Jonathan Edelmann on Evolution, the Bhāgavata Purāṇa and Vaiṣṇava Theology (#53)

About the Guest:

Jonathan Edelmann is an Assistant Professor of Religion at the University of Florida and an Affiliated Faculty member at the Center for the Study of Hindu Traditions. He received a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of California-Santa Barbara, an M.A. in Science and Religion from Oxford University, and Ph.D. (D.Phil.) from Oxford University in Religious Studies and Theology. While at Oxford he was affiliated with Harris Manchester College and the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies.

Edelmann’s fields of research are twofold. The first is the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, as well as the Sanskrit theological and philosophical tradition that surrounds it known as Gauḍīya or Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism.

The second is the manner in which Hindu thought and Indian philosophy has interacted with and might further interact with Western thought in a constructive manner, especially the evolutionary sciences and Western philosophy. Edelmann has argued for a discussion (saṃvāda) between Hindu thought and the evolutionary sciences, one that respects the autonomy and value of multiple perspectives in the on-going discovery of our world.

Jonathan is currently working on ethics in the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava tradition and the definitions of the three yogas (karma, jñāna, and bhakti). Some long-term plans involve making the Bhagavad Gītā’s commentarial tradition more accessible to students and scholars, evaluating various Western reductive theories of mind and consciousness in conversation with Hindu conceptions of self, and translating the writings of Viśvanātha Cakravartin.

In this episode, we discuss:

  1. The story of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa
  2. Why/how Jonathan connects the Bhāgavata Purāṇa with science, specifically with biology and evolutionary theory
  3. The concepts of science and religion as being essentialized categories abstracted from the practices of scientists and the religious
  4. Jonathan’s suggested new approach to Hindu theology
  5. How we can be sensitive to cultural appropriation while engaging with Indian philosophical and theological ideas
  6. Vivekananda and how he was the first Hindu to bring Indian teachings to other cultures
  7. The ideas of god in nature that Jonathan unpacks in his book
  8. The relationship between Karma theory and suffering (samsara)
  9. The Hindu view of god as the underlying ground of being vs. a creator
  10. The aesthetic experience as a means of knowledge
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