It can be said that a religion of particularcultures reflects the psychology of that culture(Cohen, Wu and Miller1236-1249). In other words, the philosophy and opinions of a group whencombined again for to the religion the following.
So by studying a particularreligion, we can thereby get a feel for the philosophy and psychology of a culture. Eastern philosophies and religions have longbeen against the idea of individualism (Cohen, Wu and Miller 1236-1249).Hinduism for instance, believes that individualism is an illusion (Cohen, Wu and Miller 1236-1249).It is the collective that holds the power in such beliefs. The idea that anindividual is any different from thecollective is considered to be a naïve view. It is not that the philosophydiscounts the existence of the individual, it only goes against the fact thatan individual is somehow different from the collective. In other words anindividual is part of the whole, and thus the feeling and sense of identity isan illusion (Cohen, Wu and Miller 1236-1249).
Hinduism originated in India notthrough the works of any specific founder but from the various ways of livingthat existed in ancient India. Hinduism recognizes many different culturalstructures and authorities, though the highest authorities are recognized asthe Vedas. The Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagavad-gita are other recognizedauthorities that are of lesser impact. “Hindus believe that divinebeings exist in unseen worlds and that temple worship, rituals, sacraments andpersonal devotionals create a communion with these …
Gods.”(Academy, 2017)Hinduism as a word means both thesocial and relies construct of Indian society. Even though we are focusing onthe religions aspect of Hinduism, we must remember that both bodies are tied toeach other. As is usually the case withreligions(Cohen, Wu and Miller 1236-1249), the basic tenets of Hinduism dealwith the cycle of life foremost and the practicality of day to day life later.
Hindus believe in reincarnation. According to them, after death a person’sspirit is given body. This body can be that of an animal, a person of anothercaste (social level), or a god.
This is determined by what is known as theKarmic law i.e. if one has done good deeds (according to Vedas), he would havea higher station in the next life and if he has sinned, he would have a lowerstation. This cycle of death and rebirth continues on and on until one atticsenlightenment. “There is no eternal hell, nodamnation, in Hinduism, and no intrinsic evil–no satanic force that opposesthe will of God.
” – (Academy, 2011) Christianity has God as the creatorthat stands out of space and time (Pratte, 2011). In other words, God standsoutside the product of its own creation. Humans are God’s creation, but notpart of God. The concept of souls inhabiting the body make this viewpoint veryclear since the soul is supposed to be judged for its actions by ending up ineither hell or heaven. This judgement from God forms one of the core pillars ofthe religion. The “The Commandments”, the nature of hell and heaven, theanalogies of ‘sheep and shepherd’ various other tenets of the faith point tofact that God exists outside our reality and this reality serves as thejudgement field of God where the worthy end up in heaven and the unworthy inhell.
For instance, the following quotes do well to illustrate the place of anindividual in relation to the creation. Isaiah 55:8,9 – “God’s thoughts andways are higher than ours like the heavens are higher than the earth.” (Pratte,2011) Jeremiah 10:23 – “The way of man is not in himself; it is not in man whowalks to direct his own steps.” (Pratte, 2011) Galatians 1:8,9 – “No teaching exceptthe gospel of Jesus Christ can bring salvation and a right relationship withGod.” (Pratte, 2011) Essentially human nature and intellectcannot pave a way to divine truth.
No amount of self reflection can lead aperson to God. (Pratte, 2011). According to Christianity, man is not part of God. Thus aperson cannot find spiritual truth by meditation. It is only God who may revealthe spiritual truth.
Hence, the hope of Hinduism is to escapematerial existence and the reincarnation cycle by looking for God withinoneself, whereas Christians believe that God cannot be found within the heartof the ‘sinner’. The soul of a person is not a part of God. In other words, onecannot find God within oneself since no amount of meditation could can revealsomething that does not exist in the self. Christianity is a faith onto oneself.But Hinduism claims no faith as there is no ‘self to which we can ascribe afaith. How can an individual will matter if the entirety is God itself? Thusthe Hindus distance themselves from hell, heaven and free will.
God, to them,is not a lawgiver nor the greater (Cohen, Wu and Miller 1236-1249). Rather thecreation itself is god. While it maintains many gods, all of those are alsopart and inclusive of ‘Atman’, the universal consciousness. Yet, the concept of karma is stillprone to misinterpretation because the of the nature of ‘free will’ in Hinduism. How can one sin if the entirecreation is god itself and there is a specific plan according to which theworld moves. This issue comes up often Hinduism . For instance, if we all arepart of God or greater consciousness and there is no separation between humansand creation, how could the concept of individual sin or evil doing come intoplay.
Since everything, including the good and the bad, is part of creation thevery notion of sin disappears. It seems as if there are two parts ofHinduism, one that deals with the mystical and the other that deals with theday to day human activities, hence the need to form the caste system. 2. The word Peace in itself holds nomeaning. It is not the opposite of violence. A hungry man’s idea of peace is afull stomach. A nation at war may claim the non-existence of violence as peace,even though it may come at the price of hunger.
Similarly, a man may seek peace from the stress and tension of theeveryday life. A priest may seek peace in communion with God, perhaps evendeath, the ultimate representation of God’s embrace. Many would suggest that peace is theantithesis of violence and war (“What Is Peace?”, 2017). But is it logicalto view the different instances of peace, in different societies, with the sameglasses? Can we dare suggest that the peace that exists in a ‘Just’ andtolerant society is comparable to that of an unjust and fundamentalist societythat keep its citizens in line through fear? If that is the case, then weshould accept the conflict free regimes of dictators and tyrants as peaceful (Rummel,1975,35).
One may derive from the aboveargument that peace is not a static phase that either exists or not. It is adynamic feature of society that has less to do with violence and more to dowith human interactions and mindset (Rummel,1975, 36). There exists arelationship between peace and conflict, such that the conditions necessary forpeace and any changes in such conditions make conflict more likely or lesslikely (Rummel,1975, 36). We need to consider the idea that peace does notexist in a vacuum.We might be better off treating peace as a social contract,such that we as the members of society achieve peace through negotiations,adjustments, resolutions and decisions. Such a scenario makes peace an active,dynamic part of society and not a passive tenet (Rummel,1975, 102). It isthrough our cooperative existence and interaction that we bring about thesocial contract that is necessary for peace.
Peace also holds a pivotalrelation with power. It is only through a balance of power that we can bringabout the genuine and worthwhile instance of peace (Rummel,1975, 102). Peace can both be external andinternal from the point of view of an individual (Rummel,1975, 40). As a social construct,peace is limited to the external sphere where the interactions and actions ofother members of society plays a role in bringing about peaceful environment.But if we were to consider human nature we would find the flaw in such anarrangement (“What Is Peace?”, 2017). If a person is not at peace withhimself and his role in society, it will only lead to dissatisfaction andresentment and it won’t be long before the same chaos leaks to the externalworld.
Perhaps we may call the internal peace a ‘spiritual peace’. If theexpectations and desire of an individual are not congruent with the socialreality there can be no peace. The social reality that is evidencedin the world in the forms of social contracts, political entities, national andinternational interactions, are just the manifestation of the expectations,values and meaning inherent in the minds of the people that are party to thesocial contract i.e. Peace (En.
wikiquote.org, 2017). 3. Buddhism and Taoism are two examplesof philosophies that have their origins in the India. Buddhism originated withSiddhartha Gautama, who later came to be known as the Buddha or “the awakenedone” (Fieser, 2017). Buddha offered insight into the reality of life.
According to him, suffering exists only because of one’s attachment to materialthings. It is only through moderation and Dhamma (or Dharma in Sanskrit) thatwe can attain Nirvana (enlightenment) (Fieser, 2017). Oneof the six pillars of Dhamma is “Ehipassiko”.
It roughly translates as “encouraginginvestigation” (“Ancient Eastern Philosophy: Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism,Confucianism”, 2017). Buddha did not want his followers to follow him becauseof blind devotion (Liusuwan, 2017). He invited his followers to question histeachings and see for themselves if the teaching were reasonable. It is alsoworth noting that sense of morality and moderation is placed higher than anydogma (Liusuwan, 2017). Even the pañca-sila or theFive Precepts are only practical and dramatic rules that should govern one’slife (“The Five Precepts: Pañca-Sila”,2005). One of most fascinating and compelling aspects of Buddhism is the lackof deities and unnecessary belief structure.
Taoism is a philosophical andreligious tradition that has its origins in China. It is also known as Daoism.Traditionally, Lao-tzu, translated as “master Lao”,is credited with the foundation of Taoism and with having written the mostimportant text of Taoism, Dao De Jing (Book of the way)(Fieser, 2017). It hassince been adopted as the state religion of China even though its tenets haveless to with religious belief and is more of a path to greater understanding (Fieser, 2017). ‘The dao’ is the central concept in Taoism. It is literallytranslated as ‘the path’ or ‘the way’ (“Ancient Eastern Philosophy:Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism”, 2017).
Dao De Jing refers to ‘the dao’ as the ‘mother of everything’ (Fieser, 2017). Inother words, everything was born of Dao and everything is sustained by Dao.Following this logic we can say that everything is part of the Dao and henceour sense of identity is an illusion. This is very similar to the Hindu beliefof the Creator and Creation being one. Taoism maintains that there exist a sortof non-permanence in nature, a cycle of life where everything decays andreturns to ‘the Dao’ and is recycled and returns again. Daoism asks us tofollow this cycle of transformation willingly and without anger or regretbecause to do otherwise would be a disobedience of nature (Everett and Dun108).
In essence, taoism asks us to live in harmony with nature and oneself. Italso preaches the concept of ‘non-action’ oreffortless-action (Everett and Dun 108). This concept seems contradictory untilwe remember that Dao exists in everything and it is only when we are in tunewith the Dao that we can find the best way to live life. This philosophy alsocarries into governance. Taoism preaches the need of minimal governance andclaims that the more a government imposes itself on its members the more thesocial choice grows (Fieser, 2017).
As is evidenced from the abovediscussion, both Buddhism and Taoism have the concept of ‘flowing with nature’.But Buddhism decidedly tries to avoid the pleasures of life . Taoism on theother hand, wants its followers to accept the pleasures and the sufferings oflife as natural.
It is difficult to choose between eastern philosophies becausethey tend to have similar views on death and reincarnation. It is only the ‘how’of the question that changes. My personal preference in the face ofthe above evidence is Taoism, not because it has any inherent superiority overBuddhism, but because it fosters a deeper understating of nature and how theworld works. It seeks enlightenment through balance and not by doing away withor changing a part of your psychology.
The concept of Yin and Yang, theopposite forces of nature, very clearly describes the various shades ofawareness that can exist in a human mind and how we may balance them.