Imprisoning Frames and Open Debates

Gananath Obeyesekere

in Imagining Karma

Published by University of California Press

Published in print November 2002 | ISBN: 9780520232204
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520936300 | DOI:
Imprisoning Frames and Open Debates

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This chapter highlights the fact that even radical religious innovation occurs within the frame of preexisting structures of thought, which can on occasion act as “prisons of the longue durée.” It places this notion within ethnographic and historical contexts, returning to the “small-scale” societies. Bali, a “nation” consisting of villages that resemble the small-scale societies of the sample yet have historical connections with Buddhist and Hindu cultures, is predominantly described in the chapter. It begins with an existential puzzle, or aporia, which is expectable in any rebirth eschatology and that is waiting to surface under suitable circumstances. If it is indeed the spirit that initially gets incarnated or reincarnated in the human womb, then what is the role of coitus and seminal ejaculation in conception? This theme raises different ideas from various critiques. According to Plato's idea of a society of men without genitalia, immoral men are punished by being reincarnated as women, beasts, and plants, whereas good males reincarnate in their original form. To resolve this issue it refers to a famous controversy that animated the anthropological imagination in the late 1960s.

Keywords: Plato; rebirth eschatology; reincarnation; Bali; Hindu cultures; aporia

Chapter.  18371 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism

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