Choose one of the topic :
- Choose the three world religious traditions you most prefer and define the best insights/strongest points of each. Explain what the resultant worldview looks like and why it is a viable alternative not simply for yourself, but for people in general (be mindful of the fact that others may disagree, so consider how you can defend your view).
- Create your own religion from the best ideas, insights and orientations you have learned in the course. How does your religion satisfy the common components of religion (doctrine, myth, ritual, symbol, etc.) and what is the resultant worldview (Reality; The Divine; Nature; Self; Life after Death; Society; Ethics; etc.). Lastly, what is its “center”? How do you defend your overall religious view?
- Evaluate the claim that all world religions are striving for the same thing and that they are all derived from the same source. Many say this, but is it true? If so, what are they striving for, and what is their common source? Use the religions and their key doctrines to make a case for or against this claim.
- Compare and contrast Eastern and Western Religion on major philosophical-religious issues, such as: the existence of God; the conception of God/Divinity; the Sacred; personal identity; the meaning of existence; the idea and path of salvation; etc. In your response you can take a position on which orientation (East or West) is preferred and defend it against alternatives; or, you can argue that East and West are not as different as they first appear. If you also wish to use Primal Religions, include it as a separate category as it is not considered Eastern or Western (in this case you would be looking at three orientations).
- What are your present religious views in light of this survey of World Religious and Spiritual Traditions?
Have they changed? If so, how? If not, why not? What was most interesting, influential? Where do your roads of inquiry lead to now? Have you been able to accept or deny some ideas and orientations? Have new directions emerged? There are several ways of going about this response, but be sure to formulate a good thesis, utilize solid organization, and source strongly from a wide range of religions.
- Interpret Western religion from the standpoint of a Buddhist. Include a critique as well as an instructional lesson on Enlightenment inclusive of key Buddhist views, concepts and practices, explaining in the process the errors of the Western religious views (from the Buddhist perspective).
- Compare and contrast the figure of Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita and Jesus in Christianity. What are their respective teachings, where are they similar and different, and, what is the ultimate message of each? Is one preferred?
- Create a dialogue between two of the following: Buddha, Jesus, Lao Tzu or Chuang Tzu, Muhammad, and Moses. Have them discuss various religious issues, stemming from their original sayings, and covering
1 major religious issues (i.e. life, the meaning of life, salvation, faith, knowledge, self, society, death, eternity, etc.). Where do they agree and where do they disagree? Is there a winner in this dialogue?
- Examine the role of earthly possessions and/or sensual pleasures in all (or some) of the religions we have looked at, and support or refute the general trend against the material and sensual we see in religious thought. Utilize various religions, insights, doctrines and passages as well as your own thoughts.
- As above (No. 9), but examine the role of attachments (i.e. to others, life, actions, emotions, sensations, perceptions, ideas, etc.) in at least two religions we have explored. If you are using Christianity in this response, deal with the sayings of Jesus in addition to the advice of Paul. Clarify your thesis in this topic.
- Combine three religious traditions we have explored to formulate what is for you the best advice for the salvation of the modern world, both individually and collectively. Salvation can be defined in many ways be sure to be clear what you mean by this term. Also, be mindful of opposing views – how are they to be refuted?
- Compare and contrast ultimate reality and salvation in Hinduism (focusing on Upanishads) and Buddhism (either the Theravada or Mahayana traditions). Are they compatible? What do you learn?
- Create a topic of personal interest; formulate an outline, then verify the topic with your instructor before beginning.
Doctrines of Hinduism
The world has many religions that belong to diverse range of people. Every one of those religions has distinct flavors and different ways of looking at the world. The largest among this wide range of world religions are Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism. Among these, Hinduism has been seen as one of the oldest religions with a vast area of richly crafted knowledge and philosophy. This study has focused on Hinduism in order to summarize its important doctrines or beliefs. On the other hand, this study has illuminated the role of Bhagavat Gita in the realm of Hinduism in order to put forward the significance of this both as a religious text and as a philosophical account.
Hinduism, as a religion, has been originated ten or twenty thousand years ago in India. Like other religions, Hinduism also followed a chain of small and big modifications as time passed but the main belief has been a constant throughout the whole time. Being a part of a wide range of population, Hinduism has been one of the most distinct religions that foreground diversity and unity simultaneously. For that reason, while Hinduism talks about numerous gods and goddesses, it also portrays existence of ‘one’ omnipotent God who created all (Novak 151). In this context, it can be mentioned that morality is an important element in the making of the Supreme Being that is called Brahma in the Hindu religion. On the other hand, Vishnu is seen as the creator of every life in the sphere of earth who is described as being in a half sleep like state on the surface of water. This description foregrounds a deeply rooted belief which supports the concept of subconscious as the most powerful part of the mind.
Hinduism celebrates pluralistic and organic nature of Hindu traditions. This is so because this religion believes that there is not any singular version of truth or reality. Thus, interpretation of truth, morality and reality are as diverse and multileveled as the number of Gods and goddesses in this religion. Thus, Hinduism believes that there are many ways of seeking truth (Novak 45). The concept of Guru is another important aspect of this religion that is seen as a possessor of superior level of authority. In order to be more specific, it can be said that the concept of Guru has been conditioned by multifaceted space, time, and consciousness and even by geographic location. This wide range of conditions illuminates the fact that religious truth can be perceived from many angles. Tolerance is seen as being in the core of Hindu belief or virtue. They believe in a set of traditions, customs, ideals and myths as forbearers of their doctrines.
Among five strands of Hinduism including practice, story, society and devotion, doctrine has been seen as one of the most important element that is responsible for giving a shape to this ancient religion. Doctrines of Hinduism are expressed and written down in the form of Vedas and Upanishads, religious texts of Hinduism. The wide range of doctrines can be summarized through defining the concepts of God, Dharma, Karma, Varnashram, afterlife, rebirth and the concept of Moksha (Novak 23). According to Hinduism, the world and its habitants have been created because of a sacrifice made by a god namely Purusha. In this context, it can be said that Hinduism believes that caste system or Varnaved has been generated at the time of the creation. Another belief says that all are created from Brahma and all will be withdrawn into the same after their deaths. Best element in Hindu religion is that their doctrines show the belief in god’s existence in each and every natural thing. Thus, from trees to rivers, from rats to cows, everything is celebrated and worshipped in this religion.
Exploration of Bhagavad Gita
From the perspective of Hinduism on rebirth and death, this can be mentioned that Hinduism believes that main purpose of human life is to overcome the cycle of rebirth and death. This is so because the main motto of the soul is to be reunited with the Supreme Being, Brahma at the end (Novak 211). Thus, it can be said that Hinduism believes in after life and concept of rebirth but ultimately supports the concept of Moksha or liberation from the self. Klesh or suffering has always been connected with life while Mukti or peace has been connected with death or end of human life. This implies that Hinduism sees human beings as server of greater purpose and not just as materialistic beings. For this reason, mind or soul has always given more preference than the body that is prone to destruction.
Another important element in Hinduism is the concept of Karma. The earliest texts of Hinduism supports hereditary preferences as forbearers of fate but later this religion became remarkable for discussing the role and significance of action in the making of one’s fate (Novak 317). Human actions have been termed as the word Karma that has now became its one and only signifier and that has no substitution in any language. It can be stated that Karma has been explained in Hinduism as one’s acts throughout their lives and their respective consequences. It is believed that everyone paves their own ways to the hell or to the heaven.
Concept of Dharma is important here which can be defined as list of moral duties of human beings. Hinduism believes that if someone acts against the norms of Dharma then the person is doomed to be punished in the afterlife or in the next life. The motto of this teaching is to motivate people to act morally and ethically in order to restrain them from making crimes. In this context, it can be mentioned that Hinduism foregrounds several principles of living such as contentment, tolerance, honesty, modesty, forgiveness and most importantly, truthfulness (Novak 278). Yoga has been included in the doctrines of Hinduism as the only paths that can lead to the Supreme Being before being dead. Unlike many Western interpretations of this word, Yoga stands for an absolute state of knowledge that makes an individual aware of the purpose of the self. Moreover, immortality of souls has been given most importance in Hinduism that explains the fact that there is no escape from one’s Karma even after the death or ever.
Bhagavad Gita is a part of Mahabharata, the Hindu epic that has been written in Sanskrit in the form of a verse. This scripture has multilayered significance today. This is so because not only this is a great work of literature but also a great philosophical text. On the other hand, many key concepts in Hindu spirituality have been introduced through this epic verse. With 700 poems and 18 chapters, Bhagavad Gita becomes one of the most significant mythological texts that explain the place and role of God and humans as per Hinduism.
One of the most important features of this verse is that Gita questions the basic assumption of Hinduism that preaches to retain a life of a monk in order to get salvation and peace. As per the plot of this verse or of Mahabharata, two groups of people belonging from the same royal family fight for the single throne and in the end the righteous party wins (Novak 153). Involvement of Gods is less in this epic unlike other earlier mythological accounts and the only role Krishna (God) has played here is the role of a guide. In this regard, this can be added that Gita has been included in this epic as exchange of dialogues between Arjuna and Krishna. Arjuna has come to fight his own family members, whom he dearly loves, just because they are on the opposite party and thus is highly confused regarding whether to fight or to go back. In this conflicting moment, Krishna, the driver of his Rath (chariot) preaches him about the main purpose of his life and about the ways of the world. Thus, Gita is a medium of making Arjuna realize his actual duties as a real warrior. In other words, Gita foregrounds a conversation between the god and the man. The motto of this conversation is to convince Arjuna to battle on the ground that no one is immortal and everyone’s fate has already been decided by the ultimate supreme God.
One of the most important themes of this verse is that God is everywhere and God is supreme who is unaffected, abstract and constant. Unlike other spiritual texts, this text sides with the idea that God has no specific gender but is actually the mixture of every kind of gender. Apart from that, Gita says that there is a permanent self in each and everyone that cannot be destroyed even after death (Novak 44). This concept of soul has been termed as Atman in this epic that has been described as an unchanging and real essence of every species. On the other hand, this text considers the fact that the world is transient where every matter is mortal. In other words, everything, that constitutes the Nature, has a limited existence. This implies that reality, that we see, is impermanent and the actual reality exists beneath the skin.
Furthermore, some important concepts have been introduced through Bhagavad Gita that includes concepts of Karma, Dharma, Bhakti and Jnana. All these are chosen as different types of ways that leads one to the ultimate Supreme Being. Among these, Bhakti refers to a kind of unconditional devotion and surrender to the God. Jnana can be translated as knowledge but actually this stands for a kind of wisdom that lets a person see the true essence of Brahma or God. On the other hand, the concept of Dharma is similar to the concept of righteousness. The difference lies in the fact that in this verse, dharma has been described as something that situational and not universal (Novak 39). For example, Arjuna and his opponents have been involved in the same bloodshed and in the same fight but the difference lies on the fact that Arjuna has been fighting for the right reason and for the betterment of the society. In this regard, this can be mentioned that concept of Dharma has been presented in a very complex way in this verse that includes various duties or roles of a single person. It has been mentioned that a person has to be dutiful to each and every role that the person plays in the lifetime.
In order to be more specific, this can be added that the purpose of this verse is to make the humankind understand the real meaning of the action and the outcome. For that reason, Krishna instructs Arjuna to do his work that he has been assigned to and not to think about its consequences. This is so because fighting the battle of Kurukshtra is the ultimate purpose of his life as he belongs to class of Khatriyas (warrior class). Among many themes and symbols, war is one of the most significant one that signifies a battle of the mind (Novak 167). This implies that the motto of the conversation between the man and the God is to help the man (Arjuna) so that he can win the battle between virtue and vice that is going on inside the psyche of Arjuna. This victory over one’s own dilemmas can only lead one to the ultimate liberation that is the liberation from the self.
This study has focused on main doctrines of Hinduism through a detailed analysis of Hinduism. For that reason, the study has illuminated various strands of Hinduism. In addition, the origins and features of Hindu beliefs have been described here. Moreover, Bhagavad Gita has been analyzed in order to foreground important elements of this epic verse. On the other hand, significance of Gita has been elaborated through this study. This has been found that Bhagavad Gita is an integral part of Hinduism that explains the key components of Hindu doctrines.
Novak, Philip. The world's wisdom: Sacred texts of the world's religions. HarperCollins, New York City: US. 1994. Print.
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