Tarka #0: On the Scholar-Practitioner

In this issue of Tarka, On the Scholar-Practitioner, we explore the intersection between academic scholarship and contemplative practice, highlighting the obstacles, challenges, and opportunities encountered by those working to heal the divide between knowledge and experience.

Tarka Issue #0

On the Scholar-Practitioner

  • Historical, Polemical, and Experimental Essays
  • Introductory Articles on Key Topics
  • Interviews with Rita Sherma, Ramdas Lamb, and Jeffrey S. Lidke
  • Three Book Reviews
  • Articles on Practice and Translation

Articles from this Issue

From Faculty & Friends: Jeffrey S. Lidke

What is the scholar-practitioner from your perspective?

From my perspective a scholar-practitioner is someone who consciously integrates into his or her scholarship the insights culled from engaging in the practices prescribed by the tradition he or she researches, publishes about and teaches. For me the label ‘scholar-practitioner’ indicates the intentionality and clear awareness that there is a kind of understanding that comes only through practice and that you not only seek to grasp what that understanding is but then also transcribe it into your scholarship and teaching.

How does contemplative practice inform your scholarship?

I was initiated into Mantra Yoga at age 5 by a disciple of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and then received śaktipāta-dīk

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From Faculty & Friends: Rita D. Sherman

What is a scholar-practitioner from your perspective? 

In terms of a disciplinary perspective in the context of the study of religion, philosophy of religion, classics or theological studies, it is someone who conducts research and engages in the academic teaching of a practice or a religious tradition that they have integrated into their personal lives as well. 

How does contemplative practice inform your scholarship? 

Practice deeply informs my scholarship because I’ve become aware of the contemplative hermeneutics underlying the visual material and textual cultures of the traditions that I teach. I’m also editing a book series on contemplative studies and dharma traditions. The first book in this series has just been published. The ti

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From Faculty & Friends: Ramdas Lamb

What is a scholar-practitioner, from your perspective?

Scholar-practitioners who study religious traditions are typically individuals who simultaneously function with two systems of thinking, valuing, understanding, and interpreting the world around them. One system is grounded in a decidedly secular academic worldview, while the other tends to be grounded in a religious set of values and commitments. At the same time, participants in both systems use subjective preconceptions, paradigms, and approaches to the work they undertake. Those whose methods are exclusively academic are assumed to objectively pursue their work, whether it involves evaluating beliefs, concepts, stories, and doctrines or it investigates external forms, events, and practices. Although objectivity is, ideally, their goal, their work is primarily undertaken from an outsider’s perspective and approach to that w

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In the Service of Truth

Reflections of a Scholar-Practitioner in the Tradition of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda

Concerns Raised by the Phenomenon of the scholar-practitioner

This personal essay will focus on various issues which arise when one is a scholar-practitioner in a spiritual tradition. My specific focus, because it is the tradition in which I practice, will be the Vedānta tradition of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda: sometimes referred to in scholarly literature as ‘Neo-Vedānta,’ but more properly as Vijñāna Vedānta.1The term ‘Neo-Vedānta’ is prominent in scholarly literature, being used to refer to the entire swathe of modern Hindu thought in which the influence of reformist figures like Ram Mohan Roy (1772-1833), Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950), and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1

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What is Pramāṇa?

In yoga, pramāṇa means right knowledge, a correct understanding of reality that can be acquired in one of three ways: sense perception (pratyakṣa), logic (anumāna), and verbal testimony (āgamaḥ or śabda) as the sources for the acquisition of valid knowledge. 

In his Yoga-sūtras, Patañjali categorizes pramāna as one of five possible movements of the mind that bind a person to material consciousness. This implies that pramāna can direct us to the boundary of intellectual comprehension but that we need something else to cross into the realm of liberation from material consciousness. A closer look at each source of knowledge within the category of right knowledge will reveal how pramāna directs us to what else is needed.

The first source of knowledge is sense

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Study? Practice? Can the Two be Integrated?

Introduction

There is no intelligence if one is not disciplined.
Without discipline there is no meditation.
Without meditation there can be no tranquility.
Without tranquility, how can there be happiness?

— Bhagavad Gita II:66

These verses from Mahatma Gandhi’s favorite text set the frame for the conversation on the relationship between having a personal practice of meditation and being of service to others as an educator. To remain neutral and objective is an important part of gaining the trust of students when discussing sensitive or controversial matters. However, above all else, students seek authenticity in their teachers. To practice meditation is different from espousing belief. Studies have demonstrated the efficacy of meditation and Yoga practices in bri

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Religious Studies, Theology & the Scholar-Practitioner

The voice of the scholar-practitioner emerges from a confluence of well-established disciplines, both inside and outside the academy. The scholarly study of religion and spirituality in the West is formally located in the fields of Theology and Religious Studies; practitioners draw from these and also (or alternatively) from monasteries, ashrams, contemporary yoga studios, secular meditation centers, and more. The natural process of combining scholarship and practice is central to the formation of spiritual leaders, as demonstrated by centuries of seminary and monastic institutions around the world. Yet, in the modern academy, where the emphasis is more often religious literacy and critical thinking, practice and subjective experience are regarded by many scholars of religion as less serious and overly biased.2Also see Jeffrey Lidke’s “From Faculty and Friends” interview in this issue. Lidke emphasizes the enthusiasm of the practitioner that is, at t

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The Flip (Book Review)

The Flip: Epiphanies of Mind and the Future of Knowledge

by Jeffrey Kripal | Review by Jacob Kyle

Jeffrey J. Kripal’s 2019 book, The Flip: Epiphanies of Mind and the Future of Knowledge, is an important contribution to a growing literature that invites us to pierce through the illusions of scientific materialism. Among other things, this materialism, which is indeed the foundational ideology of m

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From the Introduction

In this issue, the contributors argue for the acceptance and integration into scholarly life of what has otherwise been deemed controversial by the reigning epistemology of modern industrialized culture. Here we mean something that is indicated by a number of terms that in various ways imply one another: subjectivity, experience, embodiment, and – perhaps most importantly – practice

Jacob Kyle

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