Thursday, November 17, 2011

God and karman

The Mīmāṃsā argument against God as the ruler of karman is (as it is often the case with Mīmāṃsā), an application of what we call Ockham's razor:

Can God alone rule the people's destiny? The standard Indian answer is that He needs karman as His tool. But if karman is anyway needed, why not getting rid of the extra element, i.e., god?

Similarly, if we anyway need the people's karman and/or material elements to create the world/keep it going, why adding on top of them also a god?

Of course, these arguments have nothing to do with God as the object of one's longing and passionate devotion.


skholiast said...

Not being a scholar of Mīmāṃsā or indeed any Indian schools, I can only suppose this to be a more or less naive observation, but this dispute seems more or less to mirror the Euthyphro question (do the gods will the Good, or is it Good because the gods will it?). However, in this case, the problem does not seem to me to be solved via Ockham. Or a slightly different comparison: Wittgenstein notes (in the Tractatus, 6.4312) that the notion of a sempiternal postmortem existence will not in any way dispel the mysteriousness of life, because a perpetual existence is no less mysterious than a limited one.

elisa freschi said...

Well, not being an expert in the Euthyphro dialogue, I am not sure the question is the same. Gods might be said to be Gods just insofar as they are good. Vice versa, the Good might be said to be such just because of God's will. There is no similar bi-unique relationship within God and karman. In fact, this is exactly the Mīmāṃsā point: no one disputes the existence and role of karman, some people just add God on top. Hence, why not getting rid of him as an unwanted assumption? In contrast, the Good (for some Theists) does not exist independently of God. Isn't it? I would be glad to read why it is naive (no polemic meant, I would really be interested in it).

Jayarava said...

"But if karman is anyway needed, why not getting rid of the extra element, i.e., god?"

This is just what Jains and Buddhists did!

Then Buddhists reinvented personifications of their values as objects of devotion...

elisa freschi said...

Jayarava, you are right. Helmut Krasser has written on the influence of the Mīmāṃsaka Kumārila on Dharmakīrti's arguments against the existence of God. As for your second point, it is really interesting that people (not just "simple" people) seem just not to be able to avoid some sort of clinging to something over them. Is it just because we are not courageous enough to face the dry fact of our death? (I don't think so, but what do you think?)

skholiast said...

Hi Elisa,

just to be clear, I meant that my observation was naive, not that of the Mīmāṃsā school!

elisa freschi said...

Hi Skholiast,

sorry for being such a poor reader. I misunderstood the reference of "this".

Vidya Jayaraman said...

I still have'nt caught up with the other posts. Sometimes life takes over.

But I have a question for you related to this post.. What do you think is the purpose or purport of the first (invocatory) verse of Kumarila's slokavarttika?

elisa freschi said...

Hi Vidya, I hope life takes over because it is pleasant (at least more than my blog)!

As for the maṅgala of the ŚV, Pārthasārathi explains that it should not be interpreted as referring to God, but rather as referring to the sacrifice (yajña).

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