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Poverty, Misfortune, and Failure: Reflections on the Opacity of Karma


Kate Hartmann (Catherine.Hartmann@uwyo.edu) and

Brandon Dotson (dotson.brandon@gmail.com)

The Buddhist doctrine of karma is often invoked to explain present misfortune. But individuals do not generally know their own karma, or what they might have done, whether in this life or a past life, that has led to current circumstances. In their paper "Narrative, Sub-ethics, and the Moral Life," Charles Hallisey and Anne Hansen refer to this idea as the opacity of karma. This panel takes up the Presidential Theme of “Religion, Poverty, and Inequality” by asking how Buddhists at various places and times have used ideas of karma in making sense of their difficult circumstances. How do they talk about their own karma, try to discern the causes for present situations, or reflect on how karma relates to poverty and misfortune generally? The panel asks, moreover, how these articulations of karma might reframe the way scholars think about or teach about karma. We welcome scholars specializing on Buddhism in any geographical area or time period.


Brandon Dotson, brandon.dotson@wolfson.oxon.org

Rongdao Lai, rongdao.lai@mcgill.ca

Bryan Lowe, bdlowe@princeton.edu

Reiko Ohnuma, reiko.ohnuma@dartmouth.edu

Anna Sun, annasun1754@gmail.com

Nicole Willock, nwillock@odu.edu