By John E. Mitchiner, 350 Pages, Hardcover.
Ascetics and mystics have played a prominent role in the development of nearly all religious traditions. The particular importance of such figures within Hinduism is especially evident in the traditions recounted of the Seven Rshis—the seven archetypal sages or seers who through their ascetic practices attain heaven, commune with the gods and are absorbed into the mystical absolute or Brahman. The Seven Rsis are depicted as being more important and powerful than even the gods themselves: indeed, through their asceticism the Rsis become the progenitors of the gods, as also of men, demons and all other orders of creation. 'Traditions of the Seven Rsis is the first systematic study of these traditions, and consists of two separate but closely related parts: the first part is a text-historical examination of how and when different traditions were formulated, whiled the second part explores the various activities and ideas associated with the Seven Rsis. Basing his study on the Sanskrit sources, but making use also of Tamil, tribal and non-Indian sources, Dr. Mitchiner sets out the main traditions associated with the Seven Rsis and traces the underlying themes in those traditions—particularly that of the creative role of these ascetic figures. The work encompasses a wealth of original literary material, much of it previously untranslated, and is both a sourcebook of the Rsi traditions and a study of the historical development, symbolic meaning and interconnectedness of those traditions, illustrating above all the dynamically creative role of the ascetic and mystic within Hinduism.