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Innate Intuition: An Intellectual History of Sahaja-jñāna and Sahaja Samādhi in Brahmoism and Modern Vaiṣṇavism

Religious Studies Program, Department of Integrative, Religious, and Intercultural Studies (IRIS), Grand Valley State University, Allendale, MI 49401, USA
Religions 2019, 10(6), 384; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10060384
Received: 20 May 2019 / Revised: 2 June 2019 / Accepted: 3 June 2019 / Published: 14 June 2019
This article is about sahaja-jñāna, or ‘innate intuition’, as a form of Brahmo and Vaiṣṇava epistemology—a foundational invention within the development of modern Hinduism. I examine its nineteenth-century intellectual history in Bengal in the works of the Vaiṣṇava theologian Kedarnath Datta Bhaktivinoda (1838–1914) and trace it back to two of his contemporaries, Keshub Chandra Sen (1838–1884) and a senior leader of the Brahmo Samaj whom they both knew, Debendranath Tagore (1817–1905). This relatively understudied yet epistemologically significant term within modern Hinduism has its roots in the pre-colonial sahajiyā movements and bears a conceptual resemblance to the idea of pratibhā in ancient Indian aesthetics, philosophy, and grammar. The idea of sahaja is key among the sahajiyā Vaiṣṇavas, a so-called heterodox group that Western-educated, middle-class Bengali bhadraloks, including Bhaktivinoda, vehemently disassociated themselves from due to the social stigma attached to its sexo-yogic practices. Furthermore, I argue that Bhaktivinoda’s concept of sahaja-jñāna departs significantly from both sahajiyā and Brahmo versions of sahaja-jñāna and represents an innovation within the ambit of Vaiṣṇava Vedanta, which accepts verbal testimony (śabda or śāstra) as the only valid form of epistemology. In documenting the intellectual history of a significant idea, I contend that the bhadralok Bengali Vaiṣṇava leaders arrogate, desexualize, and Vedānticize a term as a form of experimentation during the construction of modern Hinduism. View Full-Text
Keywords: Bhaktivinoda; sahaja-jñāna; Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism; Brahmo Samaj; modern Hinduism; nineteenth-century Bengal; intuition; epistemology Bhaktivinoda; sahaja-jñāna; Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism; Brahmo Samaj; modern Hinduism; nineteenth-century Bengal; intuition; epistemology
MDPI and ACS Style

Ghosh, A. Innate Intuition: An Intellectual History of Sahaja-jñāna and Sahaja Samādhi in Brahmoism and Modern Vaiṣṇavism. Religions 2019, 10, 384.

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