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Historically there has been a tension in Indian society between these two ideals: being part of the society (and therefore being a part of a network of relations) or being an “individual”, seeking for his own salvation “Secular” Hinduism is the result of this tension
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Historically there has been a tension in Indian society between these two ideals: being part of the society (and therefore being a part of a network of relations) or being an “individual”, seeking for his own salvation
It is not surprising that this tension has influenced the model of political leadership in India
In fact, all the main developments in Indian religious and philosophical thought come out of this tension
That is the basic reason for the development of new movements that tried to “democratize” the path to salvation
The Bhakti (“devotion”) movement (based on the BhagavadGita, which is a part of a famous Indian epic text, the Mahabarata) is based on the simple idea that it is possible to become a renouncer (a sannyasin) without abandoning the society
Therefore, according to the Bhakti movement, everyone can become a “saint”, a renouncer, and therefore seek salvation, without leaving the society
moreover, this movement created a direct relationship between man and one particular God (usually Krishna), therefore a sort of “monotheistic” Hinduism (a bridge between Hinduism and Islam: Sufism, Sikhism)
The second movement, called Shakti (also Tantric movement), is an heterodox religious movement that emphasises the role of the force of the nature, which is believed to be a feminine energy, as a path to salvation
When, however, the feminine is separated by the masculine, then the former can become aggressive, violent, even destructive (all the violent natural phenomena)
The Tantric movement is a movement that gives paramount importance to the role of Shakti
Sexual relationship is also emphasised as the symbol of the union of the masculine and the feminine force, and has therefore the power to bring liberation (moksa); in particular the union between the male Deity and the Shakti, the Goddess
Although Indian society may seem rigidly hierarchical and stable, in fact it has seen a tendency towards the opening of new interpretations where the individual could find more space, and that challenged the rigid hierarchy commanded by the brahmins
It is significant, however, that all these currents have lived together in India for centuries, influencing each other, with none of them in fact prevailing
In order to understand this link we have to shift to the concept of caste (or jati)
Varna is the theoretical model, while jati is the anthropological group
There is not a single criterion for the ordering of jatis, however, the most important one is the polarity between purity and impurity