From_the_Upanishads_Karma_and_Reincarnation_pg.78

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Unformatted text preview: 78 Identity in Caste and Territorial Societies With this sacrificial oblation did the gods offer the sacrifice. These were the first norms [dharma] of sacrifice. These greatnesses reached to the sky wherein live the ancient Sédhyas and gods. From the Upanishads: Karma and Reincarnation The idea of karma {cause and effect, appropriate consequences) ap- pears in the earliest Upanishads. Karma meant: “As you sow, so shall you reap.” Good karma would be enhanced; bad karma would lead to more bad karma. The universe was a system of complete justice in which all people got what they deserved. The idea that the soul might be reborn in another body may have been an even older idea, but in the Upanishads it combined easily with the idea of karma. That a good soul was reborn in a higher life, or a bad soul in a lower, was perhaps a more material, less subtle, version of the justice of karma. The idea of reincarnation, or the transmigration of souls, united justice with caste. What effect would these ideas have on people? In what ways would these ideas aid people in gaining a sense of power over their lives? How might these ideas he tools of control? \Vhat does “morality” mean in this tradition? Thinking Historically How does the idea of karma presented in this primary source support McNeiIl’s interpretation of the importance of the caste system in India? Would the idea of reincarnation make caste organization stronger or weaker? According as one acts, according as one conducts himself, so does he become. The doer of good becomes good. The doer of evil becomes evil. One becomes virtuous by virtuous action, bad by bad action. Brihad Aran'yaka, IV:4:5—6, in The Thirteen Principal Upanisbads, ed. and trans. R. E. Home (Bombay: Oxford University Press, 1954), 140—41. Chandogya, V:10:7, in Hume, quoted in The Hindu Tradition: Readings in Oriental Thought, ed. Ainslee T. Embree (New York: Vin- tage, 1966, copyright renewed 1994), 62—63. ...
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