Ch3 - Chapter 3 Religious Traditions In the preceding...

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77 J.M. Nelson, Psychology, Religion, and Spirituality, DOI 10.1007/978-0-387-87573-6_3, @ Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009 Chapter 3 Religious Traditions In the preceding chapters we began to sample the richness of the dialogue that has taken place between psychology and religion. However, it is impossible to really appreciate this conversation without an understanding of the religious traditions that have been involved. In this chapter, we will review the three main traditions that have been central in the psychology and religion dialogue: Hinduism and yogic practices, Buddhism and Zen practices, and Christianity. The religious traditions we will discuss are the center of immense bodies of literature, produced both by adherents of the religions and the scholars who study them. Each tradition contains a tremendous amount of internal diversity in terms of beliefs and organizational structures. Thus, any summary given in the space of a few pages will leave out much of interest. In the following discussion, we will focus on those aspects of the traditions that will help us understand the psychology and religion dialogue, but a serious student will also wish to consult additional primary and secondary sources to gain a more comprehensive picture of these great religious traditions (see e.g., Ludwig, 2000; Smart, 1999a,b, 1998). 3.1 Hinduism Hinduism is best understood as a grouping of diverse Indian religious traditions around a common core of sacred writings (Klostermaier, 2000a,b; Flood, 1996) (Figure 3.1). The beginnings of Hindu religious thought are found in the Vedas, an ancient collection of hymns, poetry, and text on a variety of religious subjects and rituals. It is believed that the earliest Vedic hymns originated in oral form before the 2nd millennium BCE and that they were present in written form sometime during the 1st millennium BCE. Four primary samhitas or collections of texts exist, the oldest and most important of which is the Rig Veda , which presents a number of ideas that became important in basic Hindu thought. Separate from the four samhitas, but also important for our purposes, is the Ayur Veda , a collection of texts that deals with healing practices and rituals (see Section 10.3.2). Later writers began to reflect on the Vedas and develop other documents such as the Upanishads (“sitting down near” or “secret scriptures”), which include about
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78 3 Religious Traditions 100 texts, a dozen of which are considered especially important and were composed early in the 1st millennium BCE. The Upanishad s contain a number of concepts that have been a central part of Hinduism, including the essential relationship between our inner selves and ultimate reality around us, and the ongoing cycle of death and rebirth or reincarnation known as samsara . Hindus believe that our position in this cycle is determined by our actions or karma . These actions can condemn us to endless lives of suffering, but it is also possible to achieve liberation from samsara. In Hinduism, this liberation is pursued through several related methods, the most
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Ch3 - Chapter 3 Religious Traditions In the preceding...

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