Week_Two_Karma_article_2

Week_Two_Karma_article_2 - COMPARATIVE STUDIES IN RELIGION...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–14. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 2
Background image of page 3

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 4
Background image of page 5

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 6
Background image of page 7

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 8
Background image of page 9

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 10
Background image of page 11

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 12
Background image of page 13

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 14
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

Unformatted text preview: COMPARATIVE STUDIES IN RELIGION AND SOCIETY I M A G I N I N G K A R M A Mark Juergensrneyer, editor I. Redemptive Encounters: Three Modern Styles in the Hindu Tradition, Ethlcal TranSformauon In Amenndlan’ by Lawrence A. Babb Buddhist, and Greek th 2.. Saints and Virtues, edited by John Stratton Hawley 3. Utopias in Conflict: Religion and Nationalism in Modern India, by Ainslee T. Embree 4. Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn, by Karen McCarthy Brown 5. The New Cold War? Religious Nationalism Confronts the Secular State, by Mark Juergensmeyer 6. Pious Passion: The Emergence of Modern Fundamentalism in the United States and Iran, by Martin Riesebrodt, translated by Don Reneau G A N A N A T H 0 B EY E S E K E R E 7. Devi: Goddess of India, edited by John Stratton Hawley and Donna Marie Wulff 8. Absent Lord: Ascetics and Kings in a jain Ritual Culture, by Lawrence A. Babb 9. The Challenge of Fundamentalism: Political Islam and the New World Disorder, by Bassam Tibi IO. Leveling Crowds: Ethnonationalist Conflicts and Collective Violence in South Asia, by Stanley J. Tambiah I I. The Bridge Betrayed: Religion and Genocide in Bosnia, by Michael A. Sells 12.. China’s Catholics: Tragedy and Hope in an Emerging Civil Society, by Richard Madsen I 3. Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence, by Mark Juergensmeyer 14. Imagining Karma: Ethical Transformation in Amerindian, Buddhist, and Greek Rebirth, by Gananath Obeyesekere University of California Press Berkeley Los Angeles London " THE PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY COMMONWEALTH CAMPUS LIBRARIES WORTHINGTON-SCRANTON - 1‘5" 'T" _ 3 THE IMAGINARY EXPERIMENT AND THE BUDDHIST IMPLICATIONS Hands, do what you’re bid: Bring the balloon of the mind That bellies and drags in the wind Into its narrow shed. -—W. B. Yeats. “The Balloon of the Mind” THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE REBIRTH ESCHATOLOGY The idea of scale is useful because historians agree that religions such as Buddhism, with their “karmic eschatologies,” emerged during India's “second urbanization”(the first of course associated with the Indus val- ley civilizations). During this period small communities were linked to each other by trade networks and the imperialist designs of emergent em- pires. Similar, although not identical, social changes were occurring in the small Greek city-states, although the scale of change was not as great as in India. Avoiding terms like big/7 and low, primitive and civilized, great and little, literate and preliterate, class and classless, and other such dichot- omies, I will construct transformational models to deliberately reduce the rich complexity of the empirical world and to narrow down and then highlight the critical differences among the various rebirth theories pre- sented in this book. Initially I will flesh out the model sketched at the beginning of this study (see fig. 1 ). Figure 3 will also ignore for the moment the differences among the Igbo, Trobriander, and Amerindian examples and focus instead on some of the common features of rebirth eschatologies in all of the soci- eties presented above. Let me outline a life trajectory of a hypothetical person in this scheme. Birth transfers the individual from some otherworld to the visible human world. Rites of passage at birth assist this transition, helping one to over- 72. Transformation of Rebirth Eschatology 73 Other world M a. replica of this world or b. realm of the ideal 3mg. Death (in kin roup) I+lI This world (temporary) Figure 3. Some common topographical features of rebirth eschatologies wherein there is no ethicization. According to this scheme, there are standard techniques for identifying a neonate. In addition, rebirth memories are possible for ordi- nary folk. come the perils of the soul (wherever such an idea exists) and of con- ception and fostering the nurture and protection of the fetus and the mother. The neonate is born into a family and a kin group for whom he or she is an ancestor returned. During the course of the individual’s life, rites of passage assist transitions into critically important roles—for ex- ample at puberty and marriage. Each of these transitions, as ethnogra- phers have consistently pointed out, can be viewed as a symbolic death and rebirth or, in Robert Hertz’s words, as an “exclusion” followed by an “inclusion.”l When real death occurs, funeral rites serve to transfer the individual once again into the invisible world of the ancestors. We can now posit an important feature of this otherworld, namely, its es- sential temporality, because a person must eventually leave this other— world for the human one, and this must go on and on. In fact the only enduring thing is the rebirth cycle itself, which in principle at least can go on forever. There is little ethnographic data to indicate whether the temporal character of the otherworld and the perpetual recurrence of re- birth cycles are given existential meaning and significance in the escha- tologies presented earlier, as they are in the lndic idea of samsara or in the Greek ideas of the processes of rebirth, variously conceptualized as metacosmesis, metensomatosis, or metempsychosis. The otherworld may not exist, however, in a few of the eschatologies examined in this work, among some Greek Pythagoreans and the Druze; _ 7-- —.-.-..........- Ilnrmulon of Rebirth Eschatology 7’ I Icrc the ancestors punish transgressors in a manner that parallels de- Ilmi making in secular courts. As with secular courts there is an immedi- y of punishment, but this does not affect the person’s entry into the l'l(l of the ancestors after death. Further, insofar as these ancestors fillct malt-factors with illness and other misfortunes, they act, as Simon ttcuberg says, very much like the individual’s conscience, punishing a 'oriion for the violation of the patriarchal values of the group.3 In reli- 'llllln such as Buddhism and Christianity one can have all of this; yet there is in addition the critical feature of delayed punishments or rewards [but are meted out only after death. In the rebirth eschatologies that I have discussed, the absence of such consequences means that the other- World into which one enters after death is valued positively, and so is the Chiming rebirth on earth. This positive attitude is expressed in our top- ographical models in terms of plus signs. By contrast, in religions like Buddhism and Christianity violation of a moral precept of virtually any sort implies ipso facto a violation of a religious precept for which I will surely be punished in the next world. Similarly, I will be rewarded for the good I do. I use the term ethiciza- tion to conceptualize the processes whereby a morally right or wrong ac- tion becomes a religiously right or wrong action that in turn affects a person’s destiny after death. Ethicization deals with a thoroughgoing re- ligious evaluation of morality that entails delayed punishments and re- wurds quite unlike the immediate or this-worldly compensations meted out by deities or ancestors. I have already shown that Amerindian religions reflect profound eth- icnl concerns in such beliefs as the interdependence of all species’ exis- lcnce, the value of the physical environment, and so forth. Yet these re- ligions do not hold that their social morality is anything but social. By contrast, in the so-called historical religions or, as Jaspers puts it, those religions that developed with the “Axial Age” during the sixth century Ii.c.i=.. and after, this secular social morality is redefined as an intrinsic religious morality that has profound implications for society, culture, and the conscience.4 Christians and Buddhists generally think that the moral- ity expressed in the Ten Commandants or the Five Precepts is of a truly unique nature. Quite the contrary: the moral rules enshrined in them are very conventional for the most part and found virtually everywhere in small-scale societies because such rules are required for the minimal op- eration of an orderly society. Their unconventionality lies not in their substance but in their ethicization. It is ethicization that produced an im- portant break or turn in the history of religion. , one can express through them one’ a place where suffering realm of the ideal,” wi ' ' shes for a utopia or a paradise, d ' an privation are eliminated. “It is or can be the -scale societies have no ethics. On ght be complex, even stringent, but ality does not affect the fate of the rthwest Coast Amerindians and the can groups, for example, have agencies will punish (and reward) in the here and conformed to) certain moral rules. WWI unpucattonl y, located in a space near earth itself; and a “dog ated beneath the earth for those 321% war or a, way up above and the spirits are ‘ghts playing shinn . y. . . . Then betw the earth, right on the clouds, the clouds going all aroundefvrithhtefltrflnd this is where the do ' ' r g spirits o, and th ‘ , _ and Witch doctors “witches; . ey I've among the d088, Smc1des, . . . . I’m surprised when I my grandma taught me” (MSE, 777). In most of t y ‘ hese cases on] specral instances of wrongs are listed ex , - anlforrmtion of Rebirth Eschatology 77 tept for the last informant, who tended to include in the dog heaven all Violators of social morality. As far as the good heaven is concerned, most informants thought it was a place for warriors who died in battle. Yet this good heaven of the warriors has also been influenced by Christian- lty. according to de Laguna. Since K’iwai’a is sometimes confused with the Christian Heaven, we might note that one of my informants did dream of her dead daughter in Heaven. This occurred on Easter Sunday, about a year after the girl’s death. In her dream, Heaven appeared as a beautiful garden where the daughter reported that each good person has his or her own flower garden, the success of which depends upon the moral conduct of living relatives. . . . Every day they open it big book in which writing appears of itself to record all the bad things done by the living. (MSE, 777) The Christian influence on Tlingit beliefs lends some support to my hypothesis that systematic ethicization is associated with “universaliz- lng religions.” Although the otherworlds of the societies I have discussed tend to be occasionally ethicized, it is rare that ethicization extends to rebirth in the human world. The Qiqiqtamiut Inuit of Belcher Island tend to exclude in a kind of negative reaction the immoral from rebirth in the human world, very much like the Tlingit and the Igbo. “Those who have led exemplary lives are thought to be assured that their name spirits will be conferred on new societal members. Those who have led opprobri- nus lives or who have died by violence are thought not to be recycled— for the reason that any bearer of the name will live a life of misfortune.“ In this case what constitutes an “exemplary” or “opprobrious” life is not spelled out, nor is there any specification of the moral rules involved. By contrast, Rasmussen’s inland Inuit of eastern Canada seem to have a concept of punishment and reward that echoes the Indic notion of karma, at least as far as rebirth in the human world is concerned: “They are very little concerned about the idea of death; they believe that all men are born again, the soul passing on continually from one form of life to another. (iood men return to earth as men, but evil doers are reborn as beasts, and in this way the earth is replenished, for no life once given can ever be destroyed.”7 In my view if these Inuit pushed their ideas of ethical recompense further, they would have invented their own version of a karma theory. But there is not enough ethnographic evidence to show that they did. Instead there is evidence that surrounding groups did not think animals were a lower form of existence; therefore, it could well have been that Rasmussen’s Inuit were influenced by the ethics of the erit (the Buddhist punya karma) and “ (or the Buddhist papa karma). That is, the consequences of the rights and wrongs for which I am being rewarded o . . r punished can be conceptualized for present purposes as merit and “sin.” a Karmic Eschatology 79 Ethlcization step 1 heaven (+) hell (-) Other world (temporary, 'becoming') Conditionality of reward Conditionality Birth oi reward (dislocation) This world (temporary, 'becoming") Ethicization step 2 good rebirth (+) bad rebirth (-l l‘igure 4. Karmic eschatology (ethicized rebirth eschatology). In this scheme, no salvation is possible, and nirvana and moksa occur outside the rebirth cycle. There are no standard techniques for identifying a neonate, nor are rebirth memories possible except for extraordinary individuals. I call the principle of the conditionality or contingency of reward. Let me explain what I mean by this. In the rebirth topography (fig. 3) the transfer to the otherworld depends on the proper performance of the funeral rites. But when there is ethicization, entry to the otherworld must be conditional, depending on the ethical nature of one’s this-worldly actions. When ethicization occurs, one cannot say that a person who has committed wrong can unconditionally enter the otherworld. 3. What then is the logical effect of the principle of the condi- tionality of reward on the structure of that otherworld? The otherworld must also be transformed into a world of retribu- tion and reward. There can no longer be a single place for those who have done good and those who have done bad. The otherworld must minimally split into two, a world of retribution (“hell”) and a world of reward (“heaven”). Heav- ens and hells have to be invented in any ethicized eschatology, and we see them in religions such as Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. This crucial topographical transformation is step I in the ethicization process; the “occasional ethiciza- tion” mentioned earlier stops for the most part at this point. Step I of ethicization can be represented in plus and minus signs, as I have done in figure 4. It is therefore possible to have a system of rewards and punishments in the otherworld lfiddhlst Implication- and then to leave it at that, which I will she ' Platonic rebirth formulated this issue. In thirchfec; :32; could be fully compensated in the otherworld for the cod and bad he or she had done while alive; then the persgn could be reborn into this world with a clean slate, as it were In any rebirth eschatology the soul’s stay in the otherworld is by definition temporary, or on some occasions the otherworld might be bypassed entirely as the soul seeks a human reincar- nation. Note, however, that owing to ethicization the earthl soc1ety into which the soul arrives is a place where ideas of y Sln, merit, and the contingency of reward have already been developed. Therefore when ethicization is systematicall pursued, there is a critical step 2., which requires that thle next rebirth also be ethically conditioned. This conditionin mevrtably takes into account one’s actions in the precedin glif In other words the same principle of the contingency of realm: that operated in respect to the otherworld must, in the context of systematic ethicization, also operate in respect to a rson’ rebirth in this world. This means that the human worlldeinto s which one is born must also split into a good rebirth and a bad one, which can, once again, be topographically represented in plus and minus signs as in figure 4. Thus the human world into which the individual is reborn also becomes—in a kind of “protokarma” theory—a world of retribution and reward as a result of the second movement of ethicization. In princi le and in practice step 2. of ethicization could exist independenfl of step I. I will refer later to eschatologies in which the soul y at death simply bypasses the otherworld and is immediatel reborn in this world and is punished and rewarded for y ethically relevant actions committed in the previous life. To continue with our argument regarding step 2. of ethicization- If the person is assigned a good or bad rebirth that depends . on the quality of his or her moral actions in a previous exis- tence, then any prediction of the person’s reincarnated statu lS rendered doubtful. One can no longer guarantee that a 5 person will be reborn into his or her own lineage or famil or km group; there is a dis-location consequent to the erzon’ rebirth that, rather than being based on kinship affiliations ' 5 determined by and commensurate with his or her load of si’nlsor The Karmic Eschatology 81 merit. Further, the continuation of group identity so significant in small-scale societies is ruptured; so is it with gender identity. Rebirth into the same group, gender, or location is possible but not expectable in general. Associated with this break in expec- tations is another transformational feature: the individual now reborn cannot be the same person he or she was in previous existence. The new persona is based on the load of sin and merit acquired in the individual’s previous incarnation. This is easily illustrated from Buddhist societies where people claim that they could be born anywhere in their known world, depend- ing on their good or bad karma. Let me give an example from a Pali text from the sixth century (translated, or transcreated, into Sinhala in the fourteenth century and available to monks and laypeople right down to our own times). The story is about a female ascetic who, having achieved nirvana in around the second century B.C.E. in Sri Lanka, recollects some of her past existences: In former times I fell from human estate and was reborn as a hen. In this state of existence my head was cut off by a hawk. I was reborn at Raiagaha [Ganges valley], retired from the world, and became a wandering nun, and was reborn in the stage of the First Trance. Passing from that state of existence, I was reborn in the household of a treasurer. In but a short time I passed from that state of existence and was reborn as a young sow. Passing from that state of existence, I was reborn at Suvannabhumi [Burma, in a royal household]; passing from that state of existence, I was reborn at Benares; passing from that state of existence, I was reborn at Kavira Port [South India, in the household of a mariner]; pass- ing from that state of existence, I was reborn at Anuradhapura [Sri Lanka, in the household of a nobleman]; passing from that state of existence, I was reborn in Bhokkanta village [in south Sri I.ankal."z 6. In some rebirth eschatologies several ancestral spirits can be incamated in the body of the neonate, particularly if the neonate belongs to an influential group. Alternatively, there could be double or multiple “souls,” as with the Amerindian groups discussed earlier. With ethicization and the development of individual moral responsibility these features must necessar- ily drop out of the eschatology. The reincarnated person is a single individual who is responsible for his or her own ethically meaningful actions, but these actions in turn have the effect of changing the very character and life trajectory of that reincar- Buddhm Implications nated individual. Thus the compensatory ethics associated with ethiCization state that I am morally responsible for what I did In my past existence, yet that very responsibility means that I am also a different person. Buddhism carries this expectable logic to its extreme: here individuality is created without the need for naming and other devices. 7. once reborn into a world where an ethicized morality alread eXists, individuals must continue in their life trajectory doin y good or bad, acquiring sin and merit. Then at death thi: areg pushed once again into the otherworld and the cycle keey 8 going. Thus, ethicization of a rebirth eschatology pushed3 to its logical extreme, connects one lifetime with hnother in a continuing series of ethical links. When this happens, a concomitant epistemological shift takes place: it appears to those who live in these societies that rebirth is not a thin in itself but a product of the ethical nature of one ’s actionsg hics- it 1 ' ' ' - erated from ethics. Translated into Buddhisngrsnfss ilrsiegaeri; that the karma theory has fully developed, and it is karma that fuels the rebirth cycle known as samsara. In other words if ethicization is carried out to embrace the whole eschatolo i- cal sphere constituting the otherworld (or —wor|ds) as well g as the human world into which one is reborn, and ifthis is followed through into finite or infinite rebirth cycles then one will have created a theory like that of karma. Furthdrmore this theory of impersonal and lawlike ethical compensations and rewards (or karma) cannot give primary consideration to immediate punishment. That is, I cannot be punished for the wrong I do now in this very same existence without convertin the karmic eschatology back into a rebirth eschatology. The lo cal effect of any impersonal ethical law that punishes or rewargds me straightaway for what I have done empties heavens and hells and good and bad rebirths of any ethical significance For that reason immediate karmic punishment is rare in Iridic religions except for especially heinous sins, and even these must be expiated again in the life after deat This then is the “imaginary experiment.” I I have constructed a t - graphical model (figure 3) based on existent 0pc rebirth eschatologies, and I The Karmic Eschatology 33 any that when ethicization is introduced into that model in two move- ments (steps 1 and 2.), it gets transformed into another topographical Model, which I have called the “karmic eschatology” (figure 4). Thus the luirmic eschatology is derived from the experimental manipulation of the rebirth eschatology. The success of this operation depends on whether the rebirth topography I have constructed is, to use Weber’s phrase, “ob~ (rctively possible,” that is, whether the conditions stipulated in the model Violate or contradict empirical features of existent rebirth eschatologies. For the model to be “nomologically adequate” (another of Weber’s terms), it must possess logical consistency and persuasiveness and must llUl contain features that are against the grain of empirical possibility. Now let me address this issue of objective possibility and nomological adequacy in some depth. l. The rebirth topography sketched in figure 3 fits most of the Amerindian cases in my sample but with one important quali- fication. Almost all existent eschatologies from the Northwest Coast and Inuit recognize the existence of parallel rebirth cycles for humans and animals; in some it is possible for a human to be born as an animal and vice versa. 1 have omitted animal re- birth from the topographical model at this point because Tro- briander and Igbo rebirth also can be fitted into this scheme without too much violation of the empirical record. Other rea- sons for the omission will be discussed later in this chapter. 2. In most cases a dead person’s “soul” goes round and round in endless cycles of existence and reexistence. It is an automatic process, one might say, and only in exceptional cases is there any deity or other force to prevent it. The soul does not die; it might change form at the very most, but otherwise it goes on being reincarnated. This ineluctability or automatism, if one could formulate the soul’s progress in this manner, is recog- nized in the rebirth topography of figure 3. When this topogra- phy is ethicized, the system of rewards and punishments also takes on this automatic or axiomatic character. 3. Is there any force or agency that can put a brake or roadblock on this ineluctability of the soul’s continual, if not continuous, reincarnation? I have already noted ethicized instances in which the souls of the wicked are not permitted to reincarnate (as with the Igbo). It is not clear, however, whether this happens axiomat- Buddhist Implications Upanishadic Ethlcintion 85 really, where the bad by virtue of their actions are denied reincar- nation, or whether there is an intercessory deity that prevents the bad from remcamating. In parts of West Africa, among the Qiqiqtamiut Inuit, there is a Creator God who steals gold, drinks liquor, kills a Brahmin, fomicates with his teacher’s wife, and all who associate with the above.9 Finally, there is the and at lea“ enigmatic category of insects that will never achieve a human rebirth. ful intercessor deit h - . 01' .3 power- This category resists easy interpretation; it might refer to the Sudra or, bad from being [choir] 03:15:12?“ 3 :1)": 1:" timve’mng the more likely, to those outside the pale of the vama scheme, the so-called . ways 0C e inevitabilit J h bl of the rebirth rocess. 0 v _ . I . Y I ntouc a es. by imagining :model in to deal wlth thls POSSIblhtY There is not much difference between these two Upanishadic thinkers: e automatism of the rebirth lmth believe in knowledge leading to Brahman; both believe in a lesser process is compounded by the active agency of a superordinate deity. Perhaps the early Christian heresies, influenced by Platon- ism, ‘had to reconcile the notion of rebirth ' ' path, where one can be reborn according to one’s karma, even if karma refers to mama ethics; both accept the fire-water doctrine of rebirth for unliberated souls; both articulate karma and rebirth with the major so- icriological ideal of the Upanishadic tradition, the merging of atman with Brahman. Yajr‘iavalkya presents “joyless” conditions at death for those who have violated varna ethics; Pravahana Jaivali does not mention this. Yaijfiavalkya is a Brahmin sage who takes his pupil aside as he enunci— zitcs the idea of karma and rebirth that he does not want to talk about “in public.” “In public” surely does not mean in front of the general populace because no Upanishadic text talks to the public in that sense. The “public” in this context must refer to other Upanishadic seekers of salvation—teachers and their pupils. In this text Yaifiavalkya imparts this knowledge to Arthabhaga privately. Implicit is the idea that knowledge of karma and rebirth is something new in the broader Vedic tradition— as if this is the first time these ideas have appeared. By contrast King Pravahana Jaivali assumes a different discursive posture. He clearly states that these doctrines are not new but that they were unknown to Brah- mins; they are the prerogative of the Ksatriyas, and that is why “gov- ernment has belonged exclusively to royalty [ksatriya].” The dialogues dramatize an important theme: that the rebirth theory is something new , the Brahmin sage Yajfiavalk . - I . ya and the Ksa- triya Pravahana Jaivali. Let me come back to the more developed ver~ I sron of the “fire-water doctrine” by the Ksatriya sage F. In tlEs verswn the king discusses three paths available to souls at death irst, t ere is the path to Brahman for those who have true knowledge- ’ they are fully saved, and they know no return or rebirth. This path is g i g 3 there for an indetermin ‘ . ate erio goes into Brahman. Second p d and the“ , there is the path of the Path ' . ers the classrc Vedic pitrydna. ’ or ancesmrs, This is for those who have offer ' . t ed 5 in the old Vedic sense; they are reborn in the human world ' acnficcs mg round and round i n a cycle. Not all are continu l . a ly reborn though or in the same manner, according to the second Jaivali text, which affirms the Iire-water doctrine but adds that those who live good and bad I' realize a good and bad rebirth, either as one of the twice-born vama hves egories or in a “foul womb.” I noted that ethics have entered hit it- picture, even if they are the ethics of vama. The Upanishadic ethics 2: e tionedon page 12 can now be better understood. They do not en- the ethics of karma based on the Llama scheme but simply affirm thg‘fsf): point of view of the priestly class: the one or ignored in the Brahmanic tradition but that it was well known to the Ksatriyas. If this is so, there is a historical question that must be answered even as informed guesswork. From where did the Ksatriyas gain this knowl- edge? The only reasonable conclusion one can make is that these doc- trines have come from some source outside the Vedic tradition and have been creatively incorporated into the Upanishadic tradition, although not into its mainstream. The scholarly opinion in general is that these early Upanishads were composed in the upper and middle reaches of the Ganges, where Brahmins were relative newcomers. I suggest that the Ksa- triya sage as a dramatis persona was voicing popular beliefs about re- birth that were known to many persons in this region and recasting them Buddhist lmpllcatio nigmatic statement of the king: that because “government has belonged 'nk, implies that knowledge Bad Bellini! vious sage, or Jina, named Pars’v anatha, who, according to some schol- ars, lived around 850 B.C.E.'° If so, the jainism of Mahavira’s time was tnya sages in the region of the Ganges valley and that Pravahana Jaivali E g‘ 3 of the Upanishads was an early representative of that tradition E g In Pravahana Jalvali s scheme the way of the gods leading to union go With Brahman is fully Wltllln th Good Rebirth Realm ofthe Fathers (+l ven gifts to Brahmms, and have led good lives. They go to the realm of the Fathers, although they are not equal in ritual and moral status. Following the logic of rebirth theory the stay ' emporary; the caterpillar-like soul must e by people are recognized in Binll Ksatriye Brahmln Veisya l+l Sadra (+ or - ?l Lived existence lead GXIStance s. - Cy ls Blahrnan. I I [C Upanlshadlc rebmh Salvatlon, 0r mOksa, IS outSlde [he rebmh Cle. annan equa gu uwunilt tmpllCItlonI happened in the intervening period. The Buddhist texts US d O . . ' I , perhaps can 've ues as to how ethiCization as a historical process might have occurfled. as my example, in order to investigate four interr kind of rebirth eschatolo lematics of vegetarianism ' elated problems: the gy that eXIsted prior to Buddhism; the prob- : the problemati ‘ ' ' . , I cs pertaining to sentient exis- tence, and finally the role of animals and plants in rebirth eschatologies in contrast to Buddhism (and other religions of that period). The last three elements are interlinked through the differential role of ani birth and karmic religio mals in ’3‘ I ns. Following the practice of som In ' scholars I Will introduce the term samanic to describe the “n: do‘gglcal of the Ganges valley in the sixth or fifth century B.C.E. and familiar term Brahmam'c t ' _ o deSignate the orth d ' to the period of the Upanishads.“ 0 OX vedlc t w religions” the already raditi‘on up The First Problematic: Inventing a Pre-Buddhist Tradition In following the principles of objective possibility and nomological ad- equacy l have to assume that the processes depicted in my imaginar e - periment also occurred in history, beginning with the Upanishad' Yd'x logues. Icontinue to assume that Buddhists followin a ' ' 'lc la. ethicized a preexistent rebirth es g S torical sciences, it is necessary to brin stantiate the hypotheses formulated. I will initially develo fun . _ P her th . affinity between Indic r e notion Posned in chapter 2. of an eligions and the rebirth eschatologies to ask the lulluwing question: Which among the various rebirth eschatologies pre- It'llth in chapter 2. comes closest to the Buddhist? An important feature iii Buddhist and samanic eschatologies in general is that humans can be reborn as animals as a consequence of their karma. Jainism, following more closely on the two Upanishadic cases, goes even further than Bud- dhism in postulating that plants might also possess sentience, even though one cannot be reborn as a plant. It is certainly possible that the Buddhists and Jainas invented these ideas, as some Indologists claim; on the other hand the ideas might have been inherited from preceding es- chatologies. As I have already shown, the only empirical cases similar to the Buddhist among small-scale societies outside the Indie area are those of the Northwest Coast Indians and the Inuit, because the Igbo and other West African groups and the Trobriand islanders have no notion of an- imal rebirths, parallel or cross. Amerindians and Inuit also occasionally recognize that plants too are forms of sentient existence, even though they are outside the rebirth scheme. Hence my conclusion: if it is indeed the case that Upanishadic theorists, Buddhists, Jainas, and other non- Brahmanic religions of the time did not invent the idea of animal rein- carnation and the sentience of plants but inherited it from a preexisting tradition, then it is likely that that inherited tradition was similar to the eschatologies of the Northwest Coast Indians and Inuit. One cannot therefore entirely discount the idea that the circumpolar distribution of these rebirth eschatologies might well have extended from Siberia down into central Asia and then to the Indian subcontinent, although diffu- sion of ideas and the impact of “influences” are not directly relevant to my project. The conclusion that the Indie religions show the closest structural sim- ilarity to the Amerindian-Inuit necessitates that we add the feature of animal rebirth to our topographical model and include this feature, as in figures 6 and 7. When this model is ethicized, it produces not just any theory of karma but specifically the Indie one. Consequently, for the most part I confine the term rebirth eschatology to the Northwest Coast In- dians and Inuit depicted in figures 6 and 7; I will refer to the others by name when necessary, as for example, Igbo or Trobriander. The Second Problematic: The Logic of Vegetarianism Having narrowed the focus of our inquiry to the rebirth eschatologies of the circumpolar regions and the karmic ones of the samanic religions, let me now deal with issues that arise from the idea shared by both—that “ Imldhist lnterconnections 9; humans and animals (and occasionally plants) give expression to a uni- Veruul “species sentience.” In the examples of rebirth eschatologies from :- Inuit and the Northwest Coast I noted the omnipresence of animal- -human transformations and vice versa. To eat animals, however, was both necessary and desirable, and eating was prefaced by a double act, first of killing the animal and then of ensuring its reincarnation. Animal consumption, then, is a reverential act, yet at least on an unconscious level then: is guilt in recognizing the possibility that one may be eating an an- cestor or someone closely related. In those rare cases of cross-species rein- carnation it is not possible to escape the guilt pertaining to endoanthro- puphagy. Such a dilemma can be better dealt with in the Ganges valley of the sixth and fifth centuries B.C.E., where forests had been cleared and rice cultivation had been established. There was no need to eat one’s an- cestor; hence the samanic religions (and perhaps the rebirth eschatologies that preceded them) either had a vegetarian diet or expressly forbade the ltilling of animals. The attitude toward animals depended on the paths of ethicization taken by the different samanic religions. It should be remembered that only selected animals incarnate as humans in the rebirth eschatologies. Perhaps the samanic religions universalized this idea to include all ani- mals. One thing is clear though: in Buddhist ethicization, with its strong emphasis on motivation, it is the intentional killing of the animal rather than eating it that is at issue, whereas Jainism forbids not only killing but also eating animals, as well as selected sentient plants and vegeta- hles. By contrast the Brahmanic religions right up to the period of the Upanishads permitted the killing and eating of animals. We also know that goats, sheep, and cattle were eaten in the religion of the Vedas, and huge numbers of cattle and horses were sacrificed in Brahmanic rituals fur kings. Henk Bodewiu shows that the early Dharmasfitra texts, par- ticularly Gautama (not to be confused with the Buddha, also caUed Gau- ta ma), probably compiled soon after the period of the Buddha, posit the doctrine of ahimsa', or noninjury to living things, although the word it- self appears only once. He thinks that these texts have been influenced by the ideologies of the samanic religions.12 Further, even Gautama per- mits Brahmins as well as renouncers to eat the “the flesh of animals killed by carnivorous beasts.“3 Apastamba, another early Dharmasutra au- thority, lists specific animal foods that Brahmins might eat;” Vasistha is even more liberal, permitting “food given by a hunter” and such delica- cies as porcupine, hedgehog, hare, tortoise, iguana, and some unspecified domestic animals except camels.” These facts force us to draw an im- Other world l+) Animal human-type villages Species-specific realm: Lived existence Birth [species specific) (4») Shared mnic space Species sentience Ancestral realm: a. replica of this world b. realm of the ideal Lived existence Other world l+) Among kin (+) btlt lnterconnectiom 93 between rebirth and endoanthropophagy by examining once again developed version of the fire-water doctrine of the Chdndogya Upa- . We noted earlier that the souls that take the lesser path pass into Ilnnke, and after various other transformations they reach the world Ibe Fathers and then the moon, where they become the food of the I. Then they follow a downward trajectory that takes them into a men rebirth: passing into the wind and to the sky and into rain and In the rain to earth, where they become food, that is, plants and ce- ll. Man repeats what the gods did previously; he consumes these foods, they are converted into semen, which he injects into a woman’s womb beget children. (Innsider the implications of this fascinating theory. In Presocratic reek theory, which I will present later, a soul could be reborn in plant rm; but insofar as the plant is an incarnated human soul, one cannot t that particular species. I think similar ideas underlie jaina theories the sentience of plants. But the Upanishads have a complicated so- a. replica of this world b. realm of the ideal Species sentience Human/animal homology Lived existence Figure 7. Cross-reincarnation: Kwakiutl not any kind of plant or cereal but those that humans eat. Consump- tion is a creative act that reproduces the previous archetypal act of the gods: eating human souls that have been transformed as divine food. These human souls are reborn and continue to do good or bad. Those who do good are reborn to replenish the human species of the first three orders, or llamas. However, those who were bad (“of foul behavior”) Could be reborn in a “foul womb” as animals such as pigs or dogs, or an an outcaste, or, according to some unclear statements, as insects or crecpy-crawlies. Let me now develop the hidden implications of this theory in terms of our models. First, it seems that eating vegetarian foods is a form of en- doanthropophagy but also a reverential act like that of the Amerindians, entailing a transvaluation but not a transubstantiation of ordinary food substances. Hence, as with Amerindian eating of animals, 1 would hesi- tate to call it a sacrament analogous to the Eucharist. The Upanishadic theory transvalues the doctrine of species sentience in a specific direc- tion by postulating that plants and cereals, at least those we eat, are per- meated with a mystical sentience. Wild plants that do not possess this form of sentience could presumably be eaten anyhow. Second, follow- ing this originary condition is the next incarnation, when those who did wrong are reincarnated directly after death in foul wombs as pigs, dogs, insects, and such. They are in effect the souls of recently dead humans; Buddhist Interconnections 9 5 spiritual equivalence between humans and animals. With ethicization, however, animals get “demoted.” A person who does bad or commits “Iii!” (papa karma) might be punished by being reborn as an animal or 1mm: other lowly creature. Thus, in the samanic religions, there is a pe- ciiliur aporia whose poignancy appears only when we compare those re- ligions to the simpler rebirth eschatologies: although humans and ani- Malls belong to a common order of sentient existence, the latter are role lated to an inferior existence in ethicized samanic religions, and they lmv the elevated status they had before. This “fall” is nicely expressed In folk versions of the Vessantara Jdtaka, the birth story that deals with the penultimate birth of the Buddha, where, as Prince Vessantara, he epit- omized the perfect generosity of the seeker for Buddhahood who gave lwuy as slaves to a greedy Brahmin what he most loved and valued—his No children and later his wife. In this story the wife goes in search of the missing children and asks the animals their whereabouts (in beauti- fully poignant poetry in the texts of the popular tradition). The animals, sympathetic to her plight, tell her what they know; but in doing so they lnudvertently hinder the salvation quest of the Buddha, so they lose their capacity for speech! The Vessantara jdtalza itself is one of the most popular tales from the compendium of 550 “birth stories” known as the jdtalta tales, which deal with the past lives of the Buddha. These tales in turn come from a miscellaneous collection of texts called the Khuddaka Nileaya (Minor col- lection), thus named to distinguish it from the major collections of the discourses of the Buddha. Scholars agree that the Jatakas were originally folktales circulating within a larger [ndo-European orbit. Precisely be- cause the [atakas come from the folk repertoire, they do, I think, con- tain ideas from traditions that predated the samanic religions. One of the striking features of the ]atakas, prior to the penultimate Vessantara [am/2a, is that in many of them the Buddha himself appears as an ani- mal, for example, as an elephant, a lion, a monkey, a lizard, a parrot, a pigeon, a hawk, a swallow, a cock bird, a peacock, a dog, a hare, a fish, a deer, a water buffalo, a bull, a horse, a goose (hamsa), an antelope, a mallard, a frog, a garuda, an iguana, a snake, a sea sprite, a partridge, a vulture, a woodpecker, a quail, a rat—almost always to express the no- bility of the creature." There is little in these texts to indicate that ani- mals were a degraded species or that the Buddha was an animal owing to his bad karma.20 Animals have the capacity for speech, live in the same ltinds of societies as humans, and are represented by a range of good and had characters. These conceptions are similar to those of the Amerindian -scale societies postu- o the recognition of a embodied in the jam/ads.“ more precisely: living b hence object to the mo livmg being. Here, too, 0 plants, this is an offen for monks, which says: “If [a monk or a nun] ' s passage Schmithausen admits that it w, but they ob- a feature of ascetic decorum be living beings, -faculty (eleindriya iii/a), and . ' . . . as an act of injurin a the-implication seems to be that the Buddhgist cc to be atoned” (PSP, 5) hmnnic Religion: 97 (MP. 2.3). These kinds of plants are not normally the habitat of deities, Ind it is not likely that “living beings with one sense-faculty” refers to deities. Not all plants possess sentience; however, the prohibition on bam- boo and palmyra suggests that plants producing shoots and, in other in- Ilances, grains capable of germination were viewed as especially sentient, IIIIIOUgh only possessing “one sense-faculty” (PSP, 41). Therefore, al- lhough it may be wrong to destroy certain plants, it is not possible to be reborn as a plant. Similar ideas are found in Jainism: perhaps following Iome enigmatic Upanishadic precedents, monks and nuns are not allowed to consume bulbs, bulbous roots, or other plants, such as sugarcane, that are capable of sprouting.23 In later Jaina thought they are even said to possess souls.“ To sum up: there are at least three forms of plant sentience recorded In the Indic literature. First, there are those plants, already mentioned, that possess a single center of consciousness; because they are living be- lngs, they must not be destroyed. It is not clear how these plants achieved sentience in the first place. Second, there is the Upanishadic form in which the spirit of an ancestor gets into certain plants that are creatively con- sumed by humans. Third, there are the well-known Indie cases in which a spirit can reside in especially large trees (such as a banyan) as the de- ity of the tree. Iniuring these trees is a sin as far as orthodox Buddhist doctrine and popular beliefs are concerned. Ii'I'HICIZATION IN ITS HISTORICAL CONTEXT: 'I'I'IE SAMANIC RELIGIONS I will now bring in detailed evidence of a slightly more direct sort to show that the historical process subsumed under the term ethicization did in fact occur in the samanic religions of the sixth (or fifth) century B.C.E. Initially I adopt a negative strategy and show the lac/2 of ethicization in several areas of Indic religious life. Thus contemporary “tribal” religions in India exhibit little or no ethicization. My intention is not to argue that the presamanic religions of India were tribal; rather, I want to make the point that if small-scale societies in India are not concerned with ethi- cization now, it is unlikely that they would have been concerned with it then. I will also show that the Brahmanic traditions that preceded Bud- dhism were relatively unethicized. Thereafter I present evidence to sug- gest the existence of relatively unethicized yet complex rebirth doctrines prevalent among the contemporaries of the Buddha. Against this back- drop I examine the positive evidence for ethicization in the historical de- ...
View Full Document

Page1 / 14

Week_Two_Karma_article_2 - COMPARATIVE STUDIES IN RELIGION...

This preview shows document pages 1 - 14. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online