Karman-Theory in the Mahābhārata
Prolegomena to an Inquiry into the Culture
and the Condition of Philosophical Reﬂection About
Human Life and the Requirements of Liberation
Published online: 2 February 2016
© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016
Abstract After delimiting the topic by reﬂecting on the heuristic function of the
concept of “theory” in “Delimiting the Topic” section, the paper considers the literary
aspects of karman-theory in the Mahābhārata in “Literary Characteristics” section
(treating questions, characters, episodes, tracts, metaphors, and intertextuality).
“Axioms, Theorems, Domains” section then lists the elements or axioms that fall
under the umbrella term “karman-theory.” Next, dealing with contexts and colloca-
tions, “Contexts, Collocations” section combines the consideration of literary and
theoretical aspects of the matter. “Historical Perspective” section then argues for the
inclusion of a historical perspective in the study of karman-theory. The “Conclusion”,
section, formulates provisional results and poses further questions.
Keywords Karman · Karman-theory · Mahābhārata · Requirements of liberation ·
Deﬁnition of culture · Philosophy of action
If theory belongs to the domain of philosophy, if, further, the Mahābhārata (MBh)is
a foundational text of Indian religion, philosophy and culture, a search for karman-
theory in the MBh fulﬁlls all the requirements of the programmatic conference
statement to which this paper responds.
The questions that have guided and
accompanied its preparation have been:
& Peter Schreiner
University of Zu
rich, Zurich, Switzerland
Thanks to James Fitzgerald and Brown University for organizing a most stimulating conference! My
contribution to the conference consisted of two parts: a paper (18 pages) and an appendix of commented
texts (22 pages). Here I leave aside all presentations and discussions of speciﬁc texts.
J Indian Philos (2017) 45:651–667