Hiltebeitel’s “Dharma: Its Early History in Law, Religion, and Narrative”

Alf Hiltebeitel’s Dharma: Its Early History in Law, Religion, and Narrative (OUP) looks to be a fascinating take on the relationship between law and religion in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions.  Our excellent librarian, Arundhati Satkalmi, informs me that one of the meanings of “Dharma” is something akin to “moral duty,” or “the laws of nature,” which would certainly imply an important connection to human law.    The publisher’s description follows.  — MOD

Between 300 BCE and 200 CE, concepts and practices of dharma attained literary prominence throughout India. Both Buddhist and Brahmanical authors sought to clarify and classify their central concerns, and dharma proved a means of thinking through and articulating those concerns.

Alf Hiltebeitel shows the different ways in which dharma was interpreted during that formative period: from the grand cosmic chronometries of kalpas and yugas to narratives about divine plans, gendered nuances of genealogical time, royal biography (even autobiography, in the case of the emperor Asoka), and guidelines for daily life, including meditation. He reveals the vital role dharma has played across political, religious, legal, literary, ethical, and philosophical domains and discourses about what holds life together. Through dharma, these traditions have articulated their distinct visions of the good and well-rewarded life.

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