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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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Karma in Brahmanism

Karma in Brahmanism

(p.33) Chapter 3 Karma in Brahmanism

Johannes Bronkhorst

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter examines karma according to Brahmanism. One of the most central claims of Brahmanism is that there is a hierarchical order of human beings. There is a fundamental division into four classes, the highest of which is the class of the Brahmins, a largely hereditary class of priests. The Brahmins derived their livelihood and special position in society from their close association with the local rulers. They memorized and preserved the Veda, a large corpus of literature concerned primarily with their sacrificial activities. This chapter first considers the absence of the notion of rebirth and karmic retribution in Vedic literature and provides an overview of the Veda. It then explores the influence on Brahmanism of the belief in liberation through knowledge of the inactive self. It also discusses the notions of class, species, and universal in Indian philosophy, along with the challenges posed by the adoption of rebirth and karmic retribution to the Brahmanical tradition. Finally, it looks at the concept of liberation as expressed in the Bhagavadgita.

Keywords:   karma, Brahmanism, Brahmin, Veda, rebirth, karmic retribution, Vedic literature, liberation, self, Bhagavadgita

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