The Self Possessed: Deity and Spirit Possession in South Asian Literature and Civilization

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Columbia University Press, 2006 - Religion - 701 pages
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The Self Possessed is a multifaceted, diachronic study reconsidering the very nature of religion in South Asia, the culmination of years of intensive research. Frederick M. Smith proposes that positive oracular or ecstatic possession is the most common form of spiritual expression in India, and that it has been linguistically distinguished from negative, disease-producing possession for thousands of years.

In South Asia possession has always been broader and more diverse than in the West, where it has been almost entirely characterized as "demonic." At best, spirit possession has been regarded as a medically treatable psychological ailment and at worst, as a condition that requires exorcism or punishment. In South (and East) Asia, ecstatic or oracular possession has been widely practiced throughout history, occupying a position of respect in early and recent Hinduism and in certain forms of Buddhism.

Smith analyzes Indic literature from all ages-the earliest Vedic texts; the Mahabharata; Buddhist, Jain, Yogic, Ayurvedic, and Tantric texts; Hindu devotional literature; Sanskrit drama and narrative literature; and more than a hundred ethnographies. He identifies several forms of possession, including festival, initiatory, oracular, and devotional, and demonstrates their multivocality within a wide range of sects and religious identities.

Possession is common among both men and women and is practiced by members of all social and caste strata. Smith theorizes on notions of embodiment, disembodiment, selfhood, personal identity, and other key issues through the prism of possession, redefining the relationship between Sanskritic and vernacular culture and between elite and popular religion. Smith's study is also comparative, introducing considerable material from Tibet, classical China, modern America, and elsewhere.

Brilliant and persuasive, The Self Possessed provides careful new translations of rare material and is the most comprehensive study in any language on this subject.

  

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i wish i could read this book bcos i am possessed bot dont have $ due to i am a drug addict too just puiblished 2 books tho an work in mental health 4 my job it does happen ppl and man is it greatt

Review: The Self Possessed: Deity and Spirit Possession in South Asian Literature and Civilization

User Review  - Stuart - Goodreads

This is an excellent overview of the phenomenon of possession in South Asia. By focusing on the cultural ontology he dramatically reassesses the nature of the self and the significance of spirit possession and psychic permeability in the Hindu tradition. Read full review

Contents

Academic and Brahmanical Orthodoxies
3
The Sanskritic Vocabulary of Possession
13
Problematics of Interpretation
15
Ethnography Modernity and the Languages of Possession
31
New and Inherited Paradigms Methodologies for the Study of Possession
33
Definitions and Typologies
35
The Devils Work
39
Psychiatric and Psychoanalytic Interpretations
43
Vallabhācāryas Concept of Āveśa
347
Śrī Caitanya and the Gaudlya Concepts of Āveśa Avatāra and Multiple Bodies
350
Āveśa and Bhāva
353
Āveśa Bhāva and Alternative Vedantas
356
Worldly and Otherworldly Ruptures Possession as a Healing Modality
363
Possession in Tantra Constructed Bodies and Empowerment
367
Discipline and Enlightenment
368
Divinizing the Body
374

Possession as a Form of Social Control
56
Possession and Shamanism
60
Possession as Ontological Reality
66
Śakti the Localization of Divinity and the Possessed
68
Performative and Biographical Context
75
Conclusions
78
Possession Trance Channeling and Modernity
95
Notes on Regional Languages ana Models of Possession
110
Exorcists Oracles and Healers
142
Reflections on Folk and Classical in South Asia
146
Classical Literature
173
The Vedas and Upanisads
175
Possession in the Early Vedic Literature
177
ShapeShifting and Possession
195
In the Beginning God Possessed Heaven and Earth
202
Transfer of Essence
211
The Gandharva the Apsaras and the Vedic Body
224
Friendly Acquisitions Hostile Takeovers The Panorama of Possession in the Sanskrit Epics
245
The Mahābhāmta Where Everything Can Be Found
246
Notes on Possession in the Rāmāyaṇa
275
Enlightenment and the Classical Culture of Possession
284
Possession as Yoga Practice
286
Possession and the Subtle Body in the Yogavāsiṣṭha
290
Śaṅkaras Possession of a Dead King
294
Possession and the Body in the Brahmasūtras
297
Possession in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism
302
Conclusions
308
Vampires Prostitutes and Poets Narrativity and the Aesthetics of Possession
317
Possession in Sanskrit Fiction
320
Can There Be an Aesthetic of Possession?
330
Devotion as Possession
345
Possession in Buddhist Tantras
390
Tantric Possession and Images of a Multiple Self
398
Tantra and the Diaspora of Childhood Possession
416
The Śaiva and Buddhist Tantras and the South Indian Texts
418
Svasthāveśa and the Prasenā
421
Epigraphical Evidence for the Practice of Svasthāveśa
427
The Ritual of Svasthāveśa
429
Possession Across the Himalayas
432
The Indie Character of Chinese Possession
435
Svasthāveśa in South India
440
The Mantramahodadhi
441
The Tantrāmja
443
A Comparison
444
Conclusions
448
The Medicalization of Possession in Āyurveda and Tantra
471
Vedic and Āyurvedic Demonologies
474
Other Indie Demonologies
508
Piśācas and the Piśācmocan Temple
525
Childsnatchers and Therapy to Counter Demonic Possession Piśacagṛhītabhaiṣnjyam
530
Healing and the Circulation of Knowledge
536
Possession and Exorcism in Contemporary Āyurveda
544
Diagnosing Possession
551
Notes on the Textuality of Āyurveda
555
Conclusions Identity Among the Possessed and the Dispossessed
579
Possession and Embodiment
581
Sudden and Gradual
591
Questions and a Few Answers
593
The Mahābhārata and Traditions of Possession
598
BIBLIOGRAPHY
607
INDEX
665
Copyright

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About the author (2006)

Frederick M. Smith studied Sanskrit for more than a decade in Pune, Madras, and elsewhere in India, and earned his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. He is known for his work on Vedic ritual and the early sixteenth-century philosopher Vallabhacarya, whose work he has been translating. With his work on deity and spirit possession, his interest in Indian religious and spiritual experience has assumed a unique form. He teaches at the University of Iowa.

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