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THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF EMOTIONS IN THE BHAGAVAD GĪTĀ: Locating Ethics in a Redacted Text

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ABSTRACT

Religious texts and historical narratives are instrumental in defining appropriate emotions and moral reasoning in a culture. In the Bhagavad G ıtā, the warrior Arjuna is faced with a twofold dilemma: are his emotions appropriate and should emotions influence his actions? The G ıtā is thought to be a redacted text with three primary layers: the original verses, the Sāmkhya/Yoga layer, and the devotional bhakti layer. Cross-cultural psychological theories of emotions are employed to analyze the layers of the G ıtā. It is argued that each of the three layers corresponds with one of three possible moral codes as proposed by R. A. Shweder and his colleagues (1997; 2000): the Ethic of Autonomy (promoting personal well-being and avoiding shame); the Ethic of Community (maintaining social order and emotional detachment); and the Ethic of Divinity (upholding cosmic order and endorsing emotional devotion). These three perspectives remain relevant for deciding emotionally laden moral dilemmas today.
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Keywords: Bhagavad G ıtā; cross-cultural psychology; emotions; moral development; moral reasoning

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Flinders University

Publication date: December 1, 2007

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