Imagining Karma: Ethical Transformation in Amerindian, Buddhist, and Greek Rebirth / Edition 1

Imagining Karma: Ethical Transformation in Amerindian, Buddhist, and Greek Rebirth / Edition 1

by Gananath Obeyesekere
     
 

With Imagining Karma, Gananath Obeyesekere embarks on the very first comparison of rebirth concepts across a wide range of cultures. Exploring in rich detail the beliefs of small-scale societies of West Africa, Melanesia, traditional Siberia, Canada, and the northwest coast of North America, Obeyesekere compares their ideas with those of the ancient and modern Indic… See more details below

Overview

With Imagining Karma, Gananath Obeyesekere embarks on the very first comparison of rebirth concepts across a wide range of cultures. Exploring in rich detail the beliefs of small-scale societies of West Africa, Melanesia, traditional Siberia, Canada, and the northwest coast of North America, Obeyesekere compares their ideas with those of the ancient and modern Indic civilizations and with the Greek rebirth theories of Pythagoras, Empedocles, Pindar, and Plato. His groundbreaking and authoritative discussion decenters the popular notion that India was the origin and locus of ideas of rebirth. As Obeyesekere compares responses to the most fundamental questions of human existence, he challenges readers to reexamine accepted ideas about death, cosmology, morality, and eschatology.

Obeyesekere's comprehensive inquiry shows that diverse societies have come through independent invention or borrowing to believe in reincarnation as an integral part of their larger cosmological systems. The author brings together into a coherent methodological framework the thought of such diverse thinkers as Weber, Wittgenstein, and Nietzsche. In a contemporary intellectual context that celebrates difference and cultural relativism, this book makes a case for disciplined comparison, a humane view of human nature, and a theoretical understanding of "family resemblances" and differences across great cultural divides.

Author Biography: Gananath Obeyesekere is Professor of Anthropology, Emeritus, at Princeton University. He is the author of The Apotheosis of Captain Cook: European Mythmaking in the Pacific (1997), The Cult of the Goddess Pattini (1984), Medusa's Hair: An Essay on Personal Symbols and Religious Experience (1984), and The Work of Culture: Symbolic Transformation in Psychoanalysis and Anthropology (1990).

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780520232433
Publisher:
University of California Press
Publication date:
11/11/2002
Series:
Comparative Studies in Religion and Society Series
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
477
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.13(d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface
List of Abbreviations
1Karma and Rebirth in Indic Religions: Origins and Transformations1
2Non-Indic Theories of Rebirth19
West Africa19
The Trobriand Model28
Animal and Human Reincarnation: Northwest Coast Indians and Inuit (Eskimo)37
Human and Animal Transformations43
Kinship, Rebirth, and Desire46
Tlingit Eschatology: Rebirth, Desire, and the Return of the Dead50
Animal and Human Reincarnation: An Ethical Dilemma among the Kwakiutl58
3The Imaginary Experiment and the Buddhist Implications72
The Transformation of the Rebirth Eschatology72
Emergence of the Karmic Eschatology78
Upanishadic Ethicization: The Earliest Indic Model84
The Model and the Buddhist Interconnections88
Ethicization in Its Historical Context: The Samanic Religions97
Contemporary Tribal Religions98
Ethicization, Axiology, and the Brahmanic Tradition99
Nonethicized Samanic Religions: The Doctrines of the Ajivikas102
Eel-Wrigglers and Hair-Splitters: Contentious Discourses in Buddhist Thought108
Ethical Transformation and the Axial Age: Ethical Prophecy and Ethical Asceticism115
Rationalization and the Transformation of Thought120
The Limits of Innovative Thought: Temporality, Impermanence, Nirvana125
Karma, Causality, and the Aporias of Existence129
Ethicization, Karma, and Everyday Life140
Ascetic Religiosity and the Escape from the World144
4The Buddhist Ascesis150
The Imagined Buddha150
The Renunciatory Ideal in the Buddhist Imagination158
The Buddha as Seer: The Life Fate of the Buddhist Dead160
Samanism and Shamanism: Ecstasis, Enstasis, and Spirit Possession164
Ethicization and the Creation of a God-Making Machine168
Ethicization and Axiologization173
Buddhism, Axiologization, and the Vedic Tradition176
Axiologization Continued: Homo Hierarchicus and Homo Aequalis in India182
5Eschatology and Soteriology in Greek Rebirth190
Methodological Remarks190
Pythagoras and Pythagoreanism: A Probable Mythos193
History Telling Continued: Pythagorean Beginnings and Lifeways200
Pythagorean Soteriology207
Ethicization and Soteriology in Empedocles214
Ethicization Step 1: Popular Religiosity in Pindar232
Orphic Reincarnation: A Brief Aside236
Bridging Multiple Worlds: Plato and the Myth of Er240
6Rebirth and Reason249
Metacosmesis in the Phaedo249
The Soteriology and Eschatology of the Phaedrus254
The Cosmology of the Timaeus258
Cosmological Homoeroticism, Heterophobia, and Female Nature in Platonic Rebirth266
Ethicization and Soteriology in the Platonic Dialogues270
Regrouping: Rebirth, Memory, and Retrocognition275
Reason, Conviction, and Eschatology in Platonic, Buddhist, and Amerindian Thought283
"Karma" in Greek Thought: Plotinian Eschatology and Soteriology287
Rebirth and the Idea of God: The Druze Case308
7Imprisoning Frames and Open Debates: Trobriander, Buddhist, and Balinese Rebirth Revisited319
Reincarnation, Procreation, and the Embodiment of the Soul319
Buddhism, Procreation, and Rebirth331
Balinese Rebirth: Contentious Discourses on Rebirth and Karmic Eschatologies334
Methodological Postscript344
Notes361
Bibliography413
Index429

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