It can be said that a religion of particular cultures reflects the psychology of that culture(Cohen, Wu and Miller 1236-1249). In other words, the philosophy and opinions of a group when combined again for to the religion the following. So by studying a particular religion, we can thereby get a feel for the philosophy and psychology of a culture.
Eastern philosophies and religions have long been 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 an individual is any different from the collective is considered to be a naïve view. It is not that the philosophy discounts the existence of the individual, it only goes against the fact that an individual is somehow different from the collective. In other words an individual is part of the whole, and thus the feeling and sense of identity is an illusion (Cohen, Wu and Miller 1236-1249).
Hinduism originated in India not through the works of any specific founder but from the various ways of living that existed in ancient India. Hinduism recognizes many different cultural structures and authorities, though the highest authorities are recognized as the Vedas. The Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagavad-gita are other recognized authorities that are of lesser impact.
“Hindus believe that divine beings exist in unseen worlds and that temple worship, rituals, sacraments and personal devotionals create a communion with these … Gods.”(Academy, 2017)
Hinduism as a word means both the social and relies construct of Indian society. Even though we are focusing on the religions aspect of Hinduism, we must remember that both bodies are tied to each other.
As is usually the case with religions(Cohen, Wu and Miller 1236-1249), the basic tenets of Hinduism deal with 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’s spirit is given body. This body can be that of an animal, a person of another caste (social level), or a god. This is determined by what is known as the Karmic law i.e. if one has done good deeds (according to Vedas), he would have a higher station in the next life and if he has sinned, he would have a lower station. This cycle of death and rebirth continues on and on until one attics enlightenment.
“There is no eternal hell, no damnation, in Hinduism, and no intrinsic evil–no satanic force that opposes the will of God.” – (Academy, 2011)
Christianity has God as the creator that stands out of space and time (Pratte, 2011). In other words, God stands outside the product of its own creation. Humans are God’s creation, but not part of God. The concept of souls inhabiting the body make this viewpoint very clear since the soul is supposed to be judged for its actions by ending up in either hell or heaven. This judgement from God forms one of the core pillars of the religion. The “The Commandments”, the nature of hell and heaven, the analogies of ‘sheep and shepherd’ various other tenets of the faith point to fact that God exists outside our reality and this reality serves as the judgement field of God where the worthy end up in heaven and the unworthy in hell. For instance, the following quotes do well to illustrate the place of an individual in relation to the creation.
Isaiah 55:8,9 – “God’s thoughts and ways 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 who walks to direct his own steps.” (Pratte, 2011)
Galatians 1:8,9 – “No teaching except the gospel of Jesus Christ can bring salvation and a right relationship with God.” (Pratte, 2011)
Essentially human nature and intellect cannot pave a way to divine truth. No amount of self reflection can lead a person to God. (Pratte, 2011). According to Christianity, man is not part of God. Thus a person cannot find spiritual truth by meditation. It is only God who may reveal the spiritual truth.
Hence, the hope of Hinduism is to escape material existence and the reincarnation cycle by looking for God within oneself, whereas Christians believe that God cannot be found within the heart of the ‘sinner’. The soul of a person is not a part of God. In other words, one cannot find God within oneself since no amount of meditation could can reveal something 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 a faith. How can an individual will matter if the entirety is God itself? Thus the 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 the creation itself is god. While it maintains many gods, all of those are also part and inclusive of ‘Atman’, the universal consciousness.
Yet, the concept of karma is still prone to misinterpretation because the of the nature of ‘free will’ in Hinduism. How can one sin if the entire creation is god itself and there is a specific plan according to which the world moves. This issue comes up often Hinduism . For instance, if we all are part of God or greater consciousness and there is no separation between humans and creation, how could the concept of individual sin or evil doing come into play. Since everything, including the good and the bad, is part of creation the very notion of sin disappears.
It seems as if there are two parts of Hinduism, one that deals with the mystical and the other that deals with the day to day human activities, hence the need to form the caste system.
The word Peace in itself holds no meaning. It is not the opposite of violence. A hungry man’s idea of peace is a full stomach. A nation at war may claim the end 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 the everyday life. A priest may seek peace in communion with God, perhaps even death, the ultimate representation of God’s embrace.
Many would suggest that the absence of violence or war is peace (“What Is Peace?”, 2017). But can we equate a ‘just’ peace with a peace of slavery, or injustice? Can we dare suggest that just because an unjust society does not have conflict its idea of Peace has the same value as that of a honourable society? If that is the case, then we should accept the conflict free regimes of dictators and tyrants as peaceful (Rummel,1975, 35). One may derive from the above argument that peace is not a static phase that either exists or not. It is a dynamic feature of society that has less to do with violence and more to do with human interactions and mindset (Rummel,1975, 36). There exists a relationship between peace and conflict, such that the conditions necessary for peace and any changes in such conditions make conflict more likely or less likely. We need to consider the idea that peace does not exist in a vacuum. It might be better to treat 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 is through our cooperative existence and interaction that we bring about the conditions of peace. Peace also holds a pivotal relation with power. It is only through a balance of power that the conditions of peace are fulfilled (Rummel,1975, 102).
Peace can both be external and internal 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 of other 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 an arrangement (“What Is Peace?”, 2017). If a person is not at peace with himself and finds chaos in his heart, it won’t be long before the said chaos leaks to the external world. Perhaps we may call the internal peace a ‘spiritual peace’. If the expectations and desire of an individual are not in congruence with the social reality there can be no peace.
The social reality that is evidenced in the world in the forms of contracts, governments, national and international interactions are just the manifestation of the expectations, values and meaning inherent in the minds of the people that are party to the social contract.
Buddhism and Taoism are two examples of philosophies that have their origins in the India. Buddhism originated with Siddhartha Gautama, who later came to be known as the Buddha or “the awakened one” (Fieser, 2017). Buddha offered insight into the reality of life. According to him, suffering exists only because of one’s attachment to material things. It is only through moderation and Dhamma (or Dharma in Sanskrit) that we can attain Nirvana (enlightenment) (Fieser, 2017). One of the six pillars of Dhamma is “Ehipassiko”. It roughly translates as “encouraging investigation” (“Ancient Eastern Philosophy: Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism”, 2017). Buddha did not want his followers to follow him because of blind devotion (Liusuwan, 2017). He invited his followers to question his teachings and see for themselves if the teaching were reasonable. It is also worth noting that sense of morality and moderation is placed higher than any dogma (Liusuwan, 2017). Even the pañca-sila or the Five Precepts are only practical and dramatic rules that should govern one’s life (“The Five Precepts: Pañca-Sila”, 2005). One of most fascinating and compelling aspects of Buddhism is the lack of deities and unnecessary belief structure.
Taoism is a philosophical and religious 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 most important text of Taoism, Dao De Jing (Book of the way)(Fieser, 2017). It has since been adopted as the state religion of China even though its tenets have less 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 literally translated 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). In other 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 hence our sense of identity is an illusion. This is very similar to the Hindu belief of the Creator and Creation being one. Taoism maintains that there exist a sort of non-permanence in nature, a cycle of life where everything decays and returns to ‘the Dao’ and is recycled and returns again. Daoism asks us to follow this cycle of transformation willingly and without anger or regret because to do otherwise would be a disobedience of nature (Everett and Dun 108). In essence, taoism asks us to live in harmony with nature and oneself. It also preaches the concept of ‘non-action’ or effortless-action (Everett and Dun 108). This concept seems contradictory until we remember that Dao exists in everything and it is only when we are in tune with the Dao that we can find the best way to live life. This philosophy also carries into governance. Taoism preaches the need of minimal governance and claims that the more a government imposes itself on its members the more the social choice grows (Fieser, 2017).
As is evidenced from the above discussion, both Buddhism and Taoism have the concept of ‘flowing with nature’. But Buddhism decidedly tries to avoid the pleasures of life . Taoism on the other hand, wants its followers to accept the pleasures and the sufferings of life as natural. It is difficult to choose between eastern philosophies because they 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 of the above evidence is Taoism, not because it has any inherent superiority over Buddhism, but because it fosters a deeper understating of nature and how the world works. It seeks enlightenment through balance and not by doing away with or changing a part of your psychology. The concept of Yin and Yang, the opposite forces of nature, very clearly describes the various shades of awareness that can exist in a human mind and how we may balance them.
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