The Buddhist concept “karma” and the category “fate” in the culture of Kalmyks

К. А. Наднеева


The article examines various interpretations of the category “karma” in order to propose a classification of karmas (they can be cosmic, social, national, patrimonial, domestic, personal). The concept “fate” is studied to show the role it plays in the traditional culture of Kalmyks. The author compares the Buddhist understanding of karma with the secular treatment of fate and concludes that the category “fate” is a mythologem which expresses the idea of determinism (all events, including human action, are ultimately determined by causes external to his will) whereas the notion “karma” has the opposite meaning implying that people determine their life themselves as they are responsible for their actions. A scent of determinism that can be found in the Buddhist conception of causality is rather ambiguous since it admits some variability of cause-and-effect relations and allows man to make his karma better. Nowadays those Kalmyks who believe in karma interpret it in a wider, or secular, context as they are influenced by the European understanding of fate. At any rate, the categories “karma” and “fate” are the result of the attempts made to express the contradictoriness of man’s existence, to facilitate his tense being, and to clarify the nature of social life.


Buddhism; karma; fate; determinism; freedom; Kalmyk culture


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