Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion, Vol 3, No 2 (2015)

Reappraising Objects of Desire Through Practices of Devotion: A Cognitive Historiographical Approach to Religious Claims in Medieval India

Travis Chilcott
Issued Date: 1 Feb 2017


Desires for mundane objects have been a central problem of concern in the development of many Indian traditions. Accordingly, they developed various methods for regulating and preventing them. But why would these practices be effective? To answer this question, I focus on the theology of the early Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava tradition, a sixteenth and seventeenth century Hindu path of devotion that innovatively adopted and adapted practices of devotion commonly practiced in India. Drawing on desire-regulation and schema theory research, I argue that many of these practices would help prevent and minimize unwanted desires for mundane objects because they help one learn to reappraise mundane objects in terms of the Gauḍīya worldview with increasing cognitive efficiency. In so doing, they are likely to increase one’s ability to delay gratifying unwanted desires, minimize and prevent their emergence, reduce reflective and automatic positive evaluations and increase devaluations of mundane objects of desire and regulate response behavior in desirable ways.

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DOI: 10.1558/jcsr.31055


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