WORLD RELIGIONS

A Topical Guide

BY RICHARD A. PRICE

Copyright 2010 by Richard A. Price
All Rights Reserved. No part of this book shall be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, magnetic, photographic including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior written permission of the author. No patent liability is assumed with respect to the use of the information contained herein. Although every precaution has been taken in the preparation of this book, the publisher and author assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. Neither is any liability assumed for damanges resulting from the use of the information contained herein.

Table of Contents
PART I EASTERN RELIGION 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. HINDUISM ..........................................................................................................................3 BUDDHISM - THERAVADA ..............................................................................................8 BUDDHISM - MAHAYANA.............................................................................................12 BUDDHISM - ZEN ............................................................................................................16 BUDDHISM - TIBETAN ...................................................................................................19 BUDDHISM - PURE LAND .............................................................................................21 TAOISM .............................................................................................................................24 CONFUCIANISM ..............................................................................................................28

9. JUDAISM ..........................................................................................................................33 10. ZOROASTRIANISM ........................................................................................................38 11. CHRISTIANITY - CATHOLICISM .................................................................................41 12. CHRISTIANITY - PROTESTANTISM............................................................................49 13. CHRISTIANITY - LATTER-DAY SAINT......................................................................54 14. CHRISTIANITY - NEW THOUGHT...............................................................................59 15. ISLAM............................................................................................................................... 62 PART III WHERE EAST AND WEST MEET 16. SIKHISM ...........................................................................................................................69 17. NEW AGE .........................................................................................................................72

PART II WESTERN RELIGION

EASTERN RELIGION

PART I

BRIEF HISTORY

CHAPTER ONE: HINDUISM

Originally, Hinduism practiced animal sacrifice. After Buddhism replaced Hinduism as the dominant religion in India, Hinduism eliminated this practice. Cattle, the animals sacrificed, then became sacred. This, among other reforms, allowed Hinduism to reassert itself as the dominant religion of India.

Hinduism is so old that its origins cannot be traced to a human founder. It is a synthesis of the religion brought into India by the Aryan migration from the steppes of Russia (1500 B.C.) and indigenous religious thought. The Aryans also migrated into the Persian peninsula and influenced religious development in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia.

Hinduism has no formal organizational structure. A person is born within five possible classes or castes. There is no movement between these castes during the lifetime of the person. These castes are as follows:

ORGANIZATION

1. Brahmin 2. Kshariya 3. Vaishya 4. Shundra -

Some Hindu reformers, including Mahatma Gandhi, have sought to modify or eliminate the caste system. Even though Hinduism has no formal organizational structure, many of the Gurus (teachers) have extensive followings which could be equated to churches in the western sense.

Priests and religious officials. Rulers and warriors. Farmers, merchants and craftsmen. Servants of the upper classes and peasants. 5. Chandalas - Untouchables - Persons outside of castes who do the most menial occupations.

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DEFINITION OF GOD

The concept of God has evolved over time. The original Aryan immigrants worshiped Varuna as the Lord of the Universe and Mitra (Mithra) as the Lord of the Sun. In process of time, Indra, the god of war and storms became more prominent as he frequently needed to be placated.

Today’s Hinduism has a trinity of gods known as Brahmin, the creator, Vishnu, the preserver and Shiva, the destroyer. Vishnu sometimes makes an appearance on the human plane in order to redirect man on a more correct path. These appearances are known as Avatars. Christ, Buddha and others are considered Avatars of Vishnu.

Even though these particular gods are singled out, Hinduism is really a pantheistic religion, regarding all things as an emanation of Brahmin. This is contrasted to monotheism in which God creates the universe, but remains separate from it. In keeping with this pantheistic concept, man is also an emanation of God. Man’s spirit or Atman originates with Brahmin, after which it undergoes countless reincarnations before returning to Brahmin.

LIFE BEFORE BIRTH

OUR PURPOSE ON EARTH

The purpose of our sojourn on earth is to purify our Karma, our essential essence, so that we can achieve a state of bliss known as Nirvana.

MEANS OF REDEMPTION

I. RAJA YOGA - The Yoga of Moral Purification

The purification of Karma is accomplished by the practice of Yoga. There are five main types of Yoga.

Raja Yoga consists of ten practices, five prohibitions and five cultivations. The prohibitions are:

Chapter 1: Hinduism 5
(1) To refrain from doing violence to others. (2) To refrain from the improper use of sex. (3) To refrain from stealing. (4) To refrain from lying. (5) To refrain from covetousness. These principles are similar to the last five of the Ten Commandments. (1) Purification of ones thoughts, language and actions. (2) The practice of contentment. (3) The practice of austerity. (4) The practice of study. The five cultivations are:

(5) The practice of surrendering to God’s will.

II. HATHA YOGA - The Yoga of Physical Discipline

This is the form of Yoga that we are most familiar with. It consists of meditation and various stretching and breathing exercises. It is actually a part of Raja Yoga. This is a form of Yoga which can be practiced in everyday life. It consists of pursuing excellence in one’s occupation. Excellence and not monetary remuneration must be the main emphasis.

III. KARMA YOGA - The Yoga of Work

IV. JNANA YOGA - The Yoga of Knowledge

This is accomplished through intellectual pursuits. The more knowledge we have, the better will be our Karma.

V. BHAKTI YOGA - The Yoga of Divine Love

This type of Yoga is practiced by contemplating God’s love for us, worshiping and singing praises to him. It is also pursued by practicing charity towards others.

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The practice of any of these Yogas will help in purifying our Karma. They may be practiced individually or in combination with others. Sometimes, one might pursue Jnana (knowledge) in one’s younger years, Karma (work) while earning a living and supporting a family, Bkakti (love) while still working after raising a family, and Raja (moral purification) after one’s retirement.

OTHER YOGAS
Some Yogas have to do with meditative style. These include Mantra Yoga where the concentration is on a particular sound or word, and Yantra Yoga where the concentration is on a particular design known as a Mandala, usually made with concentric circles imbedded with sacred objects. Tantra Yoga is the Yoga of sexual ecstasy between married couples.

KUNDALINI YOGA
This is a form of Yoga which incorporates elements from the other types. Kundalini means a coiled snake. The practice of Kundalini Yoga involves activating all of our energy centers which is like a snake uncoiling to strike. The energy centers are known as Chakras. Seven practices will release their energy. These practices are. 1. Good Health Eating right, exercising, and the calming of one’s thoughts through meditation. Achieving complete unity with ones spouse. Success in one’s occupation and in financial management.

2. A Happy Marriage 3. Material Success -

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4. Unselfish Love Ethical conduct and learning to serve other people unselfishly. Finding the thing that a person is meant to do. Placing a value on education and the gaining of wisdom and knowledge. Obedience to God’s will and unification with him.

5. Finding One’s Calling 6. Gaining Knowledge -

7. Spirituality -

I was very impressed when I first discovered these principles. It seems to be the epitome of what it means to lead a balanced life.

LIFE AFTER DEATH

Hindus believe in reincarnation. By purifying our Karma we are able to be reincarnated into a higher state and have a greater abundance of favorable circumstances. It may take many lifetimes to completely purify our Karma

OUR ULTIMATE DESTINY

The ultimate destiny is the complete purification of Karma. When this happens, we enter into the state of Nirvana. We no longer will be reborn on this material plane and will be reunited with Brahmin.

BRIEF HISTORY

CHAPTER TWO: BUDDHISM - THERAVADA

There are two great divisions of Buddhism, Theravada or “The Way of the Elders” and Mahayana “The Greater Vehicle”. Theravada is usually regarded as the form of Buddhism which adheres most strictly to the original teachings. Theravada Buddhism is found predominately in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Guatama who became known as the Buddha or Enlightened One. He was born in 563 B.C. in Lumbini, Nepal as a prince. By the age of 29 he was married with one child. His father tried to shield him from the vicissitudes of life. Siddhartha, however, was greatly disturbed when on outings outside of his royal compound he saw an old man, a sick man, a corpse, and a serene monk. He realized that all of life was subject to suffering and ultimate sickness, old age and death. He decided to abandon his princely wealth and went on a six year quest for truth. He studied with the great gurus of India and practiced various forms of asceticism, but was unable to find the truth that he pursued. Finally, as he sat under a bodhi or fig tree, the enlightenment he sought came to him. The path he discovered consisted of a middle way which avoided both indulgence and asceticism.

ORGANIZATION

The organization of Theravada consists of various orders of monks and lay followers. The community of believers is known collectively as the Sangha. The monks take a vow of poverty and celibacy and earn merit by providing religious and educational services to the laity. The laity earn merit by supporting the various monastic orders. The caste system of Hinduism was rejected.

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DEFINITION OF GOD

The Buddha did not accept the Gods of Hinduism and did not define any of his own. Karma and reincarnation are regarded as natural laws. Buddhists accept the principle of reincarnation, but is more evangelistic than Hinduism. Enlightenment can be obtained without going through countless lives of ritualistic purification. However, Buddhism does not believe that man has a spiritual existence apart from the body. Reincarnation occurs not as the transference of a spirit, but as one candle lighting another. Energy is passed, but no substance.

LIFE BEFORE BIRTH

OUR PURPOSE ON EARTH MEANS OF REDEMPTION

In Theravada one seeks to become an Arahat, an enlightened person who has overcome desire, hatred and ignorance. The teachings of Buddha are known collectively as the Dharma or truth. Desire, hatred and ignorance are overcome through the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path. These principles are as follows: This consists of the acceptance of the Four Noble Truths:

1. Right View or Understanding

(1) The Truth of Suffering. All sentient forms of life experience old age, sickness, separation from loved ones, and death.

(2) The Truth of the Cause of Suffering. These experiences themselves do not cause suffering. It is attachment to the things that are considered desirable that causes suffering. Whatever we desire will eventually be stripped away from us. (3) The Truth of the Freedom from Suffering. By overcoming attachment, we are able to overcome suffering.

(4) The Truth of the Way to Freedom from Suffering. This is the practice of The Noble Eightfold Path.

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2. Right Intention

This is also called right thought, right resolve or right aspiration. There are four intentions that we should espouse which are known as the “Four Immeasurables”. (1) Loving Kindness - Desiring the welfare of others. (2) Compassion - Having sympathy for those that suffer.

(3) Sympathetic Joy - Rejoicing in the success of others even if we are not likewise blessed.

(4) Equanimity - Treating others equally and developing serenity of mind.

3. Right Speech

We should avoid the four evils of the tongue:

(1) Lying - we should always strive to be truthful.

(2) Fault Finding - we should look for the good in others. (3) Harsh Language - we should be gentle in our speech. (4) Idle Talk - we should not speak unless we have something beneficial to say.

4. Right Action

We should avoid the four evils of the body:

(1) Killing - we should avoid the taking of life.

(2) Sexual misconduct - for the laity this means that there should be chastity before marriage and fidelity afterwards. For the monks and nuns, this means complete celibacy. (3) Stealing - we should not take that which is not given. (4) Intoxication - we should avoid substances which cause us to lose control of our thoughts. The activities and consequences of our livelihood should result in right speech and right action. Buddhists avoid working in such institutions as casinos, breweries and slaughter houses. They generally are vegetarians and do not serve in the military.

5. Right Livelihood

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6. Right Effort

We should strive to follow the Noble Eightfold Path by practicing the four efforts. (1) Avoiding unwholesome mental states that are not present. (2) Eliminating unwholesome mental states that are present. (3) Maintaining wholesome mental states that are present.

(4) Developing wholesome mental states that are not present.

7. Right Mindfulness

Right Mindfulness means to become aware of our thoughts, emotions, and bodily states. This is accomplished through the practice of meditation. Once we become aware of the nature of our thoughts, emotions and bodily states, we should concentrate on maintaining those that are wholesome. This is also accomplished through meditation.

8. Right Concentration

LIFE AFTER DEATH

A person continues to be reincarnated until he achieves enlightenment, at which point Nirvana is obtained. Upon obtaining Nirvana the cycle of birth and rebirth is ended. There is some dispute as to what this actually means. As there is no soul in Buddhism, this would imply that our consciousness is extinguished. Those that accept this viewpoint do not regard it as a negative, since life is associated with suffering. See the next chapter on Mahayana Buddhism for a different viewpoint.

OUR ULTIMATE DESTINY

CHAPTER THREE: BUDDHISM - MAHAYANA
BRIEF HISTORY
Several Buddhist councils were convened after the death of the Buddha to record the teachings and maintain monastic discipline. The first occurred right after the Buddha’s death in about 500 B.C. The second was convened 100 years later in about 400 B.C. The great King Ashoka who lived about 273 - 232 B.C. embraced Buddhism and spread its teachings widely. He convened the third Buddhist council in about 250 B.C. He was one of the most enlightened monarchs ever and built roads, hospitals, rest houses, colleges and irrigation projects. Mahayana Buddhism began its rise about 100 B.C. when a spit occurred within Buddhism. Both Mahayana and Therevada held their own fourth council.

ORGANIZATION

Mahayana divided into several schools of thought, the most prominent being Tibetan, Zen and Pure Land. Each of these schools of thought have their own organizations which will be covered in subsequent chapters. In Therevada, there were no divine beings to aid the pilgrim on his path to enlightenment. Mahayana introduced the concept of the Boddhisatva. These are enlightened beings who are worthy to enter into Nirvana, but postpone their entrance in order to help others along the path. They are not gods in the western sense, but fulfil the role of way showers, guiding their disciples on the road to enlightenment.

DEFINITION OF GOD

LIFE BEFORE BIRTH

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Mahayana Buddhists also believe in the concept of reincarnation. We have lived numerous lives, prior to this one.

OUR PURPOSE ON EARTH

In Therevada, the goal is to become an enlightened being and upon death enter into Nirvana. The Mahayana goal is also to become enlightened, but thereafter to become a Boddhisatva so we can help others on their journey. Entrance into Nirvana may be postponed until all other beings have achieved enlightenment.

MEANS OF REDEMPTION

Mahayana disciples follow an expanded version of the eightfold path. The first two principles, Right Understanding and Right Intentions are combined into a single principle of Wisdom. Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood are combined into the principle of Ethical Conduct. Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration are combined into the principle of Mental Discipline. Three other principles Generosity, Patience and Enthusiastic Effort are added to form what are known as the Six Perfection or Paramitas. The Generosity of the monks and nuns are to teach others the Dharma or truth. The Generosity of the lay persons are to liberally provide means for the monks and nuns to perform their work. The Generosity of the nobility is to provide a protective environment so that the Dharma can flourish.

1. Generosity

2. Ethical Conduct 3. Patience

The practice of Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood. To be patient with other people and with ourselves as we pursue the path that leads to enlightenment.

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4. Enthusiastic Effort
To provide for our physical well being and to be diligent in following the Dharma.

5. Mental Discipline

The practice of Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.

6. Wisdom

The practice of Right Understanding and Right Intentions. Later four other principles were added, making a total of ten paramitas.

7. Skillful Means

We should be anxious to help others, but we should help them in the way that will be most beneficial. Rather than just give money away to the needy, for example, it might be better to provide education and employment so that they can help themselves.

8. Aspiration

We should be anxious to obtain enlightenment for ourselves and to assist others on their journey.

9. Spiritual Power

Theravada Buddhists do not pray for the welfare of themselves or others, believing that divine favor is an interference in Karma. Mahayana Buddhists, on the other hand pray for both themselves and for all others.

10. Knowledge

Knowledge is the ability to understand the needs of others, and to know how best to lead them towards enlightenment.

Chapter 3: Buddhism - Mahayana 15

LIFE AFTER DEATH

As with Theravada, we will continue to be reincarnated until we have become enlightened. At that point we have the privilege of entering Nirvana, or of continuing to be reincarnated in order to become a Boddhisatva. Becoming a Boddhisatva is considered the higher ideal, because that is the truly selfless thing to do. Boddhisatvas may be reborn into this mortal plain where they can directly assist others, or they may be reborn into a higher plain where they can assist others from a more heavenly advantage.

OUR ULTIMATE DESTINY

Ultimately, all beings will achieve Enlightenment and enter Nirvana.

CHAPTER FOUR: BUDDHISM - ZEN
BRIEF HISTORY
Boddhiharma is credited with bringing Zen to China where it was known as Chan in about 520 A.D. He is regarded as the 28th Indian patriarch and the 1st Chinese patriarch. It spread throughout China and eventually to Japan, where it became known as Zen, a word meaning meditation.

ORGANIZATION

Zen is the most lay friendly of the Buddhist forms that we have discussed thus far. It has monasteries for monks and nuns, but also a highly development lay organization. It’s lay organization is similar to the popular martial art disciplines. A Zen Master or Sensei may be a monk or lay leader. The place where they meet for meditation is known as a meditation hall or Dojo. Lineage is considered very important. A Zen Master should be ordained by a previous Master. Unlike some other forms of Buddhism, Zen monks to not beg, but are required to perform some kind of labor around the monetary for their upkeep. Zen Buddhists believe in the Boddhisatva concept common in all Mahayana schools of thought.

DEFINITION OF GOD

LIFE BEFORE BIRTH

Zen Buddhists also believe in the concept of reincarnation. We have lived numerous lives prior to this one.

OUR PURPOSE ON EARTH

Like other Mahayana disciplines, Zen adherents seek for enlightenment with the goal of becoming a Boddhisatva.

MEANS OF REDEMPTION
ZEN MEDITATION

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Zen has several unique meditation formats. Formal meditation known as Zazen consists in sitting quietly and following the breath. There is also a form known as Koan meditation, which involves contemplating a riddle such as “Show me the sound of one hand clapping”. The answer comes in a moment of illumination. Similarly, we all have an inner Buddha nature that only needs to be realized. The moment we become aware of this, we have a sudden moment of enlightenment known as Satori. Another interesting feature of Zen is the use of everyday activities as meditation. Some of the more popular ones are archery, art, cooking, house cleaning, gardening and flower arranging. One author even wrote about Motorcycle Maintenance as a form of meditation (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig).

THE SIXTEEN PRECEPTS

The path that leads to Boddhisatvahood is known as the Sixteen Precepts. These Sixteen Precepts are received by vow in a special ceremony. They are divided into three parts known as the Three Treasures, the Three Pure Precepts, and the Ten Grave Precepts.

The Three Treasures
(1) (2) (3)

I take refuge in the Buddha. This refers to both the historical Buddha and to our own inner Buddha nature. I take refuge in the Dharma. This refers to the teachings. I take refuge in the Sangha. This is the community of believers.

The Three Pure Precepts
(1) (2) (3) I will do all good. I will do no evil.

I will strive to save all beings.

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Five of these precepts are the common moral law for all Buddhist schools of thought. They were originally derived from the Five Restraints of Raja Yoga. (1) I will not kill, but will affirm all life. (2) I will not misuse sex, but will be respectful to the sacred nature of the body. (3) (4) (5) I will not steal, but will respect the property of others.

The Ten Grave Precepts

To these five universal moral precepts are added five others. (6) I will not speak of others’ faults, but will strive to see the good. (7) I will not praise myself while blaming others, but will strive to overcome my own shortcomings. (8) I will not covet my possessions, but will freely give to the welfare of others. (9) I will not speak in anger, but will cultivate harmony. (10) I will not speak ill of the three treasures, but will always honor them.

I will not lie, but will always manifest truth. I will not misuse alcohol or drugs, but will always keep a clear mind.

Zen Buddhists believe in continued reincarnation until enlightenment is achieved, after which the disciple can elect to enter Nirvana or continue in the cycle of birth and death in order to help others as a Boddhisatva.

LIFE AFTER DEATH

OUR ULTIMATE DESTINY

Ultimately, all beings will achieve Enlightenment and enter Nirvana.

CHAPTER FIVE: BUDDHISM - TIBETAN
BRIEF HISTORY
Buddhism in Tibet began when King Songstan Gampo married two Buddhist wives in 641 A.D. and made Buddhism the state religion of Tibet. Subsequently, Padmasambhava or Guru Rinpoche arrived in 774 A.D. at the request of King Trisong Dueutsen. Rinpoche merged Buddhism with elements of the native Bon Religion. Buddhism went in and out of favor during the subsequent centuries. Tibetan Buddhism also spread to Mongolia and other parts of Central Asia. In 1700 A.D., the Mongol invaders installed the 5th Dhali Lama as the political and religious leader of Tibet. Sometimes the Dhali Lama ruled over an autonomous region, and sometimes he ruled under the authority of various Chinese dynasties. In 1913, the 13th Dhali Lama evicted the Chinese overseers. The Chinese returned in 1959 and the current Dhali Lama (the 14th) was forced into exile.

ORGANIZATION
Tibetan Buddhism spiritual leaders are known as Lamas. Lamas are believed to be reincarnated Boddhisatvas. The Dhali Lama is the chief Lama. Tibetan Buddhism is a highly monasterial form. When one Lama dies, a search is conducted among those born after his death in order to identify his new incarnation.

DEFINITION OF GOD
Tibetan Buddhists believe in the Boddhisatva concept common in all Mahayana schools of thought.

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LIFE BEFORE BIRTH

Tibetan Buddhists believe in the concept of reincarnation. We have lived numerous lives prior to this one.

OUR PURPOSE ON EARTH MEANS OF REDEMPTION

Like other Mahayana disciplines, Tibetan devotees seek for enlightenment with the goal of becoming a Boddhisatva. Tibetan Buddhists accept the ethical precepts common in all forms of Buddhism. This particular form of Buddhism is the most ritualistic of all the various schools of thought. Mantras or sacred sounds are frequently used. Monks oftentimes chant the Mantras in unison. The use of Mandalas containing sacred geometry and symbols is common as a meditative object. Tibetan lands abound with prayer wheels. Each turn of the prayer wheel counts as another prayer and earns merit for the devotee. Images of the various Buddhas and Boddhisatvas abound. The monastic tradition is also very strong in Tibetan Buddhism. Most families have expectations that at least one of their sons will become a monk. There are several great monasteries in Tibet, the greatest being the Drepung Monastery in Lhasa, the residence of the Dhali Lama before his exile. Another one is the Kambum monastery which is adjacent to a Pagoda containing 10,000 statues of the Buddha.

LIFE AFTER DEATH

Tibetan Buddhists believe in continued reincarnation until enlightenment is achieved, after which the disciple can elect to enter Nirvana or continue in the cycle of birth and death in order to help others as a Boddhisatva.

OUR ULTIMATE DESTINY

Ultimately, all beings will achieve Enlightenment and enter Nirvana.

CHAPTER SIX: BUDDHISM - PURE LAND
BRIEF HISTORY
Pure Land principles were first brought to China from India as early as 148 A.D. A monastery was founded on Mount Lushan by the monk Luiyuan in 402 A.D. From there it spread throughout China and eventually arrived in Korea and Japan. Around 1200 A.D. the Japanese sect of Jodo Shinsu (The True Pure Land) was established by Shinran, a disciple of the monk Honen.

ORGANIZATION

Shinran broke with tradition and established a non monasterial form of Buddhism. Its organization resembles a Christian church with a married priest in charge of the ceremonies. In fact the organization is often referred to as The Buddhist Church.

DEFINITION OF GOD

Pure Land Buddhists worship a being known as Amitabha or Amida Buddha, also known as The Buddha of Everlasting Light and Life. During one of his mortal sojourns, Amida made a vow, known as the Primal Vow, in which he promised that he would save all beings. This was followed by countless eons of meditation upon every sentient being in the universe until he ascertained the means of salvation for each of them. Often associated with Amida Buddha is the Boddhistva Avalokiteshvara or Kuan Yin. She is also referred to as the Boddhisatva or Goddess of Compassion. Whereas, Amida provides compassion to save each of us in a spiritual sense, the role of Kuan Yin is to save us from suffering within this temporal life.

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LIFE BEFORE BIRTH

Pure Land Buddhists, of course, believe in reincarnation, and that we lived many lives prior to our present birth.

OUR PURPOSE ON EARTH

Our purpose on earth is achieve our own liberation, and thereafter become a Boddhisatva, working for the liberation of all others.

MEANS OF REDEMPTION

In contrast with other forms of Buddhism, the Pure Land sect believes that it is not possible to achieve liberation by one’s self effort. Divine intervention or “other effort” is required. Those who accept the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha on their behalf will be reborn into the Pure Land where all beings become enlightened without exception. For this to be effective, it is necessary to say what is known as the Nembutsu. These are the words Namu Amida Butsu which is interpreted as “I, a foolish, imperfect, fallible being (Namu); by the power of Great Compassion (Amida); am awakened to Everlasting Life and Life (Butsu)”. To arrive at this point, it is necessary for the disciple to obtain the Three Minds of Amida. TRUE ENTRUSTING - this means absolute faith in the power of Amida Buddha.

SINCERITY - this means to be sincere in all of our thoughts, words and actions. True Sincerity arises when we strive to live the highest ethical life and find ourselves wanting. This brings us to the desire for the “other power” of Amida to liberate us. COMPASSION - having been liberated by Amida Buddha, we now seek to have compassion for all others and strive for their liberation.

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LIFE AFTER DEATH

The traditional Chinese doctrine is to enter the Pure Land after death where conditions are optimal to achieve enlightenment. The Japanese version of Jodo Shinshu takes this one step further, with the belief that we can enter the Pure Land while still in this life. Once liberated, we work for the liberation of all others during the remainder of this life, and by continually returning to this mortal sphere as a Boddhisatva.

OUR ULTIMATE DESTINY

Eventually, the time will come when all beings have been liberated and will enter into the bliss of Nirvana.

CHAPTER SEVEN: TAOISM
Chinese civilization began about 3,000 B.C. Some elements of Taoism seemed to be present from the beginning. The first version of the book called I Ching or Book of Changes was written about 1,000 B.C. The current version dates to about 700 B.C. The legendary Lao Tzu wrote the Tao Te Ching (The Way and its Power) about 500 B.C. This was perhaps the most influential book on Taoism. This was followed by the writings of Chung Tzu who lived about 400 B.C.

BRIEF HISTORY

ORGANIZATION

Taoism is usually divided between Religious Taoism and Philosophical Taoism. Religious Taoism incorporates much of the folk religion of China and has its own pantheon of gods and spiritual beings. Philosophical Taoism is heavily rooted in the teachings of Lao Tzu and Chung Tzu. Organizationally, there seems to be no central authority, but several loose knit organizations do exist.

DEFINITION OF GOD
THE TAO

Generally speaking, there is no all powerful God in the western sense. Everything revolves around the concept of The Tao, the Path or the Way. The Tao operates according to the principle of Wei Wu Wei, which roughly translated means to act without effort. Water is frequently given as an example. Water makes no effort of its own. It simply follows the path presented to it. But even though it makes no effort, nothing can resist its force.

Chapter 7: Taoism 25

YIN AND YANG
The Tao is best described through the polarities known is Yin and Yang. Yang is regarded as the masculine principle and is associated with such terms as bright, high, strong, powerful, and dominant. It is the positive creative element in the universe. Yin is regarded as the feminine principle and is associated with such terms as low, weak, submissive, and receptive. The power of Yin is that it is the collector of Yang’s energy. Yang always moves toward Yin. The two principles are complimentary. One cannot exist without the other. A good example would be that of a house. The strength and shape of a house is dependent on its walls, floor and roof. Yet, it would be of no use without the empty space within the walls. Another example is a rocket. A rocket is propelled by Yang through its exploding gasses. But it is Yin that gives the rocket directionality. Without the hole in the back of the rocket, all it would do is blow up.

CHI (KI in Japanese)
This is another name for the positive energy force of the universe. Philosophical Taoism emphasizes the virtues of Yin, while Religious Taoism seems to emphasize the virtues of Chi and how we can use it for our benefit. One example of this is the decorative art of Feng Shui, the Chinese art of placing objects in a manner to enhance the flow of Chi. Another example is Chi Kung, a meditative and exercise system.

LIFE BEFORE BIRTH

Everything originates with the Tao and returns to it.

OUR PURPOSE ON EARTH

The Tao has its own hidden purpose of which we are a part. The Tao that can be defined is not the true Tao. Each person must gain this knowledge for himself.

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MEANS OF REDEMPTION

Redemption in Taoism is not about the afterlife, but how we can improve the life that we have while on this earth. This involves learning how to find balance. .THE THREE TAOS True balance involves the Tao of Heaven, the Tao of Earth and the Tao of Man. Each of these have their own Yang and Yin principles.

The Yang of Heaven is light, the Yin of Heaven is darkness. The Yang of Earth is firmness, the Yin of Earth of yielding. The Yang of Man is righteousness, the Yin of Man is love. Yang is often illustrated with an unbroken line (___) Yin is illustrated with a broken line (_ _). An example of how these are used is with the four seasons. __ __ Two Yin lines is the symbol of winter. Yin over Yang is the symbol of spring, Yang is rising. Two Yang lines is the symbol of summer. Yang over Yin is the symbol of fall. Yin is rising.

THE FOUR SEASONS

_ _ ___ ___ ___ ___ _ _

THE BAGUA

Three lines are needed to represent the Tao of Heaven, the Tao of Earth and the Tao of Man. This gives rise to eight variations called The Eight Tri-grams. These can be formulated to create The Bagua which represents the areas of life that need balancing.

Chapter 7: Taoism 27
(1) Career. (2) Knowledge. (4) Prosperity. (6) Marriage. (7) Children.

(3) Extended Family. (5) Reputation.

(8) Helpful Friends and Travel.

These eight areas are usually diagramed in a rectangular pattern using a common center which creates the 9th Bagua. (9) Spirituality, Health and Balance.

LIFE AFTER DEATH

Religious Taoism has a vague conception of an afterlife where the ancestors dwell.

OUR ULTIMATE DESTINY

Our ultimate destiny is not clearly defined. All things originate with the Tao and return to it.

BRIEF HISTORY

CHAPTER EIGHT: CONFUCIANISM

Confucius is the latinized rendering of Kun Fu Tzu who was born abut 551 B.C. in the State of Lu during the Chou Dynasty. He was a civil servant for a time, after which he traveled about China teaching morality and the principles of good governance. Another prominent Confucian thinker, Mencius, lived about a hundred years later. Confucius was not so much a prophet as a transmitter of the cultural values of China. He has had a profound impact on Chinese thought and culture ever since. Even the communists, who are atheistic, use his teachings to try and preserve their power.

ORGANIZATION
more formal following.

Confucius did not establish any formal religious organization, but was eventually considered divine with a

DEFINITION OF GOD

Confucius was more concerned about teaching ethical principles than speaking about God. There is, however, a belief about the Mandate of Heaven. A ruler who governs well receives the blessings of Heaven. One who does not govern well will have the Mandate of Heaven withdrawn and his kingdom will be removed. Confucianism does not have a definition about life before birth. However, many Chinese incorporate Confucianism within a structure that also includes Taoism and Buddhism. Buddhism, of course, believes in reincarnation.

LIFE BEFORE BIRTH

OUR PURPOSE ON EARTH

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Confucianism is a this world religion. Developing principles of Virtue and becoming a Superior Person (Chun Tzu) is its main emphasis.

MEANS OF REDEMPTION
(1) Li (3) Yi (2) Hsiao (4) Xin (6) Chung (5) Jen Propriety, Etiquette.

SIX VIRTUES OF THE SUPERIOR PERSON
Love between family members. Honesty and Trustworthiness. Loyalty to Government. Benevolence, Humanness.

Righteousness, Moral Excellence.

SIX RELATIONSHIPS

(1) Ruler and Subject. The Ruler must treat his subjects compassionately, subjects must be loyal to their rulers. (2) Fathers and Sons*. Fathers need to set good examples, and sons need to be obedient.

(3) Husbands and Wives. Husbands need to be virtuous in their conduct, and wives need to be submissive.

(5) Person to Person. We should all follow the golden rule by treating others how we would want to be treated ourselves. (6) Employer and Employee. Employers need to treat their employees fairly. Employees need to give employers their best effort.

(4) Older Brothers and Younger Brothers* Brothers need to be kind to their younger brothers, and younger brothers need to be respectful of older brothers.

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* I was going to change these to “Parents and Children”, and “Older Siblings and Younger Siblings”. The traditional rendering does seem highly patriarchal. Then I realized that these relationships do not only exist while children are living at home, but throughout a persons life. To alter these relationships would not be in keeping with the spirit of Confucianism. In the traditional context, daughters transfer their loyalties to their husbands, while husbands continue to be submissive to fathers and older brothers.

THE WAY TO PEACE AND HARMONY
I love this maxim of Confucius.

“If there be righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in the character. If there be beauty in the character, there will be harmony in the home. If there be harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation. If there be order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.”

LIFE AFTER DEATH

It is thought that the spirits of our ancestors continue to exist. Honoring them can bring to us good fortune. Family households often have a shrine to honor the ancestors.

OUR ULTIMATE DESTINY

This is not clearly defined within Confucianism, but many Confucianist are also Buddhists who believe that we will continue to be reincarnated until we perfect our Karma.

WESTERN RELIGION

PART II

CHAPTER NINE: JUDAISM
The Biblical account tells us that God had a people since the days of creation. Of particular interest to Judaism is the patriarch Abraham. According to the Jewish calendar which dates from the creation, Abraham was born around the year 1950 which equates to about 2,000 B.C. He was followed by his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob which are referred to as the Three Patriarchs. In the secular historical record, Judaism dates to the exodus from Egypt under the leadership of Moses which occurred about 1,400 B.C. After this the Tribes of Israel, as they were collectively known, settled in the land of Canaan which today is known as Israel. The Jews or the descendants of Judah, one of Jacob’s sons, settled primarily in the south and most of the other tribes settled in the North. Apparently, none of the surrounding nations were very happy with their presence and many wars were fought between them and the Israelites. Some unity existed under the leadership of King David and his son Solomon in the period 1100 to 1000 B.C. After Solomon’s death, the northern tribes rebelled and set up their own nation. This continued until the year 722 B.C. when the northern tribes were carried into captivity by the Assyrians, disappearing in history. The southern kingdom of Judah lasted until 538 B.C. when they were carried into captivity by the Babylonians. Babylon was in turn conquered by the Persians and the Jews were allowed to return to their own land. The land was then in turn conquered by the Greeks and than by the Romans. In 70 A.D., Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans and the Jews were dispersed abroad. In many nations, most notably Russia and Germany, they experienced much persecution.

BRIEF HISTORY

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Most Jews still live in various nations, except for a remnant who set up the Jewish state of Israel in the year 1948 where they have experienced much conflict with their Moslem neighbors.

ORGANIZATION
In Old Testament Times the Jews, as a religious body, were governed by a priesthood which consisted of descendants of Moses’ brother Aaron of the Tribe of Levi. After the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, the identification of the Levites and thus the Priesthood were lost. Today’s Judaism is divided into three groups: (1) Orthodox Jews - who try to be as strict as they can in following the Ten Commandments and the other parts of the law that was given to Moses. (2) Reform Jews - which have a more liberal interpretation of the law. They separated from the more orthodox followers in the 18th century. (3) Conservative Jews - which takes a position somewhat in the middle. They date from the late 19th century.

DEFINITION OF GOD
The Jews believe in a single all-powerful God. His name was considered sacred and was usually spelled with only the consonants as YHWH. In time, the true pronunciation was lost. It is sometimes pronounced as Yahweh. The more popular rendering is that of Jehovah.

LIFE BEFORE BIRTH
There is no formal definition of a life before birth. The Jews do not believe in reincarnation.

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OUR PURPOSE ON EARTH MEANS OF REDEMPTION

Judaism is primarily a this world religion. The purpose of life is to find happiness by following God’s law. God’s law is primarily contained in the Decalogue which is commonly referred to as the Ten Commandments. There are actually three different listings of the Ten Commandments, the Jewish rendering, the Catholic rendering and the Protestant rendering. Altogether, some twelve or thirteen principles are included. These are being listed as follows (Jewish, Catholic, Protestant).

(1,0,0) I am the Lord thy God. I like the way that the Jewish religion uses this as the first of the ten words. It emphasizes the respect that should be paid towards deity.

(2,1,2) Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image. In ancient times, men and women worshipped graven or carved images of various gods and even made human sacrifices to them. This practice is strictly forbidden.

(2,1,1) Thou shalt have no other Gods before me. This reminds us of the injunction to love the Lord, our God with all of our heart, might, mind and strength. Nothing should come before our personal relationship with God.

(3,2,3) Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain (First Meaning). Two principles are included here. The first is not to speak of the name of God in any disrespectful manner. (3,2,3) Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain (Second Meaning). In ancient times, men would often seal their promises with an oath. Jesus taught us in the Sermon on the Mount that we should not swear at all. Our simple promise should be just as binding.

(4,3,4) Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy. Orthodox Jews are quite severe in their observance of the Sabbath. All of their meals are prepared before the Sabbath. They will not even turn a light on or off on the Sabbath. This requires them to unscrew the light bulbs in their refrigerators. While it might not be necessary to be quite this strict, there is still a lot the Orthodox observance can teach us. Jews and some others observe the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown on Saturday. Christians generally worship on Sunday in commemoration of the resurrection of Christ. (5,4,5) Honor thy Father and thy Mother. Children should be obedient to parents. As we become adults, the opinions of our parents, even when they are wrong, should still be treated with the utmost respect. (6,5,6) Thou shalt not kill. This is usually interpreted to exclude murder. Some feel that we should not participate in war. Certainly, the killing of noncombatants are forbidden. Still others believe that we should not even kill animals, that vegetarianism should be the norm. Jesus taught us in the sermon on the mount that we should even avoid anger, as it is often a precursor to the taking of another life. (7,6,7) Thou shalt not commit adultery. This is usually interpreted to mean that there should be strict sexual abstinence before marriage and complete fidelity afterwards. (8,7,8) Thou shalt not steal. We should respect the property of others. Property is usually the outgrowth of labor and one is entitled to dispose of the fruits of their own labors. (9,8,9) Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. The reputation of others should be regarded with respect. Even if some defect in their character is true, we should not casually discuss their faults with another, unless such discussion is needed to protect another person, as is the case with sexual abuse for example. Even then it should be based upon known facts and not idle gossip.

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Chapter 8: Judaism 37
(10,9,10) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors property. Covetousness usually proceeds the taking of another’s property or reputation. Not only should we not steal, we should not even desire the property of another. We should also be willing to share our own property for the benefit of others. (10,10,10) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors wife. Lust generally proceeds sexual infidelity. There should be no desire to have sexual relations with the spouse of another.

LIFE AFTER DEATH

Life after death is not heavily emphasized. Many Jews, however, believe that life continues in some form after death. There has been much discussion through the millennia as to the exact nature of life after death. Some believe that we continue to live as a spirit, others believe in a bodily resurrection.

OUR ULTIMATE DESTINY

What our ultimate destiny might be is not clearly defined.

CHAPTER TEN: ZOROASTRIANISM
BRIEF HISTORY
In our discussion on Hinduism, we mentioned that Hinduism evolved from the religion of the Aryans who migrated into India. The Aryans also migrated into Persia, now known as Iran. There, Aryanism did not evolve but was transformed due to the intervention of the prophet Zarathushtra. We know him better by his greek name, Zoroaster. The traditional date of Zoroaster’s birth is 628 B.C. Modern scholars, however, believe that he was born about 1000 B.C. Others date him much earlier. Zoroaster rejected the many gods of Aryanism, teaching that there was but one God whom he named Ahura Mazda or “Wise Lord”. Zoroastrianism has encountered our Judeo-Christian tradition twice. The first was during the Babylonian captivity, where Judaism and Zoroastrianism influenced and modified each other. The other was during the advent of Christianity, where a form of Zoroastrianism, known as Mithrism, influenced the development of Christian doctrine. Most followers of Zoroaster lived in Persia until the advent of Islam which forced them to flee into India, where they are known as Parsis. In recent years, there has been a movement to discover and return to the original teachings.

ORGANIZATION

Zoroastrians are governed by a largely hereditary priesthood. Each priest is ordained by other previously ordained priests. In the early days, these priests were known as Magi. Their duties include the maintenance of an eternal fire in the meeting place which represents the Light of God.

DEFINITION OF GOD

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THE TRADITIONAL TEACHING
Ahura Mazda is the one true God, who is Lord of the Universe. He is, however, considered too holy to have direct dealings with man. He works with man through the Holy Spirit, Spenta Mainyu, whose name means “The Spirit of Progressive Mentality”. They are opposed by the evil one, Angra Mainyu whose name means “The Spirit of Regressive Mentality”. Spenta Mainyu and Angra Mainyu are sometimes regarded as the twin children of Ahura Mazda. This battle between good and evil occurs on two fronts. Some believe that the battle is only fought within the mind of each person. This is known as Ethical Dualism. Others believe that it also occurs within the larger world. This is known as Cosmic Dualism. Eventually, good will prevail and evil will be banished.

MITHRISM
Following the death of Zoroaster, the Persian Priests or Magi reintroduced the worship of Mithra, the Aryan Sun God. During the advent of Christianity, Mithra was widely worshipped in the Roman Empire. This is noteworthy because he was worshipped on “Sun”day and was considered to be born on December 25. When Christianity was adopted as the official religion of the Roman Empire, much of Mithrism was brought into Christianity, only the names of the gods were changed.

LIFE BEFORE BIRTH

Whether or not we lived in a pre-earthly existence is not clearly defined.

OUR PURPOSE ON EARTH

The purpose of our life on earth is to find Joy by choosing the good path.

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MEANS OF REDEMPTION

(1) Vohu Manah (3) Kshathra

Spenta Mainyu is assisted in his work by the Amesha Spentas or Bountiful Immortals. They are sometimes referred to as archangels. They also represent the attributes of God and are the values that mankind should seek after. They are six in number. - the spirit of good thought. - the spirit of dominion (for the good of others). - the spirit of wholeness. - the spirit of justice and truth.

(2) Asha Vahishta

(4) Spenta Armaiti (5) Haurvatat (6) Ameratat

- the spirit of benevolence.

The essence of Zoroastrian teaching can be summed up in their motto, “Good Thought, Good Words, Good Deeds”.

- the spirit of immortality.

LIFE AFTER DEATH

Following this life we will be judged by our deeds. Each person will cross the bridge of the separator, where we will be met by our own deeds. If our deeds have been good, we will be met by a beautiful maiden who will gently lead us across the bridge into paradise. If our deeds have been evil, we will be met by an ugly hag who will drag us off the bridge into the flames of hell fire. In the end times, all evil will be banished. Even the souls who are languishing in hell will be redeemed.

OUR ULTIMATE DESTINY

Our ultimate destiny is to dwell with Ahura Mazda and Spenta Mainyu for eternity.

CHAPTER ELEVEN: CHRISTIANITY - CATHOLICISM
BRIEF HISTORY
It is difficult to find an unbiased history of the early Catholic church. Catholics, of course, believe in an unbroken succession of authority from Peter, one of the twelve apostles, whom they believe became the first Bishop or Pope of Rome. Many non-Catholics believe that the Church went into apostasy following the death of the apostles and departed from the truths of the Holy Scriptures. The Church is first referred to as the Catholic Church by Ignatius in 100 A.D. About the year 313 A.D., the emperor Constantine was converted to Christianity. In 380, the emperor Theodosius adopted Christianity as the Roman state religion. By this time, the organization which became the Roman Catholic Church was clearly in evidence. There were five centers of influence in the early years, Antioch, Constantinople, Alexandria, Rome and Jerusalem. All but Constantinople and Rome faded into insignificance, especially after the advent of Islam in about 600 A.D. In 1000 A.D., a schism developed between Rome and Constantinople. Constantinople became the headquarters of what today is known as The Orthodox church. Further divisions occurred after Martin Luther began the Protestant Reformation in 1517 A.D.

ORGANIZATION

The local congregation is known as a parish and is headed by one or more priests. Several parishes are grouped together into a diocese which is headed by a bishop. Several dioceses are grouped together to form a metropolitan which is headed by an archbishop. A number of archbishops are invited to become members of the College of Cardinals.

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The College of Cardinals chooses the Pope who becomes the supreme leader of the Church during the remainder of his life. Besides this ecclesiastical organization, there are a number of monasterial organizations. The residents of monasteries are known as monks and nuns. Priests, monks and nuns take vows of celibacy and live in an unmarried state. There are also separate organizations of lay members who promote Catholic ideals.

DEFINITION OF GOD

Catholics accept the doctrine of the Trinity. This means that there is one God who is expressed as three persons, The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. There is also veneration of Mary, the mother of Jesus and numerous saints. God is considered all-powerful, all-knowing and everywhere present. He does, however, exist apart from his creation. Catholicism is not pantheistic, but is monotheistic.

LIFE BEFORE BIRTH

The Catholic church believes that the human soul is created at conception.

OUR PURPOSE ON EARTH MEANS OF REDEMPTION

Our purpose on the earth is to worship and glorify God.

Catholics, like most Christians, believe that salvation comes as a gift of grace through the Atonement of Christ. This grace is, however, administered by the priesthood through what is known as the Seven Sacraments. These sacraments are baptism, confirmation, Eucharist (celebrating mass), penance (confession and reconciliation), matrimony, holy orders, and extreme unction (anointing the sick). We will now discuss these in more detail.

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THE SEVEN SACRAMENTS

The first three ordinances: baptism, confirmation and Eucharist are collectively referred to as the Christian initiation sacraments.

Baptism

Baptism is administered to infants and adult converts. The ordinance is performed by pouring or sprinkling in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Baptism removes from the person the effects of original sin (the sin of Adam and Eve in partaking of the forbidden fruit) and also the person’s individual sins.

The sacrament of confirmation is performed when an individual reaches an age of understanding. This is usually between the ages of seven and fourteen. Confirmation is performed by anointing and the laying on of hands. It renews and deepens the ordinance of baptism and gives the full gift of the Holy Ghost.

Confirmation

Eucharist

After a person is confirmed, they may also partake of the Eucharist. This is the bread and wine that is administered when the mass is celebrated. Catholics believe that the bread and wind is transformed into the literal blood and body of Christ. The next two ordinances are collectively referred to as the healing sacraments.

Penance

Confession of mortal sins should be made to a priest at least once a year. The priest then prescribes a penance or series of actions that the person must perform in order to gain absolution of the sin.

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A mortal sin is described as the deliberate commission of a grave offence with full knowledge that the action taken is a sin. This includes such sins as murder, swearing, adultery or any of the seven deadly sins. Such a sin deprives a person of the grace of Christ and would condemn the sinner to hell if absolution is not made.

Extreme Unction
This is sometimes referred to as the last rites, but is really a healing blessing for the sick. One does not have to wait to be on their death bed to have this ordinance performed. The person administered to may be healed by God’s grace. The ordinance also conveys an absolution of sin. This sacrament is performed my anointing various parts of the body, especially the sense organs, with oil. If death is imminent, the ordinance can be performed by simply anointing the head. The last two sacraments are collectively referred to as sacraments of service.

Matrimony
This is the uniting of a husband and wife in the bonds of matrimony. This ordinance must be performed by a priest in order to be recognized in the eyes of God. Divorce is not allowed, but sometimes annulments are granted.

Orders
For those who desire to fully devote themselves to God’s service, they may choose to enter into one of the holy orders. This includes priests, monks and nuns. Those who enter into the holy orders take vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. By taking the vow of poverty, the recipient relinquishes the right to own private property and instead lives interdependently within a community.

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By taking the vow of chastity, the recipient agrees to live singly within the community in order to devote all of his / her time to the service of God. They also agree to not engage in any romantic or sexual activities. By taking the vow of obedience, the recipient agrees to be obedient to God’s will and to their superiors within the order.

THE THREE HEAVENLY VIRTUES
These are virtues that only can be obtained through bestowal of God’s grace. Faith Hope Charity

THE FOUR CARDINAL VIRTUES
These are virtues that can be obtained through human effort. Prudence Justice Fortitude Temperance

THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS AND THE SEVEN LIVELY VIRTUES
The Seven Deadly Sins are sins that require confession to a priest in order to gain absolution. For each sin, there is an opposing antidote. The antidotes are collectively known as the Seven Lively Virtues.

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1. Pride 2. Envy 3. Anger 4. Sloth 5. Gluttony 6. Greed 7. Lust - Humility - Kindness - Patience - Diligence - Temperance - Generosity - Chastity

LIFE AFTER DEATH
RESURRECTION
Catholics believe that all men and women who have lived upon the earth will be resurrected, having their bodies and spirits eternally united.

PURGATORY

Those who die in a state of grace may require additional purification before entering into heaven. This process of purification is known as purgatory.

LIMBO
There is no official doctrine of the Catholic church as to the state of those who died before the Atonement of Christ, or for those who died without baptism. There is however, speculation. One of these speculations involve what is called Limbo. Those who lived before the Atonement of Christ, dwelled in a place known as the Limbo of the Patriarchs. These are people who would otherwise be in a state of grace. This state of grace was granted after the death and resurrection of Christ, and these people were allowed to enter Heaven.

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Since the coming of Christ, it is speculated that those who died without having the original sin absolved by baptism, permanently dwell in Limbo. This is described as a place of happiness without having the full blessings of Heaven.

HELL

Those who died with mortal sins which have not been absolved will dwell in hell for eternity.

HEAVEN

Those who died and have had their sins absolved through the seven sacraments will dwell with God and Christ in heaven for eternity.

OUR ULTIMATE DESTINY ADDENDUM

The common doctrine is that whatever state we obtain to in the resurrection will be our lot for all of eternity.

DIFFERENCES WITH THE ORTHODOX CHURCH

(1) One of the disagreements that the Orthodox Church has with the Roman Catholic Church is that the Bishop of Rome was originally regarded as the first among equals. However, the Catholic Church decided that the Bishop of Rome should be pre-eminent. After the schism, the Patriarch of Constaninople became the first among equals. In both churches, Bishops must be ordained by other Bishops to maintain apostolic succession. (2) Another disagreement with the Orthodox Church involves the doctrine of the Trinity. The original Nicene creed said that the Holy Ghost proceeded from the Father. The Catholics changed this to read that the Holy Ghost proceeded from the Father and the Son. Orthodox Christians believe that this lessens the monotheistic nature of God.

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(3) In the Orthodox Church, Baptism is performed by immersion. The person is immersed once for the Father, again for the Son and again for the Holy Ghost. Orthodox Christians also reject the doctrine of original sin, but infants are still baptized. (4) In the Orthodox Church, a person can be confirmed and partake of the Eucharist as soon as he or she is baptized. (5) In the Orthodox Church, there is a fourth vow known as the Vow of Stability. This is a vow of allegiance to a particular monastic order. Orthodox Christians also have several levels of vows. Priests do not take the full vows and may be married. Monks and nuns remain celibate. Bishops are chosen from among the monks. (6) The Orthodox church does not believe in the concept of purgatory, insisting that the purification of the soul is the work of the Holy Ghost during this mortal existence. (7) The Orthodox church does not accept the concept of Limbo for unbaptized children. The redemption of the faithful before Christ, expressed in the concept of a Patriarchal Limbo, is retained.

CHAPTER TWELVE: CHRISTIANITY - PROTESTANTISM
The Protestant movement began with Martin Luther in 1517 A.D. Other reformers such as John Calvin soon followed. Political leaders aligned themselves with one side or the other. King Henry VIII of England anointed himself as the sole authority over the Church of England. The Church of England soon had its own protesters such as John and Charles Wesley, founders of Methodism. Today there are hundreds of protestant denominations. The largest of these are Pentecostals, Anglicans (Church of England), Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans and Presbyterians. However, of these, only the Pentecostals are gaining in membership, led by the Assemblies of God.

BRIEF HISTORY

ORGANIZATION

There are primarily three types of church organization embraced by Protestant churches. Some churches have Bishops which are selected from a central authority. These in turn are responsible for the churches within their jurisdictions. Other churches have Elders which are lay members elected by the congregation. They choose the pastor and are responsible for the overall governance of the church. The third type of organization is the congregational organization where the congregation chooses the pastor directly. Most Protestant churches believe in the doctrine of the trinity. This is the idea that there is one God who is manifested in three different forms, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Others reject the idea of the trinity insisting that only the Father is God.

DEFINITION OF GOD

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LIFE BEFORE BIRTH

Most Protestant churches do not believe that the human spirit existed before conception. However, there is a doctrine that we have always existed in the mind of God.

OUR PURPOSE ON EARTH MEANS OF REDEMPTION

Our purpose on the earth is to worship and glorify God.

The consensus of most Christian churches is that redemption from death and sin is the result of the sufferings, death and resurrection of Jesus. Each individual receives the atonement by conviction of sin, justification through the blood of Christ, and sanctification through the Holy Ghost.

CONVICTION OF SIN

Because most Christians believe in salvation by grace alone, critics seem to think that the commandments and laws of God are not considered important. This, however, is not true. As C. S. Lewis pointed out in his book Mere Christianity, it is the very act of striving for obedience that brings us to the throne of grace. Why would anyone seek remission of sins if the commandments were not important? It is the very desire to be obedient, and our realization of our weakness that brings us to confess our sins and seek reconciliation. As the publican in the parable, we are led to exclaim “God be merciful unto me, a Sinner”.

JUSTIFICATION

Christ atoned for the sins of all of mankind. By accepting his atonement through faith, we are brought into a state of grace whereby our sins our remitted.

SANCTIFICATION

Once we are brought into a state of grace, the Holy Ghost works within us to sanctify us and purify our desires so that we become persons of righteousness.

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The sanctification process most often occurs through experience. As C. S. Lewis also teaches in Mere Christianity, this sanctification process is as if there is a master contractor rebuilding our house. The Lord takes down a wall here, adds a wall there, and completely re-arranges our home. This process can sometimes be painful, but he is not simply fixing our old home, he is building a mansion.

LIFE AFTER DEATH

Most Protestants believe in the resurrection of the dead and that the righteous in Christ are admitted into heaven to dwell with God and Christ in eternity. All those who do not have the grace of Christ will endure the torments of hell.

OUR ULTIMATE DESTINY ADDENDUM

The common doctrine is that whatever state we obtain to in the resurrection will be our lot for all of eternity.

SEVENTH DAY ADVENTISTS
The Seventh Day Adventists accept most of the basic tenants of Protestantism. They differ in that they believe that the Jewish Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday is the correct day of worship. They also do not believe that the spirit of man exists outside of the body. When a person is dead, all consciousness ceases. The wicked will be resurrected, but then will endure the second death, to live no more. They also follow the dietary laws of the Old Testament. They do not eat pork or shellfish. Most are lacto-ovo vegetarians. The only animal products they eat are milk and eggs. Many are vegans, not even using milk and eggs. Most abstain from tobacco, alcohol, coffee, tea and other drugs. As a result of their dietary beliefs, they have the longest longevity of any Christian religion.

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JEHOVAH WITNESSES
The Jehovah Witnesses believe that only the Father, whom they call Jehovah, is God. Jesus, although he performed the atonement to redeem all mankind is not equal to Jehovah. They do not celebrate holidays, such as Christmas, that are derived from pagan practices. They do not swear allegiance to any government nor serve in the military. They reject all of the moral and dietary laws of the Old Testament, adhering to only what is written in the New Testament. They interpret the New Testament injunction to abstain from blood as applying to blood transfusions. Like the Seventh Day Adventists, they do not believe that the spirit exists apart from the body.

UNITARIAN / UNIVERSALISTS
Unitarian and Universalists were originally separate churches. The Unitarians distinguished themselves by rejecting the doctrine of the trinity. The Universalists distinguished themselves by believing that all men and women would eventually be saved. There was no eternal hell. Today, a person who belongs to the Unitarian / Universalist Association is free to believe anything they want about God or life after death. They believe that each person should be respected as a unique individual. They are very tolerant of diverse lifestyles.

SOCIETY OF FRIENDS (QUAKERS)
Friends or Quakers have historically been distinguished by their manner of speech and language. Today’s Quakers no longer dress and speak differently from others. They are also noted for their manner of worship and the avoidance of music. Meetings are often conducted without any formal program, each member being allowed to give their testimony when prompted by the spirit.

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The Friends believe in the guidance of the “inner light” or conscious of each person in social matters and matters of morality. Many are conscientious objectors who prefer to avoid war and work for peace. They are very socially active and worked for the abolition of slavery, women’s right and protection of the environment.

MENNONITES

Mennonites were formally known as Anabaptists or rebaptizers. They were called this because they rejected infant baptism. All those who arrive at an age of understanding are baptized whether or not they were formally baptized as infants. Baptism is usually performed by immersion. Some Mennonites such as the Amish believe in living a simple life in a farming community and rejecting modern conveniences such as automobiles and electricity. They are well known for their community spirit and excellent workmanship.

BRIEF HISTORY

CHAPTER THIRTEEN: CHRISTIANITY LATTER-DAY SAINT

The History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints began in 1830. A young boy, Joseph Smith, who lived in the state of New York was concerned about religion. He went into the woods to pray about the matter and experienced a vision in which the Father and the Son appeared to him. They directed him to join none of the existing churches. In the ensuing years, other visions followed. An angel named Moroni appeared and directed him to gold plates hidden in a hill. This record contained a history of God’s dealings with prophets who lived on the American continents. By divine means, Joseph Smith translated the record into what is today known as The Book of Mormon. John the Baptist appeared and restored the authority to baptize. Peter, James and John appeared and restored the authority to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost. Other messengers appeared to confer the authority to gather Israel, bestow the blessings of Abraham, and redeem the dead.

In 1830 the Church was formally organized. Joseph Smith became the first president. They formed settlements in Ohio, Missouri and Illinois, persecution always following. In 1844, Joseph Smith was assassinated in Carthage, Illinois. Brigham Young assumed the leadership of the Church and the Latterday Saints made their historic trek across the Great Planes to settle in the Salt Lake valley and other places in the west. Today it is a world wide religion.

ORGANIZATION

The general leadership of the Church consists of a president with two counselors and twelve apostles. Upon the death of the president, the twelve apostles reorganize the presidency.

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Congregations are called wards and are organized with the leadership of a Bishop and two counselors. Several wards form what is known as a Stake with the leadership of a President and two counselors. Less populated areas are organized into branches and districts. All men receive the priesthood and are grouped into organizations called Quorums. A corresponding group known as the Relief Society exists for women. There is no professional clergy in the Church. Everyone receives a calling which they are expected to fulfil to their best ability. Latter-day Saints reject the concept of the trinity. The Father, Son and Holy Ghost are three separate persons united in purpose. The Father is supreme, but works through the other members of the Godhead. They are actual persons. Associated with the Godhead is an essence known as the Light of Christ which fills the universe and gives it direction.

DEFINITION OF GOD

LIFE BEFORE BIRTH

Prior to our birth upon the earth, we lived as spirits with our Father in Heaven. Jesus Christ was then known as Jehovah and created the earth under the direction of the Father.

OUR PURPOSE ON EARTH

We came to the earth to fulfill three purposes.

(1) We need a physical body in order to experience a fullness of joy. (2) We need to gain a knowledge of good and evil through experience. (3) We need to enter into sacred covenants which will be binding for eternity. In order to fulfill these purposes, we would need to leave the immediate presence of God. We would sin and would need a redeemer to bring us back into his presence. Jesus Christ was selected to fulfil this role.

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Another prominent spirit, known as Lucifer, objected and rebelled. He and his followers were cast out and became the devil and his angels. This is a different concept then is embraced by Judaism, most of Christianity, and Islam. In these religions, the angels are regarded as a separate creation. In Latter-day Saint theology, there is only one race of beings. They exist as pre-mortal spirits, mortal beings, post-mortal spirits, and resurrected beings.

MEANS OF REDEMPTION
THE ATONEMENT

In common with the rest of Christianity, the sufferings, death and resurrection of Christ are necessary in order for us to be saved.

FIRST PRINCIPLES

Four steps are necessary in order for us to embrace this salvation. (1) We must have faith in Jesus Christ and the validity of his atonement. (2) We must repent of our sins. This means to stop doing what is wrong and to embrace a life of righteousness. (3) We must be baptized by immersion for the remission of sins. This ordinance must be performed by a person who bears the priesthood. (4) We must receive the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. This ordinance is also performed by the priesthood. Latter-day Saints believe that Prophets and Apostles are as essential in the Church today as they were in ancient times. The President of the Church is regarded as a Prophet and may receive revelation for the entire Church.

REVELATION

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Each person may also receive revelation pertinent to his own status, such as for his Church calling, his family, his employment, his direction in life etc.

ORDINANCES OF THE TEMPLE
Latter-day Saints believe in certain ordinances which must be performed in special edifices known as temples. In these temples, sacred covenants are made. There is a ceremony known as the Endowment in which covenants similar to the Catholic vows are made. Marriages are also performed in the temples, only instead of being until death do you part, they are for time and all eternity.

LIFE AFTER DEATH

After we die, we return to the spirit world. Those who did not have the opportunity to embrace the gospel in mortality are taught the gospel in the world of spirits. The essential ordinances, such as baptism and the temple covenants are performed vicariously in their behalf. This is another reason for temples. Following our sojourn in the spirit world, our spirits and bodies will be reunited in the resurrection. Latter-day Saints to not believe in the concept of one heaven and one hell. They believe in degrees of glory where all can be judged and receive according to their works.

OUR ULTIMATE DESTINY

We can continue to grow and progress for all eternity. This concept is known as Exaltation or Eternal Progression. Our ultimate destiny is to sit upon thrones. This is not a new doctrine. It is mentioned in the New Testament. “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am sat down with my Father in his throne” (Revelation 3:21).

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ADDENDUM
TITHING
There is a strong emphasis in the Church on the payment of tithing. Contributions to the LDS Church are two times greater per capita than any other church. With no paid ministry, the money also goes twice as far. Tithing is given to the local bishop in sealed envelopes. Collection plates are never used in any meetings.

WORD OF WISDOM

The Church discourages the use of tobacco, alcohol, coffee, tea and other recreational drugs. The members are also encouraged to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, use whole grains, limit the use of meat, and get regular exercise. This is due to a revelation that Joseph Smith received known as “The Word of Wisdom”.

WELFARE

Members are encouraged to get all of the education they can, own their own homes, stay out of debt, have a savings plan, buy insurance, and store a years supply of food and other commodities. The Church also operates a system of farms and food storage facilities that members can draw on in case of an emergency. These storehouses are also used for general relief following natural disasters.

BRIEF HISTORY

CHAPTER FOURTEEN: CHRISTIANITY - NEW THOUGHT

Phineas Quimby is usually credited as the founder of the New Thought movement. He practiced mesmerism (hypnosis) for a period of time from 1838 and then turned to the practice of mental healing in 1859. Among his students was Mary Baker Eddy and Emma Curtis Hopkins. Mary Baker Eddy went on to establish the First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, Massachusetts. This was the beginning of the Christian Science movement. Emma Curtis Hopkins, who also studied under Mary Baker Eddy, began an independent Christian Science practice and is regarded as the founder of New Thought as an independent movement apart from Christian Science. Among her students were Malinda Cramer, Charles and Myrtle Filmore, and Ernest Holmes. Malinda Cramer founded the Church of Divine Science in San Francisco in 1888. Charles and Myrtle Filmore founded the Unity School of Christianity in Kansas City in 1889. Ernest Holmes founded the Church of Religious Science in Los Angeles in 1926. A later development along these same lines was the publication of “A Course in Miracles” by The Foundation of Inner Peace in 1975. This book is based on revelations received by Helen Schulman beginning in 1965.

ORGANIZATION

All Christian Science churches are branches of the First Church of Christ Scientist in Boston, Massachusetts. Divine Science, Unity and Religious Science are largely independent churches grouped into various federations and alliances.

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DEFINITION OF GOD

God is usually referred to as Divine Mind. All creation is a manifestation of Divine Mind. Christ is usually used as a synonym for God. Jesus was an individual person who best understood and exemplified the power of Divine Mind.

LIFE BEFORE BIRTH

New Thought consists of divergent ideas concerning the nature of the soul of man. Some believe in reincarnation.

OUR PURPOSE ON EARTH MEANS OF REDEMPTION

Our purpose is to discover our oneness with God.

Pain, sickness, poverty, old age, death and other forms of evil are considered unreal. What is described as evil is merely the absence of good, just like darkness is the absence of light. When light arises darkness vanishes away. When good arises, evil vanishes away. The realization of good is achieved by the practice of affirmations and denials. Perhaps, the best description of affirmations and denials is found in the book Lessons in Truth by Emily Cady. She give four denials and four affirmations which embodies the essence of New Thought Teachings.

DENIALS
1. 2. 3. 4. There is no evil. [God is the only reality] There is no absence of life, substance, or intelligence anywhere in the universe. Pain, sickness, poverty, old age and death cannot hurt me, for they are not real. There is nothing in the universe for me to fear, for greater is he that is within me than he that is in the world.

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AFFIRMATIONS
1. 2. 3. God is life, love, intelligence, substance, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence [All powerful, All knowing, Everywhere present]. I am a child or manifestation of God, and every moment His life, love, wisdom and power flow into and through me. I am one with God, and am governed by his law. I am Spirit, perfect, holy, harmonious. Nothing an hurt me or make me sick or afraid, for Spirit is God, and God cannot be sick or hurt or afraid. I manifest my real self through this body now. God works with me to will and to do whatsoever He wishes me to do, and He cannot fail.

4.

Most New Thought adherents believe in the continuation of the soul after death. Some believe in reincarnation.

LIFE AFTER DEATH

OUR ULTIMATE DESTINY

What our ultimate destiny might be is not clearly defined.

CHAPTER FIFTEEN: ISLAM
BRIEF HISTORY
Islam means submission to God. A Muslim is one who submits or surrenders to the will of God. All of the ancient prophets including Adam, Abraham, Moses and Jesus are regarded as Muslims because they submitted to the will of the one true God. Mohammed is the last and the greatest of the prophets. He was born in 570 A.D. in Mecca which today is located in Saudi Arabia. Mecca was the location of the Ka’ba which at the time contained a black meteorite surrounded by 360 idols. His father died before he was born. His mother died when he was six. He was raised by his uncle, Abu Talib. When he was twenty-five he married a wealthy window, Khadija. At the age of thirty, Mohammed began a practice of meditation and contemplation in a local cave. At forty he was visited by the Angel Gabriel. Numerous revelations followed resulting in the Qur’an. His wife was his first convert. Mohammed began to call upon the inhabitants of Mecca to repent. In three years he gained forty converts. This new movement was met with ridicule, then persecution, then violence. The local merchants didn’t want the people to give up their worship of idols as it was very profitable. In the meantime he had won converts in Madina, a city 280 miles to the north. Mohammed and some of his followers fled to Madina in 622. War broke out between Mecca and Madina. Mecca was defeated in 630. Mohammed returned and all of the idols in the Ka’ba were destroyed and it became the central shrine for Islam.

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Mohammed died in Madina in 632. By 634, Islam had spread over the entire Arabian peninsula. By 670 it had spread from the Atlantic Ocean on the west to the border of China on the east. Much criticism has been leveled at Islam because much of this conquest was by political and military means.

ORGANIZATION

After Mohammed’s death a disagreement arose. The majority followed Abu Bakr, an early convert. He was the first of several Caliph’s who became the political leaders. They became known as Sunnis. Today, most Moslems still follow this tradition which dominates in most countries accept for Iraq and Iran. A minority followed Ali, Mohammed’s cousin and son in law. His successors are spiritual leaders known as Imans. These Moslems became known as Shiites. They dominate in Iraq and Iran. Local worship for both traditions are conducted in buildings known as Mosques.

DEFINITION OF GOD

Islam believe in one all-powerful God known as Allah. He created the universe, but remains separate. Since he is all powerful, He is able to forgive all sins without the need for an atonement. There is also no need for a Holy Ghost to bear witness of Him. Even though there is but one God, there is also a pantheon of angels who serve him. They are led by four arch-angels Gabriel - the revelator, Michael - the provider, Izrail - the angel of death, and Israfil - the angel of the last judgement.

LIFE BEFORE BIRTH

The souls of men did not exist before the creation of this earth. There is a tradition that Adam and all other human souls were created at the same time.

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OUR PURPOSE ON EARTH

Moslems would agree with Christians that the purpose of life is to worship and glorify God. Islam does, however, take a more positive view of life. Life is meant to be enjoyed. Both spiritual and physical delights are intended to give us joy.

MEANS OF REDEMPTION

THE FIVE PILLARS OF ISLAM
(1) Daily Confession of Faith.

The worship of Moslems consists of five practices known as the five pillars of Islam. Each day, a Moslem must proclaim his faith before two witnesses by saying “There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his messenger”. (2) Daily Prayer. Prayer is conducted five times a day: dawn, mid-day, afternoon, sunset and evening. In Moslem countries, the call is issued from a Minaret which is a tower adjacent to a mosque. All Moslems prostrate themselves on the ground, bowing toward Mecca. On Friday at noon, the prayer is held in a Mosque. (3) Almsgiving. Each year, a Moslem must share his wealth with the poor. Usually this contribution is 1/40 of a persons total wealth. This is considered the minimum requirement. (4) Fasting during the month of Ramadan. During the ninth month of the Moslem Calendar, all of those who are physically able, fast each day from sunrise to sunset. (5) Pilgrimage to Mecca. All of those who are financially able are expected to make at least one pilgrimage to Mecca during their lifetimes.

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SHARIA LAW
Sharia means “The Way to the Water of Life”. In is a comprehensive body of law derived from the Qur’an and from the Hadith which is a collection of the deeds and sayings of Mohammed. Islam makes no distinction between religious and civil law. There is much criticism of Sharia law in western cultures because of the extreme punishments which may be meted out for offenses. There is also criticism that Sharia law treats men and women unequally. Treatment of women in some Moslem countries is by tradition and is outside of what is written in the Qur’an. These are such thing as prohibiting women from driving or attending school. Women are encouraged to cover themselves, although some customs are extreme.

LIFE AFTER DEATH

Following death, our souls remain in the grave until the resurrection. The unrighteous will suffer in their graves while the righteous will be at peace. When the resurrection occurs, we will all be judged according to our works. The righteous followers of Islam will enter into Paradise. Paradise is described as a garden of delight, full of both spiritual and physical pleasures. The wicked will enter into hell where they will be tormented by fire. For some, such as less observant followers of Islam and the righteous among non-believers, hell is a period of purification before they will be allowed to enter paradise. Allah reserves the right so save or condemn whom he will.

OUR ULTIMATE DESTINY

The common consensus is that paradise or hell will be our lot for eternity. Some believe, that ultimately all souls will be rescued by Allah’s mercy and enter into paradise.

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ADDENDUM
SUFISM
Sufism is a mystical tradition followed by some Moslems. It involves meditation and other practices similar to what is advocated in Hinduism or Buddhism. It is meant to bring the practitioners closer to God. One unique practice of Sufism is meditation through the art of dancing.

One of my favorites books on Sufism is called Principles of Sufism by Dr. Nahid Angha. In it she advocates 12 practices. (1) Abandonment - Giving up selfishness, greed, jealously and false concepts. (2) Repentance - Constant self improvement. (4) Patience - with oneself and with others. (3) Abstinence - Avoiding that which is impure.

(5) Truthfulness - always being truthful with others and with oneself. (6) Purity - in word, thought and actions. (7) Love - treating others with kindness and compassion. (8) Remembrance - meditation upon the will of God. (9) Loyalty - to friends, country and religion.

(10) Isolation - avoiding places and situations which can lead one astray. (11) Poverty - not allowing our possessions to take control. (12) Annihilation - Becoming fully absorbed in the good.

WHERE EAST AND WEST MEET

PART III

CHAPTER SIXTEEN: SIKHISM
BRIEF HISTORY
Sikhism is described as a religion which combines the best of Islam, the best of Hinduism and rejects the extremes of both religions. The Sikh movement began with the teachings of Guru Nanak Dev who was born on April 15, 1469 in the Punjab region which is claimed by both India and Pakistan. He was followed by nine other Gurus. Their combined teaching forms the scriptures of Sikhism known as the Holy Granth. A follower is known as a Sikh which means “Learner”. Today, there are about twenty five million followers of Sikhism which makes it the fifth largest religion. Most of them live in the Punjab region of India. They would like there own state which would be known as Khalistan. In 1980, hostilities erupted. The Indian army invaded their holiest shrine, The Golden Temple in Amritsar during the annual pilgrimage in 1984. In retaliation, prime minister Indira Ghandi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. Conflict continued until the early 1990s.

ORGANIZATION

A Sikh temple is known as a Gurudwara. The World Sikh Organization is an association of Gurudwaras throughout the world.

DEFINITION OF GOD

Sikhism rejects the many gods and idols of Hinduism. The creative, preserving and destroying activities of Brahmin, Vishnu and Shiva, respectively are combined into the one true God.

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LIFE BEFORE BIRTH

Sikhs believe in reincarnation and that our Karma, which contains our good or evil disposition, is carried from one life to the next.

OUR PURPOSE ON EARTH MEANS OF REDEMPTION
BECOMING AN AMRITDHARI

The purpose of life is to realize our divine potential, purify our karma, and obtain union with God.

A person who has formally chosen to identify himself or herself as a Sikh is known as an Amritdhari. There are five marks that they are required to take upon themselves. (1) Kesh - they are not to cut their hair. This represents respect for God’s creation and God’s will. Men cover their hair with a turban. Women cover their hair with a scarf. This is a sign of humility before God, identifies a person as a Sikh, and symbolizes the equality of men and women. (2) Kanga - this is a comb that is to be warn in the hair. This represents orderliness and self discipline. (3) Kara - a bracelet is to be worn on the wrist. This represents the oneness and eternity of God, the desire to bind ones will to God, and to use one’s hands for the benefit of mankind. (4) Kaccha - a special underwear. This reminds the disciple to embrace high moral character, fidelity and restraint. (5) Kirpan - this is a sword or dagger in a metal sheath. It reminds one of the brevity of mortality and that we should make the best use of our time. It is also a sign that we should take responsibility to protect the weak and to fight against injustice.

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SIKH VALUES

(1) All humanity is one. (2) All humanity is equal. (3) Women are equal to men. (4) Compassion is the essence of humanity. (5) The underlying desires that infringe on human rights are lust, wrath, greed, attachment to worldly things, and ego. (6) We are responsible for our actions. (7) We should defend the rights of the oppressed. Sikhism rejects the caste system and all idolatry. They do not practice asceticism. Karma is improved by useful living and by serving others. They do not have a priesthood which elevates one person above another. They do not engage in unproductive rituals. They do not wear veils. They do not fast or practice yoga. We will continue to be reincarnated until we have perfected our Karma.

LIFE AFTER DEATH

OUR ULTIMATE DESTINY

Our ultimate destiny is to enter Nirvana and be reunited with God.

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: NEW AGE
BRIEF HISTORY
The New Age movement is a loose collection of beliefs drawn from spiritualism; astrology; alternative medicine; eastern religion; various tribal traditions; Catholic, Jewish and Islamic mysticism; scientific speculation; mythology; environmentalism; New Thought; science fiction; psychic research; and just about everything else. William Blake first used the word “New Age” in a preface to a collection of Milton poems in 1809. The term was used in its present context in Madame Blavatsky’s book The Secret Doctrine published in 1888. The magazine The New Age, about Christian Liberalism and Socialism was published in 1894. The current movement began with the upheaval during the Vietnam war and the counter culture movement exemplified by Hippies and Woodstock in the 1960’s. An alternative term for New Age is the “Age of Aquarius” which started in 1940 when a particular configuration of the constellation Aquarius began.

ORGANIZATION
There are a number of New Age organizations, but none of them is large enough to form any kind of a central hub. In fact, there is a large mistrust of formal organized religion and any kind of central authority. A person who has reached a high level of spirituality is known as an Ascended Master. This includes Buddha, Jesus, Mahatma Ghandi and others.

DEFINITION OF GOD

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Almost every conceivable type of theology from atheism, monotheism, polytheism and pantheism can be found in the New Age movement. Generally speaking, salvation is a do it yourself effort, with each person in charge of his / her own destiny.

LIFE BEFORE BIRTH

There is a very strong belief in the spirit world. We emerged from it and will return to it. We can also receive assistance from angels and other spirit beings. In mainstream religion, such assistance is generally made available after petitioning God in prayer. In New Age, spirit beings are often approached directly.

OUR PURPOSE ON EARTH

We are on the earth by our own choice in order to gain understanding and experience that will assist us in our eternal journey.

MEANS OF REDEMPTION

There are numerous aids available to assist us. Some speculate that these means can be used for both good and evil purposes. In George Lucas’ Star Wars movies, this possibility is illustrated as the good side and the dark side of “The Force”. Many people, including those not of New Age persuasion, believe in and practice one or more of these. (1) Synchronicity - this is the idea that coincidences have meaning and can give us direction. This was an idea included in the psychology advocated by Carl Jung. (2) Astrology - often used in conjunction with synchronicity. This includes Zodiac predictions, Tarot Cards, I Ching sticks and so forth.

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(4) Intuition - this is defined as direct insight without going through the process of rational thought. Sometimes a sudden insight occurs after rationally struggling with a problem and then relaxing or giving up. (5) Law of Attraction - positive or negative thoughts tend to create their own reality. (5) Spiritual guides - these are spirit beings who work with us to help us achieve our goals. (6) Quantum physics - scientists have concluded that probability plays a big role in physics. Various practices can enhance the probability that certain outcomes will occur. (7) Relativity - Einstein taught that time was a forth dimension and that space bends. There is a possibility that we can be teleported from one time to another time, or from one location in space to another location. (8) UFOs - Visitors from other worlds can assist us. (9) Energy Centers - Certain physical configurations can concentrate energy. This includes mountains and ancient sites such as the Great Pyramid or Stonehenge. (10) Human Potential - we are capable of achieving greater things than we normally think. (11) Meditation, Yoga, Chi Kung, Tai Chi, and music can help to relax and concentrate our minds. (12) Feng Shui - This is the Chinese art of placement which can help to balance the energy in our environment. (13) Diet and exercise - proper diet and exercise helps us achieve our maximum energy level. Vegetarianism is often recommended. Fasting can be beneficial. (14) Alternative medical practices such as Reiki, acupuncture, biofeedback, Ayurveda, Naturalpathy, Herbal and Aroma Therapy can enhance traditional medicine.

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LIFE AFTER DEATH

Death is an illusion. We are spirit beings and continue to live after our physical bodies return to the dust. Hell is very loosely defined as a temporary abode for those who are bound to the earthly plane by their own attachments.

OUR ULTIMATE DESTINY

Throughout eternity, we will continue to increase our spiritual attunement and ascend to higher and higher levels of being. Occasionally, we may choose to be reincarnated as a mortal being in order to gain additional understanding or to help harmonize a relationship.

ADDENDUM

NEW AGE MUSIC

One benefit of the New Age movement has been the preservation of various cultural elements. This is especially true in the areas of art and music. A rich genre of New Age music has developed which consists of rhythms from cultures around the world. This includes Celtic, Latin American and Native American music. All of this has been enhanced by the modern computer which has enabled musicians to produce a profound blending of sounds. Music for Zen Meditation by Tony Scott which was published in 1965 is regarded as the first New Age music album. Manheim Steamrollers, a group founded by Chip Davis, is considered the first New Age group. Their Christmas albums, first published in 1984, have sold over twenty million copies.

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