Karma the Ghost and Jain Karma Theory

I have been teaching Jain karma theory this week and it reminded me to look up this little animated film I came across years ago:

It is a thought-provoking representation of karma as little ghost-like figures who literally cling to the person who has done the deed. This is not unlike early Jain karma theory, in which karma can be compared to dust clinging to the soul; in the Jain case it is believed to obscure the soul’s natural state of omniscience and bliss. The dire consequences of killing an insect depicted here also resonate with Jain teachings. Even the otherwise problematic notion of a rubbish bin making bad karma for being smelly can be rationalised in terms of the many single-sensed beings that live everywhere – including in bins – and are constantly creating karma!

Okay, so this may not be an entirely accurate portrayal of any karma theory, but it is closer to the Jain understanding of karma than any other, and could serve as a real conversation starter for the students. I think I will use it in future classes!

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About naomiappleton

I work in the Divinity School at the University of Edinburgh, where I research and teach subjects related to South and Southeast Asian religions.
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