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Eurasian Cultural Traditions

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Ashley Leyba

on 21 September 2015

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Transcript of Eurasian Cultural Traditions

Questions to Consider
Why do these traditions emerge when they do?
What are the similarities and differences b/t different belief systems?
To whom would these belief systems appeal and why?
Eurasian Cultural Traditions
500 BCE- 500 CE

India
Religion evolves over several centuries along with Indian civilization
Polytheistic

Ritual sacrifice--> Philosophical Speculation--> Devotional Worship
Persia
Movement towards monotheism
Radical cultural innovation
Greece
No lasting religious tradition
Move away from mythology towards rationalism (5th-4th centuries BCE); esp. prominent in Athens
Emphasis on logic, argument, questioning of received wisdom
Flourishing of science, philosophy during this period
Socrates, Aristotle as major examples
Middle East/Rome
Christianity
Begins as a small Jewish sect in Israel/Palestine, but flourishes under Saint Paul in the Eastern Roman empire
China
Warring States period creates unrest
Several responses
Legalism
Confucianism
Daoism
Confucianism
Confucius, 6th century BCE
Built around relationships (superior to inferior)
Social harmony achieved through moral example
Secular (though doesn't conflict with gods)
HUGE emphasis on family and filial piety
Education is important
Works well with government/state/authority
Daoism
Laozi, 6th century BCE
Encourages a withdrawal from society into nature
Simple living, spontaneous behavior
Could be at odds with state
Gave philosophical underpinning to some peasant rebellions
Are Confucianism and Daoism compatible?
Sacred Texts: Vedas

Collections of poems,hymns, prayers, and rituals
Compiled by Brahmins; written down in Sanskrit ~600 BCE
Details very elaborate rituals and sacrifices, all presided over by the Brahmins


Buddhism
Siddhartha Gautama, 6th century BCE
Becomes known as the Buddha ("Enlightened one")
Suffering as universal feature of human life (caused by desire for individual fulfillment)
Cure is found in living a simple, moral life combined with meditation
Could achieve nirvana--Enlightenment
No elaborate rituals or abstract speculation
Challenged caste system
Divinity of the Buddha?
Buddhism eventually declines in India
Revived Hinduism takes its place
Bhagavad Gita
Ordinary people, not just Brahmins could make spiritual progress
Also on the rise: Bhakti movement that focuses on intense worship of one of the deities
Zoroastrianism
Zarathustra, 6th/7th century BCE
Prophet
Single god, Ahura Mazda, ruled the world and was the source of all truth, light, and goodness
Introduces good/evil dichotomy
Very popular within the region, but did not spread (no missionaries)
Eventually falls out of favor, though aspects of it are incorporated into other faiths
Judaism
Arises amongst the Hebrews
Religious ideology developed during the 9th-6th centuries BCE
Single god, Yahweh, who demands complete loyalty (10 commandments)
Transcendent deity who could communicate with his followers
Transforms from god of war to god of social justice and compassion for the marginalized
Belief in the Jews as chosen people
Text: Old Testament (religion codified)
Christianity
Based on life and death of Jesus
Social critique
St. Paul
Don't need to follow Jewish rituals and customs
Theoretically egalitarian (but actually patriarchal)
Earliest converts were from the lower classes in cities (why is this?)

Sacred Texts:
Upanishads
800-400 BCE
Attempts to uncover meaning of the sacrifices outlined in the Vedas
External ritual gave way to introspection
Goal: Moksha (liberation); takes several lifetimes to achieve this (leads to belief in reincarnation)
Karma
Connected to social status (dharma)
Devotional Worship
Christianity and the State

Antagonistic towards state and polytheism
Ends with conversion of Constantine in 4th century CE
Hierarchy developed as faith spreads
Clashes over interpretation
Daoism and Metallurgy
Drawn to alchemy
Why?
Extensive knowledge of metals, which proved to be very useful for China
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