Chapter

Ghosts and People with No Boundaries

Ariel Glucklich

in The End of Magic

Published in print May 1997 | ISBN: 9780195108798
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199853434 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195108798.003.0014
Ghosts and People with No Boundaries

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Individuality, as the distinguished French sociologist Louis Dumont has shown, is a modern Western notion we must avoid tagging onto Indians. Relationship and bonding are the basic facts of social and psychological life, and they find expression in whom one can marry, touch, or share food with. Even the religious ideas about the destiny of the individual—karma—is permeated by the reality of interrelationships. Karma demonstrates, on a philosophical level, that human actions can dissolve as the separation between people disappears. This is precisely what makes Banaras fertile soil for the magical experience. But the traditional situation is rapidly changing in urban India, and the same bonds of karma (and purity) that tie people to their relatives can also set them completely apart from strangers. The interrelationships between individuals in traditional societies such as Banaras manifest themselves in a variety of phenomena such as the “open person” and the ever present danger of ghosts of departed relatives. Elderly men and women come from all over India to await their death in Banaras.

Keywords: India; Banaras; interrelationship; bonding; karma; magical experience; open person; ghosts; death

Chapter.  5280 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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