worldreligionlecturenotes2fall2015.pdf 10200 1
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This 7 page Study Guide was uploaded by Jamila Bowers on Friday November 27, 2015. The Study Guide belongs to 10200 1 at Rowan University taught by Professor Wang in Fall 2015. Since its upload, it has received 24 views. For similar materials see Religions of the world in Religious Studies at Rowan University.
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Date Created: 11/27/15
Religions of the World Lecture Notes 11 Dr Youru Wang A new religious path does not center on ritual and social duties but on mental disciplines involving intuitive knowledge or secret wisdom taught by sages and drawn from mystical experiences and esoteric sources not available to ordinary people Upanishads lThe word upanishad means a secret teaching Secret here means that ultimate realities cannot be perceived by ordinary persons and that the teaching can be understood only by those who have entered into the life of meditation 2 Upanishads includes more than 100 mystical writings 13 are the earliest which were composed between 600200 BCE 3 They are part of the Vedic corpus based on philosophical commentaries on the Vedas and the culmination of Vedic teaching Vedanta Vedas End 4 They are the authoritative sources for many later forms of Hindu philosophy 5 They answer people s new concerns in a post Vedic age The answer in this scripture was offered by forest wanderers or ascetics 6 With new ideas of karma and rebirth the old Vedic salvation was seen as transient New concerns were with how to end the multiple or endless life and death with freedom moksha in a stable unchanging existence of another nature Brahman Background The new outer search for the fundamental principle of the universe and the internal probe for the essential self The search for the fundamental outer principle centered on the term Brahman It was first used to refer to a mysterious power when one heard the sounds of the recited hymns Gradually it referred to an allpervasive unseen power and energy that was the essence of the entire world Characteristics of Brahman lIt is the universal essence the ultimate source of souls the Being from which all things spring yet it remains one and makes the universe one the One without a second It is the whole of the power that resides in gods It requires us to understand the proper relationship between one and many 2 It is invisible spiritual not material not any thing It is present throughout the universe but nowhere can it be seen it can be directly known by mystics though It is like a lump of salt melted in a cup of water you can taste its existence in the water but non existent to touch or sight 3 It is generative a seeming nothing but giving birth to everything the source of the whole phenomenal world It is like you crush a seed pod and pull out a seed When you split the seed open nothing is inside But from this hollow shell grows up the whole big tree it brings forth endless worldly forms and sustains them 4 Human language is insufficient to describe Brahman It is beyond the competence of our descriptive words and concepts The truest word for Brahman is indescribable One who really knows Brahman can only point and say in ecstasy this is it Atman What is the nature of the self What is the lasting basis of one s being The questions represent the search within for the basis for permanence in the individual something deathless immortal through introspective meditation The answer is the Atman the undying eternal soul the True Self Characteristics of Atman l The Atman is concealed covered trapped by three layers of material stuff which are concentric The causal body accumulated karma in the form of fine matter causing rebirth Only final liberation will dissolve this sheath and let only one s soul continue The subtle body made up of 5 kinds of atoms which can be detected by sight taste touch hearing and smelling when they are combined together When they are not combined they elude all senses It is the ghostly body of a deceased person The gross body made up of 5 kinds of molecules the outermost and can be seen mistakenly as the self by ordinary persons 2 The Atman as pure consciousness The description of 4 levels of consciousness Waking consciousness operative in daily lives the soul is unknown Dreaming consciousness still able to perceive material forms and they can trouble us Dreamless sleep state of consciousness a blissful state in which all worldly things disappear but a remnant of selfconsciousness is retained The ultimate state of consciousness no name to describe it The blissful consciousness exists alone without awareness of any object or concept It is an omnipresent reality like the unifying Brahman 3 The Atman seated in a web of psychic organs From the soul the consciousness to psychic faculties The conscious intellect called buddhi which conducts daily activities The manas or lower mind emerged from the buddhi which receives stimuli from the senses and identifies sense objects The senses or sense organs themselves apprehending the physical world Conclusion None of these three faculties are able to offer knowledge about the soul They point outward only 4 The method for discovering the Atman Only introspection can be of any use to reveal the soul the tactic of turning inward and the retroversion turning backward to the primitive state by practicing yoga When consciousness withdraws from things and turn back toward the center of our being our power of knowing could be intensified and focuses exclusively on the soul a kind of direct knowing without being mediated by our sense organs or faculties quote in page 57 of textbook It is the proclamation of a discoverer testifying to a culminating inner experience This experience penetrates the obscuring sheathscoverings and discovers the true self in an interior ocean of light that has no islands and shores no distinctions no ignorant supposition of individuality and personhood All left there is only the universal consciousness immune to the changes wrought by time It brought relief from great distresses sufferings and oppressions It also reaches the identification between the final reality within and the final reality without the immaterial indescribable generative and yet eternal one the Brahman The Atman is just the Brahman within The individual soul is the world soul Brahman sharing its eternity and bliss Religions of the World Lecture Notes 111 Dr Youru Wang Path of Devotion The Path of Devotion bhakti places its hope for liberation in the power of a personal God of the universe This new approach was gradually developed due to the following factors The path of knowledge was difficult for those who cherished their individuality too much and did not like the cost of their personal existence for a total liberation But the new path of devotion was equally difficult for those who had followed the Vedic belief in impersonal principles such as rita dharma and saw gods as limited powers over only a portion of the universe The concept of Brahman a universal essence though still impersonal helped greatly the rise of the new path of devotion which made Brahman a personalized God Worship of Vishnu Historical background In the Vedas Vishnu was associated with the sun riding a sun eagle armed with a discus and once in his three giant steps he created the three worlds He cared about immortality and the welfare of society Those who could not accept the Violent Siva as their savior found an alternative in Vishnu Vishnu was related to a tribal people Satvatas who worshipped Krishna and also related to the BhagavadGita a work of the 2nd or lSt century BCE which was part of the great epic book Mahabharata BhagavadGita Significance of BhagavadGita l The most widely used scripture in Hinduism it consists of 18 short chapters of Sanskrit verses 2 Its pluralistic or somewhat syncretistic approach was appreciated by millions of Hindus who are not Vaishnavas the devotees of Krishna or Vishnu after five centuries of negotiation Krishna as earthly incarnation avatar of Vishnu later on more avatars could be chosen to worship was fully recognized by priests 3 The scripture adapted the Upanishad teaching to the religious need of a civil society Combining the path of devotion with the path of action duty the new movement allowed the religion ever open its door to women and lower class people As long as they fulfill their duty and dedicate that to God they have hope for and access to final liberation The central themes of BhagavadGita l Subordinating the impersonal Brahman to the power of a personal God 2 Correcting the tendency to abandon the world and class duty in seeking liberation 3 Showing how to perform duty without harm The opening scene of BhagavadGita Prince Arjuna the leader of Pandava paralyzed before his fighting with the Kaurava in worrying about his karmic consequences of leading such a battle and killing others the moral problem with his duty and the question if we should abandon our worldly work marked with its imperfections and thus search for liberation Arjuna asked for advice of his teacher Krishna Krishna s teaching 1 Starting with conventional arguments no one should escape duties the soul cannot be killed and therefore no real harm will be done in the battle 2 But the most important reason for not abandoning duties is that they can be performed in a new spirit that prevents accumulating bad karma and makes them a means of liberation the insight into the selfish desire that creates bad karma not action itself 3 If we perform our duties as a service to God without selfish desire to any personal gain then the actions will not create bad karmas for us After a life of sel ess performance of one s social duties the soul will be forever freed 4 God creates and maintains the world in this desireless spirit Only for the welfare of the world he carries on his eternal cosmic activity and only for saving the world from evil he descends to earthly births his work entails no bondage 5 Humans should emulate that kind of sel essness and share in that freedom 6 Meditation or yoga can help to achieve the mastery of personal desires by seeking utter tranquility and eliminating desires experiencing Brahman a moral state and a basis for desireless action in a life of devotion to duty 7 The experience of Brahman in not only a psychological state but also a metaphysical one in which an individual does not vanish but discover one s tie with all other living beings and feel empathy with them through one s tie with God It is both the state of eternal liberation and the way to that liberation The discovery of the relationship with God comes along with the devotion to God and leads devotees to final liberation Later arguments on Brahman and a personal God Sankara argued that ultimate reality was only the impersonal Brahman Plural things and persons are mirage like appearances imposed on Brahman A personal God is for persons of weak intelligence and focuses on an illusion Ramanuja argued that multiple persons and things including personal God are also real if they are from Brahman Moreover the divine all inclusive reality should be the personal God Brahman was only one of many names of Krishna A beautiful image of God can generate devotion the last step toward liberation The God responds to the devotion those images can generate Worship of Siva 1 He was the former god Rudra in the Vedas perceived as the special divine force behind all natural processes of destruction 2 Siva as the source of both procreation reproduction and destruction 3 Siva was related to the worship of the symbols of male organ lingam and female organ yoni The symbols are not for erotic purposes but stating the truth of the universe Siva s effective generative power is eternally at work both feminine and masculine a force for both life and destruction 4 Sometimes Siva had the icon of the halfwoman god 5 Mythology about Siva s feminine side grew enormously which also referred to his powerful wife goddess with different names such as Uma Parvati Durga Kali They represent the female reproductive power sakti of Siva 6 The destructive side Siva haunts the cremation grounds smears his body with ashes of the dead his followers did the same and wears a necklace made of skulls 7 The constructive side for instance his hair stopped the fall of the Ganges River 8 After 400 CE the new tendency to worship Siva as the unifying One God see quote on page 68 emphasized more the protective side of Siva and criticized the ordinary ignorance of Siva s helping power 9 Siva as the supreme dancer the creator preserver and destroyer of life 10 The followers thus believe that the union with God entails neither a loss of individuality nor any sense of divinity But humans cannot identify themselves with God 11 Worship of Durga and Kali wild haired fanged dangerous devouring human esh and drinking blood marked the rise of Saktism in Hinduism the realistic approach to the cruel aspects of the world Durga puja 12 Making sense of this kind of worship Accepting harsh experiences with equanimity Path of Knowledge Yoga Literally means to join to unite to tie together It is a mentalphysical training that can bring about conscious union of one s own soul with the universal soul 9 6 9 6 Eight steps of Yoga 1 Moral restraint nonviolence truthfulness honesty chastity abstention from sexual behavior freedom from greed 2 Mental discipline or observance cleanliness being content austerity selfcontrol and endurance study meditation on the divine 3 Posture the most wellknown is the Lotus posture 4 Breath control slowing evening stabilizing or reducing breath 5 Withdrawal from sense objects or perceptions 6 Steadying of attention the mind does not stay still one needs to focus on an object 7 Meditation dhycma it stabilizes the mind in an uninterrupted state of concentration on the object especially on a chosen religious theme all distractions disappear 8 Absorption or concentration samadhi all consciousness of the object the self and separateness vanishes the mystical union with the ultimate the infinite oneness
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