n Journal for Semitics - A comparison of the Qumran community and Hare Krishna movement regarding ritual impurity, its sources and rectification

Volume 18, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1013-8471


In this paper, the sources of ritual impurity and the roles of various rituals and cultural practices in the rectification of impurity are compared in the Qumran community and Hare Krishna movement. In both sects, ritual impurity is caused by engaging in sexual activity, sexual emissions, childbirth, urination, defecation and disease. However, the Hare Krishna movement adds the cutting of hair and nails, sticking fingers through any of the body's orifices, and drinking and eating, all of which necessitate immediate washing. Regarding the rectification of ritual impurity, the following similarities emerge in both sects : (1) treatment of ritual impurity is largely based on lustrations and passage of time ; (2) the structures of the bathing facilities are strikingly similar ; (3) the prescribed periods of time are similar and often identical ; (4) separation of the sexes ; (5) the purifying potency of the sacrificial meal ; (6) the contagious nature of impurity ; (7) the purifying and atoning nature of studying the scriptures ; and (8) the importance of diet, dress and having a clear understanding of the precarious nature of spiritual (pure) life. The few differences found are explained by the more forgiving nature of Gaudiya Vaishnavas versus the punitive nature of Qumran sectarianism.

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