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Religions of the World
Transcript of Religions of the World
Religions of the World
A brief comparison
Religion is a phenomenon unique to mankind. Through history, as far back as the records can trace,
man has looked to Gods and Goddesses for answers
to the fundamental questions of how and why
life and the universe functions in the manner that
it does. This presentation will compare several world
views from early human history and examine their
differences as well as similarities.
Buddhism's core principles can easily be found in the earlier religions of India. Craig, Graham, Kagan, Turner and Ozment (2009) state that what is known as the Brahmanic Age (beginning around 1500 B.C.E.) birthed many of the ideas that form the core principles of the belief (p. 31).
Around the 6th century B.C.E., the Brahmans had grown increasingly irrelevant to the common classes. The attitude towards the increasingly elite and exclusive Brahman order allowed the birth of several different sects of
belief, some of which where the Upinishads and the Jains by the 5th
centuty, B.C.E. (Craig, et al., p. 56-58).
"Bust of Shakyamuni", 1960. Bronze, 31.5 cm. Shinjo Ito.
Siddhartha Gautama, "The Buddha"
The man we now know as "Buddha" (enlightened one) was born ca. 556 B.C.E. to the Shakyamuni tribe. In the foothills of the Himilayas near the modern Nepalese Border, he lived in relative luxury until 29. This is when he realized the reality of human suffering a vowed to seek an end to it; he abandoned his luxury and his family to seek the answer. After undergoing several practices, he finally achieved enlightenment at the base of the legendary Bodhi tree (Craig et al., p. 61).
While Siddhartha meditated under the Bodhi tree, he
neared death from ascetic practice (restriction of wordly pleasures, including food). Overwhelmed by a by a sense of joy in the beauty of the moment, he realized that he could not maintain this feeling without food. A maiden from the village then mysteriously appeared to feed him. From this point, he vowed himself to compassion and aiding the rest of mankind to enlightenment
(Grubin, April 7th, 2010).
The endless cycle of suffering
The Four Noble Truths
Man is stuck in an endless cycle of death and rebirth, known as "samsara". The resolution to samsara is "karma", in short: good actions will cause good effects, and bad actions will have bad effects. Bad karma inevitably leads to rebirth, back into suffering(Craig, et al., p. 58-59).
1. All life is "dukkha" - suffering.
2. The source of suffering is desire.
3. The cessation of desire is the cessation of suffering.
4. The path to end this is the path known as the "Eight Fold Path" (Craig, et al., p. 62).
The Eight-fold Path
Compassion for all living things dominates the doctrine of Buddhists. The root of all suffering is desire - the mastery of desire allows the release of selfish action and therefore fosters a mentality that allows true compassion to grow (Craig et al., p. 62). It is important to remember that while the Brahmans believed in deities and even performed sacrifices to them (Craig et al., p. 56), the Buddhist path is realtively atheistic and a-ritualistic in it's beliefs and world views.
The Eight-Fold path allows a convert to live properly, in such a way that they may escape the suffering of the material world.
1. Right Understanding
2. Right Thought
3. Right Speech
4. Right Action
5. Right Livelihood
6. Right Effort
7. Right Mindfulness
8. Right Concentration
Elements of the Path
Those who converted to Buddhist ways were as diverse as the practices that beliefs that spawned from the Buddha's enlightenment. Eschewing asceticism and moksha (withdrawal from action to avoid negative karmic effects), Buddhists follow the idea promoted by Siddhartha: moderation in all things, nothing to excess and compassion for all living things. This became known as the Buddha's "Middle Path".
Converts included those willing to take vows of chastity and to shun marriage, as well as all other material goods. As well as these devout monks and nuns, the average lay person would adhere to the values of the Eight Fold Path (Craig et al., p. 62).
Followers of the Buddha
Key Historical Moments
The Mauryans: King Ashoka (r. ca. 321-279 B.C.E.), the third of the Mauryan rulers, converted to Buddhism after his conquest of Kalinga. While his empire crumbled due to size, the influence of Buddhism which his rule had leaked into following civilizations (Craig et al., pg. 62).
King Menander (r. ca. 155-130 B.C.E.) is described as a convert in a Buddhist text, "The Questions of King Milinda".
In the Kushnan Kingdom of India, Buddhism is adopted by one of the four great Kushnan kings - Kanishka (r. ca. 100-150 B.C.E.?). He is considered one of the greatest patrons of Buddhism since Ashoka. One of his lasting contributions is the Graeco Buddhist School of Art, which outlasts his reign for five hundred years (Craig et al., p. 149-150).
Many Buddhist texts were and have been created, on varying schools of thought. Just to name a few are the "Buddhist Suttas" and The Lotus Sutra.
The Suttas are guessed to have been written around the 3rd to 4th centuries B.C.E., and are a compilation of various Buddhist texts from the time (Davids, p. ix). The Lotus Sutra is a widely revered texts; although some believe it contains the words of the Buddha himself, historians believe it was written by various authors around the 1st to 2nd centuries C.E.(O'Brien, About.com: Buddhism).
The religion of
Islam was birthed in the harsh deserts of Arabia, in Mecca. The man known to have brought the religion to us was named Muhammad. Born to the tribe of Qurayash in 570 C.E. in relative comfort. Orphaned at 6, he was adopted by his uncle Abu Talib. At the age of forty, he was visited by the angel Gabriel in a cave on Mount Hira during one of his meditative retreats. This marked the beginning of a twenty-three year revelation that would define the Muslim faith as we know it today (Ibrahim, p. 55).
God and the Universe
Muslims believe that God is unique and incomparable. He has no equal and no partner and no one else has the right to be worshiped than Him.
They believe that man was created to serve God (Allah) alone, in every action. As L.A. Ibrahim states, "He stands in need of none of His creatures, and all of his creatures depend on Him...."(Ibrahim, p.45). Muslims also reject the idea of the need for intercession to speak to God, and also do not believe in the idea of a Holy Trinity like the Christians before them (Ibrahim, p. 45-46).
Traditions and Practices
Incidentally, many Muslim beliefs also play into their daily lives and actions. Their traditions and practices dictate their lives in almost every aspect, but the "Five Pillars of Faith" are the required minimum for every Muslim (Ibrahim, p. 65-68).
1. The Shahada: The Testimony of Faith. "La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammadur rasoolo Allah", meaning "There is no true god but God and Muhammad is his messenger".
2. Salah: Prayer. Every Muslim prays five times a day.
3. Zakat: Charity. Every Muslim is required to give a small portion of their expendable resources to the needy.
4. Fasting during Ramadan: Every year, Muslims fast from sunup to sundown for the entire month of Ramadan.
5. Pilgrimage to Mecca: Once a lifetime, if able, all followers are required to travel to the holy city of Mecca.
The Muslim Community
In Islam, the importance of virtue and family reign supreme to keep order. The family is considered the unit of basic civilization. Elderly, especially mothers, are revered. Muslims believe that the family enables spiritual growth as well as happiness (Ibrahim, 64-65). Allah's followers are also instructed to "use his powers of intelligence and observation", according to Ibrahim - many Muslims that were able could be expected to be educated and literate(p. 56).
Brief History of the Islamic Religion
After openly preaching for over ten years, persecution in Mecca grew harsh. In 622 C.E., Muhammad joins a group of emigrants that established an Islamic capital at Medina.
On March 15th, 624 C.E., Muhammad and his followers beset the pagans of Medina. The Battle of Badr shows the people of Mecca the verisimilitude of the men they'd scorned. Although the Muslims were pushed back, they eventually reclaimed Medina. Through diplomatic relations, Muhammad continued to attempt access to Mecca in 628 C.E.. By sending letters to all of the world leaders of the time, he became highly respected and a recognized leader of the Muslim people. A year, fifteen hundred converts re-enter Mecca without any bloodshed; Mecca is Muslim to this day (Nawab, Speers and Hoye, 2006).
Religious Texts of the Muslim People
The Qur'an is the source of all knowledge for the Muslim people. It is the collection of the revelations from Gabriel to Muhammad, and has remained unchanged in it's original language since its compilation. It is believed by Muslims to be the final testament of God, and that it completes His message (Ibrahim, p. 54).
The Sunnah is the secondary source of knowledge. It is the collection of what are considered reliably transmitted reports from Muhammad's relatives and friends of what he did and said. These are looked to for guidance in how to act, in an effort to emulate the prophet (Ibrahim, p. 49).
Basic Islamic Beliefs
Several beliefs define the Muslim religion.
Many of these beliefs are similar to Christian and Judaic beliefs.
The belief in God (unique and incomparable)
The belief in Angels
The belief in God's revealed books (The Qur'an, Torah, and testament of Christ)
The belief in prophets as messengers of God with abilities granted by him but not themselves divine
The belief in the Day of Judgement
The belief in Al-Qadar: Pre-destiny but with the gift of free will (Ibrahim, p. 47-49).
The Mayan Civilization
While there were many dominant cultures throughout South America, the Mayans are perhaps one of the best well known. The Incans, Mayans, Olmecs, Toltecs and Teotihuacans existed until Spanish conquest diminshed their civilizations. The earliest Mayan ruin dates as early as 300 B.C.E. (Craig et al., pg. 404-411).
Both of these areas experience more waterfall than the northern Americas and have tropical foliage. From these fertile areas, the civilization of the Maya thrived off of agriculture developed during the Archaic period, which consisted of maize, beans and squash. The religion of the Maya was polytheistic and rulers held divine and political power interchangeably and used association with the Gods justify their rule (Craig et al., p. 413).
The Mayan World View
While the texts of the Mayans were largely religious, few survive today because of Spanish conquest. They were printed deerhide or bark paper. Four that have been recovered are Mayan, and with the help of translation of the elusive glyphs used by the literate Mesoamerican culture, historians gain deeper insight to the world and beliefs of the Maya (Craig et al., p. 411).
Some of the surviving texts have helped to gain a much deeper insight to the written language of the Maya, as well as the importance of time and religion in their society. The Popul Vuh contains items such as the Mayan creation myth and the Dresden codex contains calendrical inscriptions and observations (Craig, et al., p. 413).
Craig, A.M., Graham, W.A., Kagan, D., Ozment, S., and Turner, F.M. (2009). The Heritage of Civilizations, vol. 1., 8th ed. Prentice Hall. Upper Saddle Hill, New Jersey.
Grubin, D. (2010). The Buddha: A Film by David Grubin. Aired April 7th, 2010 on PBS. United States: David Grubin Productions.
Ibrahim, I.A. (1997). A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam, 2nd ed. Darussalam. Houston.
Mayan Religion (2011). Religion Facts: Mayan Religion (Article). Access on October 4th, 2013 at http://www.religionfacts.com/mayan_religion/index.htm
O'Brien, B. (n.d.). The Lotus Sutra: An Overview (Article). Accessed on September 22, 2013 at http://prezi.com/gvog1rzm5uqg/edit/#79_17945702. Buddhism.about.com
Rhys Davids, T.W.(1881). The Buddhist Suttas, vol. XI of The Sacred Volumes of the East. Accessed on October 4th, 2013 at http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/sbe11/index.htm. The Claredon Press, Oxford.
Gods and Goddesses of the Maya
They Mayans did not see a distinction between the material and spiritual realm(Craig et al., p. 413). They did believe in an after life, as well as a heaven and hell, but "heaven" was reserved for those who died in childbirth and sacrifice; all other Mayans werresigned to the dangerous trip through the underworld (religionfacts.com).
They also believed in a cycle of creation and destruction through which Earth has undergone various times. Religion also played an important role in poiltics since rulers were the intermediaries of the Gods (Craig, et al., p.412-413).
The Mayans were as scientific as they were religious and were avid astrologers. Off of their precise observations, they were able to create highly accurate calendars. The held time to be incredibly important and explains the care taken in their creation (religionfacts.com).
Similar to Greek and Roman culture, the Mayans absorbed much of their beliefs from earlier or coexisting cultures and some of the same deities were worshiped under different names from people to people. Gods also controlled most every aspect of daily life.
Chac was a highly worshiped deity in late Mayan history. He is depicted riding a serpent and brought the rains that nourished crops. It is believed that part of the dilapidation of the Mayan state was due to loss of trade routes and agriculture which may explain the increased worship in later years.
Many aspects of life had a deity that an adherent could call upon. Acat was the God of life and development in the womb(religionfacts.com).
As there was a god for life, there was for death. Many incarnations of this God exist - Ahpuch was the lord of sacrifice, death in childbirth and hanging(religionfacts.com).
Nohochacyum was believed to the god of all creation, and also a protector of evil (http://www.scns.com/earthen/other/seanachaidh/godmaya.html).
Music by Trifonic
"Parks on Fire"
The Mayans rose around 300 BCE.. Like many of the south American cultures, they absorbed much of the ideas and practices of the Teotihuacan culture, such as human sacrifice and even some of the same Gods; Quetzalcoatl is worshiped as Kukulkan by the Mayans (Craig, et al., p. 411).
One dynasty dominated out of the central city of Tikal until the eighth century C.E., producing a total of thirty-nine rules. A tomb indicates that one, Great Jaguar Paw, dominated Uxacutun in 378 and placed a family member as the city's ruler. In 379 C.E., a new ruler, Curl Nose, ascended the throne and integrated Mayan culture with the Teotihuacan through marriage.
In 682, Ah Cacau (r.682-723?) takes the throne in Tikal and ushers in a new age of Mayan prosperity after a crushing defeat from the city of Caracol. He also initiates alliances through strategic marriages. Additionally, Ah Cacau and his two successors would greatly contribute to many of the monuments still standing today (Craig et al., p. 415).
Another well known Mayan dynasty hails from the city of Pelenque. The legendary ruler Lord Pacal was buried in a tomb bearing inscriptions that told the dynastic history back to what historians consider mythical rulers. Pelenque produced innovative architecture but fell around 800 to 900 C.E., due to a possible variety of reasons.
The last known centers of Mayan civilization are in the Southern Yucatan - Chichen Itza had one of the largest known Mayan ball courts. Chichen Itza soon too fell, and the main city eventually relocation to Mayapan but also lost i's sway around the same time of the Spanish Conquest (and likely, due in large part to this event)(Craig, et al., p. 415).
Traditions and Practices
The Mayans had a varied set of rituals. Priests practiced divination based off of precise astrological observation which also formed the basis of their calendar.
Priests were responsible for determining auspicious days from inauspicious ones. They advised on all matters, from warfare to harvest.
Perhaps well known to many, the Mayans also practiced human sacrifice.
The Ball Game ritual re-enacts the Mayan creation myth of the legendary Hero Twins who defeated the denizens of the underworld and were reborn as Venus and the Sun; The
Mayans had a particular interest in the movements of the planet Venus. It is
believed that the losers (perhaps
sometimes the winners) of the game
would be sacrificed to the Gods.
While sacrifice and bloodletting took the
spotlight for religious practices, prayer was not a foreign concept. They also practiced song and dance (religionfacts.com).
Sacrificial victims were tortured and mutilated before their date with the deities. The priests and aristocracy were also expected to perform self torture and bloodletting in order to appease the gods and maintain cosmic order. The more royal or noble, the more blood they would be expected to give.