The Embodiment of Bhakti

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Karen Prentiss offers an interpretive history of bhakti, an influential religious perspective in Hinduism. She argues that although bhakti is mentioned in every contemporary sourcebook on Indian religions, it still lacks an agreed-upon definition. Devotion is found to be the most commonly used synonym. Prentiss seeks a new perspective on this elusive concept. Her analysis of Tamil (south Indian) materials leads her to suggest that bhakti be understood as a doctrine of embodiment. Bhakti, she says, urges people towards active engagement in the worship of God. She proposes that the term devotion be replaced by participation, emphasizing bhakti's call for engagement in worship and the necessity of embodiment to fulfill that obligation. The book ends with two appendices presenting translations of hymns and an important philosophical text.