Comparative Religions Essay

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¶ … Religions

Religion has always been a controversial matter, and, while non-believers have constantly argued that it is all just a waste of time, religious people has kept their passions and their convictions. Regardless of the background that a certain religion has, there are always several laws guiding the respective faith. Whether it is Buddhism, Hinduism, or Christianity, religion constantly has its followers behaving according to certain principles.

In comparison to many of the religions practiced in the western world, Hinduism promotes contentious matters such as reincarnation, and, achieving of enlightenment through intense states of mediation. Hindus are generally acknowledged for their obsession to study the human spirit and everything related to it. There are numerous concepts in Hinduism which people from other religions cannot understand as long as they think according to their own standards.

In the opinion of Hindus, one should have four main guiding principles across his or her lives. These principles have been created in conformity with a vision of a divine force and according to the aspirations of God. Considering the fact that in Hinduism man is God in His essence, Hindus believe that people need to accomplish the mission for which God had created them. The four motives that should guide people across their lives are called purusharthas, and, one can consider themselves gifted when they have successfully experienced all of the purusharthas.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Essay on Comparative Religions Assignment

Dharma (righteousness), Artha (wealth), Kama (desire), and Moksha (salvation) are the purusharthas, the vital elements that should rule over one's life. The purusharthas cannot cause one's enlightenment if that respective person does not address all of the principles. There is place in life for wealth and desire also, since people need to have balance in their lives. Most individuals would believe that dharma and moksha should be the only purusharthas which one should deal with. This would be explained through the fact that some believe that by respecting dharma, one would eventually achieve salvation. However, if one had not come across material matters and human sentiments during their lives, there would be no need for the respective person to be saved from something.

Consequent to gathering guilt because of artha and kama, people understand why they need to achieve salvation. Furthermore, they become determined to be liberated from their material lives using any means possible, regardless of the fact that these methods involve a great deal of morality. While for most people the journey for salvation is not initially genuine, their experience in life gradually makes them understand why they want to be enlightened.

The Hindu scriptures (Upanishads) are the first documents in Hinduism which refer to reincarnation as being a key element in the religion. In the Rig-Veda Hindus believe that people will be rewarded in their afterlife depending on their conduct in life. Obviously, those that have performed good actions across their lives are rewarded accordingly, with a world of joy and happiness waiting for them in the next world. In contrast, little is known of the afterlife of those that had performed evil across their lives. There are various factors which can influence what will happen to people in their afterlives.

In the Rig-Veda, those that do not attain enlightenment through belief are reborn over and over again, until they finally achieve a higher state and the cycle of rebirths is completed. Also, those that do not care of the consequences that their actions will have are apparently reincarnated into an insect or a reptile.

It is the love of life that is one of Hinduism's most terrible sins, with the Maitri Upanishad considering that moksha is essentially needed in order for people to be liberated from life. The Mahabharata does not attempt to deny the fact that life is of great importance, and, furthermore, it claims that it is one of the most beautiful things ever to have existed. However, it also states that there are matters that are much more fundamental than the love of life, and, that these matters can differentiate mankind from animals.

It seems that it is not enough for one to choose the path of righteousness across their lives in order for the respective person to achieve moksha. Salvation can be achieved only be those that come to peace with themselves and learn how to love others like they love themselves. It is of great importance that people should not regard moksha as a prize that they must achieve consequent to working hard during their life. Moksha can only be achieved by those that have abandoned any material concept and that are not obsessive about being enlightened.

Samkhya, the classical school of Indian philosophy, indentifies moksha very differently than the Upanishads. While the Upanishads regard moksha as being a unification with the universe, and, seeing "all things in the self and the self in all things" (Zaehner 1966 pp. 69), the Samkhya claims that one should isolate themselves from the rest of the world in order to achieve moksha. The concept of unity with a divine being does not exist in the Samkhya, as the school invites people to behave similar to God, but not to become one with God.

In the Advaita Vedanta, moksha is perceived as assisting one in his search to become the BrahmanAtman. Thus, people eventually become the supreme form of God through moksha in this sub-school of the Vedanta.

Moksha is shown under a countless number of forms in Hinduism, with the human soul being conformed to "Brahman, infinity, deathlessness, or the one Self of all things" (Zaehner 1966 pp. 77) People generally want to attain moksha when they are old, even though the pursuit of moksha can begin at any stage in one's life. The reason for people wanting to achieve moksha in their elderly years is that experiencing the other purusharthas had made them want to attain enlightenment, with other matters becoming insignificant.

There are several paths to moksha and all of them are believed to lead to one becoming enlightened. One has to be guided by a spiritual guru in their search for moksha, in order for the respective person to have more chances of attaining the higher state. Gurus are necessarily to help people overcome their material desires and to find their true natures. The pursuit for moksha does not only help people save themselves, as it also helps the human community, with those in search for liberation becoming willing to help others, as they love everyone as they love themselves. Through following the four purusharthas, one can consider that life is an experience which rewards people. By dedicating themselves, mind and soul, to Brahman, people can achieve moksha and eventually become God themselves.

Sri Ramana Maharshi, one of the world's greatest religious supporters, is an example that people do not necessarily have to go through a great deal of experiences in their lives in order to want to attain moksha. He discovered that there is no reason to fear death when he was sixteen years old, realizing who he had been, and what his purpose had been on earth. From that point on, he changed completely, losing all interest in material matters and abandoning his previous convictions relating to life. As a disadvantage for the fact that he had attained moksha, he could no longer feel unconfined living life as he previously had. He isolated himself from the rest of the world, being more willing to pray in solitude than to spend time with other people. Clearly, the pursuit of moksha comes along with advantages and disadvantages, but, once he or she has attained it, one is no longer interested in society-related matters.

When concerning religion, Japanese pay great attention to art and aesthetics, and, Buddhism is largely represented through art in Japan. Shinto, one of the main religions in Japan, is very different from other religions, as it does not have sacred scriptures and it does not claim that one can become perfect. This religion states that no deed can be completely right, just as no deed can be completely wrong. In the opinion of Shinto followers, all humans are good, and those that perform evil are influenced by evil spirits. Shinto rituals are intended to prevent spirits from entering Shinto communities.

Shinto followers refer to their gods as kami, and, they are considered to be represented through various objects, natural phenomenon, and human sentiments. Also, Shintoists believe that humans transcend into kami when they die, making them worthy of being praised. Amaterasu, the sun goddess, is the most important kami in the Shinto religion and an ancestor of the present emperor of Japan.

According to Japanese legends, Japan was created as a result of the Heavenly Deities summoning Izanagi and Izanami, two divine creatures meant to give shape to the world and to create the "Land of the Rising Sun." Consequent to learning how to behave and how to create islands, the two divine characters felt that they needed to have children, and, thus, they gave birth to gods… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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