This article offers an exploratory exegesis of the Buddhist concept of collective karma. My aim is to provide a thicker philosophical account of what this important but rather tricky concept entails. In Buddhist philosophy, karma is a complex topic that is central to Buddhist moral psychology and soteriology. The most common unit of analysis to which karma applies is the individual, however, and it is not altogether clear in what respect karma can be applied to the scale of a community. As collective karma has been taken up in recent years by theorists of engaged Buddhism, clarifying what exactly collective karma is and entails stands to fortify the theoretical basis that underwrites its application to contemporary social and political problems. The main work of this article is, first, to provide a brief exegesis of karma simplicter, and then to analyze two appearances of collective karma in traditional Buddhist literature. To illustrate the practical ramifications of collective karma, I advance the example of the abolitionist theory of transformative justice as a practice of collective karmic self-fashioning.


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pp. 305-322
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