A phenomenological inquiry into sacred time in Hinduism

Netty Provost, Purdue University


In this work, I examine the nature of sacred time in religious experience. Applying the methodology of phenomenology of religion, I inspect the ways in which human beings experience sacred time in Hinduism and present an argument against Mircea Eliade’s understanding of the nature of sacred time in Hinduism. Eliade asserted that all sacred time in Hinduism is fundamentally circular in nature and that the experience of sacred time is an experience of the original act of creation being made consciously present to the individual. I will scrutinize Eliade’s arguments on two fronts. Firstly, I argue against Eliade’s claim that all sacred time is circular in nature within Hinduism. Instead, I maintain that while some sacred time is indeed circular, linear, or historically grounded sacred time also exists in Hinduism. To support my arguments, I draw on case examples from both sacred texts and the scholarly interpretations of those texts in Hinduism. After the introductory chapter which details my methodology, I begin in the second chapter by clarifying the difference between sacred and profane time and then outlining Eliade’s conception of sacred time and specifying the flaws that I find in his theory. In the third chapter, I explore circular sacred time in Hinduism, finding in some instances Eliade was correct to argue that sacred time is circular in nature. In the fourth chapter, I offer evidence to support my primary thesis that Hinduism also features numerous instances of linear sacred time which Eliade had attributed only to religions that are more contemporary. Eliade’s claim that only circular sacred time is present in Hinduism creates inconstancies within his theory of sacred time. In the fifth chapter, I provide and then rebut possible counter-arguments against my theory of linear sacred time in Hinduism centering on Eliade’s conception of avatars and myth. Lastly, I conclude chapter six with a summary of my arguments which revise the phenomenological understanding of sacred time in Hinduism to include both circular sacred time and linear sacred time.




Smith, Purdue University.

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