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Denison Journal of Religion

Abstract

This article examines the manner in which two major world religions explain death. Bakshi claims that both religions make peace with the end of life through an overwhelming respect for nature, theodicy, and a "masochistic attitude." Using the language and theories of Peter Berger, Bakshi examines the Hindu myth of Mahishasuramardini and the Biblical narrative of Job. The story of Mahisha, Bakshi explains, shows him as a half-brahmin, half-beast who desperately craves the immortality of the gods. All of his attempts fail under the overwhelming power of Durga, the creator and destroyer goddess. Right before Durga kills Mahisha, he surrenders his individuality to the whole of the religious experience and understands why his death is necessary, and accepts his decapitation. This, Bakshi explains, is what Berger terms the "masochistic attitude""the ultimate surrender of the self to find ecstasy in the greater religious experience. The biblical narrative of Job, the story of a good man on his death bed as he questions his fate and the workings of god, also has a sense of this masochism. Job's friends tell him repeatedly that he must have done something to deserve his fate, but for the bulk of the story Job refuses to accept this answer. Through reflection, Job finally comes to terms with the fact that he must accept God's will and the natural process. In both of these stories, Bakshi argues, the frailty of the human understanding of the moral order is destroyed through the overwhelming power of nature. These stories show that only through a respect for the power of nature and a complete surrendering of the self to the divine can religious people find honest acceptance of death.

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