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Open AccessArticle

Becoming Animal: Karma and the Animal Realm Envisioned through an Early Yogācāra Lens

Department of Religious Studies, University of South Carolina, Rutledge College, Columbia, SC 29208, USA
Religions 2019, 10(6), 363; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10060363
Received: 24 April 2019 / Revised: 23 May 2019 / Accepted: 28 May 2019 / Published: 1 June 2019
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Abstract

In an early discourse from the Saṃyuttanikāya, the Buddha states: “I do not see any other order of living beings so diversified as those in the animal realm. Even those beings in the animal realm have been diversified by the mind, yet the mind is even more diverse than those beings in the animal realm.” This paper explores how this key early Buddhist idea gets elaborated in various layers of Buddhist discourse during a millennium of historical development. I focus in particular on a middle period Buddhist sūtra, the Saddharmasmṛtyupasthānasūtra, which serves as a bridge between early Buddhist theories of mind and karma, and later more developed theories. This third-century South Asian Buddhist Sanskrit text on meditation practice, karma theory, and cosmology psychologizes animal behavior and places it on a spectrum with the behavior of humans and divine beings. It allows for an exploration of the conceptual interstices of Buddhist philosophy of mind and contemporary theories of embodied cognition. Exploring animal embodiments—and their karmic limitations—becomes a means to exploring all beings, an exploration that can’t be separated from the human mind among beings. View Full-Text
Keywords: Buddhism; contemplative practice; mind; cognition; embodiment; the animal realm (tiryaggati); karma; yogācāra; Saddharmasmṛtyupasthānasūtra Buddhism; contemplative practice; mind; cognition; embodiment; the animal realm (tiryaggati); karma; yogācāra; Saddharmasmṛtyupasthānasūtra
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Stuart, D.M. Becoming Animal: Karma and the Animal Realm Envisioned through an Early Yogācāra Lens. Religions 2019, 10, 363.

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