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Explain how 3 of 12 theories of human nature (Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Plato, Aristotle, Bible, Islam, Kant, Max, Freud, Sartre, and Darwin)

1. Identify and outline a research topic of interest related to the study of human nature.

2. Explain how at least three of the theories of human nature would approach this topic.

3. Evaluate and contrast each of the positions.

4. Formulate and discuss your own position on your topic.

A research topic of interest related to the study of human nature (Spirituality)

Human nature is the basic ground of the development of man. The study of human nature is extremely intriguing. Human psychology is complex and cannot be explained by their choices in terms of religion, holy scriptures, principles or faiths.

A topic which can somewhat help in the study of human psychology or human nature is Spirituality. Three different religious faiths are discussed in connection to spirituality namely Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity and an evaluation and comparative discussion is done.

The aim of this report is to understand the role of Spirituality in studying human nature, the approach of the three religions namely Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity to Spirituality and finally arrive at an understanding as to how these religious faiths influence human nature.

Human nature and its study are extremely intriguing since time immemorial and the interdisciplinary investigation of the varied factors that affect human behaviour is quite a lengthy one. Human nature is an amalgamation of several qualities and abilities, the power of reasoning, emotional qualities, ability to love, empathy and so on (Fedele & Knibbe, 2013).

A research topic that helps in better study of human nature is Spirituality. Spirituality advocates the existence of a supreme power and a supreme consciousness that created the entire universe and even man. Spirituality helps follow the inner voice, which is inherent in every individual (Pargament et al., 2013). It helps understand the importance of living a value-based life, focuses on people being God believing rather than God fearing. The concept of God is synonymous with supreme consciousness under the tenets of spirituality. It teaches individuals to break free from the shackles of conformity and obedience and encourages them to create their own path and follow it (Koenig, 2012).

Spirituality provides courage and the mental strength to overcome any obstacle that may come in the path of any individual (Sutcliffe & Gilhus, 2014). Human nature and its attributes are quite widespread and varied so it serves a unifying role helping people of varied character and personality to follow a serene and beautiful path obliterating all chances of inferiority complex, fearful mentalities lack of courage, dearth of fighting spirit and any sort of negativity (Nelson-Becker et al., 2013).

Spirituality never pressurises any believer to follow a particular pattern of thoughts or doctrines or principles but encourages every person to go with their own belief. It not only unifies people of different religious orientations but also helps every individual become a better, more considerate, compassionate, gracious and thoughtful person (Spezzano & Gargiulo, 2013). People can improve their concepts of spirituality through meditation, yoga, early morning walks and thus become mentally and physically healthy. Spirituality is synonymous with positivity and helps improve self-esteem (Sheldrake, 2013).

Therefore, the research topic is

Topic: Spirituality and its impact on human nature

Hinduism believes in the existence of a supreme being who is all pervasive, transcendent and immanent both in Uni-manifest Reality. This concept is similar to the concept of supreme consciousness and power in spirituality. Hindus believe in the divinity of the sacred scriptures or Vedas. Hindus believe in the concept of karma also in the concept of fate. The concept of karma is also prevalent in the domain of spirituality though the underlying doctrines may be a bit different. Hindus believe that the concept of Truth is eternal and truth is the basic essence of the universe, which is in a way similar to the belief of spiritualty as it also enforces the practice of saying whatever is true as well as believing in the concept of adhering to truth (Knott, 2016).

Approach of Hinduism to Spirituality

Hindus believe that the Vedas or the Vedic scriptures are supreme and all important and everything they preach is above any doubt or rethinking. This concept does not find much similarity with the concept of spirituality. Spirituality focuses on the individual and his perceptions rather than on any scripture or any saying.

Hinduism focuses on the concept of dharma. The concept of dharma cannot be specifically explained in clear terms but it basically covers the concepts of moral conduct, righteousness, moral law and duty. Spirituality may not cover the concept of dharma but the characteristics that are covered under dharma are also taught by spirituality.

Hindus believe in the concept of immortality, that is, they believe there is life after death and no soul created is ever destroyed or lost. After death, the soul residing in a particular body changes bodies but it itself lives. This concept is known as “transmigration”. The concept of immortality is present in spirituality as well. In case of spirituality, one should focus on being a moral, principled individual having all the good attributes to be able to attain immortality at his own will even the concepts of teleportation or transporting the bodies from place to place along with the souls is also taken into consideration. An individual who follows the concepts of good conduct, social responsibility and also possesses the humane qualities of forgiveness, empathy, sympathy and the correct emotional balance can attain immortality (Monier-Williams, 2014).

Hinduism believes in the concept of “Moksha” or “liberation”. The aim of any person should be to attain moksha. Liberation is nothing but the idea of the soul’s release from the cycle of death and also from rebirth. The theory of liberation is also prevalent in spirituality.

From the discussion, it is evident that there are many links connecting Hinduism to spirituality though certain differences are also present. In case of religion, also somewhat for Hinduism, there is a tendency to bind the followers to certain rules or beliefs but spirituality is broader and open, where the individual is free to seek and experience.

Buddhism is quite a common and much prevalent philosophy founded by Siddartha Gautama in the 5th century BC.  The fundamental concept of Buddhism is the concept of reincarnation or the concept of being reborn after dying. Rather, according to common notion, a person has to undergo many cycles of birth, life, death and then again rebirth but Buddhism focuses on the concept of reincarnation, which is actually, the occurrence of an individual repeatedly.  In case of rebirth, an individual does not return to the earth as the same entity again (Mathers, 2013).

The practices of Buddhism focuses on “Sila” which refers to morality, virtue and good conduct depending on principles of equality, reciprocity that is to do and behave with others as  people would expect them to behave, the concept of “Samadhi” or turning one’s mind to the path of freedom also enforcing mental development and concentration. Lastly the theory of “prajna” or insight, wisdom, enlightenment, discernment which is the real essence of Buddhism. Wisdom will emerge from purity and calmness of the mind (Kristeller & Rapgay, 2013).

Approach of Buddhism to Spirituality

Buddhism also covers the four noble truths of “dukkha”, “samudaya”, “nirodha” and “magga” which means that suffering exists, there is a cause for suffering, there is an end to suffering and in order to end all suffering one must follow the eightfold path or “Majjhima patha”.

Spirituality may not have the exact tenets of Buddhism, like the eight-fold path or four noble truths but it definitely advocates good values and social empathy. Buddhism advocates a life free of luxuries and anything socially alluring (Kristeller & Rapgay, 2013). Rather than focussing on deity worship, Buddhism focuses more on inculcating human values as well as the causes and existence of suffering (McMahan, 2012).

Christianity is the closest to spirituality in the sense that Christians believe in the concept of God and advocate the principles mentioned  in the Bible. The principles taught by Jesus Christ and his tenets are followed in Christianity.

Christianity focuses on the morality, ethical values and tenets taught in the Bible, the holy book of Christianity. Christianity focuses on how, different aspects of life connect to God rather than focusing on the physical, social, financial and other areas. It focuses on the personal maturity and inculcates different values, also gives importance to the matters of the heart and attitude. It believes in the concept of sin and eradication of sin (Kulis, 2012).

Christianity focuses on the morality of its followers as also gives importance to their religious scripture, the Bible. In this aspect spirituality differs from Christianity in the sense that it does not have any scripture or book of rules or set principles, it leaves the virtues to be implemented to the people themselves.

Different religions have different philosophies and varied approaches to human life. Some faiths are strict; the principles involve conservative mindsets, orthodox concepts while some are relatively liberal. Hinduism and Buddhism are similar with respect to few ideals, but Hinduism involves certain orthodox decisions whereas Buddhism focuses on leading a life free of luxuries (Kulis, 2012).

Christianity is similar to spirituality in some aspects but the allegiance to the Bible is one of the key differences. It can be said that, different doctrines or faiths have different rules and principles but an individual’s choices help determine his personality (Paloutzian & Park, 2014).

Different religions have unique doctrines or principles, which their followers abide by. Spirituality unites all believers and leads them towards a life of mental and emotional well-being. Being spiritual or religious is a personal choice depending on the person concerned. Religious faiths may be strict, orthodox and also may have certain conformities and in maximum cases religious faith is imposed on a particular person from birth itself and he or she has no choice but to abide by those religious doctrines or follow the rituals as mentioned in religious scriptures or holy books or preached by religious gurus.

Conclusion:

Human nature is extremely diverse and so are human personalities. Particularly one aspect of human nature cannot be specified in connection to a religious faith or the principles a person follows. Spirituality is an aspect inherent or dominant in every faith and helps in the personality development of an individual.

Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity may be different doctrines but their underlying message is the same towards all humankind: to do good to all and sundry and to be responsible people, to show humane attributes, to be sympathetic, caring, empathetic and understanding towards the needs of the people around and inherently be good human beings. But in some cases, blindly following certain faiths lead to orthodox concepts and often religious feuds.

Thus, it can be concluded that, though people may choose whether to follow spiritual ideals or not, religious orientation may not be in their hands. Hence a person should not be judged on the basis of his religion or his faith or the holy scripture he adheres to.

References:

Fedele, A., & Knibbe, K. E. (Eds.). (2013). Gender and power in contemporary spirituality: Ethnographic approaches (Vol. 26). Routledge.

Knott, K. (2016). Hinduism: a very short introduction (Vol. 5). Oxford University Press.

Koenig, H. G. (2012). Religion, spirituality, and health: the research and clinical implications. ISRN psychiatry, 2012.

Kristeller, J., & Rapgay, L. (2013). Buddhism: A blend of religion, spirituality, and psychology.

Kulis, S., Hodge, D. R., Ayers, S. L., Brown, E. F., & Marsiglia, F. F. (2012). Spirituality and religion: Intertwined protective factors for substance use among urban American Indian youth. The American journal of drug and alcohol abuse, 38(5), 444-449.

Mathers, D. (2013). Self and no-self: Continuing the dialogue between Buddhism and psychotherapy. Routledge.

McMahan, D. L. (2012). The enchanted secular: Buddhism and the emergence of transtraditional “spirituality.”. The Eastern Buddhist, 43(1), 205-223.

Monier-Williams, M. (2014). Buddhism, in its Connexion with Brahmanism and Hinduism, and in its Contrast with Christianity (Vol. 45). NEW YORK: MACMILLAN AND CO.

Nelson-Becker, H., Ai, A. L., Hopp, F. P., McCormick, T. R., Schlueter, J. O., & Camp, J. K. (2013). Spirituality and religion in end-of-life care ethics: The challenge of interfaith and cross-generational matters. British Journal of Social Work, 45(1), 104-119.

Paloutzian, R. F., & Park, C. L. (Eds.). (2014). Handbook of the psychology of religion and spirituality. Guilford Publications.

Pargament, K. I., Mahoney, A., Exline, J. J., Jones, J. W., & Shafranske, E. P. (2013). Envisioning an integrative paradigm for the psychology of religion and spirituality. American Psychological Association.

Sheldrake, P. (2013). Spirituality: A brief history. John Wiley & Sons.

Spezzano, C., & Gargiulo, G. J. (Eds.). (2013). Soul on the couch: Spirituality, religion, and morality in contemporary psychoanalysis (Vol. 7). Routledge.

Sutcliffe, S. J., & Gilhus, I. S. (2014). New age spirituality: rethinking religion. Routledge.

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