants, medicine, Vastu Shastra (architecture), gemology, grammar, metrics, poetry, food, rituals and numerous other topics. [43]
9 Bhavishya 14,500 verses The Bhavishya Purana (Bhaviṣya Purāṇa, lit. "Future Purana") is one of the eighteen major works in the Purana genre of Hinduism, written in Sanskrit.The title Bhavishya means "future" and implies it is a work that contains prophecies regarding the future, however, the "prophecy" parts of the extant manuscripts are a modern era addition and hence not an integral part of the Bhavishya Purana.Those sections of the surviving manuscripts that are dated to be older, are partly borrowed from other Indian texts such as Brihat Samhita and Shamba Purana.
10 Brahmavaivarta 18,000 verses It is related by Savarni to Narada, and centres around the greatness of Krishna and Radha. In this, the story of Brahma-varaha is repeatedly told. [44] Notable for asserting that Krishna is the supreme reality and the gods Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma are incarnations of him. [45] Mentions geography and rivers such as Ganga to Kaveri.
11 Linga 11,000 verses Discusses Lingam, symbol of Shiva, and origin of the universe as per Shaivism. It also contains many stories of Lingam, one of which entails how Agni Lingam solved a dispute between Vishnu and Brahma.
12 Varaha 24,000 verses Primarily Vishnu-related worship manual, with large Mahatmya sections or travel guide to Mathura and Nepal. [46] Presentation focuses on Varaha as incarnation of Narayana, but rarely uses the terms Krishna or Vasudeva. [46] Many illustrations also involve Shiva and Durga. [47]
13 Skanda 81,100 verses Describes the birth of Skanda (or Karthikeya), son of Shiva. The longest Purana, it is an extraordinarily meticulous pilgrimage guide, containing geographical locations of pilgrimage centers in India, with related legends, parables, hymns and stories. Many untraced quotes are attributed to this text. [48]
14 Vamana 10,000 verses Describes North India, particularly Himalayan foothills region.
15 Kurma 17,000 verses Contains a combination of Vishnu and Shiva related legends, mythology, Tirtha (pilgrimage) and theology
16 Matsya 14,000 verses An encyclopedia of diverse topics. [49] Narrates the story of Matsya, the first of ten major Avatars of Vishnu. Likely composed in west India, by people aware of geographical details of the Narmada river. Includes legends about Brahma and Saraswati. [50] It also contains a controversial genealogical details of various dynasties. [35]
17 Garuda 19,000 verses An encyclopedia of diverse topics. [49] Primarily about Vishnu, but praises all gods. Describes how Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma collaborate. Many chapters are a dialogue between Vishnu and the bird-vehicle Garuda. Cosmology, Describes cosmology, relationship between gods. Discusses ethics, what are crimes, good versus evil, various schools of Hindu philosophies, the theory of Yoga, the theory of "heaven and hell" with "karma and rebirth", includes Upanishadic discussion of self-knowledge as a means of moksha. [51] Includes chapters on rivers, geography of Bharat (India) and other nations on earth, types of minerals and stones, testing methods for stones for their quality, various diseases and their symptoms, various medicines, aphrodisiacs, prophylactics, Hindu calendar and its basis, astronomy, moon, planets, astrology, architecture, building home, essential features of a temple, rites of passage, virtues such as compassion, charity and gift making, economy, thrift, duties of a king, politics, state officials and their roles and how to appointment them, genre of literature, rules of grammar, and other topics. [51] The final chapters discuss how to practice Yoga (Samkhya and Advaita types), personal development and the benefits of self-knowledge. [51]
18 Brahmanda 12,000 verses One of the earliest composed Puranas, it contains a controversial genealogical details of various dynasties. [35] Includes Lalita Sahasranamam, law codes, system of governance, administration, diplomacy, trade, ethics. Old manuscripts of Brahmanda Purana have been found in the Hindu literature collections of Bali, Indonesia. [52] [49]

The Mahapuranas have also been classified based on a specific deity, although the texts are mixed and revere all gods and goddesses:

All major Puranas contain sections on Devi (goddesses) and Tantra the six most significant of these are: Markandeya Purana, Shiva Purana, Linga Purana, Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Agni Purana and Padma Purana. [57]


Tantra (Sanskrit: तन्त्र ) literally means "loom, warp, weave". [17] [2] [18] According to Padoux, the verbal root Tan means: "to extend", "to spread", "to spin out", "weave", "display", "put forth", and "compose". Therefore, by extension, it can also mean "system", "doctrine", or "work". [19]

The connotation of the word tantra to mean an esoteric practice or religious ritualism is a colonial era European invention. [20] [21] [22] This term is based on the metaphor of weaving, states Ron Barrett, where the Sanskrit root tan means the warping of threads on a loom. [2] It implies "interweaving of traditions and teachings as threads" into a text, technique or practice. [2] [18]

The word appears in the hymns of the Rigveda such as in 10.71, with the meaning of "warp (weaving)". [17] [23] It is found in many other Vedic era texts, such as in section 10.7.42 of the Atharvaveda and many Brahmanas. [17] [24] In these and post-Vedic texts, the contextual meaning of Tantra is that which is "principal or essential part, main point, model, framework, feature". [17] In the Smritis and epics of Hinduism (and Jainism), the term means "doctrine, rule, theory, method, technique or chapter" and the word appears both as a separate word and as a common suffix, such as atma-tantra meaning "doctrine or theory of Atman (soul, self)". [17] [24]

The term "Tantra" after about 500 BCE, in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism is a bibliographic category, just like the word Sutra (which means "sewing together", mirroring the metaphor of "weaving together" in Tantra). The same Buddhist texts are sometimes referred to as tantra or sutra for example, Vairocabhisambodhi-tantra is also referred to as Vairocabhisambodhi-sutra. [25] The various contextual meanings of the word Tantra vary with the Indian text and are summarized in the appended table.

Appearance of the term "Tantra" in Indian texts
Period [note 1] Text or author Contextual meaning of tantra
1700–1100 BCE Ṛigveda X, 71.9 Loom (or weaving device) [26]
1700-? BCE Sāmaveda, Tandya Brahmana Essence (or "main part", perhaps denoting the quintessence of the Sastras) [26]
1200-900 BCE Atharvaveda X, 7.42 Loom (or weaving) [26]
1400-1000 BCE Yajurveda, Taittiriya Brahmana Loom (or weaving) [26]
600-500 BCE Pāṇini in Aṣṭādhyāyī 1.4.54 and 5.2.70 Warp (weaving), loom [27]
pre-500 BCE Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa Essence (or main part see above) [26]
350-283 BCE Chanakya on Arthaśāstra Science [28] system or shastra [29]
300 CE Īśvarakṛṣṇa author of Sānkhya Kārikā (kārikā 70) Doctrine (identifies Sankhya as a tantra) [30]
320 CE Viṣṇu Purāṇa Practices and rituals [31]
320-400 CE Poet Kālidāsa on Abhijñānaśākuntalam Deep understanding or mastery of a topic [note 2]
423 Gangdhar stone inscription in Rajasthan Worship techniques (Tantrodbhuta) [32] Dubious link to Tantric practices. [33]
550 Sabarasvamin's commentary on Mimamsa Sutra 11.1.1, 11.4.1 etc. Thread, text [34] beneficial action or thing [29]
500-600 Chinese Buddhist canon (Vol. 18–21: Tantra (Vajrayāna) or Tantric Buddhism [note 3] Set of doctrines or practices
600 Kāmikāgama or Kāmikā-tantra Extensive knowledge of principles of reality [35]
606–647 Sanskrit scholar and poet Bāṇabhaṭṭa (in Harṣacarita [37] and in Kādambari), in Bhāsa's Cārudatta and in Śūdraka's Mṛcchakatika Set of sites and worship methods to goddesses or Matrikas. [32] [36]
975–1025 Philosopher Abhinavagupta in his Tantrāloka Set of doctrines or practices, teachings, texts, system (sometimes called Agamas) [38] [18]
1150–1200 Jayaratha, Abhinavagupta's commentator on Tantrāloka Set of doctrines or practices, teachings
1690–1785 Bhaskararaya (philosopher) System of thought or set of doctrines or practices, a canon [39]

Ancient and medieval era Edit

The 5th-century BCE scholar Pāṇini in his Sutra 1.4.54–55 of Sanskrit grammar, cryptically explains tantra through the example of "Sva-tantra" (Sanskrit: स्वतन्त्र), which he states means "independent" or a person who is his own "warp, cloth, weaver, promoter, karta (actor)". [27] Patanjali in his Mahābhāṣya quotes and accepts Panini's definition, then discusses or mentions it at a greater length, in 18 instances, stating that its metaphorical definition of "warp (weaving), extended cloth" is relevant to many contexts. [40] The word tantra, states Patanjali, means "principal, main".

He uses the same example of svatantra as a composite word of "sva" (self) and tantra, then stating "svatantra" means "one who is self-dependent, one who is his own master, the principal thing for whom is himself", thereby interpreting the definition of tantra. [27] Patanjali also offers a semantic definition of Tantra, stating that it is structural rules, standard procedures, centralized guide or knowledge in any field that applies to many elements. [40]

The ancient Mimamsa school of Hinduism uses the term tantra extensively, and its scholars offer various definitions. For example:

When an action or a thing, once complete, becomes beneficial in several matters to one person, or to many people, that is known as Tantra. For example, a lamp placed amidst many priests. In contrast, that which benefits by its repetition is called Āvāpa, such as massaging with oil. (. )

Medieval texts present their own definitions of Tantra. Kāmikā-tantra, for example, gives the following explanation of the term tantra:

Because it elaborates (tan) copious and profound matters, especially relating to the principles of reality (tattva) and sacred mantras, and because it provides liberation (tra), it is called a tantra. [35]

Modern era Edit

The occultist and businessman Pierre Bernard (1875–1955) is widely credited with introducing the philosophy and practices of tantra to the American people, at the same time creating a misleading impression of its connection to sex. [42]

In modern scholarship, Tantra has been studied as an esoteric practice and ritualistic religion, sometimes referred to as Tantrism. There is a wide gap between what Tantra means to its followers, and the way Tantra has been represented or perceived since colonial era writers began commenting on it. [43] Many definitions of Tantra have been proposed since, and there is no universally accepted definition. [44] André Padoux, in his review of Tantra definitions offers two, then rejects both. One definition, due to Padoux, is found among Tantra practitioners — it is any "system of observances" about the vision of man and the cosmos where correspondences between the inner world of the person and the macrocosmic reality play an essential role. Another definition, more common among observers and non-practitioners, is some "set of mechanistic rituals, omitting entirely the ideological side". [45]

Tantric traditions have been studied mostly from textual and historical perspectives. Anthropological work on living Tantric tradition is scarce, and ethnography has rarely engaged with the study of Tantra. This is arguably a result of the modern construction of Tantrism as occult, esoteric and secret. Some scholars have tried to demystify the myth of secrecy in contemporary Tantric traditions, suggesting new methodological avenues to overcome the ethical and epistemological problems in the study of living Tantric traditions. [46]

According to David N. Lorenzen, two different kinds of definitions of Tantra exist, narrow and broad. [13] According to the narrow definition, Tantrism, or "Tantric religion", is the elite traditions directly based on the Sanskrit texts called the Tantras, Samhitas, and Agamas. [13] [47] Lorenzen's "broad definition" extends this by including a broad range of "magical beliefs and practices" such as Yoga and Shaktism. [47] [48]

Richard Payne states that Tantra has been commonly but incorrectly associated with sex, given popular culture's prurient obsession with intimacy. Tantra has been labelled as the "yoga of ecstasy", driven by senseless ritualistic libertinism. [25] This is far from the diverse and complex understanding of what Tantra means to those Buddhists, Hindu and Jains who practice it. [25]

David Gray disagrees with broad generalizations and states that defining Tantra is a difficult task because "Tantra traditions are manifold, spanning several religious traditions and cultural worlds. As a result they are also diverse, which makes it a significant challenge to come up with an adequate definition". [49] The challenge of defining Tantra is compounded by the fact that it has been a historically significant part of major Indian religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, both in and outside South Asia and East Asia. [50] To its practitioners, Tantra is defined as a combination of texts, techniques, rituals, monastic practices, meditation, yoga, and ideology. [51]

According to Georg Feuerstein, "The scope of topics discussed in the Tantras is considerable. They deal with the creation and history of the world the names and functions of a great variety of male and female deities and other higher beings the types of ritual worship (especially of Goddesses) magic, sorcery, and divination esoteric "physiology" (the mapping of the subtle or psychic body) the awakening of the mysterious serpent power (kundalinî-shakti) techniques of bodily and mental purification the nature of enlightenment and not least, sacred sexuality." [52] Hindu puja, temples and iconography all show tantric influence. [10] These texts, states Gavin Flood, contain representation of "the body in philosophy, in ritual and in art", which are linked to "techniques of the body, methods or technologies developed within the tantric traditions intended to transform body and self". [53]

Tantrism Edit

The term tantrism is a 19th-century European invention not present in any Asian language [21] compare "Sufism", of similar Orientalist origin. According to Padoux, Tantrism is a Western term and notion, not a category that is used by the "Tantrists" themselves. [20] [note 4] The term was introduced by 19th-century Indologists, with limited knowledge of India and in whose view Tantrism was a particular, unusual and minority practice in contrast to Indian traditions they believed to be mainstream. [20]

Robert Brown similarly notes that "tantrism" is a construct of Western scholarship, not a concept of the religious system itself. [55] He defines Tantrism as an apologetic label of Westerners for a system that they little understand that is "not coherent" and which is "an accumulated set of practices and ideas from various sources, that has varied between its practitioners within a group, varied across groups, across geography and over its history". It is a system, adds Brown, that gives each follower the freedom to mix Tantric elements with non-Tantric aspects, to challenge and transgress any and all norms, experiment with "the mundane to reach the supramundane". [44]

Teun Goudriaan in his 1981 review of Hindu Tantrism, states that Tantrism usually means a "systematic quest for salvation or spiritual excellence" by realizing and fostering the divine within one's own body, one that is simultaneous union of the masculine-feminine and spirit-matter, and has the ultimate goal of realizing the "primal blissful state of non-duality". [56] It is typically a methodically striven system, consisting of voluntarily chosen specific practices which may include Tantric items such as mantras (bijas), geometric patterns and symbols (mandala), gestures (mudra), mapping of the microcosm within one's body to the macrocosmic elements outside as the subtle body (kundalini yoga), assignments of icons and sounds (nyasa), meditation (dhyana), ritual worship (puja), initiation (diksha) and others. [57] Tantrism, adds Goudriaan, is a living system that is decidedly monistic, but with wide variations, and it is impossible to be dogmatic about a simple or fixed definition. [58]

Tantrism is an overarching term for "Tantric traditions", states David Gray in a 2016 review, that combine Vedic, yogic and meditative traditions from ancient Hinduism as well as rival Buddhist and Jain traditions. [43] it is a neologism of western scholars and does not reflect the self-understanding of any particular tantric tradition. While Goudriaan's description is useful, adds Gray, there is no single defining universal characteristic common to all Tantra traditions, being an open evolving system. [22] Tantrism, whether Buddhist or Hindu, can best be characterized as practices, a set of techniques, with a strong focus on rituals and meditation, by those who believe that it is a path to liberation that is characterized by both knowledge and freedom. [59]

Tantrika Edit

According to Padoux, the term "Tantrika" is based on a comment by Kulluka Bhatta on Manava Dharmasastra 2.1, who contrasted vaidika and tantrika forms of Sruti (canonical texts). The Tantrika, to Bhatta, is that literature which forms a parallel part of the Hindu tradition, independent of the Vedic corpus. The Vedic and non-Vedic (Tantric) paths are seen as two different approaches to ultimate reality, the Vedic approach based on Brahman, and Tantrika being based on the non-Vedic Āgama texts. [60] Despite Bhatta attempt to clarify, states Padoux, in reality Hindus and Buddhists have historically felt free to borrow and blend ideas from all sources, Vedic, non-Vedic and in the case of Buddhism, its own canonical works. [61]

One of the key differences between the Tantric and non-Tantric traditions – whether it be orthodox Buddhism, Hinduism or Jainism – is their assumptions about the need for monastic or ascetic life. [62] Non-Tantrika, or orthodox traditions in all three major ancient Indian religions, hold that the worldly life of a householder is one driven by desires and greeds which are a serious impediment to spiritual liberation (moksha, nirvana, kaivalya). These orthodox traditions teach renunciation of householder life, a mendicant's life of simplicity and leaving all attachments to become a monk or nun. In contrast, the Tantrika traditions hold, states Robert Brown, that "both enlightenment and worldly success" are achievable, and that "this world need not be shunned to achieve enlightenment". [62] [63]

Proto-Tantric elements in Vedic Religion Edit

The Keśin hymn of the Rig Veda (10.136) describes the "wild loner" who, states Karel Werner, "carrying within oneself fire and poison, heaven and earth, ranging from enthusiasm and creativity to depression and agony, from the heights of spiritual bliss to the heaviness of earth-bound labor". [64] The Rigveda uses words of admiration for these loners, [64] and whether it is related to Tantra or not, has been variously interpreted. According to David Lorenzen, it describes munis (sages) experiencing Tantra-like "ecstatic, altered states of consciousness" and gaining the ability "to fly on the wind". [65] In contrast, Werner suggests that these are early Yoga pioneers and accomplished yogis of the ancient pre-Buddhist Indian tradition, and that this Vedic hymn is speaking of those "lost in thoughts" whose "personalities are not bound to earth, for they follow the path of the mysterious wind". [64]

The two oldest Upanishadic scriptures of Hinduism, the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad in section 4.2 and Chandogya Upanishad in section 8.6, refer to nadis (hati) in presenting their theory on how the Atman (soul) and the body are connected and interdependent through energy carrying arteries when one is awake or sleeping, but they do not mention anything related to Tantric practices. [66] The Shvetashvatara Upanishad describes breath control that became a standard part of Yoga, but Tantric practices do not appear in it. [65] [67] Likewise, the Taittiriya Upanishad discusses a central channel running through the body and various Vedic texts mention the bodily pranas (vital breaths) that move around in the body and animate it. However, the idea of consciously moving the bodily pranas through yoga is not found in these sources. [68] According to Lorenzen, Vedic ideas related to the body later diversified into the "mystical anatomy" of nadis and chakras found in Tantra. [69] The yogic component of Tantrism appears clearly in Bāṇabhaṭṭa's Harshacharita and Daṇḍin's Dashakumaracharita. [70] In contrast to this theory of Lorenzen, other scholars such as Mircea Eliade consider Yoga and the evolution of Yogic practices to be separate and distinct from the evolution of Tantra and Tantric practices. [71]

According to Geoffrey Samuel, the inner development of a spiritual energy called tapas becomes a central element of Vedic religion in the Brahmanas and Srauta texts. In these texts, ascetic practices allow a holy man to build up tapas, a kind of magical inner heat, which allows them to perform all sorts of magical feats as well as granting visions and divine revelations. [72] Samuel also notes that in the Mahabharata, one of the commonest use of the term "yoga" refers to "a dying warrior transferring himself at death to the sphere of the sun through yoga, a practice that links up with Upanisadic references to the channel to the crown of the head as the pathway by which one can travel through the solar orb to the World of Brahman." This practice of transferring one's consciousness at death is still an important practice in Tibetan Buddhism. [73] Samuel also notes that sexual rituals and a spiritualized sexuality are mentioned in the late Upanishads. According to Samuel, "late Vedic texts treat sexual intercourse as symbolically equivalent to the Vedic sacrifice, and ejaculation of semen as the offering." This theme can be found in the Jaiminiya Brahmana, the Chandogya Upanisad, and the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad. The Brhadaranyaka contains various sexual rituals and practices which are mostly aimed at obtaining a child which are concerned with the loss of male virility and power. [74]

David Gordon White views Yogini cults as foundational to early tantra but disagrees with scholars who maintain that the roots of such cults lie in an "autochthonous non-Vedic source" such as indigenous tribes or the Indus Valley Civilization. [75] Instead, White suggests Vedic Srauta texts mention offerings to goddesses Rākā, Sinīvālī, and Kuhū in a manner similar to a tantric ritual. [76] Frederick Smith – a professor of Sanskrit and Classical Indian Religions, considers Tantra to be a religious movement parallel to the Bhakti movement of the 1st millennium AD. [77] Tantra along with Ayurveda, states Smith, has traditionally been attributed to Atharvaveda, but this attribution is one of respect not of historicity. Ayurveda has primarily been an empirical practice with Vedic roots, but Tantra has been an esoteric, folk movement without grounding that can be traced to anything in Atharvaveda or any other vedic text. [77]

Proto-Tantric elements in Buddhism Edit

Pre-tantric Buddhism contains elements which could be seen as proto-tantric, and which may have influenced the development of the Buddhist Tantric tradition. The use of magical chants or incantations can be found in the early Buddhist texts as well as in some Mahayana sutras. [78] These magical spells or chants were used for various reasons, such as for protection, and for the generation of auspiciousness. [79] In the Pali tradition, protection chants are called parittas, and include texts such as the Ratana Sutta which are widely recited today in the Theravada tradition. [80] [81] Mahayana incantations are called dhāraṇīs. Some Mahayana sutras incorporate the use of mantras, a central feature of tantric practice.

According to Geoffrey Samuel, sramana groups like the Buddhists and Jains were associated with the dead. Samuel notes that they "frequently settled at sites associated with the dead and seem to have taken over a significant role in relation to the spirits of the dead." To step into this realm required entering a dangerous and impure supernatural realm from the Indian perspective. This association with death remains a feature of modern Buddhism, and in Buddhist countries today, Buddhist monks and other ritual specialists are in charge of the dead. [82] Thus, the association of tantric practitioners with charnel grounds and death imagery is preceded by early Buddhist contact with these sites of the dead.

Some scholars think that the development of tantra may have been influenced by the cults of nature spirit-deities like Yakṣas and Nagas. [83] Yakṣa cults were an important part of early Buddhism. Yakṣas are powerful nature spirits which were sometimes seen as guardians or protectors. [84] Yakṣas like Kubera are also associated with magical incantations. Kubera is said to have provided the Buddhist sangha with protection spells in the Āṭānāṭiya Sutta. [85] These spirit deities also included numerous female deities (yakṣiṇī) that can be found depicted in major Buddhist sites like Sanchi and Bharhut. In early Buddhist texts there is also mention of fierce demon like deities called rākṣasa and rākṣasī, like the children eating Hārītī. [86] They are also present in Mahayana texts, such as in Chapter 26 of the Lotus Sutra which includes a dialogue between the Buddha and a group of rākṣasīs, who swear to uphold and protect the sutra. These figures also teach magical dhāraṇīs to protect followers of the Lotus Sutra. [87]

A key element of Buddhist Tantric practice is the visualization of deities in meditation. This practice is actually found in pre-tantric Buddhist texts as well. In Mahayana sutras like the Pratyutpanna Samādhi and the three Amitabha Pure land sutras. [88] There are other Mahāyāna sutras which contain what may be called "proto-tantric" material such as the Gandavyuha and the Dasabhumika which might have served as a source for the imagery found in later Tantric texts. [89] According to Samuel, the Golden Light Sutra (c. 5th century at the latest) contains what could be seen as a proto-mandala. In the second chapter, a bodhisattva has a vision of "a vast building made of beryl and with divine jewels and celestial perfumes. Four lotus-seats appear in the four directions, with four Buddhas seated upon them: Aksobhya in the East, Ratnaketu in the South, Amitayus in the West and Dundubhīśvara in the North." [90]

A series of artwork discovered in Gandhara, in modern-day Pakistan, dating from about the 1st century CE, show Buddhist and Hindu monks holding skulls. [91] The legend corresponding to these artworks is found in Buddhist texts, and describes monks "who tap skulls and forecast the future rebirths of the person to whom that skull belonged". [91] [92] According to Robert Brown, these Buddhist skull-tapping reliefs suggest that tantric practices may have been in vogue by the 1st century CE. [91]

Proto-Tantric elements in Shaktism and Shaivism Edit

The Mahabharata, the Harivamsa, and the Devi Mahatmya in the Markandeya Purana all mention the fierce, demon-killing manifestations of the Great Goddess, Mahishamardini, identified with Durga-Parvati. [93] These suggest that Shaktism, reverence and worship for the Goddess in Indian culture, was an established tradition by the early centuries of the 1st millennium. [94] Padoux mentions an inscription from 423–424 CE which mentions the founding of a temple to terrifying deities called "the mothers". [95] However, this does not mean Tantric rituals and practices were as yet a part of either Hindu or Buddhist traditions. "Apart from the somewhat dubious reference to Tantra in the Gangadhar inscription of 423 CE", states David Lorenzen, it is only 7th-century Banabhatta's Kadambari which provide convincing proof of Tantra and Tantric texts. [33]

Shaivite ascetics seem to have been involved in the initial development of Tantra, particularly the transgressive elements dealing with the charnel ground. According to Samuel, one group of Shaiva ascetics, the Pasupatas, practiced a form of spirituality that made use of shocking and disreputable behavior later found in a tantric context, such as dancing, singing, and smearing themselves with ashes. [96]

Early Tantric practices are sometimes attributed to Shaiva ascetics associated with Bhairava, the Kapalikas ("skull men", also called Somasiddhatins or Mahavartins). [97] [98] [99] Besides the shocking fact that they frequented cremation grounds and carried human skulls, little is known about them, and there is a paucity of primary sources on the Kapalikas. [100] [99] Samuel also states that the sources depict them as using alcohol and sex freely, that they were associated with terrfying female spirit-deities called yoginis and dakinis, and that they were believed to possess magical powers, such as flight. [101]

Kapalikas are depicted in fictional works and also widely disparaged in Buddhist, Hindu and Jain texts of the 1st millennium CE. [100] [102] In Hāla’s Gatha-saptasati (composed by the 5th century AD), for example, the story calls a female character Kapalika, whose lover dies, he is cremated, she takes his cremation ashes and smears her body with it. [98] The 6th-century Varāhamihira mentions Kapalikas in his literary works. [102] Some of the Kāpālika practices mentioned in these texts are those found in Shaiva Hinduism and Vajrayana Buddhism, and scholars disagree on who influenced whom. [103] [104]

These early historical mentions are in passing and appear to be Tantra-like practices, they are not detailed nor comprehensive presentation of Tantric beliefs and practices. Epigraphic references to the Kaulas Tantric practices are rare. Reference is made in the early 9th century to vama (left-hand) Tantras of the Kaulas. [105] Literary evidence suggests Tantric Buddhism was probably flourishing by the 7th-century. [65] Matrikas, or fierce mother goddesses that later are closely linked to Tantra practices, appear both in Buddhist and Hindu arts and literature between the 7th and 10th centuries. [106]

The rise and development of Tantra Edit

According to Gavin Flood, the earliest date for the Tantra texts related to Tantric practices is 600 CE, though most of them were probably composed after the 8th century onwards. [107] According to Flood, very little is known about who created the Tantras, nor much is known about the social status of these and medieval era Tantrikas. [108]

Flood states that the pioneers of Tantra may have been ascetics who lived at the cremation grounds, possibly from "above low-caste groups", and were probably non-Brahmanical and possibly part of an ancient tradition. [109] [110] [111] By the early medieval times, their practices may have included the imitation of deities such as Kali and Bhairava, with offerings of non-vegetarian food, alcohol and sexual substances. According to this theory, these practitioners would have invited their deities to enter them, then reverted the role in order to control that deity and gain its power. [108] These ascetics would have been supported by low castes living at the cremation places. [108]

Samuel states that transgressive and antinomian tantric practices developed in both Buddhist and Brahmanical (mainly Śaiva ascetics like the Kapalikas) contexts and that "Śaivas and Buddhists borrowed extensively from each other, with varying degrees of acknowledgement." According to Samuel, these deliberately transgressive practices included, "night time orgies in charnel grounds, involving the eating of human flesh, the use of ornaments, bowls and musical instruments made from human bones, sexual relations while seated on corpses, and the like." [112]

According to Samuel, another key element of in the development of tantra was "the gradual transformation of local and regional deity cults through which fierce male and, particularly, female deities came to take a leading role in the place of the yaksa deities." Samuel states that this took place between the fifth to eighth centuries CE. [113] According to Samuel, there are two main scholarly opinions on these terrifying goddesses which became incorporated into Śaiva and Buddhist Tantra. The first view is that they originate out of a pan-Indian religious substrate that was not Vedic. Another opinion is to see these fierce goddesses as developing out of the Vedic religion. [114]

Alexis Sanderson has argued that tantric practices originally developed in a Śaiva milieu and was later adopted by Buddhists. He cites numerous elements that are found in the Śaiva Vidyapitha literature, including whole passages and lists of pithas, that seem to have been directly borrowed by Vajrayana texts. [115] This has been criticized by Ronald M. Davidson however, due to the uncertain date of the Vidyapitha texts. [116] Davidson argues that the pithas seem to have been neither uniquely Buddhist nor Śaiva, but frequented by both groups. He also states that the Śaiva tradition was also involved in the appropriation of local deities and that tantra may have been influenced by tribal Indian religions and their deities. [117] Samuel writes that "the female divinities may well best be understood in terms of a distinct Śākta milieu from which both Śaivas and Buddhists were borrowing," but that other elements, like the Kapalika style practices, are more clearly derived from a Śaiva tradition. [118]

Samuel writes that the Saiva Tantra tradition appears to have originated as ritual sorcery carried out by hereditary caste groups (kulas) and associated with sex, death and fierce goddesses. The initiation rituals involved the consumption of the mixed sexual secretions (the clan essence) of a male guru and his consort. These practices were adopted by Kapalika styled ascetics and influenced the early Nath siddhas. Overtime, the more extreme external elements were replaced by internalized yogas that make use of the subtle body. Sexual ritual became a way to reach the liberating wisdom taught in the tradition. [119]

The Buddhists developed their own corpus of Tantras, which also drew on various Mahayana doctrines and practices, as well as on elements of the fierce goddess tradition and also on elements from the Śaiva traditions (such as deities like Bhairava, which were seen as having been subjugated and converted to Buddhism). [107] [120] Some Buddhist tantras (sometimes called "lower" or "outer" tantras) which are earlier works, do not make use of transgression, sex and fierce deities. These earlier Buddhist tantras mainly reflect a development of Mahayana theory and practice (like deity visualization) and a focus on ritual and purity. [121] Between the eighth and tenth centuries, new tantras emerged which included fierce deities, kula style sexual initiations, subtle body practices and sexual yoga. The later Buddhist tantras are known as the "inner" or "unsurpassed yoga" (Anuttarayoga or "Yogini") tantras. According to Samuel, it seems that these sexual practices were not initially practiced by Buddhist monastics and instead developed outside of the monastic establishments among traveling siddhas. [122]

Tantric practices also included secret initiation ceremonies in which individuals would enter the tantric family (kula) and receive the secret mantras of the tantric deities. These initiations included the consumption of the sexual substances (semen and female sexual secretions) produced through ritual sex between the guru and his consort. These substances were seen as spiritually powerful and were also used as offerings for tantric deities. [123] For both Śaivas and Buddhists, tantric practices often took place at important sacred sites (pithas) associated with fierce goddesses. [124] Samuel writes that "we do not have a clear picture of how this network of pilgrimage sites arose." Whatever the case, it seems that it was in these ritual spaces visited by both Buddhists and Śaivas that the practice of Kaula and Anuttarayoga Tantra developed during the eighth and ninth centuries. [125] Besides the practices outlined above, these sites also saw the practice of animal sacrifice as blood offerings to Śākta goddesses like Kamakhya. This practice is mentioned in Śākta texts like the Kālikāpurāṇa and the Yoginītantra. In some of these sites, such as Kamakhya Pitha, animal sacrifice is still widely practiced by Śāktas. [126]

Another key and innovative feature of medieval tantric systems was the development of internal yogas based on elements of the subtle body (sūkṣma śarīra). This subtle anatomy held that there were channels in the body (nadis) through which certain substances or energies (such as vayu, prana, kundalini, and shakti) flowed. These yogas involved moving these energies through the body to clear out certain knots or blockages (granthi) and to direct the energies to the central channel (avadhuti, sushumna). These yogic practices are also closely related to the practice of sexual yoga, since sexual intercourse was seen as being involved in the stimulation of the flow of these energies. [127] Samuel thinks that these subtle body practices may have been influenced by Chinese Daoist practices. [128]

One of the earliest mentions of sexual yoga practice is in the Buddhist Mahāyānasūtrālamkāra of Asanga (c. 5th century), which states "Supreme self-control is achieved in the reversal of sexual intercourse in the blissful Buddha-poise and the untrammelled vision of one's spouse." [129] According to David Snellgrove, the text's mention of a ‘reversal of sexual intercourse’ might indicate the practice of withholding ejaculation. Snellgrove states that it is possible that sexual yoga was already being practiced in Buddhist circles at this time, and that Asanga saw it as a valid practice. [130] Likewise, Samuel thinks that there is a possibility that sexual yoga existed in the fourth or fifth centuries (though not in the same transgressive tantric contexts where it was later practiced). [131]

It is only in the seventh and eighth centuries however that we find substantial evidence for these sexual yogas. Unlike previous Upanishadic sexual rituals however, which seem to have been associated with Vedic sacrifice and mundane ends like childbirth, these sexual yogas were associated with the movement of subtle body energies (like Kundalini and Chandali, which were also seen as goddesses), and also with spiritual ends. [132] These practices seemed to have developed at around the same time in both Saiva and Buddhist circles, and are associated with figures such as Tirumülar, Gorakhnath, Virupa, Naropa. The tantric mahasiddhas developed yogic systems with subtle body and sexual elements which could lead to magical powers (siddhis), immortality, as well as spiritual liberation (moksha, nirvana). Sexual yoga was seen as one way of producing a blissful expansion of consciousness that could lead to liberation. [131]

According to Jacob Dalton, ritualized sexual yoga (along with the sexual elements of the tantric initiation ritual, like the consumption of sexual fluids) first appears in Buddhist works called Mahayoga tantras (which include the Guhyagarbha and Ghuyasamaja). [133] [134] These texts "focused on the body’s interior, on the anatomical details of the male and female sexual organs and the pleasure generated through sexual union." In these texts, sexual energy was also seen as a powerful force that could be harnessed for spiritual practice and according to Samuel "perhaps create the state of bliss and loss of personal identity which is homologised with liberating insight." [133] These sexual yogas continued to develop further into more complex systems which are found in texts dating from about the ninth or tenth century, including the Saiva Kaulajñānanirṇaya and Kubjikātantra as well as the Buddhist Hevajra, and Cakrasamvara tantras which make use of charnel ground symbolism and fierce goddesses. [135] Samuel writes that these later texts also combine the sexual yoga with a system of controlling the energies of the subtle body. [128]

3 Hinduism Is About As Old As Judaism

Many cultural traditions and religions sprouted in the Indian subcontinent for thousands of years before finally coming together to form modern Hinduism in AD 1800. It is a common misconception that Hinduism began around the time of Judaism, the first Abrahamic religion that also spawned Christianity and Islam.

While Judaism is an old faith that originated around 1500 BC, the earliest forms of Hinduism arose from prehistoric faiths dating back tens of thousands of years. But the true beginnings of the faith began around 4000 BC with the combined practices of several tribal religions, which makes it the oldest still-practiced religion in the world.


According to Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, men and women who have attained the age of majority have the right to marry "without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion". [1] Although most of Article 16 is incorporated verbatim in Article 23 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the references to religious and racial limitations is omitted. [2] Article 17, clause two of the American Convention on Human Rights says that all men and women have the right to marry, subject to the conditions of domestic law "insofar as such conditions do not affect the principle of nondiscrimination established in this Convention." [3] Joan Boocock Lee, an Episcopalian British-American actress married to a Jewish husband, stated that in the mid-twentieth-century United States the couple faced difficulty adopting a child. [4]

Baháʼí Faith Edit

According to the Baháʼí Faith, all religions are inspired by God and interfaith marriage is permitted. A Baháʼí ceremony should be performed with the non-Baháʼí rite (or ceremony). If both ceremonies are performed, the non-Baháʼí ceremony should not invalidate the Baháʼí ceremony the Baháʼí partner remains a Baháʼí, and is not adopting the religion of the other partner in the ceremony. The Baháʼí partner should also abstain from vows (or statements) committing them to a declaration of faith in another religion or that are contrary to the principles of the Baháʼí Faith. The two ceremonies should be performed on the same day their order is not important. The Baháʼí ceremony may be performed in the place of worship of the other religion if it is afforded respect equal to the non-Baháʼí ceremony and is clearly distinct from the non-Baháʼí ceremony.

Christianity Edit

In Christianity, an interfaith marriage is a marriage between a baptized Christian and a non-baptized person (e.g. a wedding between a Christian man and Jewish woman) it is to be distinguished between an interdenominational marriage in which two baptized Christians belonging to two different Christian denominations marry, e.g. a wedding between a Lutheran Christian and a Catholic Christian. Almost all Christian denominations permit interdenominational marriages, and many Christian denominations permit interfaith marriage as well, citing verses of the Christian Bible such as 1 Corinthians 7:14. [5] [6] Apostolic Tradition, an early Christian Church Order, references an interfaith couple in its instructions on Christian prayer at the seven fixed prayer times and the ablutions preceding them, stating: [7]

Around midnight rise and wash your hands with water and pray. If you are married, pray together. But if your spouse is not yet baptized, go into another room to pray, and then return to bed. Do not hesitate to pray, for one who has been joined in marital relations is not impure. [7]

In the Presbyterian Church (USA), the local church congregation is tasked with supporting and including the interfaith couple in the life of the Church, "help[ing] parents make and live by commitments about the spiritual nurture of their children", and being inclusive of the children of the interfaith couple. [8] The pastor is to be available to help and counsel the interfaith couple in their life journey. [8]

The Catholic Church recognizes as sacramental, (1) the marriages between two baptized Protestants or between two baptized Orthodox Christians, as well as (2) marriages between baptized non-Catholic Christians and Catholic Christians, [9] although in the latter case, consent from the diocesan bishop must be obtained, with this termed "permission to enter into a mixed marriage". [10] To illustrate (1), for example, "if two Lutherans marry in the Lutheran Church in the presence of a Lutheran minister, the Catholic Church recognizes this as a valid sacrament of marriage." [9] On the other hand, although the Catholic Church recognizes marriages between two non-Christians or those between a Catholic Christian and a non-Christian, these are not considered to be sacramental, and in the latter case, the Catholic Christian must seek permission from his/her bishop for the marriage to occur this permission is known as "dispensation from disparity of cult". [11]

In Methodist Christianity, the 2014 Discipline of the Allegheny Wesleyan Methodist Connection discourages interfaith marriages, stating "Many Christians have married unconverted persons. This has produced bad effects they have either been hindered for life, or have turned back to perdition." [12] Though the United Methodist Church authorizes its clergy to preside at interfaith marriages, it notes that 1 Corinthians 6:14 has been interpreted "as at least an ideal if not an absolute ban on such [interfaith] marriages as an issue of scriptural faithfulness, if not as an issue of Christian survival." [13] At the same time, for those already in an interfaith marriage (including cases in which there is a non-Christian couple and one party converts to Christianity after marriage), the Church notes that Saint Paul "addresses persons married to unbelievers and encourages them to stay married (see 1 Corinthians 7:12–16)." [13]

Hinduism Edit

In Hinduism, spiritual texts like Vedas do not recommend interfaith marriages by differentiating between people of Dharma (ie. Hindus) and people outside of Dharma. [14] Because, a Dharmic person will start to lose his/her Dharma by marrying to people of another faith/religion, it is not recommend to marry outside of Hinduism but it allows interfaith marriages . [15] Law books like Manusmriti, Yajnavalkya Smriti, and Parashara speak of marriage rules among various kulas and gotras. Manusmriti versions are numerous as the original is not preserved but it represents one of the oldest attempts to formally regulate the secular society of India. It is not a religious text. According to the varna system, marriage is normally between two individuals of the same varna. Ancient Hindu literature identified four varnas: Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras. In ancient India, this varna system was strictly professional division based on one's profession. With time, it became a birthright. According to Manusmriti, partners in an intra-caste marriage should be shunned as it is an equivalent of a sibling marriage shunned

Islam Edit

In Sunni Islam, a primary legal concern is that the offspring of an interfaith marriage between a Muslim a non-Muslim are to be Muslim offspring, and raised as such. Sharia, thus, has differing regulations on interfaith marriage, depending on, firstly, what is the gender of the prospective intermarrying Muslim, and secondly, what non-Muslim religion is adhered to by the person that a Muslim is seeking to intermarry with. Islamic Law permits a Muslim man to marry non-Muslim women provided that they are from among the People of the Book (i.e. female Christians or female Jews). Additionally, they must have been chaste, and orthodox Islam mandates that all children be brought up Muslim. Beyond this exemption, a Muslim man may not intermarry with females who are not from among the People of the Book unless they convert to Islam (which is not required of Christian females and Jewish females). Thus, Muslim men are prohibited from intermarrying, for instance, Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, etc., as well as pagans or atheists, unless the man/woman converts to Islam. Sikhs are monotheist, but are not people of the book(Jews or Christians). If any non-Muslim converts, it would no longer be considered intermarriage, but a marriage between Muslims, and thus not prohibited. In the case of a Muslim-Christian marriage, which is to be contracted only after permission from the Christian party, the Christian spouse is not to be prevented from attending church for prayer and worship, according to the Ashtiname of Muhammad, a treaty between Muslims and Christians recorded between Muhammad and Saint Catherine's Monastery. [16] [17]

The tradition of progressive Islam permits marriage between Muslim women and non-Muslim men Islamic scholars opining this view include Khaleel Mohammed, Daayiee Abdullah, Hassan Al-Turabi, among others. [18]

On the other hand, according to the orthodox understanding of interfaith marriage in Islam, Muslim women are forbidden from intermarrying based on Islamic law. [19] [20] [21] [22] This is understood to be irrespective of whether or not she wishes to marry a male from among the People or the Book (i.e. a male Christian or Jew) or a male of any other religion. Based on this interpretation, this would not apply if the non-Muslim man converted to Islam, as the Muslim woman would no longer be considered to be intermarrying, but marrying a Muslim man. Additionally, she may only be married to one Muslim man at any one time (i.e. she may not have multiple husbands at the same time). The Quran states, “And do not marry Al-Mushrikaat (idolatresses) till they believe (worship Allah Alone). And indeed a slave woman who believes is better than a (free) Mushrikah (idolatress), even though she pleases you. And give not (your daughters) in marriage to Al‑Mushrikoon till they believe (in Allaah Alone) and verily, a believing slave is better than a (free) Mushrik (idolater), even though he pleases you. Those (Al-Mushrikoon) invite you to the Fire, but Allaah invites (you) to Paradise and forgiveness by His Leave, and makes His Ayaat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) clear to mankind that they may remember”[al-Baqarah 2:221]

Early jurists in the most-prominent schools of Islamic jurisprudence ruled in fiqh that the marriage of a Muslim man to a Christian or Jewish woman is makruh (disapproved) if they live in a non-Muslim country. Umar (634–644) denied interfaith marriage to Muslim men during his command of the ummah. [23] According to the Quran,

Today the good things are made lawful for you, and the food of the ones to whom the Book was brought is lawful to you, and your food is made lawful to them. And (so) are believing women in wedlock, and in wedlock women of (the ones) to whom the Book was brought even before you when you have brought them their rewards in wedlock, other than in fornication, neither taking them to yourselves as mates (i.e., girl-friends). And whoever disbelieves in belief, (i.e., the religion) then his deed has been frustrated and in the Hereafter, he is among the losers. (Surah 5:5)

Scholar Ahmad Kutty of Toronto has expressed disapproval of interfaith marriage, citing Umar. [23] According to scholar Bilal Philips, the verse permitting Muslim men to marry non-Muslim women is no longer valid for several reasons (including its misinterpretation). [24] Canadian Islamic scholar Shabir Ally has also said that it is makruh for a Muslim man to marry outside his religion. [25] This prohibition preserves and expands Islam in patriarchal, multi-faith societies. It ensures that over a number of generations, Islam would gain in numbers relative to other religions. [26]

If a non-Muslim woman married to non-Muslim converts to Islam, the marriage is suspended until her husband converts to Islam she could theoretically leave the non-Muslim husband and marry a Muslim one, analogous to the Pauline privilege for Catholic Christians. If the non-Muslim husband converts, a new marriage is not needed. According to the Quran,

O ye who believe! When there come to you believing women refugees, examine (and test) them: Allah knows best as to their Faith: if ye ascertain that they are Believers, then send them not back to the Unbelievers. They are not lawful (wives) for the Unbelievers, nor are the (Unbelievers) lawful (husbands) for them. But pay the Unbelievers what they have spent (on their dower), and there will be no blame on you if ye marry them on payment of their dower to them. But hold not to the guardianship of unbelieving women: ask for what ye have spent on their dowers, and let the (Unbelievers) ask for what they have spent (on the dowers of women who come over to you). Such is the command of Allah. He judges (with justice) between you. And Allah is Full of Knowledge and Wisdom. (Surah 60:10)

Judaism Edit

Interfaith marriage in Judaism was historically viewed with disfavor by Jewish leaders, and it remains controversial. The Talmud and poskim prohibit non-Jews to marry Jews, and discuss when the prohibition is from the Torah and when it is rabbinical. [27] In 1236, Moses of Coucy encouraged Jewish men who had married Christian or Muslim women to divorce them. [28] In 1844, the reform Rabbinical Conference of Brunswick permitted Jews to marry "any adherent of a monotheistic religion" if children of the marriage were raised Jewish. [29] This conference was controversial one of its resolutions called on members to abolish the Kol Nidre prayer, which opens the Yom Kippur service. [30] One member of the conference later changed his opinion, becoming an opponent of intermarriage. [31]

Traditional Judaism does not consider marriage between a Jew by birth and a convert as intermarriage [32] [33] [34] Biblical passages which apparently support intermarriage, such as that of Joseph to Asenath and Ruth to Boaz, were regarded by classical rabbis as having occurred after the non-Jewish spouse had converted. [35] Some still considered Canaanites forbidden to marry even after conversion, although this did not necessarily apply to their children. [36]

Orthodox Judaism refuses to accept intermarriage, and tries to avoid facilitating them. Conservative Judaism does not sanction intermarriage, but encourages acceptance of the non-Jewish spouse by the family in the hope that such acceptance will lead to the spouse's conversion to Judaism. [37] In December 2014 the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism's United Synagogue Youth controversially modified a binding rule that its leaders would not date non-Jews, replacing it with a "recogni[tion of] the importance of dating within the Jewish community." [38]

Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism do not generally regard the authority of classical rabbis many rabbis from these denominations are willing to officiate at interfaith marriages, [39] [40] although they try to persuade intermarried couples to raise their children as Jews. In 1870, some Reform Jews published the opinion that intermarriage is prohibited. [41]

In 2015 the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College voted to accept rabbinical students in interfaith relationships, making Reconstructionist Judaism the first movement within Judaism to allow rabbis to have relationships with non-Jewish partners. [42] Humanistic Judaism is a nontheistic alternative in contemporary Jewish life, defining Judaism as the cultural and historical experience of the Jewish people. The Society for Humanistic Judaism answers the question, "Is intermarriage contributing to the demise of Judaism?" on its website: "Intermarriage is the positive consequence of a free and open society. If the Jewish community is open, welcoming, embracing, and pluralistic, we will encourage more people to identify with the Jewish people rather than fewer. Intermarriage could contribute to the continuity of the Jewish people." [43]

During the early 19th century, intermarriage was relatively rare less than one-tenth of one percent of the Jews of Algeria, for example, practiced exogamy. [44] Since the early 20th century, rates of Jewish intermarriage have increased. In the United States from 1996 to 2001, nearly half (47 percent) of marriages involving Jews were intermarriages with non-Jewish partners [45] (a similar proportion—44 percent—as in the early 20th century in New South Wales). [46]

In Israel, the religious authorities, which are the only entities authorized to perform weddings in Israel, are prohibited from marrying couples unless both partners share the same religion. Therefore, interfaith couples can be legally married in Israel only if one of the partners converts to the religion of the other. [47]

Serer religion Edit

In orthodox Serer religion (an ethnoreligious faith), interfaith and interracial marriages are forbidden. Banishment and disinheritance may be levied against a Serer who disobeys the law. [48] The Serer-Noon (a sub-group of the Serer people) adhere strongly to this teaching. [48]

Sikhism Edit

Some gurdwaras allow weddings between a Sikh and a non-Sikh, but others oppose it. In 2014, the Sikh Council in the UK developed a consistent approach towards marriages in Gurdwaras where one partner is not of Sikh origin, following a two-year consultation with Gurdwara Sahib Committees, Sikh Organisations, and individuals. The resulting guidelines were approved by the General Assembly of Sikh Council UK on 11 October 2014, and state that Gurdwaras are encouraged to ensure that both parties to an Anand Karaj wedding are Sikhs, but that where a couple chooses to undertake a civil marriage they should be offered the opportunity to hold an Ardas, Sukhmani Sahib Path, Akhand Path, or other service to celebrate their marriage in the presence of family and friends. [49] Some gurdwaras permit mixed marriages, which has led to controversy.

Zoroastrianism Edit

Some traditional Zoroastrians in India disapprove of and discourage interfaith marriages, and female adherents who marry outside the faith are often considered to be excommunicated. When a female adherent marries a partner from another religion, they go through the risk of not being able to enter the Agyaris and Atash Behrams. In the past, their partner and children were forbidden from entering Zoroastrian religious buildings this is often still observed. A loophole was found to avoid such expulsion: the offspring (especially born out of wedlock) of a Parsi man and a non-Parsi woman were often "adopted" by the Parsi father and tacitly accepted into the religion. Alternatively in a few cases such as that of Suzanne RD Tata, the non-Zoroastrian spouse has been allowed to convert Zoroastrianism by undergoing the navjote ritual [50] Interfaith marriages may skew Zoroastrian demographics, since the number of adherents is low.

According to Indian law (where most Parsis live), only the father of the child must be a Zoroastrian for the child (or children) to be accepted into the faith. This has been debated, since the religion promotes gender equality (which the law violates). Zoroastrians in North America and Europe defy the rule, and children of a non-Zoroastrian father are accepted as Zoroastrians.

In modern times various composers have written sacred music for use during interfaith marriage ceremonies including:

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