Non-ritual kárman in the Veda [chapter]

Henk Bodewitz, Dory Heilijgers, Jan Houben, Karel van Kooij
2019 Vedic Cosmology and Ethics  
The origin of the karman doctrine is sometimes assumed to lie in the Vedic sacrificial theories, since the term karman does not only denote act, action, activity, but also sacrificial act, rite or ritual at large. Moreover good acts (sukṛtāni) producing merits (one of the meanings of sukṛta) are often associated with rituals. The lasting merits of meritorious acts in the form of sacrifices then would prepare the way for the karman doctrine, which is no more purely ritualistic and includes
more » ... ration on earth after rebirth. It is indeed true that the Vedic term karman mostly refers to the ritual, as is to be expected in Vedic ritualistic texts. However, the classical karman doctrine is more or less ethical (i.e. dealing with good and bad activities), whereas Vedic ritual is definitely not. Here lies a problem. In an other publication1 I hope to show that the Vedic couple of sukṛta and duṣkṛta should be interpreted as "merit" and "demerit" and that it cannot be exclusively associated with ritual. Of course merits are especially obtained by sacrifices in ritual texts, but demerits are even in these texts rather general and can hardly be connected with sacrifices in the sense of the omission of sacrifices or the performance of bad sacrifices. Tull (1989) tries to prove the Vedic, ritualistic origin of the karman doctrine by associating good karman and sukṛta with the good performance of ritual and bad karman and duṣkṛta with its bad or poor performance. The ritual exactitude would be decisive. This means that Vedic karman and sukṛta / duṣkṛta would miss every ethical implication. Merit and demerit would solely be based on technical achievements and failures in the sphere of rituals. The transition to the classical karman doctrine then becomes hard to explain. According to Tull even the references to karman in the old Upaniṣads would exclusively bear on ritual. The ethical aspects were only introduced in late Upaniṣadic texts. Tull fails to explain how the completely amoral, Vedic, ritual doctrine of karman developed into the ethical, non-ritual, classical karman doctrine of the later Upaniṣads. Moreover, it is unclear how the doctrines of karman and saṁsāra could have spread over whole India and be represented in early Buddhism
doi:10.1163/9789004400139_020 fatcat:xvvkhyazyjbk7aoem57baqd6dq