Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2012

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Religious Studies

First Advisor

Duerlinger, James

Second Advisor

Smith, Frederick

First Committee Member

Keen, Ralph

Second Committee Member

Kelly, Edward

Third Committee Member

Hasan, Ali


This dissertation is an interpretive inquiry of the conception of self in the Hindu Advaita (non-dual) school. I focus on the original works of Sankara (8th-9th CE) and Abhinavagupta (10th-11th CE), both of whom played a significant role in developing the Advaita philosophy within the Hindu tradition. I offer an innovative analysis of the Advaita thought, drawing upon the fields of religious studies, philosophy, psychology, and history and philosophy of science. This multidisciplinary exploration focuses on the structure of human consciousness and its relation to the existential dimensions of human experience. On the basis of non-dualism, I examine the subject-object relationships in the contexts of cognitive activity, aesthetic experience and interpersonal relationships. I argue that certain structures of self-object or self-other relations, which I characterize as the sacred, point to experiences of depth which do not merely reduce to cultural phenomena or socio-political dynamics, though their expression often take specific cultural forms. Such structures play a crucial role in developing authentic dynamics with the other, in enhancing creativity and enriching aesthetic activities. Thus the sacred create the possibility for a vital and caring relationship with one's environment. Because my investigation focuses extensively on subjective awareness, it will add important dimensions to questions concerning the nature of cognition.


Aesthetics, Consciousness Studies, Hindu Advaita, Non-Western Phenomenology, Philosophy of Self


vi, 119 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 114-119).


Copyright 2012 Binita Mehta

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Religion Commons