Ethical Transformation in Amerindian, Buddhist, and Greek Rebirth
Publication Year: 2002
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.
Published by: University of California Press
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Title Page, Other Works by the Author, Other Works in the Series, Copyright, Dedication
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List of Illustrations
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In this book I examine three eschatologies that until now have not beenput together in any kind of systematic comparative perspective: the re-birth doctrines of small-scale societies in various parts of the world, suchas West Africa, Melanesia, the Northwest Coast Amerindians, and theInuit (Eskimo); those in the Buddhist, Jaina, and other religions that ﬂow-...
List of Abbreviations
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1. Karma and Rebirth in Indic Religions: Origins and Transformations
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The major problem that I investigate in this work is the manner in whichthe “rebirth eschatologies” of small-scale societies are transformed in twolarge-scale historical developments: in the “karmic eschatologies” thatone associates today with religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism andin the Greek religious traditions that could be broadly deﬁned as...
2. Non-Indic Theories of Rebirth
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Although it is well known that rebirth beliefs exist in Africa, especiallyin West Africa, their ethnographic documentation is meager. West Africaneschatology needs the kind of rethinking done by the authors of Amerin-dian Rebirth in their studies of Northwest Coast and Inuit religions.1 Inthe African situation ethnographers were sensitive to religious and mag-...
3. The Imaginary Experiment and the Buddhist Implications
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The idea of scale is useful because historians agree that religions such asBuddhism, 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 toeach other by trade networks and the imperialist designs of emergent em-...
4. The Buddhist Ascesis
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In chapter 3 I showed how religious innovations are constrained withinthe limits of prior structures of thought. At the same time I also wantedto give agency and creative capacity to religious innovators, but I was con-strained by the imprisoning frames imposed by prior scholarship and myown preconceptions. Although poorly documented, creativity and cultural...
5. Eschatology and Soteriology in Greek Rebirth
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I will now bring to bear on my imaginary experiment the traditions ofthought in ancient Greece, conveniently labeled “Pythagorean,” thatalso contained multiple theories of rebirth. Most of the doctrines of re-birth discussed earlier have both historical and contemporary relevance,but for Greece one has no choice but to deal exclusively with the his-...
6. Rebirth and Reason
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Where does Plato come into our scheme of things? With him we are deal-ing with a thinker who carefully worked out a cosmology and eschatol-ogy of rebirth. I doubt that he would have done so had he not person-ally believed in its truth, and, for me, it is senseless to convert ﬁgures likethe Buddha and Plato into ﬁgures of the European Enlightenment or, as...
7. Imprisoning Frames and Open Debates: Trobriander, Buddhist, and Balinese Rebirth Revisited
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In this ﬁnal chapter I want to further explore a theme that pervades muchof this work, that even radical religious innovation must occur withinthe frame of preexisting structures of thought, which can on occasion actas “prisons of the longue durée.” As usual I will place that notion withinethnographic and historical contexts, returning to the “small-scale” so-...
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Page Count: 477
Publication Year: 2002
Series Title: Comparative Studies in Religion and Society