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Literacy of World Religions handout

Literacy of World Religions handout - Literacy of World...

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Literacy of World Religions As a knowledge of mythology helps us uncover the deeper meaning in some literature, so a knowledge of religious/biblical terms is useful in broadening our understanding of the author’s meaning, in a work written in a cultural context containing Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Hindu elements. Hinduism Hinduism is the predominant religion of the Indian subcontinent. It is considered the world’s oldest and third largest religion. It is often referred to as Sanatana Dharma , a Sanskrit phrase meaning “the eternal law.” The religious source for Hindus is the set of ancient texts called the Vedas , timeless truths revealed to anonymous sages at least four to five thousand years ago. Veda means “knowledge” in Sanskrit. The Vedas attempt to address the relationship between God, humankind, and nature. Brahman refers to the highest, most exalted entity to be known – the Absolute. (Brahman is used much in the same way that “God” or “Allah” is used in the other world religions.) According to Vedanta philosophy, the goal of life is to establish a pure and eternal relationship with Brahman. Brahman is the “infinite, undivided, unchanging reality.” Brahman can also be seen as various manifestations, or avatars (an avatar is the descent of a deity to the earth in an incarnate form or some manifest shape; the incarnation of a god): Vishnu, Rama , and Krishna . Humans are individual souls seeking to be reunited with Brahman. In the context of the individual, the absolute Brahman is called the Atman . Hindus believe all man yearns for freedom, love, and peace, and that only through spiritual practices can one “wake up” to his true nature and find absolute freedom, love, and peace. Hindus recognize that all the various religious paths in the world can lead one to God. Because of this, Hindus feel no need to convert others. Hindus believe that by studying different religions they can come to a deeper understanding of their own, and hope that studying Hinduism will do the same for others. Hindus believe in karma , the law of cause and effect, and in dharma , personal duty. They also believe in Samsara , the continuing cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth, and in Moksha , liberation from samsara . Vegetarianism: Hindus advocate the practice of respect for all life because divinity is believed to permeate all beings, including plants and animals. Vegetarianism is not a requirement, but is recommended for a purifying lifestyle. The cow for generations was relied on for its milk (protein), its dung (fuel & fertilizer), and its labor (tilling the fields), and thus was recognized as a caretaker and maternal figure. The cow is honored as a symbol of unselfish giving. Advice from Hinduism: Remember that your true nature is divine, and that some day you will reach the goal.
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