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Date Created: 11/04/15
Religions of the World Lecture Notes I Dr Youru Wang Background the Indus Civilization 1000 or more years before the Aryans arrived in India from Iran in the middle of the second millennium BCE an agricultural people had already settled in the Indus River valley They built wellplanned cities and developed a system of writing no one can decipher it yet This civilization is one of the dual origins of Hinduism 1 Great cities as major politicaleconomic centers were well built main streets were divided into many blocks all dwelling units were built around courtyards within the blocks bathing room oor or tank was included 2 Many public buildings had religious elements such as stone sculpture but no temples sculptures were made of clay one of the favorite subjects was male animals which were raised to sacred status the parallel worship of a horned male figure represented the lord of creatures the worship of the Lingam male organ as the supreme symbol of male power a conservative emphasis on order restraint and purification the reverence of ancestors the worship of goddesses yoga was already being practiced 3 By 1600 BCE no Indus city remained inhabited a mystery Vedas 1 The oldest of the Hindu scriptures Composed and compiled by Aryan priests between 1200 and 800 BCE 2 Veda literally means wisdom or knowledge 3 The collection of Aryan hymns 4 There are four books of Vedas a Rigveda the oldest among four verses of praise rig recited by priests in ritual b Samaveda musically rearranged hymns selected from Rigveda and could be sung by priests in ritual c Yajurveda directions for the performance of ritual sacrifice by priests d Athavaveda spells of medical and therapeutic nature used also by priests The Vedic Worldview 1 The essence of the human being Prana an internal air current of the body the basic animating principle Atman a subtle substance life breath within the body yet separable from it At death it leaves the body and rises to a heaven Whoever acts rightly and performs rituals faithfully will be assured going to heaven that re ects the best of earthly life 2 Three realms of the universe a The celestial home of deities and the blessed dead b The atmospheric its upper boundary is the vault of the sky which cannot be penetrated by bird s vision c The terrestrial humans live 3 The basis of order Rita An impersonal principle the foundation of an ordered universe and of social moralityjustice being worshiped in ritual performance Its guardian is Varuna Later on it was replaced by dharma moral duty The Vedic gods devas Indra chief of gods and god of rain and thunder god of warrior who protects worshipers from the power of alien peoples and fights against the evil demon who withholds waters from human a personification of warrior class No moral image he is lecherous in youth and a drunken boastful adult Varuna guardian of cosmic order and overseer of moral action He guarantees order by defending the right protecting the harmony of social life being patron of earthly kings and punishing those who violates the rita by in icting disorder of the bodily uids on humans Agni god of fire read quote from Rigveda on P 33 of textbook Soma god ofjuice or plant Vayu god of wind Parj anya god of rain Surya god of sun Ushas goddess of the dawn Summary worship of gods is directed toward three types of insecurity natural moral military The rise of the early idea of Brahman Be ginning with the Yajurveda personal gods and the separateness of their powers became increasingly questionable The deities start to merge into a single dynamic force operating in the whole world The dynamics of the sacrifice came to be viewed more impersonally The symbols acts or words became a means of understanding or controlling of realities that they symbolize An obsession arose that there might be a word of all embracing reference that would give access to power over all things At the end of the Vedic age Brahman That One became a favorite term for the source and moving essence of the whole universe By the 2nd century BCE the new orthodoxy emerged as Brahmanism or Classical Hinduism 600 BCE ZOOCE a text dharmasutras prescriptions on social duty appeared and later on dharmasastras especially the Laws of Manu attributed to sage Manu articulated duties of each class a dharma system replacing the rita According to the teaching one s sacred duty dharma is an eternal duty The path of dharma does not change over time and thus reinforces the fiXity of the new social patterns The varna class asrama stage of life dharma system Origin of this system in the Vedic myth of Purusha the Primal Man P 41 quote Four Castes Priests brahmans Kshatriyas warriors Vaisyas workers Sudras servants Outcastes Four stages of life Student age 812 for young man of three upper classes Householder including married women Forest Dweller retired from preVious stage and devotes one s life to spiritual practices an early phase of the full time monkish life Sannyasi renouncer of the world final liberation as goal full time study and meditation Rigveda 10129 A Hymn of Creation 1 Nonbeing then was not nor was there be being there was no realm of air no sky above it What covered them And where In whose protection And was there deep unfathomable water 2 Death then existed not nor the immortal sheen was there none of night and day Breathless That One breathed of its own nature aside from that was nothing whatsoever 3 There was darkness hid in darkness at the outset an unillumined flood indeed was all this That Creative Force covered by the void That One was born by the power of brooding 4 Desire came into it at the beginning desire that was of thought the primal offspring The tie 0 being in nonbeing found they the wise ones searching in the heart with wisdom 5 Transversely was their severing line extended what was there down below and what was over There were begetters mighty beings fertile power below and potency up yonder 6 Who really knows Who can here proclaim it Whence is it born Whence is this creation The gods are later than this world s creation so who can know from what it came to being 7 That from which this creation came to being whether created it was or not created He who is its Overseer in highest heaven He only knows or He may know not