Saturday, October 30, 2010

World Religions Vocab Themes

1. The Human Condition

Humans are considered to be undergoing the cycle of samsara, and can only break that cycle through becoming unified with their Atman. The physical world is considered to a part of maya, meaning that it is an illusion, and part of breaking the cycle of samsara is for one to recognize this illusion and transcend it. Humans can be in different Gunas, or states of mind, which affects their progression through samsara and ultimate release from the physical world. There are three gunas, Tamas which is laziness, Rajas, which is greed, and Sattva, which is clarity. If a person dies in Tamas or Rajas, they will usually be born into lower castes or as animals, but if a person dies in Sattva, they would be reborn into a higher caste.

2. Achieving Salvation

Achieving salvation in Hinduism means the release from samsara through moksha, through liberation from the physical world and the illusion of the physical world. Most Hindus work to accomplish this through practicing one of the four forms of yoga. Through practicing Jnana Yoga, Hindus seek to achieve moksha through study. Bhakti yoga involves devoting oneself to a specific deity to reach mosksha. Karma yoga involves restricting one’s actions in order to attain moksha. Also, Ashtanga yoga involves pushing one’s physical limits in order to break free from the consciousness of the physical world in order to connect with one’s atman.

3. Concept of God/ Deities

In Hinduism, Brahman has three distinct characteristics that are portrayed through three different deities that compose the trimurti. Brahma is the maintainer, Vishnu is the sustainer, and Shiva is the destroyer. These deities have manifested themselves on earth through avatars such when Vishnu appeared as Krishna and Rama. Humans can experience darshan, which is the sight of vision of one of these deities and it is believed that experiencing darshan will bring one good luck, although it does not occur often.

4. Sacred Texts/Doctrines

The largest sacred texts in Hinduism are the Vedas which are Shruti literature because it was passed down through oral tradition. The Upanishads are also very important Hindu texts because they are the texts that first begin to elaborate on the doctrines and major beliefs of the religion. The other type of Hindu literature is Smirti literature, which is literature based on memory such as the Ramayana or the Bhagavad-Gita.

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