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Johannes Bronkhorst

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780824835705

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824835705.001.0001

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Origins and Religious Use

Origins and Religious Use

(p.3) Chapter 1 Origins and Religious Use

Johannes Bronkhorst

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter examines the origins and religious use of the belief in karma—that is, belief in rebirth and karmic retribution. It begins with a historical presentation of a number of early religious movements in northern India, with particular emphasis on God and gods in Indian religions. It shows that religion in the Indian situation is not always identical with the worship of one or more gods. Notions like “belief” and “faith”—so common in the Abrahamic religions—are only rarely applicable in the Indian situation, and where they are, they cover something different altogether. The existence of gods is not denied in Buddhism, Jainism, and Brahmanism, but they are not central to the religious efforts of the followers of these religions. These gods include Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu. Vishnu was (and is) believed to have been born on earth in the form of several quasi-historical figures in order to restore order. The most famous of these avataras are Rama and Krishna.

Keywords:   karma, rebirth, karmic retribution, religious movements, India, God, gods, Indian religions, belief, faith

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