Vivekananda Used in His Major Term Paper

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¶ … Vivekananda used in his major address to the World's Parliament of Religions to convince the audience that the Vedas contained truths of science as well as religion was to make a statement characterizing Neo-Hindu thought, and then cite a parallel statement from the world of science. He did this in order to show that Hinduism was not challenged by the world of science, in contrast to the other major religions, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. This strategy was interesting, because he also asserted that all of the religions were true path, but his examples belied those assertions. For example, he used the principle of the constancy of matter as a parallel for the Hindu belief that creation is without beginning or end. In addition, he cited the Hindu belief in the rebirth of souls and hereditary traits as parallel traits. Finally, he concluded by citing science as the search for perfect unity, which he stated was the same goal of any religion. In reality, the search for perfect unity is not the stated goal of all religions, but it is the stated goal of Hinduism.

2. Following his appearance at the World's Parliament of Religions, Vivekananda instituted a reform movement aimed at putting the words of Hindu modernity into practical action. Vivekananda's movement did not aim for social reform, but social uplift, which focused on helping the least privileged among Indians. Social reform relied upon top-down changes; while Vivekananda's social reform movement relied upon bottom-up social uplift. He did not believe that political changes were essential to social uplift, but that Indians could help elevate the status of other Indians. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Vivekananda's efforts were largely philanthropic. His programs included monastic organizations, missionary branch institutions, publications, education, famine relief, and medical aid. This practical aid resulted in help towards hundreds of thousands of Indians.

Questions from Notes:

1. Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh tradition, had an extraordinary life. He was born in the village of Talwandi in Punjab. Nanak was married at age 13, and had two children by the age of 19. Nanak worked as an accountant until he met a Muslim minstrel named Mardana; together, they composed hymns to Allah. At age 29, Nanak had a mystical experience; he disappeared for three days, and said that he was summoned by God and told to go into the world and pray, which he seems to have translated into a message to lead others in prayer. However, it is important to understand that Nanak was not a Hindu missionary; on the contrary, Nanak began his mission by stating, "There is no Hindu. There is no Muslim." After this revelation, Nanak went on pilgrimages to parts of India, where he absorbed the religious experiences of others and imparted them with his belief, which was a form of universal monotheism.

2. The essence of monotheism, as defined by Guru Nanak and Emperor Akbar, was that there was one God, regardless of religion. Being is truth and the ultimate reality. There are three elements to universal monotheism, as conceived by Nanak and Akbar: (1) there is one God; (2) God speaks through prophets; and (3) the sacredness of scripture. These elements may seem commonplace, but they were radical at the time that they were discussed, because the elements applied to all of the major world religions. Furthermore, those elements also helped close the perceived gap between the Hindu and Muslim belief systems.

3. Ram Mohan Roy's attendance of a Muslim school in Persia radically changed his life, because it provided him with distaste for image-worship. It also committed him to the idea of monotheism, and led him to reject some notions of traditional Hinduism. Furthermore, attending a Muslim school gave Roy the opportunity to learn Arabic, which meant that, unlike the majority of Hindus, he was able to read the Qur'an. Therefore, he could gain the insight to see that the basic tenets of Hinduism and Islam were very similar. This may have led to his willingness to embrace a wide variety of religions in later life, as demonstrated in the eclectic religions nature of the brahmo samaj.

4. The central teachings of the Brahmo Samaj consisted of what Ram Mohan Roy characterized as a pure return to the Vedas, and were concerned more with works than with faith. In fact, Roy was not tremendously spiritual, but was more concerned about the practical impact of a religion and its practice. Under Roy, intellectuals made up the majority of its followers. However, eventually, the Vedas were not considered infallible and reason and conscience were accepted as the highest authority. Other tenets included the renouncement of sacraments and of the caste system. He also rejected the doctrine of the transmigration of souls. Overall, Roy was interested in reforming India and Hinduism. He was both cold and rational in his approach to Hinduism, which did not appear to the masses.

5. Sri Ramakrishna's initial mystical experience while worshipping the goddess Kali was the result of his own skepticism. He wondered whether he was worshipping a goddess or an idol, and the despair about this led him to try to commit suicide. However, at that time light began to emit from the goddess. Ramakrishna had other mystical experiences, including encounters with Krishna, Radha, Sita, Muhammad, and Christ. Because his visions crossed religions, he believed that he was being given a divine understanding that all religions are true and were simply different paths to oneness.

6. The essence of Vivekananda's teaching regarding the neo-Vedanta was that India was central in the observance of true religion and spirituality. While Vivekananda had one main message, there were several smaller components to this message. Not surprisingly, the first and main tenet revolved around the holiness of India and was that India was mother of all Religion.

The second tenet went further than proclaiming India's holiness, because it attempted to establish the superiority of Hinduism, and did so in a manner that was not overtly divisive, by stating that the Hindu tradition promotes the unity and oneness of all religion. The third tenet was that Hindus are monotheistic, despite apparent polytheism. This third tenet was somewhat radical and controversial, because not all Hindus agreed that they were monotheistic. The fourth tenet was that Neo-Vedantic philosophy was both rationalistic and scientific. The fifth tenet was that the idea of Oneness was not merely a mystical concept, but formed the basis for social reform. Finally, the sixth tenet was that India has much to teach the Western world. This sixth tenet was very important in the birth of an independent India striving to free itself from the vestiges of colonialism, but could not be asserted until he had laid the support for such a seemingly radical statement by outlining his understanding of Hinduism.

7. Satya-Graha, as defined by Gandhi, meant grasping or holding onto truth. It had several elements: truth is God, love, ethics, and morality. He used Satya-Graha to gain India's independence from Britain by turning it into a tool for political action. First, its users were to be non-violent. Second, its users were to be non-cooperative. Examples of non-cooperation could be found in the mass strikes that Gandhi led or encouraged. Another example was the boycott of English goods; Gandhi stood against the British subjugation of India, but did not condemn individual Britons. Gandhi also believed that those fighting for independence should face imprisonment without resistance. For Gandhi, the satya-graha also involved fasting. The best example of Satya-Graha may have been the mass march to the sea to collect salt, which Gandhi led as an older man. It is important to understand that Gandhi did not believe that he knew the Absolute Truth, but he maintained that God was Truth. Furthermore, he believed that people should be guided by their inner conscience more than by outward influences, including religious texts, which was very contrary to what Christian missionaries were trying to convince the majority of Indians.

8. Gandhi and Muhammad Ali Jinnah both desired Indian independence from British rule, but they differed in their thoughts regarding the best way for Indians to attain that independence. Jinnah seemed to believe that India would eventually become independent, even without any type of radical action on the behalf of Indians. On the contrary, Gandhi believed that confrontation was essential, and that Indians would not gain their freedom without confronting British rule, which he considered evil, though he never demonized individual Britons. Gandhi believed that independence was best sought through the peaceful means of the Satya-Graha. Gandhi did not believe that independence should be sought through violent means or through means of anarchy, despite his encouragement that Indians violate unjust laws. In addition, Gandhi understood the connection between financial freedom and political independence; many of his efforts, such as labor strikes and product boycotts, focused on India's economic system. Furthermore, Gandhi worked for two goals: the independence of India and the uplifting of India's lower classes, and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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