Cremation and Cosmogony – Karma and Soteriology

  • Terje Oestigaard Centre for Development Studies, University of Bergen, Norway.
Keywords: Soteriology, Karma, Cremation, Cosmology


A common thread linking micro- and macro cosmos is karma. Karma and death are intricately interwoven, since the preparation of the corpse during the funeral is the exit from this world and the entry to the next. It has been generally accepted that the corpse is highly polluting, but I will argue that the funeral is a purifying process, which prepares and presents the dead to the gods. If the descendants do not purify the deceased’s flesh during the funeral, the dead will not attain a rebirth in accordance to his own karma, and the relatives’ performances of the obsequies may diminish or limit his future incarnations. Hence, I will stress the actual funerals, the flesh as a biomoral substance, and why it is necessary to have a son to mourn the deceased. Karma is not only a personal residue or quality, but an inter-generational relation, which links and constitutes society and cosmos. The outcome of, and reason for, this relation, it will be argued, is soteriology for society in the form of life-giving water for all. Thus, my aim is to explore how and why cremation and karma constitute society and cosmos, and enable soteriology both for the deceased and descendants.

DOI: 10.3126/dsaj.v1i0.287

Dhaulagiri Vol.1 (2005) pp.164-175


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How to Cite
Oestigaard, T. (1). Cremation and Cosmogony – Karma and Soteriology. Dhaulagiri Journal of Sociology and Anthropology, 1, 164-175.