Bhakti: The Perspective of Historiography and Science of Religion
Prof. Dr. Susmita Pande
Modern thought is scientific or positivistic which finds explanation in terms of observable factors. The utility of the study of ancient Indian religious texts in the perspective cannot be evaluated unless we analyze the historiography of religion and bhakti and seek the relationship of religious life to social forces. The bhakti movement has had a profound influence on the contemporary social conditions. The deep spiritual feeling inspired by bhakti especially in the Puranas transformed the social attitudes. But still we see that there is a strong trend of social determinism in the recent historiography of religion. Modern sociological theory has emerged as part of positivistic philosophy. Thus Comte the founder of Sociology formulated his law of three stages, declaring that primitive thought was mythological and it tried to explain all phenomenon in terms of Gods. In the second stage everything was explained by metaphysical principles which virtually replaced the Gods. The third stage reached in modern thought is scientific or positivistic which finds explanation in terms of observable actors. Earlier societies understood man and social life in terms of some super human law from which human laws were derived. Now modern Sociology is thus a positive replacement of theology or theology based morality. It regards man and society as objects of positive laws of society and human nature man is free to devise and create laws and pursue the ideal of humanity. The religion of man thus substitutes traditional religion. Durkheim declared that man pictures god in the images of society. Society is the basic reality which provides man with norms, guidance and laws. Marx goes a step further. All religions and philosophy are for him super structural entities which are determined by a substructure of the forces of production, that is to say, by the means of production and the relations of production. Thus religion is not merely a false ideology but also a strategy calculated to help the ruling class in exploiting the common people. All these views agree that religion is a species of illusion and that its basic purpose is to represent social facts and relations under some garb. Marxism adds that the purpose of religion is socially repressive. While many ancient Indian historians who are Marxists are clear about their own theoretical stand points many others tend to be eclectic and seem to believe that religion being a social phenomenon should have a social explanation.