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No Deposit, No Return: Religious Rejections of Exchange

No Deposit, No Return: Religious Rejections of Exchange

(p.156) 6 No Deposit, No Return: Religious Rejections of Exchange
Sovereignty and the Sacred
Robert A. Yelle
University of Chicago Press

Chapter 6 considers two case studies that reject the idea that salvation can be purchased through exchange, whether of gifts, sacrifices, or money. The first study is of the Roman or papal Jubilees that commenced in 1300 CE and that grew out of the penitential economy of the medieval Catholic Church. During the Jubilee, the pope offered plenary indulgence to those pilgrims who visited Rome and performed certain rituals including monetary payments. As the economy of indulgences, together with the Roman Jubilees, expanded, it grew increasingly complex and eventually helped to precipitate Martin Luther's Reformation as a counterreaction. The second case study is ancient India ca. 500 BCE. As many scholars have noted, this period witnessed a movement of wandering renunciants (Śramana) who either marginalized or rejected (as Buddhists did) the performance of Vedic sacrifice. The Vedic texts had explained sacrifice as the repayment of debt, making salvation a matter of purchase. Against this idea, the Upanisads and early Buddhists expressed the idea of a state of liberation beyond the principle of exchange and quid pro quo (karma). Both cases resist the reduction of salvation to the mundane economy.

Keywords:   Roman Jubilee, indulgence, Martin Luther, debt, Upanisads, Śramanas, Vedic sacrifice, karma, liberation, David Graeber

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