The problem with karma: a Levinasian critique and Christian-Hindu theological rehabilitation.
While the Hindu doctrine of karma, which functions as a natural moral law of action and consequence, validates free will, individual and collective responsibility, and the weight of intentional action upon our present and future, its application has often resorted to a complacent justification of the conditions of people's lives. Although it is commonly intended to regulate present actions of responsibility with the promise of future reward or punishment, it is often used to explain why things are the way they are. One troubling aspect of the karmic worldview is the presumption rationally to explain and understand the hidden and nonempirical causes of empirical reality. Insofar as it seeks to explain all suffering in this life as the consequence of prior wrongdoing, the doctrine of karma serves one function of theodicy. (1) Although the project of theodicy, or rationally justifying the ways of God, is rooted in a theistic outlook, the particular question of how to make sense of evil and suffering in life does connect the nontheistic explanation offered by karma--that all suffering can be explained by previous wrongdoing--to the theistic efforts to reconcile God's goodness with the presence of suffering and evil. While approaching the Hindu doctrine of karma as a theodicy is controversial, the function of explaining suffering ties the two together. As a result, the doctrine of karma also is subject to the criticisms of Western-style theodicy. In theistic language, it is very presumptuous to try to understand and explain the ways of an infinite God. God and the sacred, insofar as they are considered to lie outside empirical reality, transcend our finite understanding. Theistic traditions have articulated this as divine transcendence and mystery. Authentic faith does not reduce the mysteriousness of God but enriches one's relationship to it. In the nontheistic landscape of Hindu traditions, the doctrine of karma ought to be used primarily to further theological and ethical talk about human action, not to explain and justify suffering.
A subset of this onto-theological problem of presuming understanding is the expectation fostered in the karmic worldview of a logical equation that can be formulated between our actions and our experiences. Although the natural laws that energy cannot be created or destroyed, only changed in form, or that all actions have consequences may be helpful in scientific knowledge, which is primarily rooted in the economy of work and function, such an equation between our supposed moral actions in the past and our empirical conditions is not religiously valid. By citing the causes of these present conditions in a nonempirical past, it can unfairly allow us to look the other way in complacency rather than respond to any suffering we see proactively as part of the realm of human action. At its best, the doctrine of karma compels human agency by citing the immense power and meaning of human action in the world. At its worst, it allows complacency about conditions of suffering that we witness by assuming that these are the natural workings-out of past actions.
This essay engages in a postmodernist ethical and theological critique and rehabilitation of the doctrine of karma. The critical work of Emmanuel Levinas will help flesh out the problems with karma insofar as it is informed by an ontotheological rationalization and will point the way out of onto-theology to a genuinely metaphysical use of karma in concert with the doctrine of dharma. The second part of this essay will take up the constructive ways in which theological concepts from the Christian tradition as well as the Hindu tradition can help rehabilitate the doctrine of karma as a religious ethic oriented to the value of faith in divine transcendence and grace, forgiveness, and individual and communal responsibility and solidarity with those who suffer. (2)
Karma as Onto-theological Rationalization
First of all, what is entailed in the Hindu understanding of karma? Karma functions basically as a natural moral law of action and consequence. All actions have consequences and accrue karma, or the residue of action. Good actions accrue good karma, and bad actions accrue bad karma, and this karma sticks with an individual from one birth to another, determining the conditions of one's rebirth. Karma has three basic meanings in Hindu sacred texts. It can mean action, religious ritual, or the effect of good and bad actions that determine rebirth. However, the connection between karma, rebirth, and morality, which is ultimately so central to Hinduism, is not drawn out in the earliest Hindu texts. Gananath Obeyesekere distinguished between the earlier rebirth eschatology and the later developed karma eschatology. While the idea of rebirth was prevalent in the early Vedic pre-Buddhist period, it was not morally determined as karma ultimately is: "In the primitive rebirth eschatology the other world is for all; the transfer to the other world depends on the proper performance of the funeral rites. But when this system is ethicized, entry to the otherworld must be contingent, depending on the ethical nature of a person's this-worldly actions." (3) The Rg Veda treats karma primarily as religious action and ritual sacrifice. (4) After all, karma refers to action, and the most important of all actions are religious rituals such as the fire sacrifice by which one fixes and maintains one's relationship with the cosmos and the sraddha funeral rites that enable the transfer of merit from one person to another (son to father, for example). (5) Completing these religious actions correctly under the guidance of a trained priest is efficacious for one's own well-being and the well-being of one's family and community. Brian Smith has noted the importance of the sacrifice or yajna, described as a sturdy vehicle--a bird, a cart, a ship, or a chariot--to carry the sacrificer on the difficult and dangerous journey to the yonder world of the gods, where one can replicate the original sacrificial action of the gods. (6) "[I]n Vedic India, the sacrifice was the ontological instrument par excellence, creating and regenerating true being out of the naturally defective." (7) These ritual actions of sacrifice created and reinforced one's identity as not just biologically or generically human but twice-born, initiated into the Vedas, and part of a particular hierarchical social class that was one's true identity. Karma is primarily action and ritual action that reinforces identity by connecting the sacrificer to the gods and their own ritual actions. However, the notion of moral cause and effect is not indicated in the early Vedas.
In the Upanishads, karma is treated as the cumulative effect of good and bad actions that determines one's rebirth, but it is also presented as a secret doctrine not to be taught to everyone. (8) The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad presents karma as the actualization or realization of one's actions: "As is his desire, such is his resolve; as is his resolve, such the action he performs; what action (karma] he performs, that he procures for himself." (9) An individual's desires, will, actions, and experiences are essentially linked, and these are realized ultimately in each rebirth. However, this law operates only for the individual who acts in desire. One who acts purely, or without desire, will be freed of this law of action and consequence; she or he will experience immortality or identity with Brahman. Throughout the Hindu texts, karma is treated as a fundamental law of moral nature, as the automatic and mechanical realization of one's actions. Not even the gods can interfere with it. Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty lists the components of a karma theory as causality, ethicization, and rebirth or, alternately, the "explanation of present circumstances [through] previous actions," the "orientation of present actions toward future ends," and the "moral basis on which action past and present is predicated." (10) Despite its operation connecting present and future circumstances with moral behavior, it is clearly presented as a penultimate state of existence that ideally will be transcended in higher stages of the spiritual journey. A birth in a human body is itself a highly advanced state of spiritual development; further, one may take many thousands of human rebirths and the spiritual benefits of higher and purer births, including births in a heavenly realm earned by the merit of good deeds performed in desire. Nevertheless, the ultimate goal of life, moksha, depends upon freeing oneself of desire and will altogether. (11)
Therefore, the doctrine of karma functions both descriptively and prescriptively in Hindu culture. Descriptively, it helps explain the reason for the inequalities we see before us. Why does one person suffer through no evident fault of his own? Why does one person enjoy great pleasures and wealth through no evident credit of her own? In this capacity, karma functions to explain why things are the way they are by citing the hidden prior causes of these inequalities, in the intentional actions of each individual soul in previous lifetimes. In this sense, it presents a problematic religious ethic that is similar to the project of theodicy in theistic traditions, because it cannot be empirically verified but extends a natural sort of logic back into previous history.
Prescriptively, the doctrine of karma regulates behavior. The suggestion that one reaps what one sows both promises reward for good action and threatens punishment for bad action. Beyond encouraging people to do good in every case, it also teaches people to be content with their lot in life. By explaining seeming inequalities here and now on the basis of people's own previous actions, it justifies that everything we see is, in fact, fair, despite the lack of visible evidence. One who protests one's lot is in effect protesting the fairness of a system where everyone theoretically gets exactly what they deserve.
As an onto-theological rationalization of why things are the way they are, the doctrine of karma is highly problematic for contemporary religious culture. Basically, it claims to explain and even justify how things are. Many late-twentieth-century Jewish and Christian thinkers, in witnessing the enormity of human suffering and evil in the European Holocaust, have protested the appropriateness of the project of theodicy itself and argued that the suffering of others is not a theoretical problem of our understanding of nature or God but, rather, an ethical problem that calls for religious responses, compassion, and ethical redress to transform and transcend the conditions of suffering. (12) The presumption in the doctrine of karma to explain perfectly what confounds us and disturbs us is a problematic case of Hindu onto-theology that sublates the inexplicable and transcendent world of the divine into the visible world of things that lie open for our understanding, explanation, and manipulation. Beyond the presumption to explain perfectly why things are the way they are, which is a philosophical problem, is a religious and ethical problem. The doctrine of karma as traditionally exercised does not allow the possibility that the evil that befalls one may be undeserved. The presumption to treat one's actions and experiences as an equation that can be perfectly balanced is problematic on ethical grounds, religious grounds, and theological grounds. It leaves little room for mystery and the inexplicable, even though the textual and theological traditions in Hinduism demonstrate a deep appreciation for these elements as well as for contradictions and reversals. (13) In addition, despite the centrality of emphasis in the doctrine of karma on human action and individual and collective social responsibility, it has often been abused to allow social complacency, as have many religious doctrines from different religious traditions.
Levinas on the Ethical Relationship, Otherness, and Responsibility
The postmodern philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas offers a helpful critique of any religious philosophy that might separate ethics from metaphysics (philosophy and religion), support an ontological view of God and the Good, or support the experience of religion in any way as satisfaction or justification of a Promethean self. This section will apply aspects of Levinasian postmodern critique to the Hindu doctrine of karma. This will include a discussion of the relation between ethics and religion, the priority of otherness, and the unique character of responsibility that constitutes a person's selfhood. As a result, we will see the particular places in which this postmodern critique is critical of any justification of the status quo and an over-concern with the self, as well as where it reinforces such key elements of Hindu theology as the primacy of dharma.
First is the relation between ethics and religion. In one sense, Levinas incorporated the vertical relation of religious transcendence into the horizontal relation of ethics. This is not simply a divine command to act ethically. Instead, it is based on the experience of the ethical encounter itself. Levinas labeled ethics a first philosophy, or metaphysics, meaning that ethical relationships with other beings do not come after knowledge of beings, but they are primordial to the encounter with other beings. Religion categorically is a part of metaphysics, meaning it addresses our engagement with what is beyond visible and sensible being.
Levinas argued that most classical metaphysics has not truly engaged the metaphysical but has collapsed the metaphysical into the ontological, or the study of being within the world. One example would be the discussion of God as a supreme super-being, very much like humans and other beings, only bigger and better. God is not just a super-being, and the Infinite is not just an extension of space larger than the space that we know. (14) For Levinas, ethics emerges in our encounter with others, as represented in what Levinas called the face-to-face, and it is a metaphysical experience of the Infinite. He wrote that "metaphysics is enacted where the social relation is enacted--in our relations with men. There can be no 'knowledge' of God separated from the relationship with men. The Other is the very locus of metaphysical truth, and is indispensable for my relation with God." (15)
Levinas used explicitly religious language to describe this encounter with the human other. It is because of the otherness, the foreignness of the human other, his resistance to any attempt on my part to possess and make sense of him, that the encounter itself is revelatory. "Experience, the idea of the infinite, occurs in the relationship with the Other." (16) An encounter with any human other is the revelation of the Other. Levinas said that the other's look and voice are experienced as incomprehensible, too much to assimilate and possess; therefore, they reveal a dimension of height or transcendence. The other's resistance to my attempts to possess and pigeonhole her according to my purposes reveals a dimension of height, or transcendence, because the other cannot be grasped or contained. She refuses to become a phenomenon and to serve as an object of my experience. By maintaining her noumenality, the other remains an enigma, and the encounter reveals transcendence and a sort of independence that confronts me powerfully and obliges me to respond. Although Levinas was discussing the root of ethics in the other's emergence as other, this experience has a strongly religious dimension, in which the other is irreducible and incomprehensible, transcending our assimilation. "The Other is not the incarnation of God, but precisely by his face, in which he is disincarnate, is the manifestation of the height in which God is revealed." (17) We experience otherness as revelatory, as sacred and holy, precisely because it is disincarnate, because it escapes us and our organization and understanding, or in Levinas' words, our totalizing of it. Levinas wrote that religion is "the bond that is established between the same and the other without constituting a totality." (18) In other words, the religious identifies that dimension of experience in which we foster relationships and community among disparate beings without reducing their otherness to an ordered totality. The human other, by refusing our totalizing--our making sense of it and assimilating it into an appropriate role within our constructed world--reveals the Infinite. This is how ethics is metaphysical and how ethics and religion were so closely related for Levinas.
The second element of our discussion of Levinas is the priority of otherness that makes it revelatory. Levinas used the face of the other to discuss the way in which this encounter both reveals and conceals the other. He expressed this dual character of revelation and concealment when he said that the face is an epiphany. The other's face both shows us something that we can experience and stops us from doing violence to it, by confronting us with independent resistance. I am reminded of an amusing incident of my then-infant daughter's first encounter with a dog that helps illustrate the sense in which the face of the other can confront one with absolute terror because of its independent reality. My daughter was not quite one year old and still crawling, when we visited a friend who had a dog. This was possibly the first time she had really come face-to-face with a dog. We had been there for a few hours, and she was content playing on the floor at our feet. The dog had also been around her and next to her for a while, and we had petted the dog together earlier in the afternoon. However, at one point, she crawled around the corner of a table and came face-to-face with the dog on all fours; she screamed and began scrambling away from the dog that was just peacefully looking back at her. It seems that she was surprised by the dog's face. This is only conjecture, but I imagined she had earlier just assumed the dog to be a passive life form not altogether different from her stuffed animals that moved when wound up. The face-to-face encounter shocked her understanding of the dog and abruptly disturbed her with a revelation that it was something far different and far more than what she had expected. It was alive and had looked back at her. It was an independent being just like her. I think Levinas's discussion of the encounter with the human other pertains here, in the sense that she was not comforted by discovering a commonality of living and breathing with this dog but, instead, was terrified at its own independent claims to be alive and likewise to be a subject looking back at her. At the least, 1 think this anecdote illustrates Levinas's sense that the face of the other both reveals something and conceals far more. In the concealing, it reveals to us a dimension of height and transcendence and resistance that fundamentally obliges us. It refuses to be ignored and demands our response.
Now, while the anecdote illustrates the sense of terror in the face-to-face encounter, for Levinas this otherness is not simply about the other's independence but its resistance to being assimilated or grasped by the subject. The social relationship and proximity do not eliminate the otherness of the other. The other refuses to become an object of thought for the self; it refuses to become a mere phenomenon in the subject's experience. Levinas wrote that the face is present in its refusal to be contained, in its resistance to my powers of possession. (19) In the face of the other, we encounter resistance and refusal to be objectified, and in this encounter we experience Infinity, in the sense of a transcendence of our objectifying, totalizing efforts, as discussed earlier. "Ethical resistance is the presence of the infinite." (20) For Levinas, this otherness is an experience of exteriority. It comes from somewhere else, somewhere beyond our world that we can manipulate and control according to our wills and whims. He wrote that "to give me knowledge of injustice, his gaze must come to me from a dimension of the ideal. The Other must be closer to God than I." (21)
This brings us to the third element of Levinas's discussion of otherness, the ethical responsibility that confronts us in the face-to-face encounter with the other. As I said above, for Levinas ethics was not a derivative philosophy. We do not first encounter others, establish community with them, and then, on the basis of this identity, feel inclined to care for them. Rather, for Levinas, ethics was metaphysical; it is grounded in exteriority and transcendence, and it reveals infinity. Ethics is fundamental to the encounter with the other and is, in fact, fundamentally constitutive of one's selfhood. "The Other becomes my neighbour precisely through the way the face summons me, calls for me, begs for me, and in so doing recalls my responsibility, and calls me into question." (22) This encounter is experienced, he said, as a fundamental obligation as the other calls one's own being into question. He referred to the crisis of being that occurs as "I begin to ask myself if my being is justified, if the Da of my Dasein is not already the usurpation of somebody else's place." (23) One experiences the presence of the other, in the face-to-face encounter, as an infinity and a destituteness, a need and a command. Because of this metaphysical relation and because of the experience of infinity, one is compelled to answer for one's right to be, even before one has done anything at all to wrong the other.
The face with which the Other turns to me is not reabsorbed in a representation of the face. To hear his destitution which cries out for justice is not to represent an image to oneself, but is to posit oneself as responsible, both as more and as less than the being that presents itself in the face. Less, for the face summons me to my obligations and judges me. The being that presents himself in the face comes from a dimension of height, a dimension of transcendence whereby he can present himself as a stranger without opposing me as obstacle or enemy. More, for my position as I consists in being able to respond to this essential destitution of the Other, finding resources for myself. (24)
The face-to-face encounter with the other, therefore, had two dimensions for Levinas. The first is this fundamental sense of obligation by which I am commanded to answer to the other's needs. I am responsible and must respond. The second is that my responsibility constitutes my subjectivity or selfhood. Put very simply, I must respond to the other's needs, and I can respond to the other's needs, and this is precisely who 1 am. The demand, the sense of obligation, comes from God, as our encounter with the face of the other is an experience of infinite transcendence. In fact, asked Levinas, "Should we not call that demand or that challenge or that assignment of responsibility the word of God?" (25) Further, "Does not this summons to responsibility.., designate me, in the face of the other, as responsible without any possible escape, and thus as the unique, the chosen one?" (26) Levinas's discussion of chosenness is particularly interesting. The very sense of obligation makes each of us unique and "chosen," in the sense that we are responsible without any possible escape, which we discover in the face-to-face encounter. When we encounter this call, this demand, this need, this destitution from the other, we experience our own uniqueness and chosenness in our sense of responsibility. Imagine for a moment your own child or loved one calling out for you, in the dark, demanding you, immediately and in immediacy, needing your presence and your response, which is a response of responsibility and acknowledgment, saying perhaps, "Here I am." As Adrian Peperzak explained in his commentary on Levinas, "'Here I am' does not, then, signify that I am the most important being of the world but, on the contrary, that I am at your disposal." (27) One's unique responsibility to the other constitutes the very meaning of one's life. Levinas stressed the selfhood of the subject as always already subjected to responsibility for the other. (28) Responsibility is primordial and a priori and even constitutive of selfhood.
This brings us to the application of Levinas's views about the self's responsibility to the other to the Hindu doctrine of karma. One obvious point of criticism has to do with any use of the doctrine of karma to rationalize or justify existing inequalities in the world. Consider first Levinas's emphasis on the transcendence of metaphysics, of how religion and ethics have to do with Infinity, which cannot be totalized or reduced to the ontological order of things that can be controlled or manipulated or possessed and ordered in the world. Insofar as the doctrine of karma serves to explain things as they are, it attempts to reduce the Infinite to the finite, to turn the sacred into a totality that we can know and manipulate. In that sense, it is guilty of the charge of onto-theology, and Levinas offered a corrective philosophy of anarchy. As Peperzak wrote, "God is an abyss, not a ground, a foundation, a support, or a substance but 'he' who left a trace in anarchical responsibility. This, and not the happiness of a total satisfaction, is the way in which the Good reveals itself on earth." (29) He wrote elsewhere that the ethical interrupts the language of logos. In other words, ethics comes from on high, reveals the infinite and thereby remains incomprehensible and uncontainable. Insofar as the doctrine of karma aims to construe conditions in the human world as perfectly fair, as an equation by which everyone reaps what they sow and by which everyone gets precisely what he or she deserves, without exception, Levinas's understanding of ethics interrupts that supposed perfection of human wisdom and reveals instead a demand for justice that is neither judgment nor a straightforward and impersonal balancing out of good and bad in one's actions but, rather, a demand for individual responsibility, which is itself an integral intention of the doctrine of karma. Perhaps the doctrine of karma should not be used theologically so much to explain why things are the way they are as to foster individual responsibility in human community, which is of course its primary thrust in the sacred texts.
Another line of criticism that we can glean from Levinas's emphasis on ethical responsibility addresses any over-concern with the individual self in Hindu theology. The doctrines of karma and dharma can certainly encourage a very individualistic path of spiritual development, wherein each individual soul progresses spiritually at a different pace. The Buddha's reported instruction to his monks to work out their own salvation, while again stressing individual responsibility, can likewise lead to an exclusive concern with the self and its own destiny from one birth to the next. When combined with the rationalization that everything is just as it ought to be, this individualism can especially lead to social complacency and selfishness of religious pursuits. In contrast, Levinas reminds us, with the inescapability of obligation to the other, that the other's needs are my business. In fact, they are uniquely my business, my responsibility--and it is by responding to this responsibility that I realize my own selfhood.
Such a discussion about one's responsibility's constituting one's very selfhood--and, as Levinas said, the meaning of one's own being--bears parallels with the traditional Hindu understanding of dharma. Every individual has his or her own dharma, or set of duties. While there are many universally applicable obligations or duties, there are far more that are uniquely one's own, determined by one's place in society and family. Traditionally, these depended on what we might variously call the accidents or destinies of birth, such as caste, gender, division of labor, relationships to others, etc. The modern teachings on dharma, loosened from those automatic determinations of traditional culture, emphasize that one's identity is defined by one's relationships to others. One is first a son, a brother, a husband, and father before one is an individual, as reflected in the ideal behavior modeled by Rama in the Ramayana. Individuality is a construct--a complex web of relationships--that define one's spiritual tasks and unique responsibilities.
Levinas's discussion of an individual's responsibilities in terms of chosenness and his emphasis on the inescapability of one's obligations reinforces the dharmic sense that everyone has her own duties to fulfill. In the Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna instructs Arjuna that one's own duty imperfectly done is far superior to another's duty perfectly done (Gita 18:47). Each person's duty is his own, and, as Arjuna learns in the Gita, it is inescapable. Born into the Ksatriya caste, it is his inescapable duty to restore dharmic rule to the kingdom, even if that involves fighting and killing his own family members. According to Krishna's teachings on karma, when one relinquishes attachment to one's actions, performing one's given duties without concern for reward or punishment, the actions become pure and free of karma. Where Levinas suggested that freedom resides in one's response to one's unique responsibility, to one's chosenness and the inescapability of one's obligations, the Gita teaches that freedom is realized in the purity of actions in response and responsibility to one's dharma, without attachment to the consequences of those actions.
A Theological Rehabilitation of Karma
Despite the emphasis on human responsibility, the concept of karma has also been used to rationalize why things are the way they are. In this sense, the law of karma supports a formulaic expectation of a perfect equation between one's previous actions and one's present and future circumstances. It is this sort of rationalization that is religiously and ethically problematic.
I would like to suggest a religious rehabilitation of the doctrine of karma that remedies precisely this expectation of an equation between one's actions and one's experiences. Within what I am calling the karmic worldview, many conditions of suffering may be considered fair, in the sense that they are the natural outcome of preceding actions. However, I would suggest that religious ethics moves beyond allowing what is fair, beyond the expectation of earning precisely what one deserves, to a hope for something better. In a theistic framework, religion, I would suggest, moves us beyond judgment, which involves the punishment of wrongs, to justice, which involves the righting of wrongs. In a nontheistic framework such as that of Hinduism, religion moves us beyond an expectation of fairness to selfless discipline, action, devotion, or knowledge, by which one experiences the transformative insight of ego-transcendence. For Levinas, religious consciousness had integrally to do with communal relationships of love. He argued that it is in our disproportionate responsibility for the others around us that the Infinite Good reveals itself. One knows oneself to be obliged to the other and commanded to answer most basically for oneself. Such religious ethics moves us beyond what can become in the karmic worldview solipsism of action and destiny, whereby one's own destiny alone is one's business. Instead, Levinas's view that selfhood itself is comprised by responsibility to the other corrects that potential solipsism and incorporates communal relationships into the sphere of what is construed as "my business."
To develop further this religious rehabilitation of the doctrine of karma, I will draw on doctrinal resources from the Christian and Hindu traditions that support a religious posture of hope that we may get better than we deserve. (30) Over against what I have described in the karmic worldview as an equation between past actions and current experience, or an expectation of fairness by which we might all get precisely what we deserve, this religious posture boldly hopes for better than we deserve. This is articulated in Christian teachings of divine grace, justification by faith alone, and forgiveness and in Hindu teachings of bhakti, dharma, and compassion. (31)
The concept of grace articulates the Christian teaching that salvation is a gift given generously and gratuitously by God. It is not earned by human effort. Consider for a moment our ordinary social attitudes toward gifts exchanged among individuals. It is very difficult for most mature and emotionally healthy adults (that is, those who do not routinely live a parasitic existence mooching off others) graciously to accept a gift in the precise sense that the Christian doctrine of grace requires. On one hand, we may feel a sense that we deserve it, that we have earned it, or that this individual indeed owed us. On the other hand, we may feel we do not deserve it, or we may experience the discomfort of future obligation. Even the healthiest and most gracious adults try to keep equal and fair the flowing of gifts in both directions, as they respond to gifts by giving. There is certainly nothing wrong with the instinct to give back in return. What I am citing here is the discomfort with the unequaled gift that one cannot repay. It is very challenging for most people to receive such a gift graciously and to appreciate it honestly without feeling a sense of obligation that can eat away at the character of the original gift.
In the Christian worldview, salvation, the ultimate good and enjoyment for humans, is a gift given freely by God. It is not earned, and it cannot be repaid. The ethic of "paying it forward" might be more accurate an expression of how to receive and appreciate this gift and to respond in giving. By experiencing love and communal relationship, Christians are commanded--and gifted the transforming capacity--to love others and build community.
Closely related to the doctrine of grace is the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone. (32) When Christian theologians argue that individuals are justified by their faith and not by their actions, they mean a number of things. It is a way of reaffirming the doctrine of divine grace: Faith itself is a gift given by God. In the words of the twentieth-century theologian Paul Tillich: "Not faith but grace is the cause of justification, because God alone is the cause. Faith is the receiving act, and this act is itself a gift of grace." (33) Faith does not refer primarily to belief in creedal statements but, rather, the posture of trust in those creedal statements, the trust in God's providence and supremacy over our finite understanding. In our finite understanding, we can comprehend the equation between actions and consequences. The possibilities of mystery, of unpredictable outcomes, of a gift that overwhelms and transforms us, however, we cannot so easily understand. We can only trust in them. Tillich viewed faith as the individual's acceptance of being accepted by God despite one's consciousness of being unacceptable: "We cannot compel anyone to accept himself. But sometimes it happens that we receive the power to say 'yes' to ourselves, that peace enters into us and makes us whole, that self-hate and self-contempt disappear, and that our self is reunited with itself. Then we can say that grace has come upon us." (34)
This experience of being accepted despite being unacceptable is beyond measure, beyond understanding. It breaks the rules, so to speak, of our expectations that people get what they deserve. The Christian ethic of forgiveness embodies this breaking of the rules of fairness and is the foundation of the transformation entailed in grace. We are commanded to forgive others who wrong us, and we presumably are able to accomplish this radical movement because we ourselves have experienced divine forgiveness. (35) Together, these Christian resources of grace, faith, and forgiveness foster a religious hope that trusts in God's promises, in God's coming restoration of all things, in God's capacity to right the wrongs endured by and committed by imperfect humans. (36) Again, while judgment lies in punishing the guilty and rewarding the good, justice has to do with righting wrongs, in actually overcoming and transforming them. (37)
The Hindu tradition's resources for correcting and rehabilitating the doctrine of karma lie primarily in the teachings of bhakti and dharma and in textual sources that emphasize the ethical movement of compassion over the philosophical justification of merit. Together, they transcend the formulaic expectation of karma that everyone should get exactly what they deserve and, instead, open up a posture of religious hope that we may get better than we deserve. Bhakti is a devotional practice of love predicated on divine grace. In the Bhagavad-Gita, a text central to the establishment of the bhakti traditions, Krishna instructs Arjuna on various paths that can lead to moksha, or enlightenment and liberation from the cycle of rebirth. Krishna's teaching in the Gita presents four such paths, or margas or yogas, that is, life-paths, or religious ways to follow. These are raja yoga, jnana yoga, karma yoga, and bhakti yoga. While raja yoga, the path of physical self-discipline, and jnana yoga, the path of wisdom, represent paths of rather limited accessibility, requiring a life of renunciation of family and society or a life of leisure from manual labor and the opportunities to undertake Vedic study, karma yoga, the path of dutiful action, and bhakti yoga, the path of love and devotion, represent paths of greater accessibility. Raja yoga and jnana yoga were not accessible to the majority of women, for example, who were expected in cultures of patriarchy to undertake family duties, nor to most individuals of lower caste, who were traditionally restricted from study or even hearing of the Vedas. In contrast, according to Krishna's teachings in the Gita, anyone-whatever their station in life--could dedicate oneself fully to the paths of karma and bhakti. Karma meant a commitment to performing one's given duties purely and without regard to reward or punishment. Bhakti meant a commitment to love God fully with one's whole being. The two are connected in the sense that they, like raja yoga and jnana yoga, enact the strict exercise of discipline and control over one's inclinations, desires, and selfish interest in order to identify with that larger and deeper Spirit identified as Brahman--but expressed theistically as God, Isvara, or Krishna. Karma and bhakti are more accessible paths in that anyone may pursue these paths to enlightenment, but they are not any easier. They require self-discipline and singularity of intention (to duty or to love of God).
What makes bhakti different is important for our discussion of the problematic character of the doctrine of karma. (38) After discussing all four paths, Krishna teaches Arjuna that bhakti is the best path of all, superior to the other paths. There is some tension in the Gita here: In one sense, they are all presented as possible paths to follow, as different religious models, or "different strokes for different folks," so to speak. This pluralistic tendency is clearly accentuated in Hindu tradition, in the very multiplicity of deities, in these four paths to enlightenment, and in the teaching that there are several goals in life (dharma, kama, artha, and moksha). However, Krishna's privileging of bhakti yoga in this foundational text indicates a historical shift in thinking, to a linking of ethical constraint and piety that is best embodied as a life of compassion. (39) This historical shift is most clearly seen in the breakaway movement of Buddhism. There is some debate that the Bhagavad-Gita represents a Hindu response to Buddhist challenges to the Vedic religious order, by which society was closely ordered and immutable, and religion comprised a life of duty within these immutable laws. The Gita's emphasis on bhakti influences the medieval flourishing of the bhakti movement alongside the Vedic system of ritual sacrifice. While the Vedic worldview and practices were never wholly cast aside, the rituals of religious life came to be painted over broadly by theistic devotion.
According to Krishna's teachings in the Gita, bhakti involves a full and concentrated focus on the object of one's devotion and a wholehearted sacrifice of self-interest to the object of one's devotion. "Whatever you do--what you take, what you offer, what you give, what penances you perform --do as an offering to me, Arjuna!" (Gita 9:27) (40) Anything offered with true devotion becomes a sacrifice, whether a leaf or flower or fruit or water. Chapter 12 of the Gita addresses the power of devotion. It opens with Arjuna's question of which way is superior--the path of theistic love and devotion, or the path of worshiping the Absolute Spirit in its unmanifest character. This distinction is often cited as the distinction between nirguna Brahman (without manifest aspects) and saguna Brahman (with manifest aspects). Krishna answers that true faith and discipline are most important, but he does say that the former is more difficult: "For men constrained by bodies, the unmanifest way is hard to attain" (Gita 12:5). However, those who make the effort to sacrifice all actions to God in singular discipline will be helped: "When they entrust reason to me, Arjuna, I soon rise to rescue them from the ocean of death and rebirth" (Gita 12:7). Those who pursue God with a singular discipline of love and devotion will be helped in return. In the verses that follow, Krishna describes some of the benefits of such singular discipline, whatever the specific path taken, whether jnana, raja, karma, or bhakti:
Focus your mind on me, let your understanding enter me: then you will dwell in me without doubt. If you cannot concentrate your thought firmly on me, then seek to reach me, Arjuna, by discipline in practice. Even if you fail in practice, dedicate yourself to action; performing actions for my sake, you will achieve success. If you are powerless to do even this, rely on my discipline, be self controlled, and reject all fruit of action. Knowledge is better than practice, meditation better than knowledge, rejecting fruits of action is better still--it brings peace. (Gita 12:8-12)
The point of all the different paths is to reject the fruits of action, to free oneself from such a self-centered and self-interested orientation to things and people around us. The benefits of this transcendence of selfishness include certitude as one dwells in God without doubt (v. 8), peace (v. 12), content and self-control (v. 14), and impartiality and freedom from attachment (v. 18). The equanimity described is located in a freedom from particularistic and self-interested attachment to things. "One who bears hate for no creature is friendly, compassionate, unselfish, free of individuality, patient, the same in suffering and joy" (Gita 12:13). One is freed from the bounds of karma, from the natural laws of consequence, from the weight of human actions upon spiritual destiny. Even though he identifies all four paths as possible ways to reach the freedom embodied in moksha, Krishna repeatedly remarks that the person of devotion is dearest to him. He uses the language of grace to indicate the way in which an individual of faith and devotion is given capacity for more than is possible within his natural limitations: "If I am in your thought, by my grace, you will transcend all dangers" (Gita 18:58). Bhakti, the act of singular love and devotion, seemingly identifies the faithful so completely with God that one also enjoys the certitude, power, and transcendence of God over one's own limitations. This is possible, Krishna says in the text, because of the unity of Spirit within all of life: "Arjuna, the lord resides in the heart of all creatures, making them reel magically, as if a machine moved them. With your whole being, Arjuna, take refuge in him alone--from his grace you will attain the eternal place that is peace" (Gita 18:61-62). Bhakti is love, devotion, or taking refuge. In theistic language, the grace of God Almighty gives/gifts the devotee the peace of this relationship of identity.
While the Gita's depiction of grace is vastly different from a Christian formulation, what I seek to identify in it is this sense of borrowing from an Infinite Source, a borrowing or receipt of infinitely deeper peace than one could earn on one's own. In both cases, the path is that of faith or love and devotion, which is expressed variously as trust or acceptance or taking refuge. The Christian sense of grace depends theologically for its meaning on the doctrine of original sin. Still, the idea that, through faithful trust or taking refuge in God, one can expect better than what one deserves, better than what one could earn or achieve on one's own, is found in the Hindu view of bhakti. The Christian doctrine of original sin does not obtain in Hindu thinking, but the natural laws of karma hold that one enjoys exactly what one deserves, given one's prior actions. Moksha, or freedom from the constraints of this natural law of action, can be achieved through singular discipline, whether one follows raja yoga, jnana yoga, karma yoga, or bhakti yoga--but bhakti is best of all. In Krishna's teaching, it seems clear that the bhakti path is itself a kind of grace that is offered to people who seek peace and freedom. If one cannot fully relinquish the fruits of action and act purely according to duty, a path that relies solely on human effort, one can still take refuge in God and gain the infinite peace and freedom therein.
Chapter 3 of the Markandeya Purana, titled "Description of Various Hells," includes an interesting story that also suggests a corrective to the ultimacy of the karmic worldview. A king who has acted righteously all his life arrives in hell and asks why he is there, when he has lived an overwhelmingly righteous life. Yama tells him that he had once committed a wrong deed by failing to sleep with his wife during her fertile time. This single wrong deed, however, is more than compensated for by the many good deeds committed, and Yama announces that by spending only a few moments there, he has satisfied his sentence and will very shortly move on to enjoy the pleasures of heaven. While in hell, the king learns that the suffering people around him are comforted by his presence, that the fiery heat of their karma is momentarily assuaged by the power of his own karma. It seems then that karma can have adjacent benefit. The air that touches his body is improved by his good deeds and generates a pleasant breeze that temporarily eases the suffering of those around him. Seeing this, he refuses to leave hell, even though he is told that heaven awaits him and that these people deserve their suffering because of all their bad deeds on earth. The text repeats several times the message that everyone must endure their own karma--this applies to those suffering the results of their sinful actions and also to him. The king is told he must leave, but he refuses, because his presence eases the suffering of others. There is clearly no open question here about their guilt and their deserving the results of their karma. This puranic account attests to the virtue of compassion. In the end, those others paying the price for their sins are released from hell by the virtue of the king's own good karma, and the king is told that his latest action of compassion has also greatly increased his virtue.
I conclude with this story of the power of compassion because it presents an interesting corrective to the karmic worldview. The natural order of karma, by which every individual experiences the results of his or her prior actions, is upheld and defended as fair and orderly. However, the virtue of compassion for the suffering of others, even when it is presumably deserved, is specially noted. Far from simply overcoming the natural order of bad karma, or simply negating it, the story reinforces the awesome power of the king's virtuous actions, in that it is strong enough to release all those other people from their sufferings in hell as well. What is exceptional in this puranic account is that one person's good karma can overcome another person's bad karma. This corrective to the formulaic use of karma as rationalization of why things are the way they are is most fruitful to the religious ethic proposed in this essay. The virtue of compassion perhaps is not primarily about sympathizing with those who suffer but actually suffering with them, an act that potentially promises the power to transform that suffering.
The postmodern critique of Levinas illustrates the problems inherent in the karmic worldview, including the onto-theological explanation of existing inequalities, ethical complacency toward human suffering, and individualistic concern with the sews own destiny to the exclusion of its constitutive responsibilities to others. This critique points the way forward to the rehabilitation of the doctrine of karma, by locating revelation of the Infinite in the ethical encounter and in one's experience of responsibility toward others, and by reinscribing the dharmic sense that one's identity is itself constructed by one's responsibilities to others. The Christian teachings of grace and justification by faith operate together with the Hindu teaching of bhakti to reinscribe the experience of divine transcendence and gifts of faith that enable a religious posture of hope. The teachings of forgiveness and compassion illustrate the ethical imperative that we accept these gifts along with an action-centered responsibility to "give forward" to other persons, foster true community, and transform and transcend suffering. Whereas the karmic worldview presents an onto-theological expectation of an equation between one's actions and one's experiences, the religious ethic of karma thus reformulated on the basis of these theological teachings enables the religious posture of hope that we may receive better than we deserve. In summary, one could say that the religious posture of hope that we may receive better than we deserve is predicated on the ethical imperative to give or do more than we owe.
(1) Whitley Kaufman has noted that karma as a theodicy has received little critical analysis. After noting the controversy of approaching karma as theodicy, Kaufman evaluated it in detail and concluded ultimately that it does not provide a satisfactory theodicy. See Whitley R. P. Kaufman., "Karma, Rebirth, and the Problem of Evil," Philosophy East and West 55 (January, 2005): 15-32.
(2) It is not nay intention to offer a Christian theological correction to a Hindu doctrine of karma. The doctrine of karma is not the only doctrine to be abused in such a way as to support social or moral complacency. Jewish covenantal theology and Christian justification by faith, e.g., also share this risk. The case of karma is especially interesting because supporting moral complacency is such an explicit contradiction to its focus on the centrality of human moral action. The doctrine of karma has its problematic dimensions, but its focus on the centrality of human action and freedom also contains the seeds for its rehabilitation, particularly when connected to these other theological teachings that counteract the formulaic expectation of karma that one experiences precisely what one deserves. My hope is that using illustrations from dissimilar doctrinal traditions will help to further understanding all around, in the spirit of an irenic cross-fertilization of ideas.
(3) Gananath Obeyesekere, "The Rebirth Eschatology and Its Transformations: A Contribution to the Sociology of Early Buddhism," in Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty, ed., Karma and Rebirth in Classical Indian Traditions (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1980; repr.--Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2007), pp. 147-148.
(4) Satapatha Brahmana 10.4.3.1-10.
(5) O'Flaherty has suggested Vedic origins for the classical karma doctrine but argued that it has primarily to do with merit transfer and may pre-date ideas of rebirth. She suggested that the karma doctrine mediates between two contradictory theories of whether the sraddha rituals continue rebirth and the cycle of samsara or ensure rebirth for the higher purpose of ending samsara and achieving moksha, or liberation. See Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty, "'Karma and Rebirth in the Vedas and Puranas" in O'Flaherty, Karma and Rebirth in Classical Indian Traditions, pp. 3-13.
(6) Brian K. Smith, "Gods and Men in Vedic Ritualism: Toward a Hierarchy of Resemblance," History of Religions 24 (May, 1985): 291-307.
(7) Brian K. Smith, "'Ritual, Knowledge, and Being: Initiation and Veda Study in Ancient India," Numen 33 (June, 1986): 79.
(8) Brihadaranyaka Upanishad III.2.13.
(9) Ibid., IV.4.5 (see Robert Ernest Hume, tr., The Thirteen Principal Upanishads [London: Oxford University Press, 1921]).
(10) Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty, "Introduction," in O'Flaherty, Karma and Rebirth, p. xi. In this list, O'Flaherty described the connection among karma, rebirth, and morality, citing the work of A. K. Rarnanujan and Charles Keyes.
(11) Moksha, or liberation from the cycle of rebirth, is the ultimate goal of human life in Hindu teaching Hinduism teaches four central goals of human life, including dharma (dutiful action), artha (well-being or prosperity), kama (sensual pleasure), and moksha (release from samsara). While dharma, artha, and kama can be achieved within a given lifetime or in subsequent rebirths by accruing good karma, the ultimate goal of moksha depends upon the elimination of all karma. One is released from the cycle of rebirth by loosening the bonds of karma, with actionless action, so to speak, as taught in the Upanishads and in the Bhagavad-Gita. Moksha is not a reward that is earned, but a freedom from the egoistic consciousness that interprets events as reward or punishment. It is more accurately described as an eternal bliss in a transcendent consciousness of the ultimate unity of all things, the spiritual realization of the upanishadic truth "That Thou Art," that atman is nothing other than Brahman.
(12) For an excellent review of post-Holocaust criticisms of the project of theodicy, see Sarah K. Pinnock, Beyond Theodicy (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2002). Pinnock's book engages several different responses to theodicy in light of the extreme suffering embodied in the Holocaust and then proposes on the basis of these responses some rules for any constructive religious response to extreme human suffering. These include the values of epistemic humility, moral sensitivity, the primacy of religious practice, and narrative memory. See also Terrence Tilley, The Evils of Theodicy (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1991). Tilley criticized theodicy as an Enlightenment project that is more harmful than helpful. Kenneth Surin, in his Theodicy and the Problem of Evil (New York: Basil Blackwell, 1986), criticized traditional theodicies that explain evil without any practical efforts to remove it. Surin focused instead on God's solidarity with those who suffer. For a contemporary theodicy based on the Christian hope of the reign of God, see John Hick, Evil and the God of Love (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1966), wherein Hick argued that God has created a world that contains evil as a means to perfect human souls who will experience growth and spiritual maturity by responding to the suffering around them.
(13) O'Flaherty noted that the doctrine of karma is a "straw mall" in the Puranas, set up in order to be knocked down. The narrative passages "show in how very many ways the workings of karma may be overcome, upset, or reversed.... [T]he major thrust of the texts is to exhort the worshipper to undertake remedial actions in order to swim like a salmon upstream against the current of karma'" (O'Flaherty, "Karma and Rebirth in the Vedas and Puranas," pp. 13-14).
(14) Jurgen Moltmann made a similar point about the nature of time when he said that eternity is not just more time but is a timelessness that breaks our categorical understanding of time itself (see Jurgen Moltmann, In The End--The Beginning, tr. Margaret Kohl [Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2004]. pp. 152-164).
(15) Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, tr. Alphonso Lingis, Duquesne Studies Philosophical Series 24 (Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press; The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff 1969), p. 78.
(16) Emmanuel Levinas, "'Philosophy and the Idea of the Infinite," in Adrian Peperzak, To The Other: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas (West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 1993), p. 108.
(17) Levinas, Totality and Infinity, p. 79.
(18) Ibid., p. 40.
(19) Ibid., pp. 194-197.
(20) Levinas, "'Philosophy and the Idea of the Infinite," p. 111.
(21) Ibid., pp. I 11-112.
(22) Emmanuel Levinas, "Ethics as First Philosophy," in Sea.n Hand, ed., The Levinas Reader (Oxford and Cambridge, U.K.: Blackwell, 1989), p. 83.
(23) Ibid., p. 85.
(24) Levinas, Totality and Infinity, p. 215; emphasis in original.
(25) Emmanuel Levinas, Entre Nous: On Thinking-of-the-Other, tr. Michael B. Smith and Barbara Harshav (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998 [orig.: Entre Nous: Essais sur le penser-a-l 'autre (Paris: Editions Grasset & Fasquelle, 1991)]), p. 147.
(27) Peperzak, To the Other, p. 25.
(28) Whereas a Hegelian view of subjectivity may focus on the self"s agency and primacy and appropriating relations with the world as it stakes its claim on the world and realizes itself objectively in productive work or self-recognition, Levinas saw the self as always already subject and subjected to responsibility for the other.
(29) Peperzak, To the Other. p. 36.
(30) This posture of hope can be investigated in different religious traditions. The illustration in this essay is not intended to be comprehensive in any way. The choice of Christian and Hindu doctrines is due only to familiarity with the particular expressions discussed here and their direct relevance to the critique and rehabilitation of the doctrine of karma formulated here.
(31) These Christian teachings reflect a theistic framework and are not intended to translate simply into a criticism of Hindu teachings. Despite the limitations, using illustrations from dissimilar traditions can be beneficial in drawing out the multifaceted potential of rehabilitating the formulaic expectations of karma that are criticized in this essay.
(32) The issue of justification remains a matter of controversy for Christians, with Protestants insisting that individuals are justified by their faith alone and Catholics insisting that faith must be realized in good works. 1 do not want to make light of this debate, but, for the current project, this particular distinction between faith and works is not that relevant, although it should be clear that my larger project of rehabilitating karma will privilege the concrete realization of faith in actions. Still, the point of this primarily Protestant teaching is a valuable corrective to any tendency in the karmic worldview to equate input and output or past actions and current experience.
(33) Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology. Three Volumes in One (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967), p. 224.
(34) F. Forrester Church, ed., The Essential Tillich (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), p. 202.
(35) All of this, of course, hinges on the Christian doctrine of original sin, by which we are fundamentally broken and flawed and even doomed to flaws, on the basis of some primordial human act of disobedience to God, the Creator and Lawgiver. The parallels between the formulaic consequences inherent in karma and original sin are interesting In Christian theology, people cannot, post-Fall, fix themselves by any human effort. We are what we are--flawed and doomed--and cannot undo or overcome the results of the Fall. Only God's forgiveness can undo and overcome the flaws of original sin and transform human beings into persons who can relate to God and to each other in loving forgiveness.
(36) In Christian theology, redemption is God's promise that is articulated and offered m the event of Jesus' life, sacrificial death, and resurrection. As Jurgen Moltmann emphasized in The Coming of God, it is as yet a promise of something to be realized. We are currently in the in-between time, between Jesus' first coming and Jesus' second coming, between God's promise and forgiveness and God's justice and restoration of all things. The religious posture of hope abides faithfully with God's promise of redemption that is yet to be realized. See Jurgen Moltmann, The Coming of God: Christian Eschatology, tr. Margaret Kohl (London: SCM Press, 1996 [orig.: Das Kommen Gottes." Christliche Eschatologie (Gutersloher: Chr. Kaiser Verlaghaus, 1995)]), p. 234.
(37) Judgment and justice should not simply be opposed, but they are two separate movements. Justice may require prior judgment, but it also represents an additional move beyond judgment or payback, to transform those wrongs.
(38) Keep in mind the distinction between tire doctrine of karma--the natural law of action and consequence from one birth to the next--and the path of karma yoga, a life of dutiful action. The doctrine and the discipline are both located in the fundamental duty of action. However, karma yoga, like the other three margas, can lead to moksha, which is the freedom from the law of karma. While the doctrine of karma functions as a formula of explanation, karma yoga represents the religious ethic of this doctrine, absent the function of rationalizing what is properly a mystery to us.
(39) These teachings reflect this historical shift in religious consciousness that Karl Jaspers first termed the Axial Age in The Origin and Goal of History (tr. Michael Bullock [London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1953 (orig.: Vom Urspring und Ziel der Geschichte [Munich: Piper Verlag, I949])]). Karen Armstrong has also written about how in very different religious cultures around the world, between 800 and 200 B.C.E, concerns shifted from external sacrifice or ritual to internal piety and morality. She noted at this period in India the growing dissatisfaction with sacrifice and liturgy and the search for an inward realization of truth (see Karen Armstrong, A History of God [New York: Ballantine Books, 1993], pp. 27-31).
(40) The Bhagavad-Gita, tr. Barbara Stoler Miller (New York: Bantam Books, 1986).
Madhuri Mukkamala Yadlapati (Hindu) has been an instructor at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA, since 2004, teaching Christian thought, interreligious dialogue, faith and doubt, and world religions. A 2008 recipient of the Tiger Athletic Foundation Undergraduate Teaching Award, she was a graduate teaching assistant while at New York University and Yale University. She holds a B.A. from Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC; an M.A. from New York (NY) University; and a Ph.D. in religious studies (2002) from Yale University, New Haven, CT. She serves on the Board of Scholars and Practitioners of the Journal of Interreligious Dialogue, which published her article "Raimon Panikkar, John Hick, and a Pluralist Theology of Religions" in 2010. Her previous articles have appeared in Ars Disputandi: The Online Journal for Philosophy of Religion and the Journal of Indo-Judaic Studies. She has presented papers at several regional or national meetings of the American Academy of Religion and the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, as well as at a conference in Venice on Venice, the Jews, and Italian Culture. She is currently working on a book on faith and doubt.
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|Author:||Yadlapati, Madhuri M.|
|Publication:||Journal of Ecumenical Studies|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2011|
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