chapter  2
Ancient Banyan: An Inquiry into the Meaning of “Hinduness”
ByJulius J. Lipner
Pages 18

Consider the magnificent banyan tree of the Calcutta Botanical Gardens. As a banyan, it has the characteristic of sending down aerial shoots, many of which have grown thick and strong to resemble individual tree trunks. This chapter makes some clarificatory comments about the plural nature of religion in general, of which Hinduism is a particular instance. It explores for a, if not the, chief characteristic of Hinduness, that is, of what it means to be Hindu, in terms of this distinction. In Sanskrit, the terminological equivalent of "Hinduness" is either hindutva/hinduta. Terminologically both mean exactly the same thing. For the concepts of pravritti and nivritti might well be susceptible, as Greg Bailey himself hints, of reappraisal in terms of a fresh approach to Hinduism—perhaps even the polycentric hermeneutic. The Hindu phenomena we have considered are not semantic black holes, susceptible merely of some radical deferral of meaning in which sense and reference are systematically swallowed up in deconstructive chaos.