Mark McLaughlin’s courses at William and Mary include ‘Introduction to Hinduism,’ ‘Hindu Sacred Texts: Upaniṣads and the Bhagavad Gītā,’ and ‘Temples, Tombs, and Topography: An Exploration of Sacred Space in India.’ Before coming to William and Mary, McLaughlin taught at Denison University as a Visiting Instructor of Asian and Comparative Religions where his courses included ‘Hinduism,’ ‘Buddhism,’ ‘Islam in South Asia,’ ‘Sacred Space in India,’ and ‘World Religions.’ McLaughlin is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is an American Institute of Indian Studies Junior Research Fellow, and a recipient of the Professor Raimundo Panikkar Memorial Award for academic achievement in the study of Comparative Religions in South Asia. He has completed a draft of his dissertation entitled “Lord in the Temple, Lord in the Tomb: The Hindu Temple and Its Relationship to the Samādhi Shrine Tradition of Jñāneśvar Mahārāj,” which he will defend this academic year.
McLaughlin’s research focusses on sacred space in the sub-continent, most especially as it is expressed in the Hindu traditions. He is interested in how living traditions utilize memory to reconcile paradoxes of their existence—be it philosophical, theological, mythical, historical, local, or trans-regional. Nowhere, McLaughlin asserts, are these paradoxes more apparent or more creatively reconciled than in a tradition’s sacred space. At the moment, his research focuses on Hindu samādhi shrines, or tomb-shrines of revered gurus, which on the surface look very similar in organization and function to Sufi dargāhs, or tomb-shrines of Muslim saints. Indeed, the samādhi shrine practice seems to surface in the Hindu traditions alongside the explosive arrival of the Sufi dargāh tradition in India in the 12-13th centuries. This has led many scholars to speculate that the emergence of the Hindu samādhi shrine may owe much to the presence of the popular Sufi dargāh tradition. Yet through his research, McLaughlin argues that the practice of burying the enlightened guru, as opposed to cremating the body, has deep philosophical and theological roots in India that date back to as early as the Vedic Āraṇyakas (900-600 BCE). His dissertation traces the development of this practice in the Hindu context and considers its relationship to the Buddhist stūpa tradition, as well as its eventual relationship to the Sufi dargāh tradition.