An Overview of Hinduism and Buddhism Religions

Hinduism can be defined as a religious tradition that has its origin from the Indian sub-continent that advocates for an eternal way of life. As a religion, it encompasses all the traditions that are aligned to the Vedas and is seen as a family of religions which lacks a common body of teachings, a common leader or a common center unlike in the other religions. Hinduism is one of the oldest religion in the world (Bhaskarananda, S. (1994)).

Question 1: What are the four goals of human life for Hindus?

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Hinduism has four goals of the human life which are referred to as purushartha (http://hinduism.about.com/) .These goals relate to the peoples’ attitude to life as well as their daily conduct. One of the goals is Dharma, which encourages righteousness, the virtues and duty in followers. The Hindus in addition, are allowed by their religion to seek materials gains or wealth by the second goal known as the Artha. The third goal of human life in Hindus is Kama, which promotes the satisfaction of human pleasures and desires such as sex. The fourth goal is Moksha which addresses the liberation of the human soul from the never-ending cycle of birth and death, which usually occurs when a person realizes God.

Question 2: Define: Karma, Atman, Tantricism, Sadhu, Yoga, and Bhagavad-Gita.

In Hinduism, the term Karma defines  one of the religions’ the natural law  which tries to explain “the cause and effect”. This law supports the notion that, our good or bad actions tend to always come back to us in  our future days. Atma defines the human soul or one self, where the  human self is looked at in relation to the essential divinity or light of  consciousness  in each person/believer. Tantricism in the Hindu religion refers is one of the religion’s  important sect whereby sexual freedom is acknowledged to play a very important role in liberating the soul.

Sadhu is a person who usually practices Yoga in order to seek liberation through the meditation of God. A Sadhu  gives up all the other three human life goals(Kama, Artha, and duty) in order to practice yoga to achieving Moksha. The Bhagavad-Gita is one of the Hindus important religious texts  which comprises of the 700-verses of the Sankirt poem, which  forms a very vital basis of the Hindu belief.

Question 3: What is the view of women in pre-modern Hinduism? In the modern period, since                      the 19th century?

Before  modernization, the Hindu religion had  differing views about women and men. The views  included that, a woman  was a form of energy(Shaktiswarupini), the auspicious one(Mother Goddess) and was her husband’s partner in  undertaking all the religious duties (Saha dharma).She was also seen as a man’s property and responsibility after marriage and was expected to live a solitary  or a forlorn life in her old age. A widow was expected to commit ‘sati’ by offering  herself to be burned during her husband’s funeral, if the husband  died. Furthermore, she would also be expected  to turn to social damnation or become perennially solitude if the husband died. In the  pre-modern Hinduism, a woman’s status was very low compared to that of a man.

In the modern world, a  Hindu woman’s  status has been raised  compared to the one during the pre-modern era where the religious practices that exposed women to discrimination and social injustices have been done away with. For instance, sati has been phased out. Though initially Hindu women could not take part in politics, the modern society has accepted women as political leaders, a good example being,  India’s Sonia Gandhi. Manusmriti is  no longer practiced. These changes have made it possible for  modern Hindu women  to be accorded equal rights just like men, and they can even enjoy privileges and rights that they were earlier denied.

Question 4: What are the key features of the Jain and Sikh religions?

Jain  can be termed as a syncretistic religion which shares some similar elements with both the Hinduism and the Buddhism religions and  has five key features that make it distinct from other religions. One of the features is the Ahimsa principle,  which advocates against  any form of violence towards the humans, animals or even plants. Another feature, Satya, encourages honesty while  the Asteya principle discourages stealing. The fourth principle or feature is the Brahma-charya which promotes monogamy. The fifth principle,  Aparigraha, advocates against attachment of people to places,  to the other people or to material gains.

The Sikh  religion emerged from  the religious teachings of a Sikh spiritual  leader referred to as Guru Nanak(http://www.srigurugranthsahib.org/).The religions key features  include, simplicity, lack of belief in supernaturalism, lack of belief in devils or angels, and is opposed to ritualism.Futhermore, the religion discourages its followers against any form of blind obedience to the external authority, and promotes hopeful and cheerful faith. The religion is democratic.

Question 5: In your virtual trip to a Hindu temple, what did you learn about Hindu temples?                   The Hindu  temples depicts certain issues that make them unique and sacred(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindu_temples). One thing that can be learnt from the tour is that, the temples are a sign of a holy place  of worship that the Hindus reserve entirely for either the spiritual or religious activities. The temples show a common feature of having a deity, who often has the temple dedicated to him/her. In addition, the temples may have other subordinate deities who may be linked to the main deity. Symbols(Murti) can also be found in the temples,  which teach and promote values that the Hindu religion is built on.

Assignment 2

Question 1: What are the four Noble Truths?

Buddhism has four noble truths which were given to the Buddhists through the first sermon of Buddha, after his enlightenment (Buswell, R,. 2003). These truths  are, the noble truth that is “suffering”, “ arising of suffering”, “end of suffering”, and   “the way leading to the end of suffering”( http://www.buddhanet.net/sitemap.htm).

Question 2: Define: Anatman, nirvana, bodhisattva, Chan (Zen) Buddhism.

Anatman is one of the core values of the Buddhist philosophy which supports the idea of “non-self”, where the limitation of self-identity in things and the people is discouraged. Nirvana refers to the Buddhists’  state of Enlightenment, where a person is freed from individual existence and suffering. The  Bodhisattva is a person who after discovering the nirvana postpones his Enlightenment, so that he can assume the responsibility of guiding the others towards the same source of the fulfillment. The Chan(Japanese) or Zen(Chinese)  is one of the Mahayana Buddhism schools.

Question 3: What are the basic differences between Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana                Buddhism?

The Theravada ,Mahayana, and Vajrayana comprise the three  branches of  Buddhism which vary in  their religious practices and beliefs(http://www.ciolek.com/WWWVL-Buddhism.html ). The Theravada Buddhism has the most conservative teachings of the Buddhism amongst the three branches, because the believers observe the teachings of the religion’s elders. The Mahayana Buddhism is second when it comes to the evolution of the religion and its basic principles are ,salvation, universalism, enlightened  wisdom and compassion. Its beliefs are less conservative than those of the Theravada Buddhism. The  third branch, Vajrayana Buddhism came third in the evolution of the religion, and has  more additional religious material than the other two branches. The branch has adopted practices that are not found in the other branches, practices that they believe the Buddha never taught his followers because he considered them too advanced.

Question 4: What is the role of women in the various traditions of Buddhism?

A woman’s role in the ancient Buddhism and modern Buddhism varies. In the ancient times, women  had very limited freedom and rights in carrying out religious duties compared to the men.  A woman was seen to have her place at home and not in the temple. Furthermore, women were also viewed as objects of revulsion by religious males(monks), and  were treated as objects of breeding, nurturing and entertaining men. However,  a few of them  were anointed as religious nuns. In the modern  Buddhism, women have been accorded a greater religious role with some being anointed in the higher positions of  leadership.

Question 5: What are the chief sites of the Buddha’s life that Buddhists hold sacred?
Buddhists consider some of the Buddha’s life sites sacred due to the value these sites give to their religion(http://www.webster.edu/depts/artsci/religion/mandala/.). The sites of Buddha’s birth, Enlightenment, first discourse and death are  considered  sacred. Some examples of these sites include, the Bodhgaya, the Sacred Ganges River, Mahabodhi temple,Vaishali, Mayadevi temple,Mahaparinirvana and  the Sal tree in Siddhartha .

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