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
Pub. Date:
University of California Press
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Imagining Karma: Ethical Transformation in Amerindian, Buddhist, and Greek Rebirth / Edition 1

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).

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

List of Abbreviations

1. Karma and Rebirth in Indic Religions: Origins and Transformations
2. Non-Indic Theories of Rebirth
West Africa
3. The Imaginary Experiment and the Buddhist Implications
4. The Buddhist Ascesis
5. Eschatology and Soteriology in Greek Rebirth
6. Rebirth and Reason
7. Imprisoning Frames and Open Debates: Trobriander, Buddhist, and Balinese

Methodological Postscript

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