Fields of Merit, Harvests of Health: Some Notes on the Role of Medical Karma in the Popularization of Buddhism in Early Medieval China (Englisch)

In: Asian Philosophy   ;  23 ,  4  ;  341-349  ;  2013

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One of the most significant philosophical doctrines of Buddhism, and an idea that has remained at the centre of its theory and practice in virtually all historical times and places, is karma. The motivations for being involved in the accumulation of karmic merit in early medieval China were diverse, but one frequently mentioned goal was the health of the physical body. This brief article examines several facets of the relationship between karma and well-being, providing a few examples of the wide range of sources on this subject and reflecting on its role in the popularization of Buddhism in China. I argue that medical metaphors were central to how the doctrine of karma was explained to diverse audiences, that the translation of these ideas emphasized connections with indigenous beliefs and social practices and that medical karma encouraged the self-regulation of behaviour and thoughts in conformity with Buddhist ideology.

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