A Comparative Study of Religions [2 ed.]
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Comparative Study of Religions : Second Edition, edited by J. N. K. Mugambi, University of Nairobi Press, 2010. ProQuest

Copyright © 2010. University of Nairobi Press. All rights reserved. Comparative Study of Religions : Second Edition, edited by J. N. K. Mugambi, University of Nairobi Press, 2010. ProQuest



#%1/2#4#6+8'567&; 1(4'.+)+105  Second Edition       Edited by

Copyright © 2010. University of Nairobi Press. All rights reserved.

J.N.K. Mugambi

University of Nairobi Press

Comparative Study of Religions : Second Edition, edited by J. N. K. Mugambi, University of Nairobi Press, 2010. ProQuest

First published 1990 by University of Nairobi Press Jomo Kenyatta Memorial Library University of Nairobi P.O. Box 30197 – 00100 Nairobi E-mail: [email protected] http://www.uonbi.ac.ke/press The University of Nairobi Press supports and promotes the University’s objectives of discovery, dissemination and preservation of knowledge and stimulation of intellectual and cultural life by publishing works of the highest quality in association with partners in different parts of the world. In doing so, it adheres to the university’s tradition of excellence, innovation, and scholarship. The moral rights of the authors have been asserted. © Jesse Ndwiga Kanya Mugambi, 1990. Second Edition 2010 All rights reserved. Except for the quotation of fully acknowledged short passages for the purposes of criticism, review, research or teaching, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in any retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission from the University of Nairobi Press.

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University of Nairobi Library CIP Data A Comparative Study of religion Ed. J.N.K. Mugambi – Nairobi: Nairobi University Press, 1990 299p. Second Edition: University of Nairobi Press, 2010 399p. Includes bibliography and index 1. Religions 2. Religion, Comparative. I. Mugambi, Jesse N.K. BL 80.2.c6 ISBN 9966 846 89 1 Printed by Starbright Services Limited P.O Box 66949 – 00200, Nairobi

Comparative Study of Religions : Second Edition, edited by J. N. K. Mugambi, University of Nairobi Press, 2010. ProQuest

 6CDNGQH%QPVGPVU List of Contributors............................................................................... vii Preface to the Second Edition ................................................................ ix 5GEVKQP+

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1. 2.

The Scope of Comparative Religion........................................... 3 Theories of the Origin of Religion............................................ 15

5GEVKQP++ 3. 4. 5.

4GNKIKQPUQH2TG.KVGTCVG2GQRNGU1WVUKFG#HTKEC   Religion of the Eskimos ........................................................... 25 Religion of the Indigenous Australians .................................... 31 Religion of the Indigenous Americans ..................................... 35

5GEVKQP+++ #HTKECP4GNKIKQP   6. 7. 8. 9.

Earlier Studies of African Religion .......................................... 45 Nature and Structure of African Religion................................. 51 The Conception of God in African Religion ............................ 55 The Conceptions of Divinities and Spirits............................... 61

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5GEVKQP+8 4GNKIKQPUQH+PFKC   10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20.

Pre-Vedic Elements in Hinduism ............................................. 69 Vedic Hinduism........................................................................ 75 Classical Hinduism................................................................... 83 Origins and Teachings of Jainism............................................. 95 The Lay Aspect of Jainism ..................................................... 105 The Origins of Buddhism ....................................................... 111 The Enlightenment of the Buddha.......................................... 117 The Philosophical Foundation of Buddhist Teaching............. 123 The Spread of Buddhism, and its Scriptures........................... 131 The Origin of Sikhism ............................................................ 137 Sikhism after Nanak ............................................................... 143

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21. 22.

Confucianism ......................................................................... 153 Taoism.................................................................................... 161

Comparative Study of Religions : Second Edition, edited by J. N. K. Mugambi, University of Nairobi Press, 2010. ProQuest

23. 24. 25. 26. 27.

Shintoism................................................................................167 Mahayana Buddhism ..............................................................171 The Spread of Mahayana Buddhism to Northern Lands........179 Some of the Main Sects of Buddhism in Japan......................185 Buddhism in Tibet ..................................................................191

5GEVKQP+8 4GNKIKQPUQHVJG0GCT'CUV   28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37.

The Rise of Zoroastrianism.....................................................199 The Teachings of Zarathustra .................................................205 The Evolution of Judaism .......................................................215 Basic Teachings and Practice of Judaism ...............................225 The Religious and Cultural Background of Early Christianity .............................................................................239 Christ and the Church He Founded.........................................245 Growth and Spread of Christianity .........................................253 The Religious Heritage of Arabia Before and During Muhammad’s Time.................................................................261 Muhammad as the Founder of Islam ......................................269 Islam: A Living World Religion .............................................277

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5GEVKQP8++ %QORCTCVKXG5VWF[QH5QOG/CLQT6JGOGU   38. 39. 40. 41. 42. 43. 44. 45.

Creative Act of God................................................................285 Forms of Theism.....................................................................295 Models of Relationship...........................................................305 The Nature and Destiny of Man..............................................315 Good and Evil.........................................................................325 Salvation .................................................................................335 Death ......................................................................................341 Immortality of the Soul...........................................................349

5GEVKQP8+++6JG2TGUGPV5VCVGQH4GNKIKQPCPF(WVWTG 2TQURGEVU  46. The State of Religion in the Contemporary World .................357 47. The Future of Religion............................................................365 Bibliography ....................................................................................373 Index ................................................................................................379

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Comparative Study of Religions : Second Edition, edited by J. N. K. Mugambi, University of Nairobi Press, 2010. ProQuest

.KUVQH%QPVTKDWVQTU B.J. Ekeya, B.A. (St. Joseph M.N.), M.A. (Collegeville, M.N.), Ph.D. (Nairobi). Former Senior Lecturer, Department of Religious Studies, Egerton University. Author of Chapters 30, 31. Former Lecturer, Department of Religious Studies, University of Nairobi. E.M. Kasiera, B.A. (Springfield, MO), M.A. (Concordia, MO), MTh. (Princeton), Ph.D (Aberdeen). Senior Lecturer, Department of Religious Studies, Moi University. Author of Chapters 1–5, 10–12. Formerly, Senior Lecturer, Department of Religious Studies, University of Nairobi.

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S.G. Kibicho (Deceased), B.A., M.Div. (Louisville), Ph.D. (Vanderbilt) was Associate Professor of Religious Studies, University of Nairobi. Author of Chapters 6–9, 13–20, 24–27. J.N.K. Mugambi, B.A., M.A., Ph.D. (Nairobi). Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies and former Academic Registrar, University of Nairobi. Author of Chapters 35, 36, 46 and 47. Former Associate Dean, Faculty of Arts, former Chairman, Department of Religious Studies. Professor Extraordinarius, University of South Africa. Former visiting Mellon distinguished Professor, Rice University. He served as Visiting Professor of Theology at Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, U.S.A. His books include: The African Religious Heritage (Co-author, 1976); Ecumenical Initiatives in Eastern Africa (Co-author, 1982); God, Humanity and Nature (Author, 1987); Death and Burial in Modern Kenya (Co-editor, 1989); The Biblical Basis for Evangelization (Author, 1989); African Christian Theology (Author, 1989); African Heritage and Contemporary Christianity (Author, 1989); The Church in African Christianity (Co-editor, 1990).

Comparative Study of Religions : Second Edition, edited by J. N. K. Mugambi, University of Nairobi Press, 2010. ProQuest

G.E.M. Ogutu, B.A. (Makerere), M.A., Ph.D. (Nairobi). Senior Lecturer, Department of Religious Studies, University of Nairobi, Author of Chapters 32–34. J.J. Ongong’a, M.A., Ph.D. (Urbanian). Senior Lecturer and Chairman, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Kenyatta University. Author of Chapters 38–45. His books include: Christian Religious Education Book IV (Co-Author, 1990).

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D.W. Waruta, B.A. (Hardin, Simmons), M.A. (Nairobi), D.Ed. (Southwestern Baptist Thological Seminary). Lecturer, Department of Religious Studies, University of Nairobi. Author of Chapters 21–23, 28–29; 37. Formerly Principle, Baptist Theological Seminary, Arusha, Tanzania.

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Comparative Study of Religions : Second Edition, edited by J. N. K. Mugambi, University of Nairobi Press, 2010. ProQuest

2TGHCEGVQVJG5GEQPF'FKVKQP This Second Edition has been published in response to popular demand for the book within universities, seminaries, theological colleges and pastoral institutes. Following its publication in 1990, the first edition went through several reprints, to the extent that the supply could not meet the demand. Although it was originally written as a textbook for the undergraduate course on Comparative Study of Religions at the University of Nairobi, it rapidly became a core textbook in other universities, seminaries, theological colleges and pastoral institutes. The book eventually became required reading in other courses at various institutions, as a pre-requisite for various syllabi in which the study of religion in general is essential, such as Phenomenology of Religion, Philosophy of Religion, Sociology of Religion and Psychology of Religion. The unique features of this book include the following:

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It is the only book presenting African Religion abreast of other religions of the world, without prejudice, denigration or exaggeration. Its scope is geographical rather than historical, thus avoiding the idiosyncrasy if social and religious evolutionism. Its content is written by a team of scholars each focusing on a set of units which cover the cultural and religious heritage of a particular geographical religion. Its emphasis is phenomenological rather than doctrinal, which makes it appealing to readers belonging to any and all religions. Although it is written primarily for students of world religions it covers all major religions with adequate depth to satisfy those majoring in each of those religions.

Comparative Study of Religions : Second Edition, edited by J. N. K. Mugambi, University of Nairobi Press, 2010. ProQuest

As a textbook, it includes in each chapter, revision questions and assignments, which facilitates easier grasp and recalling of the content. For many years, the content has been used with great satisfaction in the special format designed for the External Degree Programme, confirming its suitability as a core text in the relevant courses it is written to support.

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The publication of this Second Edition has provided an opportunity to improve the editorial quality of the text in the First Edition. Although some errors may still remain, this edition is a great improvement above the First Edition. I am grateful to the University of Nairobi Press for persistently urging me to undertake the revision in order to meet the demand of our readers. With satisfaction I am looking back on the period when the original drafts were written during the 1980s. As Chairman of the Department of Religious Studies, I urge my colleagues to avail their drafts for this Project, but I did not anticipate that these efforts would produce such a successful book. With anticipation I look forward to wider use of this Second Edition, which will undergo more imprints before a Third Edition becomes necessary. Jesse N.K. Mugambi, Ph.D., MKNAS Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies University of Nairobi

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General Introduction and Theories of the Origin of Religion

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1 6JG5EQRGQH%QORCTCVKXG4GNKIKQP E.M. Kasiera &GHKPKVKQPQH4GNKIKQP

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The word religion is derived from the Latin word, religio, whose root meaning seems difficult to determine. In Indo-European language, the root leg or lig means, “to be concerned”. This seems to derive from the Greek word alegein meaning “to pay heed to”. Connected to this is the Latin word, diligens, from which the English word “diligent’ comes. Already you get the idea that religion has to do with “concern”, “paying heed to”, and “diligence”. In view of this linguistic background, Paul Tillich has defined religion as “ultimate concern”. Providing definitions is always problematic. A definition of religion should answer the question: “What is religion?” But this question raises another one: “How do you begin to define or describe the subject which you intend to study before you are able to study it?” Scholars and students of religion differ on this point. There are those who say that you cannot give a comprehensive and conclusive definition of what religion is until you have examined the subject matter and have familiarized yourself with it in detail. Their point is that such an early definition is likely to overlook certain matters which may not have been thought of at the time the definition was formulated. Here, then, we are presented with the first problem in our desire to define religion. There are, however, others who think that you need not know everything about the subject before you can define it. Such arguments over definitions are primarily theoretical in emphasis.

Comparative Study of Religions : Second Edition, edited by J. N. K. Mugambi, University of Nairobi Press, 2010. ProQuest

Besides this theoretical way of looking at religion, one can look at it from an empirical stand point. Perspectives that are characterized as empirical are those which rely on observation and experiment, and are based on practical experience. They attempt to distinguish between the natural and the supernatural order of existence. The natural belongs to the realm of the empirical and the supernatural is seen to transcend the natural. In other words, the natural is seen to be subordinate to the difference between the natural and the supernatural.

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Another way of looking at religion is from a theological perspective. Here, religion is regarded as a virtue which leads one to render to God the homage that is due to him. This homage consists of believing in one God who is personal. Such a God is infinite in attributes. This leads one to develop an attitude of absolute respect for God and submit oneself to God. One’s actions in relation to God express the belief in him through worship. In this way, there arises the need for institutions which regulate religious actions. A further way of looking at religion is the historical perspective. This is the approach often used by anthropologists and, to some extent, by sociologists. Here, one tries to find the meaning of religion in a given society. On top of the institutions based on revelation, anthropologists discern what particular societies evolve as substitutes for revelation. The definition of the religious phenomenon then becomes entirely pragmatic and comes to embrace beliefs, rites and institutions which fulfill specific functions at particular periods in history. Let us now look at some specific definitions which have been proposed by various researchers and scholars in the field of comparative religion.

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Edward B. Tylor (1832–1917) suggested one of the early definitions by proposing that religion was “Belief in spiritual beings”. Indeed, most of us use the word “religion” in this way to refer to beliefs in gods, spirits and other powers which occupy a world beyond the world that is known to us all.

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Emile Durkheim (1858–1917) rejects this definition which ties religion to belief in supernatural beings. According to him, if you were to define religion in this way, you would deny religion to the peoples he called “primitive” because those peoples do not distinguish between the natural and the supernatural. Further, you would also be denying religion to Buddhists because they have no belief in gods. What Durkheim saw as characteristic of religious phenomena is that they suggest a division of the whole universe into two, the one which is known and the other which is yet to be known, such that you have classes which embrace all that exists. The one class is called the sacred and the other one is called the profane. “Religious beliefs are”, therefore, “the representations which express the nature of sacred things and the relations which they sustain either with each other or with profane things”. He defined religion as a unified system of beliefs and practices, relative to sacred things, which unite all those who adhere to them into one single moral community called a church. The main concern in the attempts to define religion is to offer a concise statement which would agree with a wide range of religious phenomena. It is with this awareness in mind that Melford E. Spiro suggests that the belief in superhuman beings and their power to assist or harm man is the core variable which ought to be designated by any definition of religion. He therefore defines religion as an institution which consists of culturally 5

Comparative Study of Religions : Second Edition, edited by J. N. K. Mugambi, University of Nairobi Press, 2010. ProQuest

patterned interaction with culturally postulated superhuman beings. Underlying the above definitions is the need to distinguish between what is known through experience and that which is yet unknown. It is in this connection that Roland Robertson, a contemporary sociologist, makes the distinction between the empirical or the natural. To him, religious culture is that set of beliefs and symbols, together with the values which derive from these, which relate to the distinction between an empirical and super-empirical, transcendent reality. In this definition, matters which relate to the empirical are subjected to the affairs of the super-empirical; apart from defining religious culture, Robertson defines religious action as that which is shaped by an acknowledgement of the empirical/superempirical distinction.

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Another definition is that of Paul Tillich who distinguishes between ultimate authority as appreciated by man, and all other authority which is of penultimate or secondary importance. Many anthropologists and sociologists have adopted some variation of Robertson’s definition. Others have found Tillich’s definition useful. William Lessa and Evan Vogt have interpreted Tillich’s definition in terms of the society as a whole. According to them, “Religion may be described as a system of beliefs and practices directed towards the “ultimate concern” of a society. They see two aspects in Tillich’s concept of “ultimate concern”: meaning and power. “Meaning” is the ultimate meaning of central values of society; “power” is the ultimate, sacred, or supernatural power which stands behind those values. Viewed in this way, then, religion explains and expresses the value of society; it therefore functions as an integrative force between groups and within individual personalities. At the same time, religion deals with threats to the central values of the society or to social and individual existence. In this manner, religion resolves tensions and anxieties between groups or within individuals. Religion does, therefore, maintain the ultimate values of a society and 6

Comparative Study of Religions : Second Edition, edited by J. N. K. Mugambi, University of Nairobi Press, 2010. ProQuest

manages tensions in the personalities of individual members of a society. Lessa and Vogt also argue that this double function of religion is found almost universally in human societies. The difference lies in the beliefs and practices which provide this double function in a given culture, because the beliefs and practices are developed and tailored with symbols, myths and rituals which are found in a given cultural context. It is with this in mind that we are interested in the comparative study in religions. *KUVQT[QHVJG5VWF[QH4GNKIKQP In the 19th and early 20th Century, scholars of anthropology, history, psychology, and sociology studied religious phenomena in ways that have yielded impressive results. The first efforts to understand and interpret religious phenomena comparatively were the works of British scholars such as Edward B. Tylor, William Robertson Smith, Andrew Lang, James Fraser and R.R. Marett. These scholars were influenced by the popular ideas of other times, such as those outlined below:

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In his book On the Origin of Species, published in 1859, Charles Darwin advanced the theory that life began from a simple form of one cell and evolved into more complex forms as time passed. This theory of biological evolution affected every field of endeavour. Either negatively or positively, by virtue of their commitment to the belief in the literal accuracy of the Christian Bible, conservative Christian preachers and theologians rightly saw the theory as a direct attack on the historical accuracy of the first chapters of the book of Genesis. Liberal Christian theologians and scholars in secular disciplines basically accepted the premises of the evolutionary theory. It is in this context that the works of the British scholars mentioned above need to be understood. They looked at their nineteenth century British culture and sought to describe and compare it with what they 7

Comparative Study of Religions : Second Edition, edited by J. N. K. Mugambi, University of Nairobi Press, 2010. ProQuest

conceived as earlier stages of culture in other societies. It was in this connection that they turned to the study of “primitive” peoples in the remote parts of the world. These scholars were interested in establishing the origins of religion in the cultural evolution of mankind. They attempted to reconstruct earlier stages of religion in order to establish how man first created myths and developed rituals, whether or not animism was the first form of religion, and whether or not magic preceded religion. Related to the question of origins was whether or not these primitive people worshipped a primitive high god or a supreme Being. (WPEVKQPCNKUO

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A second major effort to understand and interpret the comparatively religious phenomena is the work of the French sociological school, particularly the researches of Emil Durkheim. In his book The Primitives Durkheim wrote on the indigenous Australians. He was not particularly interested in the origins of religion as such. He emphasized that religion is an integral part of society. He was interested in establishing the origin of religious emotion. The value of this school lies in the fact that it forms a historical bridge between the earlier interests in the origins of religion and the later interests in the functions of religion. 5VTWEVWTCNKUO

A third effort to understand and interpret the comparatively factor in religious phenomena comes from another sociological school, as is exemplified in the works of Max Weber. This comes out particularly in Weber’s interest in exploring the relationship between religious and economic institutions. This leads him to recognize the fundamental importance of the problem of meaning. The problem of meaning has two sides to it. On the one hand, when unpredictable and unfortunate events take place in human life, people want to know the reasons or “meaning” behind such 8

Comparative Study of Religions : Second Edition, edited by J. N. K. Mugambi, University of Nairobi Press, 2010. ProQuest

occurrences. On the other hand, in everyday life, people want to know what relationship exists between the major institutions that are prevalent in a particular society. The assumption here is that economic institutions must have some “meaning” in terms of the religious institutions and religious institutions must have some meaning in terms of the economic institutions. 2U[EJQ#PCN[UKU

A fourth effort in understanding and interpreting the comparative approach to religious phenomena was in the discipline of psychology, especially in the works of Sigmund Freud who popularized the discipline. Freud’s interest in the psychology of religion was mainly establishing the relationship between religious thought, emotions, unconscious motivation and religion as a projection of personal fears and aspirations.

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+ORCEVQH#PVJTQRQNQI[QP%QORCTCVKXG4GNKIKQP Anthropologists have had lasting impact on the comparative study of religion. Among the best known are Bronislaw Malinowski and A.R. Radcliffe Brown. These two were partially influenced by the French sociological school, but they carried out extensive firsthand field researches of their own. The effect of their efforts has been the shift from the question of origin to that of function of religion. Their researches focused on establishing the function of religion in social groups. To highlight this focus, anthropologists in North America and Europe have documented new religious movements such as the Peyote Cult, Cargo Cults, the Unification Movement, and the Children of God, among others. To be able to establish the function of religion in society, one needs to describe what religion is. This task necessitates a study of all the religious things that people do. Such things include symbolism, rituals and myths. It is in this regard, that Claude Levi-Strauss in France has been interested in myth and various aspects of ritual. Following

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Comparative Study of Religions : Second Edition, edited by J. N. K. Mugambi, University of Nairobi Press, 2010. ProQuest

his efforts, other scholars have developed interest in symbolic analysis of both rituals and myths.

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/GCPKPICPF5EQRGQH%QORCTCVKXG4GNKIKQP Comparative Religion is the study of the inter-relationships of the various religious traditions and of the way in which religious themes and ideas are diffused in these traditions. For example, Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Zoroastrianism have some themes common to two, three, or four of them. Islam contributed to the disappearance of Buddhism in India, Hinduism had influence on Islam in India. Recently, Buddhism has had an effect on Western theology. Comparative Religion, therefore, is concerned with the influences of religions on one another. Beyond the comparative study of religious ideas, comparative religion is interested in relating the findings of two separate disciplines related to religion – the philosophy of religion and the sociology of religion. An ideal situation would be where the findings of sociologists from all parts of the world have been compared and the findings of all philosophers of religion have similarly been all compared, then scholars of religion would take over to compare all those findings. Such an ideal, however, is impossible to realize. Only partial achievements are possible. From the foregoing then, Comparative Religion means an attempt to achieve a generalization by comparing similar kinds of phenomena gathered from various religious traditions and disciplines, covering various parts of the world. There are a number of aims in the effort to compare those religious phenomena. One of the aims is to establish general laws or regularities that are common to all the situations. A second aim is to note the range of variation in the phenomena that have been studied. A third aim of Comparative Religion is to attempt to reconstruct the history of religion and culture. Finally, a fourth aim is to test hypotheses derived from religious traditions that have hitherto been left out of scholarly enquiry.  10

Comparative Study of Religions : Second Edition, edited by J. N. K. Mugambi, University of Nairobi Press, 2010. ProQuest

/GVJQFQNQIKECN2GTURGEVKXGUKP%QORCTCVKXG4GNKIKQP 6JG2U[EJQNQIKECN#RRTQCEJ

There are a number of methodological perspectives which appear in the many studies of religion done by contemporary scholars. One of these perspectives is the psychological approach. The view here is that each person has personal problems which include the manner in which he handles his personal drives like the need for sexual satisfaction, friendship, acceptance by his peers, prestige and power, and the sense that he is somebody. Psychologists have analyzed how religious symbols and practices help or hinder the individual in working out these problems. The proponents of this approach are Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Erik Erikson.

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A second perspective is the sociological approach. Here sociologists have analysed how religion operates at the social level to solve a number of related problems: (i) religion is seen as having a social structure which must be maintained from generation to generation; (ii) Second, religion operates in the larger structure of some social units like an ethnic group or nation; (iii) religion may help or hinder an individual in integrating his personal life into the larger life of the society of which he is part. Some of the social anthropologists who have made important contributions to the study of how religion operates in human society are Edward B. Tylor, James Frazer, Bronislaw Malinowski, A.R. Radcliffe-Brown, Claude Levi-Strauss, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber and Talcott Parsons. 6JG*KUVQTKECN#RRTQCEJ

A third approach to the study of religion is the historical perspective. In addition to the perspectives mentioned above, which are primarily interested in examining how religion 11

Comparative Study of Religions : Second Edition, edited by J. N. K. Mugambi, University of Nairobi Press, 2010. ProQuest

functions at a given period of time for the individual, or in the society of which he is part, here a given religion is considered as a specific tradition of beliefs and practices which has gone through a complex course of development and transformation. This is why “Comparative Religion” is also called “History of Religion”. Raffele Pettazzoni and Mircea Eliade are among those who seek to develop a comprehensive knowledge of the entire field and seek to be faithful to religious phenomena in their entirety. 6JG(QTO%QORCTCVKXG#RRTQCEJ

A fourth approach to the study of religion is the formcomparative perspective. Here, a specific religious phenomenon which reveals a distinctive structure of its own is studied, and then compared or contrasted with others in various religious traditions. The form may be a myth, a rite, or a religious functionary like a priest. Gerardus Van der Loeun is the one who adopts this approach. Although Rudolf Otto was not a phenomenologist, his work is often cited as an example of this approach.

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Phenomenology is a term used in philosophy and psychology to denote a study of the various forms in which something appears, as distinct from studying its meaning and origins. 6JG*GTOGPGWVKECN#RRTQCEJ

A fifth perspective can be characterized as the hermeneutical approach. This is an interpretation which includes a number of approaches to religion which, although they may disagree among themselves, are united by a common interest in religions as systems of symbols or kinds of languages which impart meaning that must be interpreted. The approach in this course is primarily a historical-phenomenological one. There will, however, be the combination of the other approaches. 

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#EVKXKV[

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Use encyclopedias or other reference books to find out what you can about the scholars and researchers named in this chapter. Your notes will be useful as you come to see their conclusions referred to in later chapters.

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Copyright © 2010. University of Nairobi Press. All rights reserved. Comparative Study of Religions : Second Edition, edited by J. N. K. Mugambi, University of Nairobi Press, 2010. ProQuest

2 6JGQTKGUQHVJG1TKIKPQH4GNKIKQP E.M. Kasiera +PVTQFWEVKQP In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, great progress was made in the development of anthropology, history, psychology and sociology with regard to religious phenomena. Many scholars gave a great deal of attention to religion because they found that religion played a significant role in the various societies which they studied. It became clear to them that any account of how a society was formed and operated was incomplete unless they had some knowledge of the place of religion in the society. A common feature in these approaches was the interest in the “region” of religion. We now turn to the most renowned theories of the origin of religion and the scholars associated with them.

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(GVKUJKUOCPF/CIKE The term fetishism comes from the Portuguese word feitico which means “an artificial thing” or “an object which is made”. Feitico comes from the Latin word factitius, meaning “skillfully made”. The word was originally used by Portuguese travelers in West Africa to describe magical charms and figures. By extension, the term was used to describe the religious belief that preternatural power can reside, temporarily or permanently, in a natural or artificial object. Charles de Brosses (1709–1777) was the one who added the term “fetishism” to the vocabulary of Comparative Religion. He used it as a general category for religious systems which were based on a belief in the existence of spirits. In societies where fetishes were

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used, they were recognized as having been made by humans. The sentience and power of the fetishes to answer prayers did not come from some indwelling spirit, but from a combination of magically powerful ingredients (such as white clay, snake vertebrae or human blood) which were placed in or on the fetishes. Later, James Frazer (1854–1941) came to advance a theory akin to fetishism. He argued that religion developed out of an original magical stage of human culture. According to Frazer, the magician believes that phenomena can be controlled through magic spells. The religious man, on the other hand, believes in the existence of spirits which must be placated and cajoled by prayers, rather than controlled directly through a magic formula.

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0CVWTKUO In the nineteenth century, some scholars advanced an approach to religion which was called the nature-myth theory. According to this school of thought, the great symbols of the religions of the world were personifications of natural phenomena like the sun, moon, stars, sky, winds, rivers, plants, animals, rocks and the seasons of the year. These scholars argued among themselves about which force of nature was primary in the concerns of early religion. Some, among them, maintained that solar myths were the ones which were most important. According to them, primitive rituals and myths were primarily concerned with man’s relation to the sun. One of the leading exponents of this approach was Max Muller (1823–1900). Muller was a philologist (scholar of written records) who did pioneer work in the study of Indo-European languages. He developed a method of comparative study of religion and tried to show how nature myths were operative in both European and Indian religions. This approach advocates that the nature cult was the point of departure for religious evolution. This then is the theory of naturism. 16

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#PKOKUOCPF#PKOCVKUO There was another group of scholars who advanced a different approach to study of religion. Rather than looking at that which addresses itself to the phenomena of nature, this group advocated that religion can be looked at from the angle of that which addresses itself to spiritual beings like spirits, souls, geniuses, demons, divinities and animated and conscious agents like man. The pioneer in this approach was Tylor. He sought to identify the difference between a living body and a dead one; what caused waking, sleep, trance, disease and death. He further sought to know what those human shapes were—which appeared in dreams and visions.

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Tylor came to the conclusion that every human being had a life and phantom. Both the life and phantom were in close connection with the body. With life, man felt, thought and acted; phantom was the image of life or the second self. Both the life and the phantom were separable from the body. Tylor further argued that since the life and the phantom belonged to one another, it meant that they were manifestations of one and the same soul. He concluded that this “apparitional soul” or “ghost-soul” was the cause of life and thought in humans. According to Tylor, it was from the experience of sleep, dreams, visions, ghosts and the act of breathing that the “primitive man” came to conceive of an anima which, in Latin, means “soul”. He came, therefore, to attribute anima to all entities that moved and appeared to live. So rivers, trees, sun, moon, stars, animals, among others, were thought to possess animae. By virtue of the fact that many of these entitles were overwhelmingly powerful and impressive, man began to worship them. The degree to which man venerated these phenomena corresponded to the measure of his fear, respect, or need of them. This is how Tylor coined the word animism to refer to the existence of supernatural soul or spirits which were the basis of religious beliefs in the primitive minds. 17

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The theory of animism arose concurrently or in the wake of the naturism theory. The argument here was that animism was the primitive religion from which naturism derived. Animism, in turn, was challenged as being the elementary form of religion. R.R. Marett, while not rejecting animism as a legitimate stage in man’s cultural development, maintained that belief in souls was preceded by a belief in the animation of non-physiological things. In other words, man first believed in the idea of inanimate objectives, like rocks, having life before he developed the idea of the soul which animated them. This view is called animatism. Be that as it may, animism became a popular designation for the so called “primitive religion”. 'WJGOGTKUO In order to establish animism as the elementary form of religion, its exponents had to explain three aspects within the theory.

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First, they had to show how the idea of the soul was cardinal to religion without borrowing any of its elements from another religion. Second, they had to demonstrate clearly how souls became objects of worship and how they were transformed into spirits. Third, they were to explain how the cult of nature derived from animism. In dealing with this third aspect of the problem, Tylor advanced the view that it was due to the capability of the primitive mind to distinguish between the animate and the inanimate that nature cult grew out of animism. He illustrated his point by giving an example of an infant who plays with toys or manipulates certain objects to regard them as living beings like himself. Similarly, the primitive man who thinks like a child, begins to attribute to animate and inanimate things a nature that is similar to his own. It was in this regard that the ancestor cult became a nature cult. Herbert Spencer (1820–1903), who advanced the theory of animism, differed with Tylor on this point. Agreeing that the transition from the cult of ancestors to that of things lay in confusion, he placed the confusion in errors created by language. 18

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Spencer states that in many “inferior societies”, it was a very common custom to give to each individual, either at this birth or later, the name of a natural object. Because the primitive man’s language was not precise enough, it became very difficult for the primitive man to distinguish between a metaphor and a reality.

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According to Spencer, before long, the primitive man forgot that the animal-plant-star-object names were merely figurative. He took them literally and came to conclude that in the case where an ancestor had been named “Tiger” or “Lion” such an ancestor had actually been a real tiger or lion. It was at this stage that the religion of nature took over from the cult of the ancestors. The connection between natural phenomena and ancestors was exemplified in cases where, when animals frequent the surroundings of tombs or houses, such animals were taken to be the reincarnated souls of the ancestors; or where men were thought to have descended from the mountain, such a mountain was taken to be ancestors itself. To Spencer then, what constituted the institution of naturism was the literal interpretation of the metaphorical names. In this regard, Spencer found the origin of religion neither in naturism or animism, but in the respect given to ancestors along with the belief in ghosts which appeared in dreams. This means that “ancestor-worship is the root of every religion”. This theory is sometimes known as euhemerism: It is named after Euhemerus, who lived in the fourth century BC and argued that the gods of religion were originally human beings of great power and authority who were later raised to the status of divine beings. 6QVGOKUO The term “totem” comes from the word ototeman which, in Ojibwa languages of America, means “he is my relative”. The word indicates kinship lines or membership in a given clan. It defines the limits within which marriage may or may not occur. In other words it makes restrictions on marriage. Totemism then is a complexity of ideas, practices, legend, fears and kinship 19

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patterns which refer to the connection of human beings and animals or plants. It is the practices of taking a particular natural object or animal and making it symbol (totem) of a particular social group or clan.

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Totemism is a world-view which holds that the environment dominates human beings and, in it, humans maintain spiritual relationships with the elements of their environment. It is a worldview in which there is no sharp distinction between humans as a species and other things like animals, vegetable or mineral; human beings are simple creatures in the scheme of things. At the heart of totemism is the belief that the whole world has spirit. The totem objects themselves provide categories by which relationships which are based in personal revelation, religious experience, or membership in a specific group can be distributed. Totemism is not a religion as such, but it finds religious expression in widespread veneration of animals. One of the proponents of the theories of totemism was Durkheim. He was reacting to earlier theories of religion which tended to reduce religion to illusions or an intellectual mistake. According to him, religions of man deal with a very real empirical object, which is human society. It is the society which imposes on each individual rules of conduct which determine the shape of his social life. It is in this regard that Durkhein got interested in totemism. To him, therefore, it is in totemism that the social nature of religion as well as its social origin was to be understood. #EVKXKV[

(a)

Make a list of elements which are common to all or several of the following: Fetishism Magic Naturism Animism Animatism 20

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Euhemerism Totemism (b)

Do all or any of these elements also appear in organized religions with which you are familiar?

(WTVJGT4GCFKPI

Carmody, D.L. & Carmody, J. Ways to the Centre: An Introduction to World Religions (Belmont: Wadsworth, 1981), p.4–10. Comstock, W.R. Religion and Man: An Introduction (New York: Harper Row, 1971) p. 3–27. Creel, R.E. Religion and Doubt: Towards a Faith of Your Own (Englewood Cliffs, Prentice Hall, 1977), p. 1–27; 44–66. Eliade, M. The Quest: History and Meaning of Religion (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1959), p. 12–53. Evans-Pritchard, E.E. Theories of Primitive Religions (London: Oxford University Press, 1965).

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Hinnels, J.R., Ed. God and the Sun in Meru Thought (Helsink: Finnish Society for Missiology and Ecumenics, 1969) p. 1– 30. Hume, R.E. The World’s Living Religions (Edinburgh: T.T. Clark) p.3–18. James, E.O. Comparative Religion: An Introduction and Historial Study (London: Methuen, 1961) p. 15–56. Lessa, W. & Vogt, E. Eds. A Reader in Comparative Religion (New York: Harper and Row, 1965) p. 1–8. Ling, T. A History of Religion East and West (London: MacMillan, 1968), p. xvii–xxiv. Noss, B. Man’s Religions (New York: Collier-MacMillan, 1975), p. 5–10.

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Sharpe, E.J. Comparative Religion: A History (London: Dukeworth, 1975), p. 1–17.

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Smart, N. Religious Experience of Mankind (New York: Scribner, 1969; Collins Fontana, 1971) p. 11–25; 45–46; 62–78.

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5'%6+10++

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Religions of Pre-Literate Peoples Outside Africa

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3 4GNKIKQPQHVJG'UMKOQU E.M. Kasiera +PVTQFWEVKQP The chapter looks at belief in supernatural beings, belief in Shamanism, and the Eskimo taboo system. Eskimos live in Greenland, Canada (Yukon and Northwest Territories), Alaska, and the Bering Strait. The history of the Eskimo habitation of these areas is uncertain. It is however, argued that by virtue of their location, physical characteristics and culture, they must have originated from North Asia, particularly from Siberia. Their life revolves around fishing and hunting. Their culture and religious beliefs and practices would, therefore, be shaped by their environment.

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$GNKGHKP5WRGTPCVWTCN$GKPIU There are three figures cited independently in the myths of Alaskans, Canadians and Greenlanders. The Alaskan figure is known as the Great Raven. He is portrayed as having been sitting in darkness. Then he came to consciousness and was moved to create trees and human beings. This myth attempts to give a vague idea of creation. Beyond this we have no information as to the other activities of the Great Raven. The Eskimos of Northern Canada have a myth of a goddess of the sea, called Sedna. She is said to be the source of sea animals. Sedna was initially a pretty girl who proudly turned down proposals from men who wanted to marry her. One day during spring, a fulmar, a type of sea bird which lives near the coasts of

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cold northern countries of the world, flew in from across the ice and seduced her. In the serenade song, the fulmar described the soft bearskins on which she would sleep and told of the abundance of good food she would eat if she agreed to become his wife. By the twist of luck, the fulmar successfully wooed her. To her great disappointment, Sedna found herself in very miserable conditions. She began to lament with bitterness how she rejected earlier human suitors. To avenge her disgrace, Sedna’s father killed the lying fulmar. Sedna and her father so became the object of the anger of other fulmars.

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One day Sedna and her father were fleeing from an attack when a heavy storm arose. Her father decided to surrender Sedna to the birds by throwing her overboard. She clung to the side of the boat, but her father cut her fingers. The first joints became whales, the second joints became seals, and the stumps became ground animals. When the storm subsided, Sedna returned to the boat and found her father sleeping. Out of anger and hatred, she set her dogs on her father which chewed off his feet and hands. The father cursed her, her dogs, and himself. Thereafter the earth opened and swallowed them all. Since then, they have lived in the nether world, where Sedna is mistress of sea life. A slightly similar version of this myth exists among the Greenlanders. There is an old woman who is said to be living in the ocean depths, called Arnaguagsaq. She sits in front of a lamp and sends out the animals which Eskimos hunt. At times, when she is angry because parasites have settled on her head, she holds back the animals. In such a case, the angakoq (shaman) courageously goes to remove the parasites. In doing this, he crosses a turning wheel of ice, negotiates a kettle of boiling water, then goes round the guardian animals, and finally navigates a narrow bridge like the edge of a knife. A figure common to all the Eskimos is known as Sila. This is believed to be a great spirit which supports the world, the weather and all life on earth. The spirit is so powerful that he does not 26

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speak to man through common words. He speaks through storm, snow, rain and the fury of the sea. In other words, he speaks through all the forces of nature that men fear. Conversely, Sila also express himself gently, either by sunlight or the calm of the sea. He is said to have spoken frequently to small children, warning of the dangers to come. In this case, the children were to alert the shaman. No one has ever seen Sila, which means he is a mystery. $GNKGHKP5JCOCPKUO

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In Eskimos religion, the Shaman normally mediates between Sedna or Sila and the society. The power of the shaman it is believed, is acquired far from the habitation of men, out in great solitudes. It is attained through suffering. Privation and suffering are the only things that can open the mind of man to those things which are hidden from others. The hidden powers themselves choose the persons who are to deal with them, often through revelations in dreams. A story is told of one angakok called Igjugarjuk. He initially saw visions at night, the indication of which was that he was marked as a potential angakok. Thereafter he was given an instructor who, in mid-winter, placed him in a tiny snow hut and left him without food or drink, but advised to think of the Great Spirit. Five days later his instructor came back and gave him some lukewarm water, with the injunction to think of the Great Spirit. After twenty days of confinement, the instructor returned and gave the initiate another drink of water and a small piece of meat. Finally, after thirty days of solitude and fasting, Igjugarjuk saw a helping spirit in the form of a woman. For the next five months, he was kept on a strict diet and forbidden sexual intercourse in order to consolidate his new power. Later in his career, he fasted whenever he wanted to see his spirit in order to receive help from her. The foregoing is only one form of initiation. Other shamans get initiated by being shot through their hearts or by drowning. A 27

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case of one who was drowned tells of how he was tied to a pole and carried out onto a frozen lake. His instructor cut a hole in the ice and thrust him into it. He stood at the bottom, completely submerged in water. He was brought up to the surface after five days with his clothes completely dry. He therefore had overcome death and become a wizard. 'UMKOQ6CDQQ5[UVGO Eskimo society focused on survival in a hostile world. On the one hand, Eskimos need shelter against the cold. On the other hand, they obtained the seal, fish, or deer in order to furnish themselves with food and clothing. The male hunted and the female sewed. These activities were carried out in the midst of complex taboos. According to them, taboos formed a system for dealing with spirits. There is a general belief among the Eskimos that the food man eats consists entirely of souls. Eskimos being hunters, therefore, the elaborate taboo system was designed to conciliate the animals who had to suffer so that the Eskimos could live. Great precautions were taken to placate the spirits of the animals and avoid their anger.

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A few examples will suffice. In the event Eskimos killed a ringed seal, they poured water on its snout because they believed that it lived in salt water and was, therefore, thirsty. The harpoon which was used in killing the seal was placed next to the blubber lamp the first night in the belief that the soul of the animal, which was still in the head of the harpoon, would be kept warm. If they killed a bearded seal or bear, Eskimos would not go to work for three days and presents were given for such a kill. The Bering Sea Eskimos spent a month preparing for their festival of the bearded seal. During this time, they returned to the sea the bladders of all seals caught in the previous year.

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The Eskimos of central Canada had taboos which separated land animals from sea animals. For example, they did not eat the meat of a walrus on the same day they ate the caribou. Before they went to hunt the seal on ice, the hunters smoked their weapons over fires of seaweed in order to remove the smell of the land. By the same token, the sewing of caribou skins stopped on a particular day prior to the sea hunting. In matters of personal relationships, fathers valued male children. Due to the practice of providing dowry, which was burdensome, often female infants were killed by either strangling or exposure. Because men feared menstrual blood, women were forbidden to hunt. They cooked food; they chewed for hours on an animal skin to soften it for sewing; and did all the sewing of the clothing.

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The women who were in labour were isolated. A new mother was restricted in what she could eat, whom she could see, and what clothing she could wear among other things. Another awesome event involving dangerous forces was death. Often it was taken that a person died outdoors, and only certain persons could touch the dead. If anyone died indoors, everything in the house was destroyed. Curiously, sexual activity seems not to have been governed by taboo. Often a man offered his wife to a visiting friend and regularly arranged to share her with other men. In other cases, if his wife was pregnant, he would arrange to take the wife of the friend with whom he was hunting. The general attitude among the Eskimos was sexual desire is just another appetite like hunger. #EVKXKV[

1.

Write notes on the effect of the environment on Eskimo myths and beliefs.

2.

Explain to a friend the myths of: (a) (b)

The Great Raven; Sedna; 29

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(c)

Sila.

3.

What is the power of a shaman?

4.

What is taboo, and what function does it play in the life of the Eskimos?

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4 4GNKIKQPQHVJG+PFKIGPQWU#WUVTCNKCPU E.M. Kasiera +PVTQFWEVKQP This chapter will outline the religious beliefs of indigenous Australians with particular reference to supernatural beings, totemism, and the role of medicine-men.

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The indigenous Australians we refer to here are those known as “Aborigines” in other sources. They are said to have probably migrated form Southeast Asia about 50,000 years ago. They were sheltered from outside influence for a long time until the coming of Europeans in the eighteenth century. Some aspects of their culture indicate that they may have had contact with peoples of Melanesia and New Guinea. Although a majority of them died at the hands of the European invaders, thousands of them still remain intact in the semi-desert northern region. Their culture is based on hunting and gathering. $GNKGHKP5WRGTPCVWTCN$GKPIU One of the significant features in the religion of the indigenous Australians is the belief in various supernatural beings who appear in different forms and are known by different names. One such being is referred to as Sky Being and is said to be personal. Most Australian groups believed in eternal supernatural beings which were linked with totemic animals, plants or natural phenomena. This seems to indicate that the eternal supernatural beings were originally ancestors and clan founders.

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The story goes that, in the beginning, these eternal supernatural beings slept under the earth’s crust. Their coming out of their eternity and bursting to the surface marked the beginning of time. According to the myth among the Unambal Australians, a being called Ungud lived in the earth as a snake and another one called Wallanganda lived in the sky. One night, through a creative dream, the two beings created everything. According to this myth, Ungud transformed himself into the beings which he dreamed. On the other hand, Wallanganda threw out a spiritual force; he shaped it into images and projected them onto the rocks of the present landscape. Next to arise were spirits which were shaped either as animals or as human beings. The spirits, in turn, shaped the rest of the earth.

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Kamilaroi Australians believe in the god Baiame. He resides in the sky and he looks like an old man with a long beard and has two great quartz crystals at his shoulders. At one time, he is said to have been on earth, the time at which he founded the group’s ceremonies. In the ritual expression of the Kamilaroi, the presence of Baiame is often reactualized for the purpose of regenerating the world. The foregoing supernatural beings are viewed in positive light. There is, however, a belief in a superior force which can punish any crimes. This force is said to have restrained the ancestors after they had produced the sun, moon, stars, death, labour and pain. As a result, the ancestors retreated back into their first state of sleep. It is believed, particularly among the Aranda Australians, that the dead person’s second mortal soul turned into a ghost and was capable of malicious acts up to a given period of time following death. After that time, the ghost became incapable of mischief, because it departed for other haunts elsewhere or it simply faded away. $GNKGHKP6QVGOKUO Totemism is a very important element in the life of the indigenous Australians. Emile Durkheim, in particular, brought the concept 32

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of totem into the study of religion after carrying out research in Australia. He used this as the key concept in explaining the origin and growth of religion. Following the studies of Durkheim, other scholars have demonstrated that totemism has both social and ritual dimensions. On the social side, the totemism of a given clan is evidenced in certain attitudes to blood kinship and rules about marriage and descent. Among the indigenous Australians, marriage must be exogamous. In other words, a partner must be taken from outside the totem group. On the ritual side, totemism was evidenced in puberty rites and in the prohibitions regarding clan totems. For indigenous Australians, puberty rites were a crucial occasion. On this occasion, adolescent initiates were exposed, for the first time, to the group’s lore of how things were in the beginning, showing linkage to ancestors, totemic animals, plants and natural phenomena. As regards prohibitions, it was forbidden for members of a clan to kill or to eat the particular animal or plant to which the clan was related, except on special ritual occasions.

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The economic value in these arrangements lies in the fact that the supply of food was regulated. By preserving a species from pursuit by all members of the society, the danger of over-hunting, leading to its extinction, is reduced. Totemism does, therefore, co-ordinate ritual, social custom and the gathering of food supply. 6JG/GFKEKPG/CPCPFJKU+PKVKCVKQP The medicine-man is the principal figure in Australian ritual life, deriving his healing power from contact with supernatural beings through visions. His powers are symbolized in the magical items in his possession. These include quartz crystals, pearl shell, stones and bones, among other things. Among the Wiradjuri of southeast Australia, the father of the prospective medicine-man places two large 33

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quartz crystals against the boy’s breast. The crystals then disappear into the boy’s body, making him clever and enabling him to bring things up. Henceforth, the boy is able to see ghosts or spirits. At the time the body is about to undergo puberty rites, one of his teeth is knocked out. During the puberty rites, the boy learns to go down into the ground and bring up quartz crystals. The initiators take him to a grave. A dead man rubs him in order to make him clever. The dead man then gives him a personal totem, a tiger snake. The boy and the father then begin to follow the snake to find the living places of various gods. The climax of the initiation comes when they climb a thread and reach Baiame’s place of abode in the sky.

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#EVKXKV[

1.

Why is the medicine-man the principal figure in Australian ritual life?

2.

Can you think of parallels in other societies?

3.

Can you see parallels between the role of totemism in the life and belief of indigenous Australians and its role among the Eskimos?

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5 4GNKIKQPQHVJG+PFKIGPQWU#OGTKECPU E.M. Kasiera +PVTQFWEVKQP This chapter discusses beliefs in mana, supernatural beings, totemism and shamanism, in the context of modern developments in Amerindian religion.

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The indigenous Americans we refer to here are the Indians of North, Central and South America to whom we shall refer as Amerindians. They are said to have settled in these areas as far back as 30,000 years ago. When Europeans made contact with them from the fifteenth century C.E., there were three great civilizations in Central and South America: the Aztec in Mexico, the Mayan in Guatemala and the Yucatan Peninsula and the Inca of Peru. In North America, there were five geographical groups: in the East, Southeast, Midwestern plains, Southwest, and Pacific Northwest coast. The inhabitants of Central and South America had essentially ceased to be hunters and had become agriculturalists. In North America, Easterners were hunters and Northwesterners were fishermen. In each case, the economy determined the activities and life-style of the people and thus had much to do with their religious belief and practices. The life of a hunter was organized differently from that of the farmer and of the fisherman. Scholars do, however, think that there were some ideas and attitudes basic to all Americans. We turn to some of these which reflect religious manifestations.

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$GNKGHKP/CPC Mana is a Melanesian word which Robert Henry Codrington (1830–1922), a missionary to the South Sea Islands, explained to man. A kind of power which is capable of producing extraordinary occurrences in nature and also enables man to perform acts beyond his capacity. It is a hidden or a secret force which operates silently and invisibly in things and persons that are in some way powerful, impressive, or socially important. This conception is conveyed by the use of the terms wakan or wakenda, orenda and manitu drawn from the Algonquin, Iroquois and Sioux Ameridians. Research indicate(s) that Amerindian life revolves around this force. It makes the surrounding nature both attractive and intimidating, because the force can be used both positively and negatively. It can be transferred from a person to an object like an arrow. An arrow thus endowed can be made effective to achieve what one wants, good or bad.

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In Amerindian life, the goal was to keep a harmonious relationship with this holy force. Because harmony led to fertility both in the society and on the farm; it also led to success both in hunting and in war; which means it led to full life. On the country, disharmony led to disaster. It ruined crops on the farm; it led to defeat in war; and brought about an unhealthy family with sickly children. $GNKGHKP5WRGTPCVWTCN$GKPIU It is unclear whether or not Amerindians worshipped a Supreme Being as such. Evidence does, however, suggest that Aztecs had a pantheon (council of gods) which consisted of Ometecuhtli, the supreme god; Tezcatlipoca, originally a tribal god who also assumed the form of the war god Huitlopochtli; Xiuhutecuhtli, the lord of fire; and Tlazolteotl, a great goddess figure.

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Evidence from Amerindians in North America suggests that agricultural groups thought of a supreme power which was associated with the sun. Other than this most, people worshipped several powers. One such power was “Earth Diver”. This is either an animal or a bird which brings the earth up out of the water. This story is retold by the Maidu of California in a different form. A turtle is reported to have collaborated with a heavenly spirit called “Earth Initiate” for the purpose of pulling the land up out of the waters.

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The turtle volunteered to dive down for the earth because it wanted a place where it could rest after swimming. In the version of the Yaulmani Yokuts of California, a duck and an eagle took the places of the turtle and Earth Initiate, respectively. The most celebrated god among the Aztecs is Quetzalcoatl who is famous for being decorated with plumes and in the form of a serpent. Quetzalcoatl is said to be a culture hero who brought the art of civilization of Mexican tribes. Later in the Aztec civilization (1325–1521 C.E.), he became the god of the wind and of heaven at night. In his old age, he left his people and wandered to the east, where he cremated himself and became the morning star. He had promised that he would come back in the form of a man. When the Spanish came to Mexico under Hernan Cortez, the Aztecs thought it was the fulfillment of the return of their god in human form. They were thoroughly disappointed when the coming of Cortez ushered in the demise if the Aztec civilization. Culture heroes are often twins to whom the people trace their arts and crafts. Along with stories of culture heroes, exists a myth about a spirit who owns the animals. In order to have good hunting or fishing, this spirit must be revered. There is another character in North Amerindian mythology called Trickster. He is said to be against culture heroes. He is both a cunning person and a dupe. In other words, he is capable of deceiving and being deceived. He is the embodiment of order and disorder. He is said to be the founder of convention and, at the same time, the first to defy it. He has huge intestines, an appetite 37

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that is never satisfied, and a long uncontrolled penis which takes off on adventures of its own. In practice, however, North Amerindians had personal gods like Wakan Tanka, Mani and Tirawa. Wakan Tanka is the embodiment of all beings. Mani is the chief among many gods who serve as his agents. Most prayers are addressed to Mani’s agents, but the greatest ceremonies address Mani himself. Tirawa can be likened to Wakan Tanka. Although one of his titles is “Father Above”, he is thought to be more impersonal than personal. He can best be conceived as the power in all creation which sustains all things. $GNKGHKP6QVGOKUO

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In this introduction, we have already discussed “totemism”. We noted that the term derives from an Amerindian word ototoman meaning, “He is my relative”. The word “totem” has been taken by anthropologists and given a wider meaning. Here we want to elaborate on the idea that totemism was found particularly among hunting societies. In religious terms, the totem object is generally regarded as the great ancestor of the clan and is accorded the greatest courtesy, reverence and ceremony. In other words, the killing of the animals is necessary for the society’s survival. However, the act of killing is not to show hostility, because man and animal belong to a common world of dynamic existence and each of them shares in the being of the other. The killing is, therefore, to be done with reverence and ritual. The primary concern is to establish and reinforce a basic connection between man and the animal world through ritual and myth. Among Amerindians, one finds tall totemic poles, some standing as high as thirty feet tall. The poles are decorated with figures of animals from bottom to top. Here the religious symbols are essentially theriomorphic, meaning the gods are represented or symbolized in animal form. This signifies that the images and insights belong to hunters. 38

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$GNKGHKP5JCOCPKUO The term “shamanism” derives from a Siberian word shama. Scholars, particularly Mircea Eliade, define a shaman as a specialist in ancient or archaic techniques of ecstacy. Shamanism, then, is the practice of going into ecstatic experiences and the ability of the shaman to go into a trance and travel to the realm of sacred powers. The other side of it is the ability to take the spirit. Instead of people going to the gods, therefore, the gods come into the people.

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Generally speaking, the person who becomes a shaman may need to have had a visionary experience in his early life, and be capable thereafter of inducing ecstacy. One characteristic feature among the Amerindians is that of the vision quest. South Amerindians accepted visions which came, but they tended not to pursue them. North Amerindians did, however, seek earnestly for a vision of a guiding spirit. The vision quest came to a rite of passage which ushered in maturity. In the absence of a vision as a guiding experience, one lacked a sense of direction and purpose in life. If a young man failed to experience a vision, he was faced with the threat of being marginal in his society, of being forced to wear women’s clothing, and of being barred from male roles. There is a variation of the Amerindian theme of the vision quest. The Hopi Amerindians represent spirits through ceremonial masks. Children up to nine years old believed that the Kachinas, masked dancers, were real spirits in their midst. The crisis of the Hopi passage to adulthood was when the dancers dropped their masks. The young people had to be made to accept that the reality of the Kachina was not physical but completely spiritual. The adult Hopi assumed the characters of the masks they wore by projecting themselves into the spirit world and becoming what they were representing. The foregoing examples illustrate the type of persons from among whom shamans came. Usually, the initiation of a shaman is depicted as a long journey during which the shaman fights 39

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monsters, descends into the underworld, gets “killed” and torn apart, limb from limb. Then the gods restore him to life. Finally, he goes up to the sky and learns secrets from gods and heroes. After acquiring techniques of ecstasy, he returns to the world of his people with powers of healing and ability to assist them in performing successful hunts. Through their visions, Amerindian shamans functioned as healers, prophets and diviners. As healers, they extracted by sucking from the bodies of their patients objects thought to be the tools of witches or ghosts. Others stressed healing by ritual singing. Those from the agricultural groups specialized in spells for crop fertility. /QFGTP&GXGNQROGPVU

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With the coming of whites and their expansion in other parts of America, social changes among Amerindian came radically and violently. As Amerindians territories were taken by the white man’s westward advance, depression set in among the Amerindians. The solution to this depression lay in new religious movements which emerged under the influence of local prophets. One such new religious movement was the Ghost Dance which arose in the nineteenth century. This was a cult based on trance and a spiritual message which promised that if the Amerindians renewed the old ways and danced the new dance, they would defeat the whites and be able to witness the return of the buffalo. In 1886, one Wowoka, a Paiute rallied hundred of Paiutes, Kiowas and Cheyenne in Nevada. In a period of four years, except for the Navaho who resisted it, the movement had become Pan Amerindian. By 1890, the Sioux, who had lost nine million acres of their best land, resorted to the Ghost Dance. Across the country, Amerindians sang the message which had been brought by a spotted eagle to the effect:

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The dead are returning; The nation is coming; The father will return the elk; The deer and the buffalo. Disappointingly the movement came to an end when the Amerindian leader, Sitting Bull, was killed at Wounded Knee. The value of the Ghost Dance is seen in the fact that it placed emphasis on morality, It promised the ultimate hope, the destruction of the white man, with the assistance of the supernatural. The dance was a way of restoring social cohesion and dignity. And this did something to check the rapid spread of alcoholism, a social disease precipitated by the decay of traditional social values.

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Later developments among the Amerindians saw the rise of the Peyote religion. Peyote is a hallucinogenic drug which was introduced from Mexico in the late nineteenth century by Apaches. Peyotism is, therefore, the practice of the use of the drug to induce vision and a sense of peace. The experience is a means of contact with the supernatural. Gradually there came to be a body of rituals developed until there was a complete ceremony of confession, singing, drumming and praying. The movement came to borrow some Christian elements, with most of its followers coming from among the plains and Southeast Amerindians, thus filling some of the void left by the disappearance of the Ghost Dance. Today, the movement is incorporated as the Native American Church. Peyote religion does, therefore, offer Amerindians the legal right to take peyote as their ritual sacrament.

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(WTVJGT4GCFKPI

Carmody, D.L. & Carmody, J.T. Ways to the Centre: An Introduction to World Religions (Belmont: Wadworth, 1981) p. 27–30: 36–45: 49–55. Comstock, W.R. Religion and Man: An Introduction (New York: Harper Row, 1971) p. 92–94. Smart, N. Religious Experience of Mankind (New York: Scribner, 1969) p. 45–60.

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#EVKXKV[

1.

Discuss the impact of modernization on the religious life of the Amerindians.

2.

Explain the belief in supernatural beings among the Amerindians.

3.

Who were the shamans and what function did they carry out in the life of the Amerindian?

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5'%6+10+++

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African Religion

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6 'CTNKGT5VWFKGUQH#HTKECP4GNKIKQP S.G. Kibicho +PVTQFWEVKQP Today, a number of new religions have been embraced by some Africans making them their religions. This is especially true of Christianity and Islam which have a big following in Africa and have been on the continent for a long time. In this sense, we can describe Islam and Christianity today as dominant religions of some Africa, just as they are dominant religion of other countries or world regions.

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The title African Religion, however, is given to the religion which the Africans had and practiced long before the introduction to the continent of these other new religions. The title African Religion, therefore (or African Traditional Religion as it has also been called) in this sense, corresponds to the titles of other religions such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, etc. It should be emphasized that although it is no longer the only religion of Africa, and although there are parts of Africa or of African nations where it is no longer being directly and regularly practiced, the religion does continue to the modern times in different ways and forms. The use of both past and present tenses is a reflection of this fact. In the latter parts of this sub-section, we shall examine the nature and structure of African Religion, and the various ways it is continuing in the modern times. There are some variations in African Religion as it is found from one people to another; each people practiced the religion separately from other peoples as part and parcel of their total

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national life. To that extent we talk of Yomba religion, Nuer religion, Lughara religion, etc. In this sense the term African Religions in the plural is applicable.

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On the other hand there are important similarities in the fundamental beliefs, concepts and practices among all African peoples. For this reason and in this sense, the term African Religion in the singular, as we are using in this course, and as some other writers have used it (e.g. Parrinder, Idowu, Ranger) is appropriate. The earliest written accounts about African Religion were by European explorers or travelers and missionaries in the 18th and 19th Centuries. These were mostly based on unreliable and inadequate sources and distorted views much coloured by the prevailing cultural-racial prejudices. The writers were influenced to a great extent on what and how they wrote by the popular stories and beliefs already circulating in their own home countries about those they derogatorily designated as “primitive” or “savage” races, contrasting them sharply with themselves, i.e. the “civilized” races. Africa, South of Sahara, was referred to as the ‘Dark Continent’. This term emphasized the fact that little was known by European peoples, of this huge continent, especially its interior until late in the 20th Century. But the term “Dark Continent” also carried another meaning in the minds of Westerners that is “darkness” in terms of extreme backwardness and primitivity in all realms of life, including social, economic, cultural and religious. A good illustration of these distorted and prejudiced views of African Religion by early writers is the often-quoted statement by the famous explorer, Sir Samuel Baker. He was presenting a report to the Ethnological Society of London in 1867 on the Nilotes of Southern Sudan: “Without any exception, they are without a belief in a Supreme Being, neither have they any form of idolatory, nor is the darkness of their mind enlightened by even a ray of superstition.

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The mind is as stagnant as the morass which forms their puny world”. One dominating feature of the earlier studies of African Religion was the application of the evolutionary theory on the various human groups (tribes or races), their cultures and religions. Those groups regarded as at the stage of least evolutionary development (including Africans) were designated primitive groups (tribes or races) and their religions and cultures, primitive religions and primitive cultures.

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Another derogatory term in common usage at this time to describe these so called “primitive” peoples was “savage”. These terms and the accompanying attitudes are seen in some of the titles on the subject published during that period, and more recently. A few of these will serve as illustrations: Driberg, J.H. The Savage as He Really is (1929); Driberg, J.H. At Home with the Savage (1932); Tylor, B.E. Primitive Culture (1871); Norberck, N. Religion in Primitive Society (1961); Radin, P. Primitive Religion, Its Nature and Origin (1954); W.S. & Routledge, K. With a Pre-historic People, the Kikuyu of British East Africa (1910); A. Lang “Are Savage Gods Borrowed from Missionaries? In The Nineteenth Century”, (Jan. 1899); LoryBruhl, L. Primitive mentality (1923); Lowie, R.H. Primitive Religion (1925); Swanson G.E. The Birth of the Gods: The Origin of Primitive Beliefs (1960). 5VGTGQV[RGU Another characteristic feature of the earlier studies of African Religion was the use of certain stereotype terms to describe this religion, along with other so-called “primitive” religions. We have already had occasion to refer to the terms “primitive” and “savage”. Some of these terms have been discussed in Part I of this course. We shall mention and comment briefly on three of them: animism, fetishism and ancestor-worship. 47

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#PKOKUO This term was associated with Edward B. Tylor who advanced it in his two-volume work Primitive Culture (1871). He defined it as “belief in Spiritual Beings” embracing all categories of spirits, including deities. He regarded it as a minimum definition, and “essential source” of religion. In terms of the evolution of religion, animism for Tylor and others who followed him was the lowest form and stage of religion. The next important stages were polytheism and monotheism. For Tylor, however, an element of animism persisted even in the “higher” religions even though animism is essentially characteristic of the most “primitive” tribes.

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There is a strong element of the doctrine of spirits in African Religion. If animism was defined properly to mean belief in spirits, it could be applied to that particular aspect of the religion. Otherwise, the way it has been used since Tylor has presented and perpetuated a distortion and a misconception of the religion. The term has been used with the emphatic connotation that the whole of the religion thus described is nothing but belief in spirits, including the gods. The term therefore excludes in such a religion, the conception of god as the Supreme Being, as unique and distinct from spirits and any other categories of spiritual beings. Yet God understood this way, is the central aspect of African Religion. (GVKUJKUO This term was derived from the Portuguese word ‘feitico’ which meant “charm”. As they sailed along the coast of West Africa, the Portuguese had observed the “charms” or talismans which the West Africans were in the habit of wearing and they used the term feitico to refer to the “charms”. In English feitico became fetish. The dictionary definition of “fetish” is “any object believed by superstitious people to have magical power”.

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Before E.B. Tylor’s theory of animism, Charles de Brosses, in 1970, had advanced his theory that fetishism was the origin of religion. He understood natural and ordinary things (wood, stones, hills or mountains, trees, etc) as having sacred and divine power. The second and final stages in the evolution of religion according to De Brosses were polytheism and monotheism. Taylor substituted the notion of animism in place of fetishism as the first stage in the evolution of religion. The use of charms was widespread in the traditional African societies; it is still there, though not so widespread, even in modern Africa. However, such charms were not regarded as having sacred and divine power, nor were they worshipped or given reverence. They were in the category of magical articles and were made and prescribed by the traditional divine-doctors. The power of charms was analoguous to the power of medicine, and medicine could be pharmaceutical or magical or both. (cf. Muthea in Kikamba, Muthaiga in Kikuyu, dawa in Kiswahili, and corresponding terms in our other African languages).

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Finally, even when fetishism is properly defined it is a sign of awful ignorance regard to African Religion as – nothing but fetishism or even as basically fetishism. Other terms used erroneously to describe African Religion include ancestor worship, magic, totemism and idolatory. In a book published in the 1960s, W. Howell asserts, for instance, that ancestor worship is a characteristic feature of the whole of black Africa (The Heathen, pp. 166–7). The continuing erroneous use of these terms has perpetuated misconceptions and distortions of African Religion which are carried even in the minds of unwary Africans. For this reason the modern student of African Religion needs to be warned against these and related misconceptions and distortions.

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7 0CVWTGCPF5VTWEVWTGQH#HTKECP4GNKIKQP S.G. Kibicho +PVGITCVKQPQH#HTKECP4GNKIKQPCPF%WNVWTG One of the most striking things that a student of African Religion learns is that almost universally, African peoples had no term for religion.

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The terms which come close to religion actually mean sacred rites or ceremonies (Kalenjin: Tumwek; Kamba: Kiulumi; Luo: Nyasi; Gusii: Chinyangi; Luhya: Emulukha or Emisango; Meru and Kikuyu: Mambura or Magongona) yet, religion is much more than sacred rites and ceremonies, and as we shall see below, the basic elements which constitute religion were present among all African peoples. It was partly due to this lack of definite terms for religion that the missionaries here in East Africa borrowed the Arabic-derived Swahili term, Dini, to translate the English term religion in our various African languages. Thus if you ask school or college-age Africans today the term for religion in their own African languages, they would give you the term Dini, or Diin, or Edini, according to the variations it has assumed in particular African languages. One possible reason why there was no definite term for religion is that in the traditional African set up, religion did not exist as a separate institution. Rather it was interlaced in all aspects and institutions of life: individual, social, political and economic. Thus, there were important religious rites and ceremonies accompanying every individual’s life pilgrimage, from the womb

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to the grave and to the invisible world of departed spirits. The most important of these rites were those which have come to be called the “rites of passage”. These were the rites performed to mark the most significant turning or transitional points in the life of an individual from one stage to the next. These include especially four, namely: birth, initiation to adulthood, marriage and death. In between these, and with variations among different ethnic groups, there were other minor transitional rites. The most significant of such intermediate rites of passage were the preinitiation rites, and also those marking the attainment of the various successive stages of eldership and womanhood. An illustration of pre-initiation rites is the rite of Second Birth, or Returning the Child into the womb (guciarwo ringi or gucokia mwana ihuini) among the Gikuyu of Central Kenya. The Maasai rite called eunoto (transitional and initiation rite, from moranhood into elderhood) is a good illustration of a post-initiation and premarriage transitional rite (see Sankan, 1971, p. 27–30). Similarly, in the economic life, there were important rites accompanying the highpoints of the agricultural cycle and related activities (e.g. breaking new ground, delayed rains, planting, ripening of new crop, harvest). The same applied to important institutions and activities in the social and political spheres, as well as all other important undertakings. Again, other religious ceremonies had to do with the areas of peace and tranquility, health and general well being of individuals, families, and of the whole community. An important aspect of these rites and ceremonies had to do with prayers to God, and communion with departed ancestral spirits. This should not be taken, however, to mean that everything the African did in the traditional set-up was a religious activity. For instance, a dance might begin with a brief religious ceremony, a form of prayer or liturgy of blessings, but we cannot say that ordinary dances are taken as religious activities. Similarly, if a person digging in his garden cuts himself or is injured by another resulting in the shedding of blood, this may call for a religious

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ritual. But we cannot say that the persons digging are engaged in religious activity. 6JG/CKP'NGOGPVUYJKEJ%QPUVKVWVG#HTKECP4GNKIKQP Besides and underlying the many religious rites and ceremonies which surrounded the important events and activities in all the spheres of the individual’s, the family’s and the community’s life, there were fundamental religious beliefs.

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The most important of these were belief in God – the Supreme Being; belief in departed or ancestral spirits; belief in the sacredness of life and of the laws, both ceremonial and ethical, which ensure and guard life’s security and well being. The latter include the vital laws of inter-personal relationships and the relationship of humans with God and with the departed spirits1. Bolaji Idowu lists the following as the essential elements of African Religion: (1) Belief in God; (2) Belief in the divinities; (3) Belief in spirits; (4) Belief in the ancestors; (5) The practice of magic and medicine; (6) Sacred rites relating to features 1–5 above; (7) Rites of passage and other sacred rites relating to the life of the individual, the family and the larger community; (8) Religious specialists and their functions; (9) Sacred,social nd ceremonial laws and prohibitions (so-called taboos); (10)Belief in the sacredness of inter-personal and kinship relationships; morality. #EVKXKV[

Consider the above analysis in relation to the traditional religion of your local community. Are all the 10 items relevant? Are there others not included among the 10? If there are, list them.

1

Idowu, B. African Traditional Religion: A Definition.

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8 6JG%QPEGRVKQPQH)QFKP#HTKECP 4GNKIKQP S.G. Kibicho +PVTQFWEVKQP The last chapter we discussed the nature and structure of African Religion. Ten main elements or features which constitute African Religion were given. The following three chapters will discuss briefly only three of the ten features. The first of these, which is the subject of this chapter, is “the conception of God in African Religion”. The other two features will be discussed in the next chapter.

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'XQNWVKQPCT[+PVGTRTGVCVKQPKP'CTNKGT9TKVKPI One of the misconceptions contained in, and perpetuated by earlier Western accounts of African Religion, was that Africans were at the lowest stage of the religious evolution (fetishism or animism), and that essentially they had no concept of God, except perhaps when it may have recently been introduced from the outside. The evolutionary interpretation of African Religion (along with other so-called “primitive religions”) is again well illustrated by the now famous statement by Emil Ludwig to Edwin Smith. The latter was a missionary in Africa (mainly southern and central Africa). The two were having dinner in the home of the Acting Governor of the Sudan at Khartoum. Smith was explaining to Ludwig how they (missionaries) were trying to teach the Africans to put their trust in the living God who is loving and stronger then

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any eveil power. “Ludwig was puzzled” at the idea of trying to teach Africans about God. The implication is that Ludwig held the view (which was most likely shared by a good number of Western people then) that Africans did not have any concept of God, and also that they did not even have the mental capacity to grasp it. Smith explained to him that there was no need to persuade “pagan Africans” of the existence of God, because they are sure of it. But they were not sure of God as “a living power in their individual experiences”. And this was what they (the missionaries) were trying to teach them. This surprised Ludwig even more; he could not believe it. It was then that the made his famous statement: “How can the untutored African conceive God? … Deity is a philosophical concept whih savages are incapable of framing”.1 )QFKP#HTKECP4GNKIKQP

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Extensive study has been carried out on this and related questions since that early period, and the earlier view showed to be erroneous. Long before the introduction of the new religions, particularly Christianity and Islam, most if not all African peoples had a conception of God as the Supreme Being, Creator, Sustainer and Controller of the Universe. He was also experienced and thought of as Almighty, Omnipresent, Omniscient and Eternal. Okot p’Bitek strongly criticizes the use of the above attributes to describe African “deities”. He feels that they have been taken over (smuggled) from Greek philosophy via Christianity and their use (and related borrowed ideas) has only managed to produce a distorted picture of the African conception of God, in Christian terms. He suggests that the more correct attributes should be not

1

Smith, E. ed. African Ideas of God, p. 1.

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omnipotent, omniscient, eternal and omnipresent but, respectively – strong, wise, old and great.2 While the danger p’Bitek is warning against should be heeded, there is much unbiased empirical evidence to show that the picture he ends up painting of African “deities” is not applicable to most African peoples. It may apply to some extent at the level of “divinities” among some groups. But as already shown, the conception of God as the Supreme Being was almost universally found throughout the continent. /QPQVJGKUOCPF2QN[VJGKUOKP#HTKECP4GNKIKQP

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The conception of God among most African peoples can be described as monotheistic. However, among those peoples whose world-view also included divinities, placed next to God and regarded as God’s representatives and manifestations, there is a polytheistic element (as among the Yoruba of Nigeria). But this is only at the divinities level, while at the level of the Supreme Being the concept of God is monotheistic. Idowu gives this qualified monotheism, among the Yoruba, the term “diffused monotheism”. Even at this seemingly polytheistic level, the One Supreme Being (Olodumare) is in absolute control. Similary, we find animistic elements (in the proper sense of the word animism) among those groups where the various categories of spirits are regarded as God manifesting himself in the mode of spirits. The Nuer and the Dinka of Southern Sudan are good illustrations of this type of qualified monotheism, with an animistic element. But at the highest level, God (Kwoth for the Nuer, Nhiabic for the Dinka) is one, the Supreme Being, the Creator and Controller of the Universe. And even at the levels of spirits, it is the same one Kwoth or Nhiabic who manifests himself in multiple forms or models. Thus, he is both and at the same time, one and multiple. There is

2

p’Bitek, O. African Religions in Western Scholarship, p. 88.

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some parallelism here with the Christian ideal of the Trinity, God being at once both one and three. Forms of apparent dualism or plurals are found in some African peoples’ concepts of God, which are otherwise monotheistic. Thus Bukusu among the Luhya of Western Kenya talk of the black God who is evil (wele Gumali or Evimbi) and the white one, who is good (Wele Muwange). The Lugbara of Uganda say “God is one but many”. Also, God is his transcendence (Adroa) is good, whicle in his immanence (Adro) he is “bad God”, causing misfortunes and death.3 Besides providing a way of explaining and exonerating God, dualistic or plurasitic elements in the African conception of God also point to the complex nature of God’s personality: his oneness is not a simple, monadic unity, but a complex one.

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Another quite common feature in the African conception of God is that of close association of God with celestial bodies and with other prominent natural phenomena. In a few cases, there is what appears to an observer as identification of God with such phenomena, especially the sun and the sky. The Nandi and other Kalenjin groups of the Rift Valley Province of Kenya, for instance, call God Asis and the sun Asista. But it is clear from the studies which have been made that there is no real identification of God with the sun. The Luo of Nyanza Province of Kenya address the sun (chieng) at sunrise and at sunset as if praying to it.Similarly among the Abaluhyia of Western Kenya, the head of the family at sunrise, spits towards the rising sun (Liuwa or Luba) and addresses a prayer apparently to it “to let the day dawn well and spit his medicine upon the people, so that they may walk well.4 The Wapare of Tanzania call God, among other names, Murungu Izuva. (Izuva is the word for the sun). They also call God 3 4

Middleton, J. Lugbara Religion, p. 250. Wagner, G.

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Murungu Kiumbi (God the creator). They too apparently address the sun (Izuva) in some of their prayers. One of their prayers, said by the head of the family early in the morning as he faces the rising sun, goes as follows: O Izuva, you chief, you Murungu who made men and cattle and trees and grass, you who go by overhead, take a look at him who says curses to me! When you have come up in the morning may he see you; but when you go down in the evening, may he see you no more! But if I have myself done wrong to him, I shall die before you go down.5 Another common prayer among the Wapare, also said as one faced the sun, says: “O Murungu, I ask you to bless me for today”. In all three cases given above, however, as in previous examples, there is no real identification of God with the sun, only apparent. On the other hand, the sun is taken as an effective symbol for God.

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All this points to an important aspect of Africa Religion and world-view: namely the strong sense and awareness of the sacramental nature of the universe. Besides other ways, God who is invisible reveals himself through his visible creation. Another thing related to the above which is emphasized by this practice of seeming identification of God with the sun, or the sky etc., is that God in the African conception is both and at the same time transcendent and immanent. #EVKXKV[

1.

Explain the African concept of God.

2.

Why did early Western visitors believe htat the African had no concept of God?

5

Harjula, R. God and the Sun in Meru Thought. P. 26, quoting Bishop E. Mshana.

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9 6JG%QPEGRVKQPUQH&KXKPKVKGU CPF5RKTKVU S.G. Kibicho +PVTQFWEVKQP In the last chapter, we discussed briefly the African conception of God. In this final chapter on African Religion we shall discuss the conceptions of divinities, and spirits. Finally we shall look at the present state of African Religion and its future prospects. 6JG&KXKPKVKGU

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It should be pointed out that belief in the divinities, is found only among some ethnic groups. The Yoruba of Nigeria are reputed to have the biggest number of divinities. No one knows the actual number, but figures ranging from 200 to 1700 and more have been suggested. Divinities are divine or spiritual beings, occupying the highest position among spiritual beings, next to God. Some are conceived as personification of certain natural phenomena; others are deified heroes or ancestors. In his position of Supreme Sovereignty over all his creation, like the King of kings that he is, God brought the divinities into being and appointed them over specific areas in His theocratic government of the world. As God’s representatives, divinities are worshipped, appealed to for assistance and they are obeyed. For illustrations, the following four are among the main Yoruba divinities:

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(a)

Obatala (or Orisa-nla) is the Yoruba’s arch-divinity. He was God’s assistant in creation, and in moulding the human body. He helps childless women by giving them children, and is therefore very popular.

(b)

Orunmila is also a great divinity, next to the Supreme Being (Olodumare). He can plead with God on behalf of men in relation to the problems they bring to him. He is the divinity of knowledge and wisdon. Through his oracles, he gives divine guidance and counsel to those who consult him, and many consult him on important matters and occasions.

(c)

Ogun is the divinity of iron and war. All who work with iron things and tools such as hunters, barbers, butchers, blacksmiths, etc. hold him in high place of honour and worship. He clears the paths of his devotees of all obstacles and gives them protection and prosperity.

(d)

Sango (divinity of lighting) is a deified ancestor. As a human being he had been a fearful, autocractic king, with some magical powers. When addressing his subjects he would breath out fire and smoke from his mouth and nostrils, instilling fear in the people. He was forced to flee his kingdom by one of his family, he ended up hanging himself. He turned into a kind of powerful vengeful spirit, and using his supporters, would bring disaster on the people of his former kingdom through thunder and lightining. He became deified, and his worshippers associated him with Jakuta – the solar divinity, and the original divinity of thunder and lightining. He represents God’s wrath and hurls stones (strikes with lightining) at only those God thus punishes justly for their evil deeds.

(e)

Natural phenomena or forces may also be personified and regarded as divinities. These include some mountains and hills, certain rivers, and trees, and the earth. Such phenomena which are so regarded are believed to be inhabited by spirit(s). 62

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5RKTKVU This important feature of African Religion along with the rest, will be dealt with in greater detail in the second year course on African Religion. Only a few of the main features will be dealt with briefly here. This feature is found in the world-view of all African peoples. Among peoples with divinities, spirits come immediately below in the hierarchy of spiritual beings. Among many of the groups, however, divinities are not a distinct category higher than the spirits. Spirits come below God and between God and the living human beings. And even where divinities are to be found, they are part of the wide and general category of spirits; but of a special and higher status than the rest, closely associated with God’s activities as his agents and representatives, or as symbolic manifestations of his attributes and activities.

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One broad division of spirits is between those which were thus created, as spiritual beings, and those which were once human beings, called spirits of the departed or departed spirits or ancestral spirits. The ancestral spirits are the most important, especially those still remembered and with whom the living humans continue to have communion with through libations and offerings of food, blood and meat. They are regarded as the invisible members of their respective families, clans or age-grades, as the case may be. They are accorded their due recognition in the gatherings, feastings and other important activities of the respective groups of the living. Their presence is recognized and they are given their share of food, drink and meat. One important abode of the spirits is underground, and the libations to them are poured on the ground, from where they symbolically drink it. Their shares of meat and foods are placed on the ground, and they eat them, symbolically, through certain animals such as wild cats.

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Ancestral spirits are regarded as guardians of morality among most African peoples and as intermediaries or mediators between the living humans and God. Mbiti uses the term the “living-dead” for the spirits of those who died recently and who are still remembered and communicated with as described above. However, this term has been found by others to be confusing. The term “departed spirits “or” ancestral spirits” are more suitable and more in accord with most African peoples’ thoughts on this subject. Another division of spirits is between the good ones and the bad ones. The good people normally become peaceful spirits when they die, and as ancestral spirits, continue to have active concern for the welfare of the living. Consequently, among some groups they can be appealed to for assistance, and among all African people, they punish (e.g. bringing misfortunes, sickness etc) only with good reasons. The evil people on this side of the grave plus those who, according to some groups do not receive proper burials, become restless and evil spirits who haunt and trouble people for no apparent reasons.

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There are other classifications or spirits which differ from one African people to another. A lot more research is need on this subject. The concept of spirits among African peoples emphasizes that death is not annihilation; it is only a transition to the next and final stage of a person’s lifes’ pilgrimage. This is why funeral rites are included in the basic rites of passage. However, African religion is not other worldly; it does not lay emphasis on the stage of life beyond the grave. It does not regard life beyond the grave as more important than life on this side of the grave. The emphasis is on living a good upright, full and happy (or blessed) life at every stage, from childhood to old age, and finally departing to the invisible word of departed or ancestral spirits in peace, from where one continues to have a harmonious relationship with the living. 64

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2TGUGPV5VCVGCPF(WVWTG2TQURGEVUQH#HTKEC4GNKIKQP The colonization of Africa by European powers at the end of the last century meant inevitably the destruction (mainly forcible) of the traditional socio-political and economic institutions. African Religion did not exist as a separate institution but was interlaced in the fabric of all institutions and aspects of life. Consequently, this destruction of the basic socio-political and economic institutions meant at the same time the destruction of the socio-political and economic basis and organizational framework through and within which the religious process was carried out. Some of these institutions included councils of elders and of women, age-grade organizations, military organizations, political and judicial organizations. This inevitably resulted in a weakening of the vitality of African Religion. Since by its very nature it had no organization of its own separate from the other institutions, it could not make an organized response to the challenge and assaults of colonialism and Christianity, although it did and continues to make some response and survives.

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Another factor which contributed to the weakening of African Religion was the loss of a good number of African people to new religions, especially to Christianity. The younger people, particularly, who before too long began to suffer from the effects of disintegration of the traditional communities at every level, were soon eager baits of the Christian evangelistic campaigns. The youth were attracted to the missions by the desire for the new knowledge of reading and writing and the social advantages it promised.1 As a result of the above and other related factors, the numbers of active, practicing adherents of African Religion have continued to dwindle. Thus, for example, according to statistics given in The Kenya Churches Handbook (pp. 16–181) in 1972, Christians in Kenya had grown to 66 per cent while adherents of African 1

Oliver, R. The Missionary Factor in East Africa, p. 119, 234.

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Religion had dropped to 27 per cent of the population. Certain ethnic groups, however, taken separately, still continued practicing African Religion. For instance the Turkana (96 per cent), the Pokot (90 per cent), the Samburu (97 per cent), the Giriama (82 per cent), the Maasai (78pr cent). Those with the lowest number of active adherents included the Digo – 9 per cent the rest (91 per cent) being Muslims, the Luhya – 4 per cent, with most of the rest (94 per cent) being Christians; the Pokomo – 1 per cent, with most the rest (85 per cent ) being Muslim.

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The picture of course differs from country to country. By and large, African Religion seems to be stronger today in its visible manifestations in Western than in Eastern Africa: in Nigeria, for instance, cults of the various divinities continue being active. In spite of the dwindling numbers of active adherents, however, it needs to be emphasized that African Religion has continued and will continue in other ways, even in and through the new religions. These ways of continuity include the following, to mention only a few illustrations: (1) Beliefs and concepts including those basic in both African Religion and in Christianity and Islam e.g. the concepts of God, the after life, spirits, the curse, oaths, faith and healing practices, diviner-doctors, providence, moral laws and prohibitions, rituals, the family; (2) Essential customs, rites and ceremonies, e.g. those relating to birth, naming, kinship relationships, initiation, marriage, death; (3) Independent churches and syncretistic movements and organizations, e.g. the Mau Mau movement, Dini ya Musambwa (a number of examples could be given, with beliefs and practices taken over from African Religion sometimes via the Old Testaments where there is coincidence with Hebrew beliefs and practices); (4) Modern religious revival movements. #EVKXKV[

1.

What is the position of African religion today?

2.

Discuss the phenomenon of spirits in African Religion; comparing the views of different communities. 66

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5'%6+10+8

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Religions of India

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10 2TG8GFKE'NGOGPVUKP*KPFWKUO E.M. Kasiera +PVTQFWEVKQP The main religion followed by the majority of people of India is Hinduism – this ancient religion whose roots can be traced back to 2500 BC has enriched itself over the centuries as a result of encountering and intermingling with various cultures. Off-shoots of Hindusim are Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism. Table 1 reflects the evolution of these religions, which are shown in their historical context, together with personalities and sacred literature that was developed alongside the religious movements. In this section we shall discuss Hindusim under three major periods, namely pre-vedic, vedic and the classical periods. We shall conclude by looking at the enduring elements in Hinduism.

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2TG8GFKE4GNKIKQP 2TQVQ*KPFWKUO  The term Hindu is derived from the word Sindhu, a name given by the Persians to the land watered by the River Indus. The Indus Valley civilization is believed to have flourished around 2500 to 1500 BC. The inhabitants of the Indus Valley were probably related to the Dravidians of South India. Civilizations of the Indus Valley and South India are comparable to those around the Nile and Tigris – Euphrates Rivers. Two cities, some 400 miles apart, Harappa on river Ravi and Mohenjo – Daro on River Indus, together with some smaller towns and villages, existed. The 1920’s archaeological findings revealed that each city was laid out on a grid plan, and the houses,

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Table 1: History of Religions in India Dates 1500 AD

1000 AD

500 AD

General Historical Context Bangladesh 1971 – Independent India, Pakistan 1947 – British rule 18th Century – 1947 Mughal Empire 1526 – 1761 Small states, many Muslim ruled Delhi sultanate (Muslim) 1211 – 1761 Small states, Largely Hindu

1 BC/AD Gupta Empire in N. 320 – 540; classic Hindu period

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500 BC

Mauryan Empire 321 – 185 Invasion by Alexander 326

Personalities and Movements

Sacred Literature

Gandhi 1869 – 1948 Akbar r. 1556 – 1605 Nanak 1470 – 1540 fdr. of Sikhs Kabir 1440 – 1518

Ramanuja, d. 1137 Growth of Hindu Tantrism Shankara 788 – 822 Rise of Bhakti Decline of Buddhism in India Nagarjuna c. 150 Ashoka r. 273 – 237 Buddhism prestigious First Buddhist Council C. 480 The Buddha 563 – 483

1000 BC

Guru Granth Sahib

Tantras

Puranas Lotus Sutra and other later Mahayan sutras Yoga Sutras Heart Sutra and other early Mahayana writings. Later Upanishads Buddhist Tripitaka Early Upanishads Aranyakas Brahmanans

Urban civilation Mahavira c. 540 – 468 beginning in Ganges basin; Kashi (Benares) Prominent 1500 BC Consolidation of IndoLater Vedas Rig Veda European Supremacy in N. End of Indus Valley Civilization Reproduced from Ellwood, R. Many Peoples, Many Faiths: An introduction to the religious life of mankind (Englewood Cliffs Prentice Hall. 2nd ed. 1982, p. 61)

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although virtually identical and severely functional, were technologically advanced. The plumbing has been equaled only by that of the Romans and the modern world. The writing of this culture has not been fully deciphered and there are many mysteries about it. This highly complex urban civilization had large buildings containing a bath-house measuring 108 feet by 189 feet, with a tank 39 feet long, 20 feet wide, having a depth of 8 feet. In the light of present day practice where the faithful perform ablutions in the tank or pool of a Hindu temple, the presence of a bath – house suggests ritual bathing.

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Numerous female figurines (small ornamental human figures) made of baked clay and cut stone have been excavated. They are laden with ornaments, have protruding breasts and wide hips – which seem to connote fertility, thereby suggesting the possible existence of a fertility cult (as one would expect in a highly sedentary agricultural society). Figurines carrying children or pregnant suggest the idea of offering or examples of sympathetic magic. It is generally accepted by scholars that these figurines represent the Great Mother Goddess who is still worshipped in today’s modern India. Hence it can be concluded that these figurines represent the historical antecedents of the worship of the mother in the pre-vedic religion. By virtue of the fact that these peoples were agriculturalists, it is in female terms that the sacred is understood. Even today in Southern India, among the Dravidians, the Gramadevata (the village goddess) is still the most characteristic cult – object. Some of the noted village deities – Ambika, Ellama and Mariyamma are formed from a Dravidian root amma, meaning Mother. Other lesser goddesses with names ending with “ai” meaning “mother” are Mengai, Mandlivai, Sonjai and Udalai. That the prime aspect of pre-vedic religion was fertility is further suggested by the findings of numerous cone-shaped objects which represent the male sexual organs, lingas, and ring-shaped stones 71

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representing the female sexual organs, yoni. The lingas therefore symbolized generative power, and the yoni a fertility cult of the mother or a mother – goddess. In one of the seals, however, there is a three – faced nude male figure seated in the posture of a Yogi with the two heels touching and an erect penis. This figure is surrounded by an antelope, a buffalo, an elephant, a rhinoceros, and a tiger. On his head he wears a crown of horns, bangles on each arm, a chest decoration hangs around his neck, and a fan-shaped headdress rises between his horns. All these features correspond to those of a later Hindu God Shiva (Vedic and classical period), who was three-faced called the Lord of the Deserts (Pashupati), rode a bull, was also Lord of Yoga or the great ascetic (Mahayogi) and often appeared nude with his penis erect.

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The similarity of these features indicates that the fertility associations of the classical Shiva go back to the Indus Valley pre-Vedic religion. The head dress of the figure on the seal resembles the hunting costume of Shiva and his matted ascetic’s hair. This would seem to indicate that Indus Valley culture considered its proto-Shiva a wild yet ascetic force. And since the classical Shiva was Lord of the Animals, the representation of the animals on the seal confirms the relationship. The worship of animals and trees has indeed been inferred from the seals. The papal tree, under which Buddha is said to have achieved enlightment, seems to have been sacred in the Indus Valley civilization. It is associated with figures of deities on the seals. Another seal worth mentioning is of a god in yogic position with a canopy of snakes over his head. In addition to the foregoing system of belief in deities and ritual practices, there was the belief regarding the destiny of man. This was based on the notion of Karma, meaning deed (action), which caused connection with the spiritual order or physical law of cause and effect. It is the law which allots destinies to individuals in terms of their actions. It means that what a man is 72

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in present life has been determined by his conduct in previous lives, similarly his conduct in this life will determine the kind of life he will lead in his next existence. %QPVTKDWVKQPUQHVJG2TG8GFKE'TCVQ*KPFWKUO

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These beliefs, ideas, and practices came to be influenced by the religion of the Aryans. There was, however, some resistance to this Aryan influence. This is where the traces of pre-Aryan religion emerge. These elements found their expression in the rise and development of Buddhism and Jainism, and even in Hindusim itself. 1.

Some scholars have theorized that the sides of Hinduism which center around Shiva, bulls, the mother goddess, water ablutions, and yogic techniques come out of an indigenous culture related to that of the Indus valley if not the Indus Valley itself.

2.

We noted that a seal showed a God in yogic position with a canopy of snakes over his head: (anticipation of serpent deities (Naga). Vishnu, a later Vedic era Hindu God, is often pictured with snake hoods extending over his head. The same is also true of the Buddha.

3.

Nude male figurines standing upright suggest the Jain statues of later times.

4.

Figures in yogic posture on seals lead to the conclusion that the practice of yoga, and allied sorts of contemplation data from this pre-vedic culture.

This practice of training the mind and body through methods of asceticism, physical control, and contemplative techniques is seen in Jainism, where emphasis is laid on austerity; in Buddhism where more attention is given to psychological and contemplative methods; and in Hinduism, where one of the schools of thought is yoga itself.

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The fact that fertility continued to be an important element in later religions indicates that Aryans as well as the inhabitant of the Indus Valley considered sexual powers sacred. By 1500 BC when the Aryans invaded the Indus Valley, the Harappa and Mohenjodaro culture was destroyed. These invaders called themselves Aryans, a term which came to be anglicized as Aryas, meaning “noble folk” or “from the earth”. Their name is said to survive in Iran and Eire which indicates that they were related to the peoples as far apart as Ireland and Central Asia. The language of the Aryans, Sanskrit, is related to all European languages apart from Finnish, Hungarian and Basque. Aryans were nomadic and pastoral (semi-nomadic) people. They were militarily advanced and loved fighting, racing, drinking, and other aspects of warrior life. They moved by horse, ate meat, and hunted with bow and arrow. They did iron work and fashioned good weapons. They loved story telling and singing. They had developed a poetic technique in the composition of hymns in praise of their gods which were chanted at sacrifices. These hymns were remembered and transmitted orally by families of priests and a sacredness was attached to them.

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The collection of hymns was later committed to writing. Along with other writings, it makes it possible to construct the beliefs and cult practice of the Vedic-period. #EVKXKV[

Discuss the history of the Indus Valley and the contributions it has made to the development of Hinduism.

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11 8GFKE*KPFWKUO E.M. Kasiera +PVTQFWEVKQP The previous chapter discussed the cluster of ideas which can be discerned in the Indus Valley civilizations and which influenced the subsequent Aryan culture. We shall now highlight the period when the Hindu scriptures were developed and study the faith in detail.

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8GFKE*KPFWUKO When scholars speak of “Vedism” they mean the culture which resulted from the mixture of Aryans, Harappans, and other peoples of the Indus and Ganges Valleys. This culture expressed itself in the earliest Indian writings, which are a collection of religious songs, hymns, spells, rituals, and speculations called the vedas. The word Veda, literally means “knowledge” or wisdom. Vedas were initially transmitted orally and they are said to be shruti, meaning, “that which has been heard”. In other words, they came by revelation and they represent the expression of eternal truth, the highest intuitive knowledge, made known to the rishis (holy persons or seers) of ancient time. Shruti implies that the eminent holy person has perceived certain things in peak experiences. Vedic literature, therefore, representing what the rishis had seen, was considered the best and holiest presentation of knowledge.

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8GFKE.KVGTCVWTG There are four distinct collections of the Vedas. Collectively, the four collections are known as the Samhitas, which means that Samhitas is a synonym for Vedas. The first of these four Vedas is called the Rig-Veda (Riksamhita) dating around 1400 BCE. This is the oldest, largest, and most important. It contains 1028 units, called suktas, which are hymns to the gods, magical poems, riddles, and legends among others. It has a total of 10,462 verses which are divided into ten books. Their formulation indicates that they represent the work of priestly leaders, who seem to be an educated class concerned with regulating contact with the gods and maintaining its own social status. Most hymns of the Rig-Veda serve two purposes: to praise the god being addressed and to ask the god favours or benefits. Another function of the Rig-Veda is to petition for forgiveness of sins, like having wronged a brother, cheated at games, or abused a stranger. This shows a stage of developed moral sense.

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The Rig-Veda seems to provide solid evidence of religion which centers on free and responsible choices made for good or evil. One also finds some of the hymns of the Rig-Veda to be philosophical, wondering about the first principle of cause and effect behind the many phenomena of the world. The second collection of Vedas is the Sama-Veda (Samasamhita) dating between 1400 and 1000 BCE. It contains melodies (Samans) which are largely verses (Mantras) taken from the hymns of the Rig-Veda and set to music. These 1810 verses are meant to be chanted at the soma sacrifice. One can speak of the Sama-Veda as essentially a religious song book. The third collection of the Vedas is the Yajur-Veda (Yajuhsamhita) dating between 1400 and 1000 BCE. This is a collection of supplementary sacrificial formulae (Yajus) to be used by the priest who is responsible for the manual action.

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In other words, the Yaju-Veda is a priestly work of instructions regarding the times and materials for sacfrifice, the construction of the fire altar, and formulae for the soma sacrifice. The fourth Veda which dates around 1200 BCE, is the AtharvaVeda (Atharvasamhita). This is a collection of magical formulae (Atharvan) containing prayers for long life and prayers to cure sickness and demonic possession: there are also curses upon demons, sorcerers, enemies, as well as charms to secure love. It has been said that because the Atharya-Veda is a collection of charms, it was probably more the possession of the laity. It also indicates that the earliest Hindu mind tried to ward off forces of evil and commandeer forces of good. In addition to the four collections of the Vedas indicated above, there were three other collections which were later assembled and came to be included in what is called Vedic literature. These are Brahmanas, Aranyankas, and Upanishads.

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Brahmanas which date between 1000 and 800 BCE, are collections of accepted interpretations by Brahmans (priests). They are theological statements arising from scholastic controversy. Some of them relate to the stanzas of the Samhitas while others describe and explain the rites, indicating directions for sacrifice. Brahmanas are classified according to the Veda to which they refer and out of which they grew: the Brahmanas connected with the Rig-Veda are intended for the hotri (one which recited the verses of the Rig-Veda); those attached to the Sama-Veda are for the Udgatri (one who sings the songs of the soma sacrifice); and those attached to the Yajur-Veda are for the Adhvaryu (one who is responsible for the manual operations of the sacrifice). The Aranyankas, which date between 800 and 600 BCE, are known as “forest book” or “texts of the forest”. They are so called because they are secret and therefore, kept from the public and read in forests.

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The Ananyankas are concerned with the lication of the mystical meaning and symbolism of the sacrifice. They emphasize meditation rather than ritual performance. The Upanishads, in line with the Ananyankas, discuss the symbolism of melodies and words. They further expound the theory of breathing, and move into cosmological theories of the Atuman Brahman theme. The texts are thought to have begun in the form of short philosophical statements which were communicated from teacher to pupil, whereby the communication was preceded and followed by expository discourses. In time, the discourses assumed a definite shape and, when they were reduced to writing, they resulted in the Upanishads as they are known today. The Upanishads, dating between 600 and later than 300 BCE suggest that they contain views of a series of teachers. When the texts were finally brought together and arranged, the Upanishads were appended to the Brahmanas. Because they stood at the end of Vedas, they came to be known as Vedenata, where Veda means “knowledge” and Anta means “end”. The number of Upanishads exceeds two hundred but only ten are the principal ones.

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8GFKE)QFU The second theme to look at is Vedic gods. Tradition has it that there were 330 million gods. Only a few do, however, stand out as the most important. They are all said to be devas (good divinities) as distinguished from asuras (evil divinities). The Vedas cast most devas in human or animal form. The feature of the devas was power. Typically a deva was a male deity associated with a female consort, who represented his energic force (Shakti). Later, Tantrist Hinduism focused on Shakti, generally through the practice of ritual sex. The worship of the many Vedic gods and Shakti has been described as Henotheism, meaning the worship of many gods at the time. This indicates that at the moment of praying or 78

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concentrating on a particular god, the worshipper tends to elevate that god to primacy without denying the existence of the other gods who have their claims to importance. There are different generations of the Vedic gods. The oldest group consists of the gods of the sky and the earth that the Vedas share with Indo-European religious texts. One example is the Vedic Father Sky, called Dyaus Pitar, who is related to the Greek Zeus and the Roman Jupiter. Dyaus Pitar is the overarching power which fertilizes the receptive earth with rain and rays of the sun. The Vedic earth is the Great Mother, the fertile female. These deities echo in the background of later gods as the oldest.

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The second oldest group includes Indra, Mithra, Varuna, Agui and Soma. Indra was the warrior god of the storm endeared to the Aryan conquerors; Mithra was the god of the sun; Varuna was the god of cosmic and moral order; Soma was the god of the exhilarating cultic drink; and Agui was the god of fire, whose importance increased as the sacrifice focused more and more on fire. Most of the deities in this second generation represent earthly and especially heavenly forces. It is likely that the storm, the sun and the sky were all originally joined in Dyanus Pitar, but later they became separate objects of devotion. The third generation of gods includes Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva who are not true Vedic gods but rather developments of Vedic devas on Indian soil. These ones arose after the Aryans arrived in India, which would seem to indicate Dravidian influences on the invading culture. The fourth generation of gods comes to the fore in the Upanishads, comprising abstract deities such as one God, That one, Who and the Father of Creation. %WNVKE2TCEVKEG A third theme to consider in Vedic Hinduism is the cultic practice. Sacrifice was central to the cult. From the time of RigVeda, there seem to have been both private sacrifices and more elaborate sacrifices performed in public. The former were performed by the head of the house around a domestic fire and 79

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the latter were sponsored by a king or some other official. Private sacrifices depended on the Grihya Sutras, a body of texts which were not composed until the post-Vedic peiod (500–200 BCE). Public sacrifices are the ones which are elaborately outlined in the Brahmanas.

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Sacrifices of the Vedic cult took place either in the house of the sacrifice or on altars on a chosen level spot of ground covered with grass for the purpose. The offering consisted in what the men themselves enjoyed eating; milk, ghee and cakes of barley or rice. In that early period, there were also animal sacrifices. In addition, there were human sacrifices which were considered the most efficacious of all. There were some less complicated sacrifices which required only one priest. In later development, there came to be those sacrifices which required various priests to perform different parts of the sacrifice. The most importanct priest was the Hotri, whose chief duty, as indicated above, was to recite the stanzas of the RigVeda. A second specialized priest was the Udgathi, whose responsibility was to sing those portions of the Sama-Veda which were used during the soma sacrifice. A third specialized on manual operation of the sacrifice. He tended the fires, prepared the altar, utilized the utensils and cooked the oblations. In due course, the Adhvaryu came to be the overseer of the cult. He ordered the various performances and was aware of the expiration to be performed in case of error in the sacrifice. Initially, the sacrifice was the means by which the favour of the gods was sought. In time, and as the sacrifices became more eleborate, the sacrifice became more of a powerful mystery. It came to be understood that, through the sacrifice, the priest recreated the world and men came to believe that the order of nature ultimately rested on the perfect performance of the sacrifice. The result came to be that the gods themselves became dependent on the sacrifice. By virtue of the fact that the sacrifice depended upon the accuracy of the priestly class, the Brahmans became more powerful than 80

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any earthly king or even any god. Special honoraria in the form of cows, gold, clothes, and horses, among other things, accompanied the sacrifices and were given to the priests. 5QOC

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One of the chief sacrifices in Vedism is the soma sacrifice (agnishtoma). This is named in praise of the deity Agui, probably due to the fact that the last hymn used on that day is addressed to Agui. Soma is a plant whose juice was prepared for use both as libation to the god (referred to as the heavenly nectar of the gods) and as a beverage for the worshipper. Soma juice produced profound effects on its consumers: hallucinations and a sense of glory followed its consumption. The soma experience was regarded as the occasion of sacred significance and holy dynamism. This sacrifice was carried out each spring. It involved certain preliminary operations such as the consecration of the area and the participants. The soma was ceremoniously purchased, altars built and preparations for the sacrifice were made for three days. The sacrifice itself was performed in one day, consisting of three pressings of the soma: morning, noon and evening. The noon pressing was the climax of the sacrifice. It included vegetable and animal sacrifices, the drinking of the soma juice by the officiant and the distribution of the honoraria. The sacrificer could give up to one thousand cows, all his wealth, or sometimes, even his daughter to be married to one of the priests. Having drunk the invigorating soma, the worshippers saw visions of the gods and experienced sensations of power. They even identified themselves with the gods. *QTUG5CETKHKEG The second sacrifice and most impressive of the Vedic rituals was the horse sacrifice (ashvamedha). This was a demonstration of triumph in which a king indulged, thereby manifesting his royal authority. The sacrifice itself lasted for three days, but the 81

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preparatory ceremonies took a year or two. After preparatory oblations, a consecrated horse was set at liberty, and left to run at large for a year while further preparatory activities took place. During this time, the king and his army followed the horse, claiming all the territory transversed by the horse as the realm of the king. At the end of the year, the horse returned and was sacrificed by strangulation. Needless to say, the horse sacrifice occasioned considerable political dispute. It was, however, a popular festival by which prosperity was acquired for the kingdom and for the subjects. &QOGUVKE5CETKHKEG

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Apart from these public sacrifices, there were also private or domestic ones. Domestic rites consisted of a series of small sacrifices with simple ceremonies which involved offerings of a vegetable nature, and only rarely involving animals. The head of the house performed these rites and it was his responsibility, along with his family and his pupil to maintain the fire.

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12 %NCUUKECN*KPFWKUO E.M. Kasiera +PVTQFWEVKQP In the last chapter we saw how the successive stages of Vedic Hinduism combined different ideas of gods with a variety of sacrificial practices some of which, such as the killing of animals, are not compatible with mainstream Hinduism today. We also saw that these practices brought about or reinforced social groupings. In this chapter we shall see how classical Hinduism developed, and gained expression in philosophical and devotional terms. The chapter will highlight some of the main concepts in classical Hinduism.

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%JCNNGPIGVQ8GFKE*KPFWKUO From the sixth century BCE, Vedic religion came to face serious challenges from various quarters. In spite of the refinements in the Upanishads, which are the final products of the Vedic tradition and which represent an adverse reaction to sacrificial Brahmanism, the message of the Upanishads came to be challenged by materialistic, Jain, Buddhist, devotionalist and other religious views. The entire Vedic tradition of shruti came to grow through commentaries and manuals of instruction. Hindus refer to these materials collectively as smriti (memory or tradition). Some Hindus remained loyal to the early Vedic gods and sacrifices. The strong challenges did, however, decisively change the religion of the majority. As a result, Hinduism became an

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umbrella religion sheltering a great diversity of beliefs and customs. The challenging forces of materialism, Jainism and Buddhism, are dealt with elsewhere. We are concerned here with movements which forced changes from within Hinduism. 5CNXCVKQPD[&GXQVKQP These movements are collectively known as Bhagavata (devotionalism), which connotes an emotional attachment to personal gods like Krishna and Shiva. Devotees (Bhaktas) continue to claim that such devotion is a way of salvation or selfrealization that is superior to sacrifice or intellectual meditation. In other words, bhakti (devotion) is higher than external observances and activities and higher than philosophical meditation. And since it involves submission on man’s part, it also implies divine grace.

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Bhakti is classified as lower or imperfect if it is motivated by worldly concerns like sickness, danger or the desire for some favour such as the birth of a male child. In addition to imperfect or lower bhakti there is a higher bhakti. This is completely selfless and involves single-hearted attachment to God, all other affections having been destroyed. Higher bhakti is the result of pure grace and it is liberation. It has been argued that the concept of bhakti, the way of salvation by devotion to God, either predates Buddhism or began within Buddhism itself. Regardless of when the system began, it has been observed that a devotion to Buddha developed almost immediately following the death of Buddha. This came to attain its fulfillment in the Mahayana systems of grace and the attaintment of salvation by faith in Amitabha Buddha. Our scope here, however, does not cover the Buddha bhakti, but the bhakti systems in Hinduism. These are the Krishna bhakti, Rama Bhakti, Vishnu bhakti, Shiva bhakti and Shakti bhakti.

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It is unclear on the origin of the devotion to Krishna. The cult was widespread in the Punjab in the fourth century BCE. It has been suggested that the origin of the Krishna bhakti lay in the veneration of a historical figure who had become a legendary hero and around whom a copious Krishna mythology developed.

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In the Mahabharata, a great epic which started to be written and edited from 400 BCE, Krishna is presented as a human hero. In the Bhagavad Gita, which forms only a small portion of the Mahabharta (and which is complete in itself), Krishna is represented as a Supreme God, who, if made the object of devotion, will save men. Krishna is also said to be an incarnation (avatar) of Vishnu. The Gita offers ways of salvation to all types of persons, but bhakti appears to be its highest teaching. In it, there is a progressive instruction to a pupil called Arjuna by his guru god called Krishna. The Gita begins by placing Arjuna on the battlefield and successively teaches: (a) The ethical problem of war; one must do one’s caste duty, and there must not be the killing of the soul; (b) The valid ways to wisdom and realization, which are sacrifice, meditation, and action without attachment to its results; (c) The divinities unveiled countenance, the devotee Arjuna is given a mystical vision of Lord Krishna who tells Arjuna that the best way (marga) is love of Krishna and that he, Krishna, loves his devotees in return. 6JG4COC$JCMVK

The second cult is the Rama bhakti. The story of Rama is told in the second Indian epic, besides the Mahabharata, the Ramayana. Rama is said to have married Sita after an archery contest. They got separated while in exile when a demon king, Ravana, carried Sita away. Rama’s bravery in hunting and killing Ravana and finally rescuing his wife Sita is what endeared him to the hearts of many Indians. They see Rama and Sita as the ideal divine couple, and hence are led to Rama worship. 85

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A third movement is the Vishnu Bhakti. The cult of Vishnu came to be known in the Brahmanas. By the period of the Puranas (300–1200 BCE) Vishnu had expanded his scope and dominance, mainly through the doctrine of avataras. Theistic trends were commonly found to grow outside the influence of the Brahmans. When a local deity became sufficiently prominent, the Brahmans would attempt to bring such worship into their orbit of influence, either by indicating that the local deity was really Vishnu under a different name, or that he was an avatara (incarnation or descent) of Vishnu. These incarnate deities both extended the worship of Vishnu and expanded understanding of his nature. The traditional list of ten avataras, wich include both human and animal forms, are: matsya (the rish); kurma (the tortoise); varaha (the boar); narasimba (the man-lion); vamana (the dwarf); parashurama (Rama with the ax); Rama Krishna, Buddha and Kalki.

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A fourth cult is the Shiva bhakti. Shiva, meaning “auspicious” was a euphemistic epithet given to the god Rudra of the RigVeda. As Rudra, Shiva inspires more fear than love. He is conceived as the destroyer when in the company of Brahma and Vishnu. Shiva is often depicted with a garland of skulls and surrounded with ghosts and demons. He is also the lord of animals and the lord of dance. The devotees, Shaivities, identified him with local deities as Vaishnavite had done with their god Vishnu. Whereas the followers of Shiva had a greater tendency towards advaitin views, there were those whose message was devotional and emotional. Their hymns are an account of their vivid experience. 6JG5JCMVK$JCMVK

A fifth cult is the Shakti bhakti. Shakti worship is the worship of the power of the deity in the form of his consort. This takes 86

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various forms, from simply representing the deity with his consort, to singling her out as the chief object of worship. Erotic practices are naturally to be expected, but not all Shaktism is erotic. Some forms are highly philosophical. The texts which describe the elaborate rites and theories connected with Shaktism are called Tantras. /GFKGXCN*KPFWKUO

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The period between 500 and 1500 BCE in the history of Hinduism has broadly been called the medieval period. It is the period when thinkers and various movements criticized or amplified the Vedic heritage resulting in full reform of Hinduism. We have so far looked at the bhakti movements which represented popular religion and which introduced new elements in the Vedic tradition. The distinction in the various Indian thought systems is between those who reject the Vedas, called nastikas, meaning “those who say no”, and those who accept the Vedas, called astikas, meaning “those who say yes”. The systems of the Jainas, the Pali Canon, and the Carvakas (materialists) were seen as “heterodox” because they were originated by nastikas. The “orthodox” thought systems of philosophies, called darshanas, meaning “point of view” originated with the astikas. The “orthodox” Darshanas were seen to be so because they relied on the authority of the Vedas; they were conceived as explanations of shruti (revelation). There are six such philosophies or schools of thought: Nyaya, Vaishesika, Sankhya (Samkhya), Yoga, Purva Mimamsa (Mimamsa) and Uttara Mimamsa (Vedanta). 0[C[CCPF8CKUJGUKMC

Nyaya, meaning “analysis” and Vaishesika, meaning “indivudial characteristics” are logical and proto-scientific in character. Nyaya is devoted mainly to an investigation and listing of logical arguments. It maintains that the existence of an external world is independent of the mind and it sought to establish this by means 87

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of reasoning. Vaishesika is principally a theory of atomism. It holds that the universe consists of five elements, namely air, earth, fire, space and water each of which is composed of a number of atoms. The two schools came to coalesce and later acquired the doctrine of a personal creator who arranges the atoms which are the basic constituents of the cosmos. 5CPMJ[CCPF;QIC

In the same way Nyaya and Vaishesika are related so are Sankhya and Yoga a closely related pair. Sankhya provides the metaphysical basis which is the background against which the devotee practices Yoga. Sankhya (school of count) is based on the Bagavad Gita. It holds that the universe was derived from or reality consists of, two principles.

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On the one hand is Purusha, a spirit of a unitary being that evolves into the many forms under which we perceive it. On the other hand is Prakrti the principle of becoming. From it, all the elements in human nature and the natural world were derived, consisting of innumerable eternal souls. These souls are associated with psychophysica organisms, and are, therefore, entangled in the round of reincarnation, hence the need for Yoga. Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual technique; it is a system of practical philosophy, whose purpose is to teach the way Purusha from Prakrti in order to attain Moksha (liberation). The aim of the yogi is to attain disentanglement. By virtue of the fact that the empirical world is full of suffering, the only way to get peace is by being liberated from the world. This can be attained by observing the following steps: yama (restraint) niyama (observances) asana (posture) pranayama (breath control) pratyahara (control of senses) dharana (attention), dhyana (meditation, and samadhi (concentration) 2WTXC/KOCOUCCPF7VVCTC/KOOCOUC

As the names indicate, the last two darshanas, Purva Mimamsa and Uttara Mimamsa (Vedanta), were also related. These schools 88

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were concerned exclusively with the interpretation of the Vedas. In this regard, they were systems of a very different kind.

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Mimamsa started as an attempt to bring order into the principles of interpretation of the Vedic scriptures. It was based on the Brahmanas. The Vedic hymns did not have a doctrine of rebirth and salvation was conceived in them in terms of a heavenly existence. By virtue of this, the Mimamsa school resisted the idea of moksha as the goal of religion. It conservatively kept to belief in heaven as the reward for piety. By means of a system of appropriate sacrifices, a person was able to assure himself of heavenly rewards. According to this school, therefore, religion centred on dharma, the laws of sacrifice and duties of religion; ritual was regarded as efficacious in itself. The last of the schools is Uttara Mimamsa (Vedanta). The Vedanta was the most celebrated darshan. This was based on the Upanishads, and later used for philosophical schools which were based on those Upanishads. The school was concerned with the interpretation of the Vedas not as a way of action (Karma) but as a way of knowledge (Jnana). The school came to be divided into a number of sub-systems which differ markedly from one another. In some cases, the difference between them is greater than that found between the six schools recognized as continuing the orthodox Hindu tradition. The diverse doctrinal views within the Vendata darshana had their roots in divergent sorts and combinations of religious experience. We look at the divergent views within the school by looking at the key teachers or interpreters of the Vedanta. 8GFCPVC6JKPMGTU The greatest of the Vedanta thinkers and interpreters was Shankara. He was born in the Malabar, Kerala, in South India and lived between 788 and 820 BCE. As the son of Shiva guru, he was a follower of Shiva and was considered an avatar of Shiva. His chief theological and philosophical concern was a consistent interpretation of the Upanishadic writings. He became an ascetic 89

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at the age of eight and he is reported to have written his commentary on the Brahma Sutras at the age of twelve. In his travels in India, he established four monasteries (maths) which still exist; Badarinath in the Himalays; Dwanaka on the west coast; Puri on the east coast and Shringeri in Mysore state. Shankara tried to systematize the Upanishads in terms of the doctrines called advaita, meaning “unqualified nondualism”, in opposition both to Buddism and to the excessive devotionalism of the popular cults, bhakti movements.

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He tried to explain the basic Upanishadic concepts of Brahman and atman, whereby he concluded that the immortal element within man and the divine absolute are one. In summary, we can identify seven basic principles which provide the pillars of Shankara’s metaphysical system: (a) The eternal, impersonal absolute (Brahman) is the only ultimate reality; (b) Maya (illusion) is the power by which the absolute appears to us in a transient universe of time and space; (c) Causality explains the universe but not the nature of the absolute; (d) Man’s spirit is identical with the Supreme Spirit; (e) Sin and suffering originate from our failure to realize our essential oneness with the absolute; (f) Liberation can not be achieved by action (Karma) or devotion but only by means of illumination (jnana); (g) It is solely because of our ignorance that we see diversity, multiplicity and finiteness where in reality exists only the oneness of Brahman. From the time of Shankara, bhakti was forced to develop a theological defence and exposition of its principles because Shankara’s teaching was seen to be a threat to the devotional cults and the principle of bhakti and also to Buddhism. Shankara relegated bhakti to the lower level of appearance. Bhaktas did not, however, find such a preliminary role for Bhagavan (the personal God and object of devotion) acceptable to them. The strongest opposition to Shankara’s system came from Ramanuja, who also came from near Madras South India, and lived between 1017 and 1137 BCE. As a follower of Vishnu,

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Ramanuja did not accept the relegation of the personal aspect of the godhead to a lower level of reality. Ramanuja’s main accomplishment was elaborating upon the Upanishadic doctrine in such a way that he made divinity compatible with human love. In so doing, he opposed Shankara’s doctrine of advaita and developed his own of vishishtadvaita, meaning “nondualism qualified by difference”. For Ramanuja, Brahman consisted of three realities: (a) Achit (matter), the unconscious universe of matter; (b) Chit (soul) the conscious community of finite selves; (c) Ishvara (God), the transcendent Lord called Ishvara

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According to Ramanuja, while all three are real, the first two are dependent on God. Ishvara is Brahman. God manifests himself in various forms for his devotees: as the immanent soul of the universe; as the transcendent personal Lord; as creator, destroyer or preserver; as avatar in human or animal form; as images enshrined in temples so that his devotees can see him physically. To Ramanuja, bhakti (devotion to the personal God) was superior to metaphysical illumination. And, rather than mystical absorption, the final goal of man is personal bliss with God. The highest way to liberation was, therefore, that knowledge (Jnana) and pure action (Karma) were good paths in themselves but love was better. By substituting Vishnu or Krishna for Brahman or Ishvara, the Vaishavites made Ramanuja a philosophical defender of their bhakti. Ramanuja’s attempt to harmonize philosophical monism with theism went too far in the direction of monism to be accepted by some devotees of the bhakti cult. Conversely, if Ramanuja had distanced himself from Shankara by teaching the distinction between God and the world and between God and souls, this was not far enough for some of the bhaktas. One such unconvinced bhakta was Madhva. He was born in a village near Udipi in the thirteenth century and died there after founding a new order called Brahma Sampradaya. He was trained in Shankaras advaita, but he broke away and developed his own system of dvaita (dualism). 91

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Madhva utilized the Vedas and Brahmanas more than his predecessors and he made great use of the Puranic literature. Like Ramanuja, Madhva was a devotee of Vishnu, but more particularly of Vayu, the son of Vishnu. Madhva was considered an incarnation of Vayu, which would seem to indicate that when he held that liberation could only be acquired through Vayu, he meant that liberation could be acquired through himself. Like Ramanuja, Madhva held that there are three realities: God, souls and matter. Each soul is distinct in its nature from the natural world which he sustains and recreates at the beginning of each time cycle. For Madhva, there were five distinctions: (a) God is distinct from the individual souls; (b) God is distinct from nonliving matter; (c) One individual soul is distinct from another; (d) Individual souls are distinct from matter and; (e) When matter is divided, its parts are distinct from one another. What Madhva stresses, therefore, is not unity but duality. 4GHQTOKP*KPFWKUO

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In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Hinduism came to be purified by the influence of learned and saintly Hindus. One of the organizations which has tended to favour more radical changes is the Brahma Samaj. Brahma is an adjective formed from Brahman of the Upanishads and samaj means society. The organization was founded by Ram Mohan Roy, a Bengali Brahmin who lived between 1772 and 1833. He was deeply influenced by Islam in his early life. He studied Persian, Arabic, Hebrew, Latin and Greek. He also studied Islam, Vaishnavism, Trantrikism, Jainism, Buddhism and Christianity. Mohan Roy developed a school of rational theism in defence of monotheism. His efforts were directed at freeing Hinduism from polytheism and image worship in order to advance pure monotheism in the light of Christian and Muslim doctrine.

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Ram Mohan Roy contemplated a universal religion which he thought might some day have universal acceptance. The universal religion would include all that is common to all religions, omitting the divisive elements. Since the Upanishads taught monotheism, he was convinced that the notion of the one true God would be part of this common faith. This emphasis on the fundamental unity of all religions was later stressed by Ramakrishna, Vivekanda, Tagore and Radhakrishna, even though the nature of extent of that unity is diverse. &C[CPCPFC5CTCUYCVK

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One of the people to put into practice Ram Mohan Roy’s idea of a universal religion was Mula Shanker, who lived between 1824 and 1883. In his early years, he left his family to live the life of a wandering monk. He was initiated into the Saraswati order of Sannyasins, as a result of which he took the name by which he is commonly known, Dayananda Saraswati. In 1875, he founded the Arya Samaj as a universal religion open to anyone, regardless of caste or nationality. Dayananda held to the infallibility of the Vedas. He rejected the polytheism and idolatory of the texts of the later Indian tradition such as Puranas, holding they were immoral. Dayananda limited his authority to the Vedic Samhitas and apposed the ritual of the Brahmanas and the advaitiu tendencies of the Upanishads. 4COCMTKUJPC

A further reform on Hinduism was carried out by Gadadhar Chetterji of Bengal, who lived between 1836 and 1886. He is known by the name he took as a sannyasin, Ramakrishna. Sometimes he is known by his title Para(ma)hamsa, which means “the Highest Swan”. As early as the age of six Ramakrishna was prone to mystic visions, thus at seventeen, he went to live with his brother who was a priest in Calcutta. When his brother died, he became the priest and spent considerable time in loving devotion to the goddess Kali, the consort of Shiva. He was frequently in ecstacy and sometimes passed into states similar to those 93

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achieved in Yoga. After a time, he found an explanation of these events in terms of the nondualistic Vedanta of Shankara. He seemed to have had a passion for as wide a variety of religion experiences as possible. It is in this regard that other religious traditions impinged upon him, and in his personal life he followed both Muslim and Christian observances. He finally came to the conclusion that all faiths point to some goal; a belief that all religions are one. #EVKXKV[

1.

Find out, from books or from discussion with practicing Hindus, what difference devotion to a particular god makes to the worshipper’s daily life. Can you find a parallel between the use of different aspects of divinity in other religions?

2.

What is the meaning of avatar?

3.

What is the significance of Brahma?

4.

Write notes on the impact of: (a) (b)

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5.

Individual thinkers. Different scriptural texts on the development of Hindu belief.

Explain Ramanuja’s idea of God.

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Carmody, D.L. & Carmody, J.T. Ways to the Centre: An Introduction to World Religions (Belmont: Wadsworth, 1981) p. 114–142. Comstock, W.R. Religions and Man: An Introduction (New York, Harper Row, 1971) p. 257–271. Smart, N. Religious Experience of Mankind (New York, Scribner, 1969 Collins Fontana 1971) p. 168–186.

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13 1TKIKPUCPF6GCEJKPIUQH,CKPKUO S.G. Kibicho +PVTQFWEVKQP Historical, theological, political and social factors can either singularly, together or in various combinations contribute towards the rise of a new religion. The factors that gave rise to Jainism and Buddhism are similar.

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Jainism and Buddhism rose in the sixth century BCE (Note Sikhism arose in the 16th Century AD and will be dealt with later). This was a time of sudden disintegration of society, especially in northern India, namely invasion and subsequent subjection brought about by powerful, autocratic monarchies from further north. The people of this previously stable, old republic found themselves thrown into unfamiliar structures of the new order. As a result of the political changes of the sixth century BC, there was a widespread feeling of uprootedness – being lost and insecure – both socially and morally. The situation has important parallels with the experience our forefathers went through when they became subjugated and colonized by powerful European powers at the turn of the century. In this kind of situation many more questions were now being asked than before, touching on the nature of the soul; the destiny after death; why men suffer, especially the innocent; how one may escape from suffering; what is the supreme good in life and how can one attain it.

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As a result of the combination of Vedic and non-Vedic cultures, new view points or schools of thoughts arose, some challenging the accepted vedic doctrines taught in Brahmanism on the above and related questions. For instance, one scool (Lokayata) rejected doctrines of the after life and reincarnation, and taught that men should enjoy themselves to the full in this life because it is all there is. (Sen pp 63/4). Mahavira and Gautama were among those who found the philosophy taught by Brahmanism inadequate and unacceptable. The interpretation of the human predicament, and the method of redemption found in Brahmanism (especially through sacrificial rituals) were inadequate and unconvincing to many. Jainism and a generation later, Buddhism, arose as offering more adequate and satisfying ways of redemption. The central problem was how to find release or be liberated from Karma and from the consequent rounds of rebirth.1 Jainism offered the way of extreme asceticism and austerities, while Buddhism offered a moderate way which Gautama called the “middle way”.

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6JG%JCTCEVGTQH,CKPKUO Jainism is a religion which takes its place mid-way between Buddhism and Hinduism. It shares with Hinduism the belief in rebirth and in the desirability of escaping from the suffering and privations of all transient existence into the freedom of nirvana. It rejects the Hindu caste system especially that of the Brahmin caste having authority in religious matters. In a nutshell it differs from Buddhism in the extreme severity of its moral codes and in the veneration for 24 prophetic personalities who appeared on earth to found the faith. Mahavira, the founder of Jainism was the last of them. He lived a little

1

Noss, J.B. Man’s Religions, p.141.

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before Buddha and probably died around 480 BC. He restored and reformed a very old religion. Jainism also carries with it special veneration for life, probably dating back to early Hindusim. Jains take extravagant precautions against destroying life of any kind. The name Jainism is from the word jinas, meaning the victorious ones or “conquerors”. The Sanskrit root Ji means to conquer. The Jinas are the Jain saints, its teachers and leaders. They have attained liberation of nirvana and are in that sense conquerors. They are also referred to as Tirthankaras, or Ford – finders. They have found the way of salvation, and by their teaching and example they lead others to find the way to attain salvation. $GHQTG/CJCXKTC The 23 prophetic personalities before Mahavira were called Jinas. Rishabha is claimed to have been a historical figure; he had died 246 years before the birth of Mahavira, that is about 848 BC.

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Traditions say that he had been living in heaven until time came for him to descend to the earth, he entered the womb of queen Vema and was born. Parsva later renounced his father’s throne to which he was the heir, with his parents’ reluctant agreement, and became a recluse, mostly in the forest. It is from here through the practice of extreme austerity and yoga, he finally attained liberation (moksha), and omniscience (perfect knowledge of the true nature of reality and of self). Parsva became a Jina, a great teacher of mankind on the way of salvation, and founded a monastic order which was called by his name. At death, his soul is believed to have ascended to the “summit of the cosmos”, above even the place of the gods, where it remains in a state of perfect bliss and peace.

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/CJCXKTC Mahavira is regarded as the 24th, and the last Jina and as the founder of Jainism in the present age. According to Jain tradition, he lived in the period 599–468 BC. Mahavira was born in East India (in modern Bilhar). He was of the Kshatriya caste: his father was Rajah. Mahavira was therefore a prince. From childhood, he was brought up in luxury. It is said that as a baby, he had five nurses; these included a “web” one, one to bath him, one to dress him, one to play with him and one to carry him! He was married early to a princess, and they had a daughter. Mahavira, however was not contented with this princely life with all its luxury. But out of respect for his parents, he waited until his parents died before he renounced the world.

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His parents died when he was thirty years old. He then resolved to renounce the world. Leaving his family under the care of his brother, he withdrew from the world to become a religious ascetic or wandering monk, an old Hindu way of seeking liberation. He joined a body of ascetic monks, of the order of Parsva outside his town. In joining them, he had to take off all his clothes and ornaments, remaining only with one simple robe; he also had to give away all the property that he possessed. He then took the vow of austerity: (that he would “with equanimity bear, undergo, and suffer all calamities arising from divine powers, men or animals”). He also plucked out his hair.2 After several months with this body of monks, Mahavira left them and went out on his own as a mendicant monk. For twelve years, he wandered through the villages and the countryside of central India practicing extreme asceticism, in quest of release from the endless cycle of rebirth.

2

Noss, L.B. Man’s Religions, p.144.

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We should pause here to note the two basic, underlying convictions in this quest which were also shared by other Jains: (1) For anyone to gain the liberation of his soul, one must practise the severest possible asceticism and austerities. (2) To keep one’s soul uncontaminated and pure – which is an essential condition for gaining liberation – one must practice ahimsa (i.e nonviolence or non-injury of any life). Mahavira lived by these convictions with the greatest faithfulness and strictness.

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He would never stay in one village for more than one night to avoid forming attachments. In the four rainy months, however, he had to stay in one place to avoid killing or injuring unawares some of the numerous creatures which filled the roads and paths. When walking, he carried a soft broom to sweep the path of insects, and before lying down to sleep, outdoors or indoors, he would inspect the place and clear it of any creatures which might be there. At times, as he meditated, walking or sitting, all kinds of creatures would crawl on his body, and he would refrain from scratching himself even when they caused him pain. Before drinking water, he would strain it with a piece of cloth he carried with him for the purpose. He begged for his food and would only accept food which had been prepared for somebody else, i.e. the left-over food, to make sure he was not responsible for any killing which may have occurred in the process of preparing the food. He would not accept any raw food. Before eating, he had to inspect the food and clear it of any living things, including sprouts, cobwebs, eggs or worms. Mahavira’s practice of extreme asceticism is illustrated by the following things which traditions claim he did or endured: going about without anything or in very cold windy weather and in very hot weather; denying himself any sleep for days (or months according to some traditions), refraining from speaking to or greeting or answering anyone, and thereby arousing villages’ illwill and hostility, sometimes leading to abuse and beatings and torture. It is said in the traditions that at times dogs would run at 99

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him and bite him and the people would strike him and set the dogs on him. At one time, as he sat meditating, completely motionless, some curious wicked villagers cut off some of his flesh, pulled out some of his hair and put dust on him. They then lifted him, and threw him up letting him fall on the ground. At another time as he sat in a field contemplating, naked and completely motionless, some villagers lit a fire between his feet and drove nails into his ears. Mahavira’s self-control was such that he was unaffected by all such acts however painful they were and he would continue with his contemplation as if nothing was happening. He practiced perfect indifference and unattachment to everything good or evil, pleasurable or painful, love or hate.

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During Mahavira’s 13th year as a mendicant monk practicing extreme asceticism and austerity the experience he had been seeking came. He was sitting in a squatting position close to a tree his head bowed low, meditating. He achieved omniscience and moksha (liberation), and thus attained Nirvana. “He thus became the Jina (the conqueror), having achieved “a complete victory over his body and the desires that bind one to this world of matter and sin”.3 Mahavira then began his mission of seeking people and teaching them the way to salvation which he had found and organizing his followers. He spent thirty years on this mission, and was quite successful. It is claimed that he attracted a “50,000 monks and 500,000 lay followers particularly among non Brahmins”.4 The followers attracted to his teachings, included four kings.5 6JG$CUKE6GCEJKPIUQH,CKPKUO The Jain doctrines continued to retain some similarities with those of Hinduism from which it broke, otherwise Jain doctrines have 3 4 5

Ibid, p. 146. Parrinder, E.G. African Traditional Religion, p. 55. Hume, R.E. The World’s Living Religions, p. 47.

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their own distinctness from those Hinduism and Buddhism, particularly on such basic questions as the universe, karma, soul, matter and liberation of salvation. 6JG7PKXGTUGKU$GNKGXGFVQDG7PETGCVGFCPF'VGTPCN

This means among the Jains there is no speculation about a creator, beginning or end. Its history consists of long eras, each with a period of improvement followed by one of decline. The present one is of serious decline; the religion will die out to be restored in the next era.

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6JG,KXCCPFVJG#LKXC

All things which constitute the universe are grouped into two broad categories. The first of these is that of the ajiva or dead, lifeless matter. The second category is that of the jiva, or living things. These consist of an infinite number of living souls and constitute what may be described as the spiritual as opposed to the material realm. These souls are here in the world as we know it only because of being involved in matter. As we shall see when we discuss the Jain concept of Karma matter (ajiva) when it attaches itself to a soul (jiva) constitutes an impurity in the soul which holds it down here in the world of matter. Otherwise, in their uncontaminated, perfect state, they are perfect, omniscient and blissful. At their final liberation from the flesh, being perfectly weightless, they rise to the summit of the universe. (isatpraghbara) joining the other liberated souls. The relevant Jain text describes the liberated soul in isatpraghbara as follows: The liberated is not long nor small; neither heavy nor light; he is without body, without resurrection, without contact with matter; he is not feminine, nor masculine, nor neuter, he perceives, he knows, but there is no analogy (whereby to know the nature of the liberated soul).6

6

Noss,J.B., Man’s Religion, p. 149.

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6JG,CKP%QPEGRVQH-CTOC

As in Hinduism, Karma in Jainism may be translated as deed or action and the effect of such a deed on the soul concerned. Besides this basic meaning, the Jain give karma a distinctively Jain interpretation. The Jains view it as a kind of very thin material substance which attaches itself to a soul as a result of its activity thus making it impure and heavy, and bound to the material world and its concern and attractions. Karma may be likened to soot or very fine dust. Similarly, it is as if desire and evil deeds, make the soul sticky so that karma matter sticks on it. Injuring life or killing (himsa) is the worst kind of action and brings on the soul the highest amount of bad karma matter; noninjury or non-violence is the highest virtue, and its practice results in preventing further infestation with karma-matter and also in the reduction if the karma – matter which is already on and in the soul.

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At the end of each existence the soul rises or sinks in the scale of the hierarchical forms of life according to the amount of karma – matter it has. Thus, those with the least amount of karma – matter may rise to the level of the gods (fully liberated souls are at the highest level, higher that the gods), while those with great amounts of karma – matter sink to the level of carnivorous beasts, or to hell. Those souls which are completely free from karma – matter, which are thus pure souls, rise like finest feathers or bubbles to the summit of the universe (isatpragbhara) where they remain eternally with other liberated souls in perfect omniscience and bliss. .KDGTCVKQP

Liberation or salvation is attained wholly through the efforts of the individual soul. There is no supreme divine being in Jain beliefs who gives assistance to any beings. The gods, as conceived of in Hinduism, are not denied; they are seen as higher beings existing in the higher levels of the cosmos. But they are 102

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finite, subject to rebirth and in need of attaining full and final liberation when they too can rise to the summit of the universe. Mahavira rejected other methods of salvation taught in Hinduism such as through the priests and any rituals, or through trusting in the Vedas as sacred scriptures which can miraculously effect release from the cycle of rebirths. One of Mahaviras’ sayings states: “Man… thou art thine own friend. Why wishes thou for a friend beyond thyself?”7 The way to salvation through one’s efforts was shown by Mahavira in his experience of liberation which came after a long seeking, with the practice of extreme asceticism and austerity. Release (moksha) – from the cylco of rebirth, such as Mahavira attained is achieved through what is known in Jainism as the three jewels (triratna): (i) Right faith, that is – unshaken faith in the teaching of the Jains; (ii) Right knowledge, that is – true understanding of their principles and doctrines; (iii) Right conduct, that is – living one’s life following those principles. Right conduct involves strict observance of prescribed rules of conduct. These are summed up in the five great vows for monks.

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The first of these is the vow to observe ahimsa, renouncing all killing or injury of living beings, and pledging never to cause others to kill or injure, nor to consent to any killing or injuring. To observe ahimsa means one has to walk carefully and lightly, at times sweep one’s path to clear it of any creatures, avoid any action or speech which may cause quarrels or pain or injury to others, inspect one’s food or drink before taking it to avoid hurting, injuring or killing any living being. The principle of ahimsa which also applies to non-monks, leads the Jains to avoid occupations which would involve injuring or killing any living beings such as agriculture, military work, or 7

Noss, J.B. Man’s Religion, op.cit. (Noss Quotes from Sacred Books of the East, Vol. XXII – Jaina Sutras, Translated by Herman Jacobi, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1884, p. 152.

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butchery work. They therefore concentrate on such other occupations as business, banking and industry, where they are very successful. Many successful businessmen and industrialists of Asian origin in Kenya are Jains. The second vow binds the Jain never to lie even in jest or in anger, nor to cause another to lie nor consent to another’s lying. The third vow binds the Jain never to take nor cause another person to take, nor consent to taking of anything not given. This means a high degree of self-restraint from any form of dishonest or unlawful acquisition of anything, and from any form of greed. The fourth great vow is a renunciation of “all sexual pleasure” and sensuality. As in other vows, it includes pledging not to cause others to engage in these activities nor to consent to them. The fifth great vow is a renunciation of all attachments to anything small or great living or non-living. It also includes vowing not to cause others to have attachments nor to consent to others doing so.

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#EVKXKV[

1.

Discuss the basic teachings of Jainism.

2.

What are the developmental stages of Jainism?

3.

Discuss the life of Mahavira.

4.

What is the Jain concept of Karma?

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14 6JG.C[#URGEVQH,CKPKUO S.G. Kibicho 6JG'VJKECN%QFGUHQT,CKP.CY#FJGTGPVU In the previous chapter we dealt with the history and beliefs of Jainism. Here we shall deal with the practice of religion by the devout layman and its significance in Kenya and the modern world.

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Only the monks could strictly keep the five great vows; they were actually meant for the monks or Jaina ascetics. The rules for the lay people are modified and much less severe. They are contained in twelve simpler vows. These include the vow of ahimsa. The vows also prohibit lying; stealing or taking what is not given, unchastity or unfaithfulness or impurity of thought and desires in matters of sex; greed (one should put a limit to ones wealth and give away the excess). The last seven vows enjoin the layadherents: to avoid activities which may lead to temptations to sin, such as unnecessary travel;to practice daily meditation at set periods; to have special periods to practise self-denial; to ttempt living temporarily as a monk occasionally and; to practise giving of alms especially for the support of monks and ascetics. In sum the vows, especially those of the monks (the five great vows) are in one respect vows of right conduct; they involve selfrestraint, and this helps to check further influx of karma. The other aspect of the vows involves strict self-discipline, both ethical and spiritual; this helps to shed karma-matter already acquired by the soul.

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At this stage, which can normally be reached by monks only, rebirth ceases and one experiences a preliminary form of liberation, that is enlightment, omniscience and complete freedom (non-attachment) from the phenomenal world. Such a liberated one (like Mahavira when the attained enlightment) continues to live in the world serving humanity and teaching others the way to liberation. However, the final liberation (of which one gets assurance at the time of enlightment) comes at death, as described in the previous lecture. Thus, Jainism teaches self-salvation through and through. The gods, as found in Hinduism, are recognized but they are regarded as lower than the Jain saints – who are thus the highest beings. The gods are still caught up in the transmigration of souls. To gain the final liberation, they have to be reborn as monks and live a severely ascetic and self-denying life.

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6GORNG9QTUJKRCPF8GPGTCVKQPQHVJG,CKPUCVC.CVGT 2GTKQF Jain temples are world-famous for magnificence. Images of some of their great saint (tirthankaras) usually made of white marble (symbolizing purity) are placed in the temples. Worship is offered by the priests, and includes beside other things, cleaning of these images, and offering rice after washing it thoroughly three or four times. It is offered in “a tray marked with a swastika, a symbol of well-being and consecretation.”1 The Sthanakrasi sect has neither temples nor idols. Worship is everywhere, chiefly through individual meditation and contemplation. Individual devotions of a lay Jain adherent include repeating a mantra (a sacred text) and addressing salutations to “five classes of saintly beings” while telling prayer beads. This devotional exercise should be performed early in the morning; one has therefore to get up around 4–5 a.m. In the evening, before retiring 1

Parrinder, E.G. The World’s Living Religions, p. 53.

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to bed, the telling of beads and the salutations to the five categories of saints are repeated. If he has the time, one should also go to assist in temple worship and read sacred texts. The twelve vows form the lay person’s code of conduct. ,CKP5GEVU Early in its history and after Mahavira’s death, the Jain community split into several sects. There are two important groups of those still surviving. These are: (i) the Digambaras (sky-clad, or atmosphere-clad, i.e. nude); and (ii) the Svetambaras (white-clad). The Digambaras are the conservative group, and hold that nudity for monks is the ideal symbol and mark of complete selflessness (no self-consciousness), of complete renunciation of worldy things and possessions. They point out that Mahavira went about without clothes. Their holy men therefore go without clothes whenever they feel that some religious reason or duty demands it. Their images are also nude. In Shravana, Belgola, South India, there is a 60ft tall naked image of a saint.

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This sect is believed to have been started about 310 BCE by a group of Jains who migrated to the warmer southern parts of India, under the leadership of Bhadrabahu. Another main difference from the Svetambaras is that the Digambaras hold on strictly to Mahavira’s view on women – that they are “the greatest temptation in the world” and the “cause of all sinful acts”. Women are therefore not admitted into their temples, or to monastic life. This means that a woman’s only hope for salvation (entry into Nirvana) is for her to be reincarnated as a male. The Svetambaras are regarded as the liberal group. They do not believe in the ideal of nudity; (originally they were in the colder northern parts of India). Their monks wear at least one white robe. The Svetambaras also believe that women too have a chance 107

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to enter Nirvana and they admit them into their temples and to monastic life. 6JG,CKPU6QFC[ Jains today number around 1.5 and 2 million and are mostly found in India. Their magnificent temples and sculpture (for instance at Mount Abu in northern India, and at Gwa Lior) remain some of the most outstanding architectural works in the world. As a community, the Jains are known as a very hard-working, prosperous group, especially in commerce and industry and for their commendable involvement in the promotion of education through establishment of educational institutions. One quite remarkable irony of Jainism is that it is a strictly ascetic and world-renouncing religion; yet its adherents are among the most economically prosperous group in India as well as in other countries to which they have migrated.

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,CKPKUOKP-GP[C It is reported in the Kenya Churches Handbook that there was about 40,000 Jains in East Africa in 1972; of these, 30,000 were in Kenya, 20 per cent being Kenya citizens. We would expect these numbers to have risen since then. About 80 petr cent are of the Svetambara sect. The Visa Oshwals are the largest of the several communities and castes which comprise the Jain community in Kenya (note that a few Visa Oshwals are non-Jain). Due to their place of origin in India, Gujarat, most Jains in East Africa are Svetambaras, a few Digambaras; Haria, Dodhia, Gudka and Shah are some of common Jain surnames you may come across in Kenya. Jains are among the most successful and prosperous businessmen in Nairobi and other bigger towns. In 1972 there were 18,000 Jains in Nairobi, 6,000 in Mombasa, 2,500 in Thika and 2,000 in Kisumu. They have fifty or more community centers. There are about five Jain temples in Nairobi; one being Sthanakasi, one Digambara and two or three Svetambara. The Visa Oshwal Jain 108

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Community recently completed a new, quite impressive temple in the Parklands area. The Jains of Kenya are actively involved in commendable educational and social relief work, especially through the Visa Oshwal Education and Relief Board, started in 1941. The Visa Oshwal primary and secondary schools in Westlands are good examples of such work. In the latter, they have a small prayerhouse in which they have put some sacred images or pictures, from Jain, Hindu, Muslim and Christian religions, reflecting the great religious tolerance of Jainism and Hinduism. +PHNWGPEGQH,CKPKUO$G[QPFVJG,CKP%QOOWPKV[ Even though small in numbers, Jainism is one of the most ancient of all living religions, having emerged clearly about 500 BCE. It has strong religious and ethical principles and values which are of universal appeal.

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Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy and revolutionary movement of non-violent resistance to colonialism was inspired mainly by the Jain principle of ahimsa. (Gandhi was a Hindu). Dr. Martin Luther King got the ahimsa principle and the philosophy of nonviolent resistance from Gandhi, and used it (in combination with his Christian faith) with great success in the Civil Rights movement in the U.S.A. Many Jains who are concerned about peace in the world, believe that the doctrine of ahimsa can make much contribution in the modern quest for world peace. A modern Jain movement, the World Jain Mission, has been trying to propagate the Jain faith and its spiritual and ethical principles – especially ahimsa – in and outside India especially through pamphlets and booklets and other forms of publications.

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A text (from the Mahabharata) often found inscribed over the doors of Jain temples reads: “Non-violence is the supreme religion”.2 #EVKXKV[

1.

“Jainism is an essentially world renouncing religion; yet the Jains are often among the most economically prosperous communities wherever they happen to be.” What, in your opinion, leads to this paradoxical situation?

2.

Define the Jain idea of God.

(WTVJGT4GCFKPI

Day, T. “Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism in Kenya”, Barrett, D.B. (ed.), Kenya Churches Handbook, (Kisumu Evangel Press) 1973, pp. 307–309. 1973 p. 307–309. Braden, C.S. The World’s Religions, A History (Nashville: Abingalon Press, 1954) p. 102–108. Ling, T. A History of Religion East and West (London: MacMillan, 1968) p. 98–101: 143–144.

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Noss, J.B. Man’s Religions (New York: Collier-MacMillan, 1974) p. 141–154. Parrinder, E.G. The World’s Living Religions (London: Pan 1964) p. 53–57. Parrinder, E.G. What World Religions Teach (London: Harrap, 1963 & 1968) p. 38–45. Smart, N. Religious Experience of Mankind (New York, Scribner, 1969) p. 100–109.

2

Parrinder, E.G. What World Religions Teach, p. 44.

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15 6JG1TKIKPUQH$WFFJKUO S.G. Kibicho 6JG'CTN[NKHGQH5KFFJCTVJC)CWVCOC$WFFJC Buddhism emerged in the sixth century BCE, a generation later than Jainism. In the section on Jainism we already saw that this was a period of social disintegration and religious questioning. Many people felt that their life was meaningless and had lost direction. There was widespread dissatisfaction with the ritualism which Brahmanism was offering as a way of salvation. Gautama (Buddha), like his predecessor Mahavira, was one of the teachers who offered an alternative way of liberation.

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Although the stories about his birth and life are full of mythical and legendary materials, there is no doubt that Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, was a historical figure. There is disagreement about the dates of his life. Western scholars gives 563–483 BCE, Southern Buddhists place him in the period 624–544 BCE, while Chinese Buddhists push the date back to about 1000 BCE. Gautama was born in northern India, near Nepal, of the Sakya clan; he was therefore often called Sakya-Muni (that is, the sage of the Sakya clan) especially in China. Siddhartha and Gautama were his given and family names respectively. His father, Suddhodana, was a king or, according to other traditions, a local chieftain (raja). His mother was queen Maya. Gautama therefore belonged to the ruling, warrior caste: he was a Kshstriya. According to traditions, the child Gautama, who was to be the Buddha, was conceived miraculously. He was in one of the

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heavens when he saw that the time had come for him to descend to the world to proclaim to many people the teaching which they needed for their salvation. He entered the womb of queen Maya and was thus born a human being about 563 BCE (according to southern Buddhism traditions) at Kapilavastu, the capital of the Sakyas, in what is now southern Nepal. His mother was in the Lumbini Park when the time came for the saviour of the world to be born; she was holding a tree branch and her baby was received into a golden net by the gods who had assembled around for the purpose and they worshipped him. After a quick survey of the whole world, the baby took seven steps across it, and cried in the voice of a lion, “I am the chief of the world, this is my last birth, there is now no existence again”.1 The mother died a few days later and her sister took care of the child with great love.

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In his childhood and youth Prince Gautama was brought up in great luxury and pleasure. At the age of nineteen he got married to a princess of exceeding beauty and charm. Her name was Yasodhara. After ten years a son called Rahula was born to them. In his youth, Prince Gautama showed great wisdom. His father, King Suddhodana, had been told by seers that Gautama would renounce the world and become a recluse if and when he saw four signs: a decrepit old man, a miserably sick man, a dead person and a calm religious ascetic. The king therefore made sure that the young prince was confined much of the time within the palace and its beautiful garden, and was kept happy with every possible delight made available to him. Nothing repulsive or ugly in any way was allowed to come into his sight. Whenever it became necessary for him to go out of the palace, the streets would be cleared of everything which showed sign of age, ill-health, sickness, ugliness, death, poverty or any other form of affliction.

1

Parrinder, E.G., The World’s Living Religions, p. 75.

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6JG(QWT5KIPU Inspite of all these precautions, however, the prince did finally see the four sights from which he was being guarded by his father. According to Buddhist traditions, the gods from their heavenly abode, aware of what was happening, sent one of their number to bring the four sights which represent the fate that awaits all humans.

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So one day, as the prince was riding along the streets (cleared of everything and everybody that could suggest misery or mortality) the god appeared suddenly in the form of a very old man, extremely weak and miserably worn out with age. The prince, shocked by this strage and pathetic sight, ordered the charioteer to stop and asked what it was they could see. It was explained to him that it was an old man whose strength was failing him, that all human beings grow old and that he himself would grow old one day. From then on, Gautama became lost in deep thought, with sadness and a form of depression creeping over him. Another day, the second sight – of a miserably sick person – appeared in a similar manner, and on another day the third sight – of a dead man being carried through the streets on a bier. As a result of these three sights, the prince became increasingly troubled; he had no peace of mind at all. All his father’s efforts to cheer him up with the most attractive entertainments were in vain. Finally, the fourth sight appeared, that of a calm ascetic in a yellow monk’s robe. Gautama came to where he sat under a tree. From the ascetic he learned how one can gain liberation from the miseries and pains of life represented in the three earlier signs he had seen. 6JG)TGCV4GPWPEKCVKQP Buddhist legends go on to tell how, after the prince had seen the fourth sight – of the calm ascetic – he made the great decision to

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renounce home and his princely life and become a homeless ascetic. It was not at all easy. The leading evil spirit, Mara, brought great temptations to hinder him from putting into effect this great decision. The king, his father, was much troubled about his son, and he arranged the most delightful entertainments for him, including beautiful dancing girls. But all this proved of no avail. Gautama overcame all the temptations. So, one night, he got up, went to his wife’s apartment where she and their baby son, Rahula, were asleep. He bade them a silent farewell, then rode off on his white horse, escorted by his faithful charioteer and accompanied also by the gods. He rode to a place far away from his home. There he cut off all his hair and beard, took off his rich princely clothes and put on instead the monk’s simple yellow robe. He then bade his charioteer and horse farewell who went back home while he entered the forest to begin his new life as a recluse.

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6JG)TGCV3WGUVHQT5CNXCVKQPCPF'PNKIJVGPOGPV Gautama spent six years of intensive search for enlightenment and liberation, trying various ways available then. He first tried the way taught by Brahmaanism, combining its speculative philosophy of oneness with Brahma with yoga disciplines and asceticism. He became a disciple, successively of two ascetic Brahmin philosophers living in caves. The highest goal their method led to (“nothingness”) did not, however, satisfy Gautama: it did not give him the enlightenment and liberation he was seeking. Next he tried the way of extreme physical asceticism which was being taught by Jainism and some other sects. He practiced excessive self-mortification and fasting and became extremely emaciated. Five other ascetics in the same forest joined him in the hope that they might benefit from his knowledge and out of admiration. Gautama felt that the way of extreme asceticism was not leading him to enlightenment and liberation, and that there must be 114

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another path. He gave up, took food and resumed life as a mendicant recluse and his search for enlightment. The five ascetics, greatly annoyed at his “backsliding” abandoned him. But he continued his struggle and search. #EVKXKV[

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Tradition puts the early life of Gautama in a fairy-tale situation. How can you compare the impact of the Four Sights on him with their impact on people who have been less sheltered?

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16 6JG'PNKIJVGPOGPVQHVJG$WFFJC S.G. Kibicho 6JG)TGCV'PNKIJVGPOGPV In the preceeding chapter we saw how Gautama came to understand the nature of the spiritual quest and embarked upon it. In this chapter we shall study the nature of the enlightenment which came to him and its immediate results in his own life and in society.

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One day in the sixth year of his wandering and search Gautama went into a grove near a Hindu sanctuary at Gaya, not far from the town. He sat down under a sacred fig-tree, which came to be given the name Bodhi-tree or Bo-tree, that is, the tree of enlightenment or knowledge. Traditions say that Gautama resolved to sit there in meditation until he received enlightenment. He sat there in deep meditation (dhyana). While he was in the highest stage of ecstatic trance, a great light came on him. He saw in vivid recollection all his past successive reincarnations; next he was endowed with the perfect, heavenly eye, with which he was able to scrutinize the whole world clearly as if in a wonderful mirror. He was able to see the nature and the goal of all existence, past, present and future. He saw the cause of all suffering and pain and how it can be done away with. At that moment he had attained perfection and enlightenment and perfect peace. While still in this present life he attained Nirvana, a state where all desires have been rooted out, and rebirths have therefore ceased. He became a Buddha, the Enlightened One.

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It was now close to day-break and he had gone through the stages of dhyana in twenty-four hours. This was a great event and according to the scriptural accounts, there was great rejoicing, both in heaven among the gods and on earth. Only Mara, the great tempter was unhappy, as this portended his sure and final defeat. He tempted Gautama to keep the truth he had attained to himself. Another possibility open to the Buddha was, if he had wished to depart this world and enter the final Nirvana. However Gautama, now the Buddha, overcame these temptations and decided to teach the truths he had attained to men so that many might also attain enlightenment and liberation.

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6JG$WFFJCŏU(KTUV5GTOQP Gautama Buddha left the park where he had attained enlightenment and went into the holy city of Benares close by. On his way, still within the park he met the five ascetics who had deserted him earlier when he gave up the way of extreme asceticism. At first, they were still bitter against him and were inclined to show him no respect nor acceptance. But as he approached them, there was an irresistible radiance on him, and great calmness and they were thus attracted to him and they became his first disciples. It is here, in the Deer Park a few miles from Benares, the Buddha delivered his sermon to the five ascetics. The sermon is known as the sermon in “the Deer Park at Benares.”1 In the sermon he explained the right way of salvation or the way to attain enlightenment and liberation. He showed two extremes to be avoided – a life given to pursuit of pleasures and lusts; and a life of extreme asceticism and mortifications. He admonished his disciples to follow the path which he himself had followed, “the middle path”, which leads to perfect peace, enlightenment and Nirvana. The sermon went on to expound on the four noble truths and the eightfold path which we shall examine below.

1

Noss, J.B. Man’s Religions, p. 163.

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The five ascetics became converted to Gautama’s doctrine and believed in him as the Buddha, the enlightened One. They formed the nucleus of the Sangha, the order or community of Buddhist monks. The first community was formed when the new converts joining the order reached an adequate number. Many of Gautama’s own caste, the Kshtriya, joined the Sangha but the order was open to all castes and even many Brahmins joined. The number of monks grew fast and Buddha was busy organizing the life of the order, teaching and preaching. He went out with the monks to preach in the dry season and in the three month rainy season they would live in small monastic communities where they received instruction and practiced self-discipline and mutual service. The essential common marks of the Buddhist monk were: (i)

the yellow robe they all wore;

(ii)

the shaven head;

(iii)

the begging-bowl they all carried;

(iv)

the daily meditations;

(v)

the short creed they all had to subscribe to: “I take refuge in the Buddha; I take refuge in the Dharma (the law or truth as taught by Buddha); I take refuge in the Sangha”

(vi)

the ten precepts which all pledged to observe.

The following is a summary of the ten precepts. They pledged: (1)

not to destroy life;

(2)

not to take anything not given;

(3)

not to engage in any form of unchastity;

(4)

not to lie or deceive;

(5)

not to take any intoxicants;

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They further pledged: (6)

to eat moderately and only before noon, and also;

(7)

not to watch dancing, singing or dramatic spectacles;

(8)

not to make use of ornaments, perfumes or garlands;

(9)

not to use high or broad beds;

(10) not to accept gold or silver. It should be noted that the first four of these precepts are the same as the first four vows taken by Jain monks. But, while clearly rejecting any form of self-indulgence and sensuality, the Buddhist precepts do not espouse extreme ascetic practices such as are found in Jainism. Breach of any of the precepts had to be confessed at an assembly of one’s chapter.

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Lay people could become associates to the order. Such lay associates had to have a keen interest in the order. They had to pledge to obey the first five precepts and to do what they could to promote the growth and ideals of the order. Thousands of people, both men and women, joined as associates, which strengthened the order: lands, parks and monasteries were donated to the order by some of the wealthy lay members. An order of nuns was later on established. Although Buddha was at first relunctant, his aunt pleaded with him. Nuddha’s wife joined the order of nuns and many other relations including his own son Rahula, became monks or nuns. Ananda, the chief disciple among the monks, was a cousin of the Buddha. He was very close and faithful to his leader and according to traditions carried on the teaching work after his master’s death. Buddha taught his monastic followers to beg for food. They brought the food so collected to the monastery and from it the one meal of the day would be prepared for all.

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Besides its other uses, the Sangha provided ideal conditions to help the monk realize his goal of getting rid of the illusion of the self and its cravings. The only things he was allowed to possess individually were the yellow monastic robe, begging-bowl, razor, needle and water-strainer. Otherwise their way of life had no private or personal possessions, a life in which the monk had to subject himself to the communal will, judgement and discipline of the Sangha. The monastic life provided ideal conditions for the prescribed regulations and meditations. In this sense the Sangha is considered along with the Buddha and the Dharma – as one of the three essential refuges of the Buddhist monk for the attainment of Nirvana. In Southern Buddhism these are called the Three Jewels. Although the order of monks and nuns may be said to represent the core of Buddhism, it should be noted that the Sangha is not wholly isolated from the rest of society. There was provision for lay associate membership. Lay people are generally free to enter the monasteries, while the monks have the function of teaching the young and of being religious leaders in Buddhist societies. In Burma and Thailand everybody is supposed to enter the order for at least six months and many do so. In Burma, laymen enter moastic life for brief periods.2 Vows are not necessarily for life, and at the end of his vow-period, the lay person may marry. Others enter the Order after having been householders. In northern Buddhism (Japan and China), the monks marry and work in the fields. Wherever the Order is close to the laity as in Southern Buddhism, it becomes a source of strength to Buddhism. Wherever this is not the case, the Order becomes weak or destroyed, and Buddhism cannot survive. This was perhaps one reason why Buddhism finally died out in India. As Parrinder observes “it was too

2

Hume, R.E. The World’s Living Religions, p. 77–88.

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monastic and so more easily destroyed because it was not sufficiently rooted in the popular religion.”3 $WFFJCŏU&GCVJ Buddha continued with his work of preaching, teaching and organizing the Buddhist Order for forty or forty five years. Then, at the age of about eighty, he fell sick. Traditions say that it was as a result of eating some pork for his mid-day meal in the house of a certain metal-worker, Chunda Shah, who was his follower, that the fatal stomach ailment came on him. (It is believed to have been dysentery). As the illness got more severe, he lay down in a grove and finally died peacefully, surrounded by weeping disciples. Ananda had asked him before he died how they were to carry on after his death. Buddha answered that they should follow the doctrine he had taught them. His last words are reported to have been: “All composite things are doomed to extinction. Exert yourselves in wakefulness.”4

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#EVKXKV[

Discuss the aspects of Buddhist teaching which give you a clue to the sense of “composite things” and “wakefulness” in this final message.

3 4

Parrinder, E.G. What World Religions Teach, p. 62. Parrinder, E.G. The World’s Living Religion, p. 77.

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17 6JG2JKNQUQRJKECN(QWPFCVKQPQH $WFFJKUV6GCEJKPI S.G. Kibicho 6JG6GCEJKPIQH$WFFJC

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Buddha’s sole interest was to find a way to gain insight into the human predicament and how people could obtain liberation from it. Another way of putting it is to say that from the time of his Great Renunciation he set out with determination in search of enlightenment. We have seen how in his great quest he tried the paths that were then current, the Brahmin way of speculative philosophy, jinana manga, combined with yoga discipline and the Jain way of extreme asceticism and mortification. Neither of these ways led to liberation and so he abandoned them. The enlightenment and liberation which finally came to him as the culmination of deep meditation gave him perfect insight into the nature of reality, with particular reference to the human predicament as it is actually experienced and the way of salvation from it. His teachings are therefore based on his own experience. This chapter will explain Siddharta Gautama’s experience of the quest for, and attainment of enlightment as the foundation of his teachings. According to Buddhist traditions, Buddha made it clear in his teachings, that he had not “elucidated” whether or not the world is eternal, nor whether the world is finite or infinite, nor whether “the soul and the body are identical” nor whether or not the Arahat (the monk who has attained enlightment) continues to exist after death.

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He went on to explain that the reason why he did not care to give elucidation on these and related questions (as some other current teachings were doing) was that such an exercise was useless and unprofitable. Consequently, he went on, what he had elucidated was: “misery” and its origin, its “cessation… and the path leading to the cessation of misery”. He had elucidated this because this is what is profitable and has to do with fundamentals of religion, and tends to absence of passion, to knowledge, supreme wisdom and Nirvana.”1 According to Buddhist traditions, Buddha expanded his teachings immediately after his enlightenment experience, in his first sermon. The teachings are summed up in what he called the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path (the latter is given as one of the four noble truths). 6JG(QWT0QDNG6TWVJU

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K  6JG0QDNG6TWVJQH5WHHGTKPI &WMMJC 

This states that all existence is permeated with misery or suffering. Birth – decay – sickness – death – encounter with objects we hate – separation from those we love – failure in getting what we desire – all these, and other related experiences, are suffering.

KK  6JG0QDNG6TWVJQHVJG%CWUGQH5WHHGTKPI

This states that the origin and root cause of suffering is thirst, desire or craving (tanha) which leads to rebirth, This desire is threefold – for pleasure (lust), for existence, for prosperity.

1

Noss, J.B. Man’s Religions, quoting Warren, H.C. Buddhism in Translation, Harvard University Press, 1922, p. 122.

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KKK  6JG0QDNG6TWVJQHVJG%GUUCVKQPQH5WHHGTKPI

This asserts that suffering can cease with the complete rooting out and destruction of all desire.

KX  6JG0QDNG6TWVJQHVJG2CVJ9JKEJ.GCFUVQVJG%GUUCVKQP QH5WHHGTKPI

This path is declined as the Noble Eightfold Path which is constituted by: -

Right belief (or view); Right aspiration (or resolve); Right speech; Right conduct; Right means of livelihood; Right endeavour; Right mindfulness; Right meditation.

6JG0QDNG'KIJV(QNF2CVJ To develop this theme briefly, the eight essentials of the path listed above can be grouped into three sections. Copyright © 2010. University of Nairobi Press. All rights reserved.

(i) Wisdom This is made up of right belief and right aspiration. This means that the first step on this path to the cessation of desire and consequently of pain is to have the right understanding of reality as taught in the Four Noble Truths and the second is to resolve to follow them. (ii) Morality This section is made up of the next three essentials on the list, namely right speech, right conduct and right livelihood. These are practical ethical demands which must be met. The five precepts which we noted earlier elaborate further on these ethical demands. 125

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(iii) Meditation This section is composed of the final three essentials on the list, v.s, right endeavour, right mindfulness and right meditation or ecstasy. The focus at this stage is on the improvement and purification of the seeker’s mind and psyche, which should culminate in the attainment of complete liberation from any form of attachment or egoism and finally in Enlightenment. Right endeavour or effort is directed to mind control, emptying the mind of thoughts and attachment to any objects and then getting it to the right concentration in a state of perfect freedom and pure consciousness. At this stage one has reached the stage of the highest control of body and mind and it leads to the final form of meditation in which all sense and thought experience ceases and one achieves the final state of ecstasy – and experience of being outside of oneself and outside of phenomenal existence as a whole. In this state one gets perfect knowledge of reality or enlightenment and attains Nirvana. Consequently rebirth ceases for the seeker. This was the path Buddha had travelled to his enlightenment and the attainment of Nirvana and Buddhahood. (iv)

Salvation

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We have already noted his interpretation of Salvation and the way to attain it. (v)

Karma

Buddha gave this term a psychological reinterpretation. It is regarded as a psychological force arising from desire and wrong attitudes and leading to rebirth of a new life-entity. (vi) The Non-Existence of the Soul and the Impermanence of all Things Buddha denied the existence of souls whether bodied or incorporeal, including the so-called Supreme Soul or God. For Buddha impermanence (anicca) is one of the three marks of all existence. The second, related to the first is the absence of a

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permanent self (anatta). The third mark of all existence, as we have already seen, is suffering (dukkha). Anicca means that every existing thing, including a human being is nothing but an impermanent grouping together of various states of being. The human person for instance is a union of five such states of being (skandhas), -

the body; the feelings; conceptual knowledge resulting from perception; the subconscious, including the instincts; reason or faculty of value – judgement. Each of these is itself in a state of constant change.

sense-

What we perceive as one and the same entity (a human self continuing) is not real, it is only apparent, analogous to the man we see in a movie picture, who is actually nothing but innumerable still pictures projected in quick succession onto the screen.

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(vii) Rebirth In view of the doctrines of anicca and anatta which we have explained above, combined with the doctrine of non-existence of souls, the obvious question here is: What then is re-born? The answer, according to Buddha’s teachings, is that nothing actually goes over from the former life to the next life-entity, except the Karma-force. This forms the link from one life-entity to another, as it is the force which leads to rebirth. Karma itself is created by desire. In a monk who has attained Nirvana there is no desire and therefore no Karma and at his death there is rebirth. As there is no belief in souls or permanent selves, it means that we cannot talk here of transmigration or reincanation.

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(viii) Nirvana (Spelt Nibbana in Southern Buddhism) The term “Nirvana” is derived from the Sanskrit root va meaning “blow”. Nirvana may be translated literally as extinguishing or blowing out, as of a candle. It is the ultimate goal of the Buddhist religious life. It is a state of supreme spiritual insight, perfect body and mind-control and peace, the experience of enlightenment and ultimate release as Buddha attained it. We have already seen that the way to attain Nirvana is through the noble eight-fold Path. In theory anybody, regardless of caste, can attain Nirvana in this life as Gautama did. But in practice only monks of the highest rank (in terms of advancement in monastic discipline) can attain it. Gautama himself had gone through 547 births before he finally attained Nirvana. The second and final phase of Nirvana is attained at death. It is the Nirvana without the body and the mind, the Nirvana of no return, Parinirvana such as Buddha attained at his death. This leads to a common question.

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Is there an element of such an arahat who has thus attained parinirvana which goes on? Otherwise why talk of attaining this phase of Nirvana? The answer to this and related questions is like the blowing out of a candle: the former life-entity ceases and there is no more rebirth. (Even in circumstances where there is rebirth, as we have noted, nothing substantial passes on from the former to the new life-entity: only the Karma-force forms a linkage from the one to the other). Ultimately, Nirvana is indescribable, yet it is neither annihilation, nor nothingness. On the question of whether the arahat who had attained the final Nirvana continued to exist in Nirvana, Buddha answered that it is wrong to say either that he continued to exist or he did not, or that he did and did not. It is like when you blow out a candle flame,

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for instance: it would be an absurd question to ask whether the flame has gone north or south. On the other hand for the Buddhist the fact that that there is Nirvana has been shown to be true through the experience of Buddha himself and other arahats after him. They have attained it while still in this life, as a perception and experience of a subline and transcendent realm in which cessation of rebirth is assured. Again, we should not forget that the main emphasis and focus is on the seeker’s hope to attain Nirvana in this life as the Buddha did. #EVKXKV[

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The teaching of Buddhism as “the middle way” has been emphasized. Does it look like a “middle way” in your view? What elements make it acceptable or unacceptable?

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18 6JG5RTGCFQH$WFFJKUOCPFKVU 5ETKRVWTGU S.G. Kibicho +PVTQFWEVKQP Very little is known about the earlier period of Buddhism. This is largely due to lack of written records from that period. However, it is known that divisions appeared among Buddha’s followers immediately after his death. These were due to different traditions and interpretations of his teaching.

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Since Buddhism was from its beginning a missionary religion, other differences are the result of its wide geographical spread. Attempts to reconcile remembered traditions started early, however, and a body of Buddhist scriptures has emerged. Differences of opinion among Buddha’s followers emerged soon after his death, since nothing had yet been written about his teaching. Various councils were held at which, in addition to other business, attempts were made to resolve the conflicting views and varying traditions. 6JG(KTUV$WFFJKUV%QWPEKN This is recorded in Buddhist traditions as having been held at Rajagriha immediately after the Buddha’s death. There was five hundred monks with Ananda, the Buddhas chief disciple, as the leader. They met in a cave and there recited and chanted together the precepts which make up the chief discipline for monks. In this way they checked together the contents of the discipline and these were later put down in writing as part of the Theravada Buddhist

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scriptures. They were known as the vinaya pitaka, “the basket of discipline for monks”. 6JG5GEQPF$WFFJKUV%QWPEKN The second Buddhist Council was held a century later at Visali and disputed over the question of relaxing the severity of the discipline for monks. A good number of monks wished for changes and some relaxation of the rules, including: -

private confessions instead of the bi-monthly public confessions which were the practice at chapter meetings;

-

more comfortable beds; an additional meal after midday as well as the single morning meal;

-

permission to accept alms of gold and silver; permission to take liquor.

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6JG/CJC[CPC*KPC[CPC5RNKV Out of the 12,000 monks at the conference, 10,000 broke away and formed new orders. It is likely that there were other factors as well as discipline which led to the schism. Eventually, the liberal group which broke away came to assume the name Mahayana, the Greater Vehicle. This designation was a reflection of the way of salvation they taught, which was more liberal than the old order and more accessible to all men rather than to the monks only. Accordingly, they named the original conservative school the Hinayana, the Lesser Vehicle, since their way of salvation was tailored for the monks only. The latter disliked the name Hinayana, which was derogatory and called themselves Theravada, meaning followers of the “traditions of the elders”. Theravada Buddhism is found mostly in south east Asia, particularly in Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Burma, Thailand Cambodia (Kampuchea) and Laos. It is therefore also referred to as Southern 132

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Buddhism. Mahayana Buddhism, on the other hand, is found mostly in the north, particularly in China, Japan, Korea and Tibet. It is therefore known as Northern Buddhism. 1VJGT$WFFJKUV%QWPEKNUVQVJG5KZVJ Other Buddhist councils followed. The third one, according to Theravada traditions, was held about 250 BCE under King Asoka. The fourth one met a century later, in Ceylon while the fifth one was held in 1871 at mandalay in Burma. One important action of this council was to have the Theravada sacred texts inscribed on 700 marble slabs. The sixth council (of Theravada only) met in Rangoon, 1954-56. Besides other things, the council celebrated the 2500th anniversary of Buddha’s attainment of Pari-Nirvana in 544 BCE and the completion of 2500 years of Buddhism. Thus, the meeting of this council marked the end of one era and the inauguration of a new era and some expected the appearance of a new Buddha. Revision of the scriptures was also carried out at the 1954 council and arrangements made for them to be translated into many languages especially English.1

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$WFFJKUV/KUUKQPCT['ZRCPUKQPKP+PFKCCPF5QWVJ'CUV#UKC From the beginning, Buddhism was a missionary religion. In one of Theravada scriptures (also called the Pali Canon because it is written in the Pali language) there is what has come to be termed the “great commission of Buddhism”. This is in Vinaya Pitaka 112 where Buddha is reported to have sent out his disciples with the following words; “Go forth, disciples, and wander to the salvation and joy of much people out of compassion for the world, to the blessing, salvation and joy of gods, and men. Go not two together on the same way. Preach the doctrine which is salutary in its beginning, in its course and in its consummation, in the spirit and in the letter; proclaim the pure way of holiness.2

1 2

Parrinder, E.G. The World’s Living Religions, p. 55. Braden, G.S. The World’s Religions: A History, p. 125.

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As we have already noted, beginning with the five ascetics, the teachings of Buddha attracted many followers from all the castes. The number of adherents grew steadily, both monks and lay followers, especially in the Ganges basin. One man who played a big role in the early spread of Buddhism was Emperor Asoka. 'ORGTQT#UQMCŏU)TGCV%QPVTKDWVKQP Emperor Asoka did more than anyone else before or after him (except the Founder) to promote Buddhism in India and to spread it beyond India. He reigned over an extensive empire embracing most of northern and central India from 270 BC. He famous as one of the greatest rulers not only in India, but in world history.

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He was a great soldier, and conqueror. His grandfather Chandragupta had halted the advances of Alexander the Great’s successor (Seleucus) south beyond the Indus river. Early in his reign, emperor Asoka had apparently come under some influence of Buddhism, which by this time had expanded quite a lot, especially in northern and central India. At one time, he led a successful battle against a neighbouring Kingdom which he conquered and annexed. But thousands died in the process. The bloodshed, loss of life and suffering which accompanied this conquest filled the emperor with great remorse and repentance, and embraced the Buddhist Dharma and resolved to renounce violence and the taking of life. He set out to promote Buddhist doctrine and morality throughout his empire. He made decrees forbidding killing of animals, even for sacrifices and feasts. He exhorted his subjects to live peacefully respecting law and order and all living creatures, to speak the truth and to show reverence to priests, to religious ascetics and monks, and to parents. Asoka’s decrees and exhortations were carved on rocks and stone pillars for his people’s instruction and many are still found in north and central India. Asoka made pilgrimages to the important places connected with Buddha’s life and built memorials in some of these sacred places.

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All this did much to promote and strengthen Buddhism among his subjects. Asoka sent out emissaries and missionaries to spread the Buddhist gospel beyond India. The places they reached included Ceylon, Syria, Burma, Afghanistan, parts of Europe, Egypt and Tibet. According to Buddhist traditions. Asoka’s son, Mahinda, went to Ceylon as a Buddhist missionary and his work was very successful: a king of one of the areas became converted to Buddhism. Among the other things Asoka did was to call the third Buddhist Council in 250 BCE. Unity and reform of Buddhism were two things he was much concerned about at this time. Although Buddhism has almost died in India, where it originated, its influence is clearly in evidence in South Asia among both monks and lay people. Apart from the actual temple buildings, the morality of the people and their practice of meditation is clearly Buddhist in character. $WFFJKUV5ETKRVWTGU

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The main Theravadan scriptures are in three collections and are given the name Tripitaka, (in Sanskrit; Tipitaka in Pali) which means the three baskets (or collections). They are written in the Pali language. The relation of Pali to Sanskrit may be compared with the relation of Italian to Latin. The modern language is obviously a colloquial form derived from the ancient one. For quite some time, the scriptures were preserved and transmitted orally. The compilation was completed by 247 BCE but they were not put into writing until the first century BCE. The three baskets which make up the Theravada or the Pali Canon are as follows:

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(a)

The Vinaya Pitaka or simply Vinaya, the “basket of Monastic Rules”.

(b)

The Sutta Pitaka or Sutta “basket of Teachings”.

This contains records of Buddha’s discourses, stories about his life, as well as about some of the earlier Buddhas. It tells of Buddha’s previous births and his descent from heaven for his last birth here. Other things this basket contains include his dialogues with Brahmins, his arguments against speculations of heretics, theories about the self and of rebirth, the refuge formula and moral precepts which were binding on monks and laymen. This basket is the most important and the biggest. (c)

The Abhidhaimma Pitaka

The “basket of higher doctrine” or the “metaphysical basket”. This contains a commentary on the teachings, seeking to ring out, through the analytical method, Buddha’s teaching on ultimate reality. It therefore tends to be philosophical and speculative.

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6JG&JCOOCRCFC One other important scripture, not included in the three baskets, is the Dhammapada, the “way of virtue”, or the “way of Buddha’s teaching”. This is a short book of 423 verses; it is known by heart by many Buddhists. It contains many useful teachings on practical morality and self-discipline, the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eight-Fold Path. One verse reads: “By calmness let a man overcome wrath, and vanquish evil with good.”3 #EVKXKV[

“Buddhism was continuous with, even though transcendent to, the world about it” (Smart p. 130). Discuss what this means.

3

Parrinder, E.G. The World’s Living Religions, p. 83.

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19 6JG1TKIKPQH5KMJKUO S.G. Kibicho -CDKTCPFJKU+PHNWGPEGQP0CPCM Sikhism arose in the sixteenth century and drew heavily on Hindu and Muslim antecedents. In this chapter we shall study its original form as received in visionary experience by Guru Nanak.

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Although Kabir was not the founder of Sikhism, he is important when we think of the emergence of Sikhism because of his great influence on its founder, especially his teachings on ethical monotheism which Nanak continued and expanded. Kabir (1440-1518) was one of the most outstanding Hindu reformers. The reformers without any thought of founding a new religion, sought to purge Hinduism of what they regarded as unworthy beliefs and practices. Kabir had been a disciple of another important reformer, Ramananda. Ramananda had established a Vishnuite sect which did away with the Hindu ban on social contacts across the caste lines, and the prohibition of meat-eating. Muslim influence was quite evident in the teachings of these two (and other) reformers of this period. Some of the teachings of Kabir included the following: (i)

He condemned idolatry and empty ritualism in both Hinduism and Islam (such as veneration of scriptures, rituals, pilgrimages, asceticism and ritual bathing in the Ganges). He said that such practices were useless unless accompanied by inner sincerity and ethical uprightness in one’s life;

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(ii)

He taught the sufficiency of God’s love to effect liberation of any person, whatever his race or caste, from the law of Karma and the endless cycle of rebirths. One is drawn by God’s love into union with Himself, thus bringing an end to rebirths;

(iii)

He denied special authority of the Vedas; he himself wrote in the vernacular, not in Sanskrit;

(iv)

He stressed the essential role of the Guru spiritual leader;

(v)

He asserted that there is truth in all religions: God is one and His self manifestation in His creation is universal; He is only known by names in various religions. He was greatly distressed by the Hindu-Muslim hostilities over trivial externals. In his poems and hymns he stressed need for reconciliation.

Though he was only a weaver (at Benares) and unlearned, he was a great poet. Many of the beautiful songs he composed were incorporated in the Sikh scriptures.

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He was loved by both Hindus and Muslims and was claimed by both groups for burial when he died. (It is said that there are two adjacent tombs where he was buried). There are some Hindu sects called by his name and which regard themselves as his followers, (Kabir-Panthis). They sing the songs he composed and follow his teachings. )WTW0CPCM Ō  'CTN[.KHG

Nanak was born at the village called Talwardi (later named Nanakari in his honour), about 30 miles from Lahore capital of the Punjab. His parents were Hindu of a fairly high caste (locally known as the Khati caste, descended from the ancient Kshatriya caste), but were not well-to-do: his father was a village accountant and farmer. 138

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From his youth, Nanak was very religious, had the gift of poetry and was much given to meditation. He married early, at twelve and had two children. At one time he worked as manager of a state store. He spent evenings singing hymns to God, his creator; a group of seekers joined him, including Mardana. *KU%CNN

One day, after bathing in the river, Nanak disappeared in the forest and was taken in a vision into God’s presence. He was offered a cup of nectar which he gratefully accepted. God said to him: “I am with thee, I have made thee happy and also those who shall take thy name. Go and repeat mine and cause others to do likewise. Abide uncontaminated by the world. Practise the repetition of my name, charity, ablutions, worship and meditation. I have given thee this cup of nectar, a pledge of my regard”. Nanak then sang a beautiful hymn of praise to God, the True name, and there was heavenly music accompanying his own singing.1

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Nanak’s response to God in this vision forms the first two sentences of Sikh scriptures and is to be recited by the devout Sikhs as a morning devotional rite; they should be the first words a devout Sikh utters every morning. There is but one God, whose name is True Creator, devoid of fear and enmity, immortal unborn, self-existent, great and bountiful. The true One was in the beginning. The True One is, was and also shall be.2 When Nanak finally emerged from the forest after three days, he remained silent for one day. On the next day he declared: “There is neither Hindu nor Muslim”.

1 2

Noss, J.B. Man’s Religions, p. 34. Op.cit, p. 278.

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*KU/KPKUVT[

Convinced that it was the One True God who thus called him to be the Guru (Spiritual leader and teacher) to his people and that He is the one behind Islam, Hinduism and other religions, Nanak set out on a kind of evangelistic mission. He toured northern and western India emphasizing the unity of the two religions, visiting the main places and in the streets and making converts. Later, Mardana the musician joined him in his wanderings. He had marked success only in the Punjab where groups of disciples (Sikhs) began to form. The Punjab still remains the stronghold of Sikhism, with about 8 million adherents today. According to tradition, Nanak later toured Muslim strongholds and pilgrim centers, including Mecca, Medina and Bhagdad. One story, illustrating his disregard of trivial customs and beliefs of both Hinduism and Islam, relates how while in Mecca in the Great Mosque, he lay down to sleep with other pilgrims at night. His feet were facing the Kaaba (the cube-like holy shrine honouring the sacred black stone given to Abraham by Gabriel). An angry Arab priest kicked him, saying: “Who is this sleeping infidel? Why hast thou, o sinner, turned thy feet towards God?” The guru answered Copyright © 2010. University of Nairobi Press. All rights reserved.

“Turn my feet in the direction in which God is not”. The priest seized the offending feet and dragged them in the opposite direction.3 While in Bhagdad (medina, according to others), he made the following statement which well sums up his religious view-point. He said, “I have appeared in this age to indicate the way unto men. I reject all sects and know only one God, whom I recognize in the earth, the heavens and in all direction”.4

3 4

Ibid, p. 279. Ibid, p. 179.

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After this, he went back home to India, where he finally died in 1539 at about 70 years of age. 6JG6GCEJKPIUQH0CPCM Nanak combined in his teachings ideas from both Hinduism and Islam. This makes Sikhism a deliberate syncretism but having its central and unifying base in its inspired founder and his original revelation and thus making it a distinctive religion in its own right.

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The following is a summary of his main teachings: 1.

The central doctrine which gives his teachings consistency and simplicity is the oneness of God the Creator and His sovereignty and omnipotence (mainly from the Muslim influence). He called God the True name (Sat Nam), to avoid the other limiting and creation in all ages in different ways and known by many different names (Allah, Krishna, Brahma, Rama and others).

2.

God ordains each creature his place; man has been given the highest place, and allowed to be served by the lower creatures, (Nanak thus rejected the Hindu prohibition against meat-eating and the tendency to equalize all manifestations of life).

3.

He accepted the Hindu doctrine of Maya (the illusioncreating power), and the illusionary and transient nature of the world. But Maya itself was created by God.

4.

The chief way of achieving liberation or salvation is to think of God only, letting nothing distract you and constantly repeating His name and finally attaining absorption in God, the true name. In this absorption or union with God to which God’s love draws the genuine, faithful seeker, individuality is extinguished. (This is similar to the Nirvana of Hinduism rather than the paradise after final judgement of Islam).

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Many may have to pass through many lives before final liberation. Nanak stressed the essential need of a Guru to teach the right life – attitude and way to attain liberation. Self-purification, morally and in one’s heart and thought, is also essential alongside meditation for the final attainment of liberation or salvation in the form of absorption into God. (Note here there is a strong Hindu element). 5.

Nanak denounced empty ritual and ceremony in both religions, not accompanied by moral purity and where no place is given for meditating on the reality of God.

6.

He stressed moral purity and uprightness as marks of a good disciple (Sikh); purity of motive and action; service and honour to those superior to you; desiring the Guru’s word “as one craves for food”; love and faithfulness to wife; avoiding quarrelsome topics; humanity; being considerate; forsaking evil company and associating only with the holy.

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It should be noted that Sikhism at the beginning was a religion stressing quietistic holiness, honesty, humility, concern for others and meditation. Through the years, due to various circumstances and influences, it changed to include strong activistic political elements and militancy. #EVKXKV[

Identity and discuss important factors which contributed to the rise of Sikhism.

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20 5KMJKUOCHVGT0CPCM S.G. Kibicho +PVTQFWEVKQP We saw at the end of the previous chapter that major changes have occurred in Sikh attitude since Nanak’s time. We shall see how these changes came about, and how some of the original doctrines absorbed by Sikhism from Hinduism and Islam have persisted. This chapter will discuss Sikhism under the Gurus who followed Nanak.

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Before he died, Nanak appointed one of his disciples, Angad, as his successor. (Neither of his two sons was suitable: they had been disobedient to him). Angad therefore was the second Guru, 1539-52. There were nine Gurus altogether after Nanak. The first four were noted for their great humility and pacificism; Sikhism, during their period, continued as a quietistic religion, stressing holiness, humility and peace as in the time of Nanak. Guru Amar Das (3rd. 1552-74) is reported to have taught: “Let no one be proud of his caste… The world is all made of one clay”. The accepted guiding pacifist rule to the time of the fourth Guru was: “If anyone treat you ill, bear it. If you bear it three times. God Himself will fight for you the fourth time.”1 )WTW#TLCP His time marks the transition of Sikhism from a pacifist to a militant religion. This was partly due to growing suspicions and 1

Noss, J.B. Man’s Religion, p. 286.

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hostility of some of the new Muslim rulers against the Sikh community. Arjan’s character also had a contribution in this: he was vigorous, activitist and attractive and he cut the figure more of a prince then of a religious leader.2 Besides other things, he is remembered for the following: 1.

He completed the construction of the artificial lake at Amritsar and the Golden Temple on the island of that lake;

2.

He compiled the Sikh Bible – the Granth: (he brought together collections of writings and hymns of Nanak, Kabir, the four earlier Gurus and some of his own). It was recognized as of great significance even by non-Sikhs: some of the Muslim leaders, however, saw it as “a dangerous infidel work” and it added to Muslim hostility towards the Sikhs. The the current Muslim emperor (Akbar) was known for his tolerance, and did not see anything dangerous in its teachings;

3.

He started a system of religious taxes from all Sikhs;

4.

He propagated the Sikh faith vigorously;

5.

Akbar’s son and successor turned out to be a fanatical Muslim and cruel ruler in great contrast to his father. He charged Arjan with political conspiracy, arrested him and tortured him to death.

Before he died, Arjan left an injuction to his son and successor, Har Govind, to “sit fully armed on his throne and maintain an army to the best of his ability.”3 )WTW*CT)QXKPF 5KZVJ)WTW Ō Guru Har Govind obeyed his father’s injuction and took the sword as his badge of leadership. He soon built up a strong army.

2 3

Smart, N. Religious Experience of Mankind, p. 178. Noss, J.B. Man’s Religions, p. 283.

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Muslim hostility had continued to grow all round. The Sikhs on their part were developing strong nationalistic and militant feelings, now strengthened by possession of a capital city (Amritsar), and a rich beautiful Temple – the Golden Temple. War between the two groups started at this time. The Sikhs, though greatly outnumbered, were brave fighters and were able to hold their own. The struggle went on intermittently until the period of the tenth Guru, Govind Singh. )WTW)QXKPF5KPIJ 6GPVJ)WTW Ō The name of this Guru before becoming a Singh was Govind Rai. The Sikhs were desirous now to establish their own military state, autonomous and free from Muslim rule. Govind proved to be the right guru for the hour: he was a brave and militant ruler and also a wise religious leader and teacher. He composed hymns specially meant to stir up and strengthen a strong religious and military spirit. In doing this, he believed himself to be directly inspired. The preface of one of the hymns reads: Hail, hail to the Creator of the world, the Saviour of creation, my Cherisher,

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hail to Thee, O sword….4 Govind’s hymns were later compiled to form The Granth of the Tenth Guru, added to the first scriptures and regarded as equally authoritative. One tradition explaining why it was necessary to have this supplementary Granth – says that Guru Govind Singh discovered that the reading of the first Granth made the Sikhs “very feeble hearted”. He therefore decided to compose another one the reading of which would help them to “become fit for fighting.”5

4 5

Field, D. The Religion of the Sikhs, p. 106. Hume, R.E. The World’s Living Religions, p. 103.

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6JG$CRVKUOQHVJG5YQTF In his efforts to increase the military of the Sikhs, Govind introduced a rite which has come to be known as the Baptism of the Sword. Noss describes it as Govind’s “greatest innovation”.6 He first administered the rite to five of his disciples, whom he had tested thoroughly for their sincerity. He put water in an iron basin, added a sweetening ingredient (Indian sweetmeat) stirring with a sword. He then gave five plamfuls to each of the novices to drink, then sprinkled the solution on the hair and eyes of each five times. Finally, he made them repeat what later became the Sikh war cry: “The pure are of God and the victory is to God”. They were thus initiated into a new order of life, the Khalsa or the Pure or the Elect and each was given the name Singh or Lion. Govind then got the five to administer the rite to him and he too became a Singh.

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The Singhs were commanded always to wear the 5 Ks (the names of the five things all begin with K): 1.

Long hair on head and chin (kesh);

2.

Comb (kangha);

3.

Short underpants (kachk);

4.

A steel bracelet (kara);

5.

A steel dagger (khanda).

The hair and the turban are outward marks, while the comb is to keep the hair clean and tidy. The short underpants is a symbol of chastity, the steel bracelet a symbol of God’s omnipresence and the steel dagger a symbol of resistance to evil.

6

Noss, J.B. Men’s Religions, p. 285.

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In addition, they pledged to: 1.

Worship the one invisible God;

2.

Honour the Gurus;

3.

Reverence only one visible thing, the holy Granth;

4.

Abstain from intoxicants and stimulants, especially alcoholic beverages and tobacco.

Meat-eating was commended and encouraged. Guru Govind Singh then opened the new order with its call to other men of any class or caste. Many from the lower castes, including the Pariahs, joined. The cult’s discipline, good diet and good leadership and the confidence and healthy self-pride all these inspired, transformed the Singhs (and indirectly the Sikhs) into strong, courageous and well-disciplined soldiers (a nation of warriors) – a reputation they have maintained. It should be noted that not all Sikhs are Singhs. Other groups include the Nanakpanthis (followers of the path of Nanak, and non-militant). Some of these have almost been absorbed back into and are hardly distinguishable from Hinduism.

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5KMJ5ETKRVWTGU We have seen how Guru Arjan compiled the Granth (which gets its name from the Sanskrit term for book) on a basis laid down by the second guru, Angad, and how Govind Singh added to it. Govind did more than that. Having lost his two sons in war, he instructed that, after his death, the Granth was to be the Sikhs’ only guru. It is regarded as the embodiment of the gurus and is accorded great reverence. In the Golden Temple at Amritsar, the Granth is covered with a rich cloth, then placed on a low throne under a richly embroidered canopy. In the evening it is removed reverently and put into a golden chamber. The Granth is written

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mainly in Punjabi and is chanted daily to the accompaniment of classical Indian music in all Sikh temples. 6JG5KMJ4GNKIKQP6QFC[ Although adherents are found in other parts of India, the Punjab in northern India continues to be the homeland of Sikhism. Recently, there has been much agitation for the secession of the Punjab from India to form a separate Sikh state.

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Small communities of Sikhs have formed in many other parts of the world through migration. For instance, there are more than 100,000 Sikhs in the UK, more than 20,000 in Singapore, more than 10,000 in Malaysia, more than 7,000 in Canada, more than 5,000 each in Burma and USA, more than 4,000 in South Africa, more than 2,000 in Iran and more than 26,000 in East Africa. In Kenya, the Sikhs number more than 13,000. There are over twenty gurdwaras (i.e. worship places with hostels) in the country, nine of these being in Nairobi, one in Makindu and two each in Kisumu, Kitale, Mombasa, Eldoret and Nakuru. Sikhs in Kenya, as in India, have adopted Sunday as their special day of worship when they attend worship in their gurdwaras. Other special days of worship in the gurdwaras are the feastdays of the 10 Gurus. The language used is Punjabi: otherwise the gurdwaras are open even to non-Sikhs to attend. Sikhism is open to anyone to join, although there have been few non-Indian converts. 5KOKNCTKV[CPF&KHHGTGPEGUYKVJ*KPFWKUOCPF+UNCO Similarities with Hinduism 1.

The view of the empirical world in relation to God: although the unity and personality of God are stressed (as in Islam), God’s immanence and mystical pervasiveness are also emphasiaed in Hinduism;

2.

Absorption into God as man’s ultimate destiny;

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3.

Salvation by faith in God as man’s ultimate destiny;

4.

The doctrines of Karma, rebirth and the need for liberation from the endless cycle of rebirths;

5.

Religious rites at birth, marriage and funerals;

6.

Great importance attached to the repetition of prescribed prayers or formulas (mantras).

Differences from Hinduism 1.

The notion of Avatars (divine incarnations);

2.

Castes.

3.

Idols and idol worship: Nanak is reported to have said: “The Hindus have forgotten God, and are going the wrong way…. The ignorant fools take stones and worship them. O Hindus, how shall the stone, which itself sinketh, carry you across”?7;

4.

Hindu polytheism;

5.

Hindu pilgrimages, ritualism and individualistic asceticism;

6.

Hindu scriptures;

7.

Hindu vegetarianism.

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Similarilites with Islam 1.

Some basic features of the concept of God, e.g. His oneness, personality, sovereignty, omnipotence, mercifulness, providence, incomprehensibility;

2.

Salvation through submission to God;

3.

Emphasis on the repetititon of (i) God’s name in worship; (ii) prescribed prayers;

4.

Devotion to the founder as God’s prophet.

7

Hume, R.E. The World’s Living Religion, p. 108.

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5.

Great reverence for the sacred scriptures, but with notable differences: The Adi Granth Sahib is regarded as the final guru and the embodiment of all the gurus;

6.

A line of religious leaders following the founder and regarded with great honour next to the founder;

7.

A militaristic church-state, or religious community which has endured to the present;

8.

A remarkable unity of believers despite sects;

9.

A strong denunciation of idolatry.

Points of difference with Islam are found mainly where Sikhism has retained views from Hinduism as with the Sikh doctrine of absorption into God, or union with God as the ultimate destiny of man, is in great contrast with the Muslim doctrine of final judgement leading to either hell or paradise. #EVKXKV[

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Discuss the place of sacred writings in Sikhism as compared to the scriptures of other religions.

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5'%6+108

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Religions of the Far East

Comparative Study of Religions : Second Edition, edited by J. N. K. Mugambi, University of Nairobi Press, 2010. ProQuest

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21 %QPHWEKCPKUO D.W. Waruta +PVTQFWEVKQP In this section we are going to investigate the ancient religions of China and Japan. These Religions are: Confucianism, Taoism and Shintoism. The three religions and Buddhism have occupied the center of Chinese and Japanese culture for about twenty five centuries. Because of the special importance and expanse of Buddhism, it will be investigated separately. %QPHWEKCPKUOCPFKVU2QUKVKQP6QFC[

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The term Confucianism is used to mean the religious and ethical ideas believed to have their origins in the teachings of Confucius and held by the Chinese people for over twenty five centuries. The term is derived from the Latinization of K’ung fu-tze (K’ung the Philosopher or Sage). It is believed that Jesuit missionaries who went to spread Christianity in China in the 19th Century were the first to use the term in its Latinized form – Confucius and Confucianism. Although Confucianism is studied and considered a religion, some authorities claim that it does not qualify to be classified as a religion. Because of its emphasis on the ethical and moral aspects of man and almost a total neglect of the supernatural and the lifeafter-death aspect of religion, Confucuanism as a religion is a matter of some controversy. However, there are elements in Confucianism that would be employed to classify it as a religion.

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There are at least 300 million people who consider themselves Confusianists although the exact figures cannot be ascertained. Confucianism permeates much of Chinese culture, and it is therefore difficult to determine the extent of the religion in the lives of the people. Confucianism is considered one of the “three ways” that teach Tao (the way), accepted by Chinese people. The other “ways” being Taoism and Buddhism. It is therefore difficult to determine how many Chinese people are followers of one of the three religions without falling into the danger of duplication. 2TGUGPV5VCVWU

Since the Communist revolution in China under Mao Tse Tung in 1949, Confucianism has been weakened if not destroyed in mainland China. However, Hong Kong and Taiwan have developed as centers of Confucianism and have become the new centers of Chinese intellectualism and culture. A New Asia College was founded as the headquarters for Confucianism and A Manifesto to the World on Behalf of Chinese Culture was published. Resurgence of Confucianism has been seen in the forms of movements to promote the Chinese culture and heritage.

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The most important are the Analects and the Five K’ing of Ch’ing which contain the basic teaching of Confucian ethics. %QPHWEKWU6JG)TGCV6GCEJGT Confucius was born as Chiu K’ung in the state of Lu about the year 551 B.C. He died not far from his birthplace about the year 479 B.C. He was raised by his mother, his father having died while he was still a child. As a young person, Confucius showed great interest in teaching and observing the traditional religious rites of his people. Born and raised in poverty, and hopelessness at a time of great despair in China Confucius felt a great desire to study how a just, honest, and peaceful government might be 154

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attained. From very early in his life, Confucius believed the solution to the problem of poverty and oppression in the China of his day was through proper education. If the ignorance of the people could be eliminated, he believed, all these problems would disappear, and the people would be able to live in honour and dignity. He therefore devoted his life to the education of the people, both the poor and the nobility. Confucius also believed that constructive moral insight and a just and sound political strategy may be discovered in the meticulous study of the history of the Chinese people. He held with austere idealism to the traditions of his forefathers and attached great significance to the preservation and imitation of their ceremony and ritual. He once said:

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True filial piety consists in successfully carrying out the unfinished work of our forefathers and transmitting their achievements to posterity… In most ways, Confucius desire was the revitalization of the ancient Chinese values which he thought had been corrupted. His commitment to harmonious relationships among persons, and particularly between the family and the ruler – ruled relationships, formed the central part of his moral teachings. He loved and practiced Chinese cultural traits, such as a sense of humour, love of music and accepting all persons as members of his family. He hated hypocrisy and insincereity and promoted the dignity of each person. Confucius was married and had one son to whom he hoped to bequeath his teaching. %QPHWEKCPKUO#9QTNF8KGY 6JG4GNKIKQWU8KGY

There has been considerable debate on the religious cosmology of Confucianism. Confucius showed very little interest in the supernatural aspects of life. On one occasion he is reported to have given this response to one of his disciples who wanted to know how to serve the spirits of ancestors: 155

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“You have not learned how to serve man well, how can I teach you how to serve the spirits?” 6JG5ETKRVWTG

One important set of writings on the teachings of Confucius are called the Analects. In these writings, there are several mentions of Heaven (T’ien). During the days of Confucius, there was general belief in a divine power, T’ien, and Confucius seems to have employed this belief in his approach to religious ideas. While he did not seem to understand T’ien as a personal reality, it does appear that he regarded it as a universal spirit that inspired and directed him. He is reported to have said “Heaven (T’ien) begat the virtue that is in me”. Confucius had considerable interest in ritual and insisted on the correct performance of the ceremonies in honour of the dead, and the veneration of the ancestors. Confucius acknowledged and included in his heart the presence of something greater than himself.

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The central teaching of Confucianism is not religious but moral, although it can be argued that the distinction between the two in Confucianism should not be exaggerated. In one of the four books of Confucianism, the Chung yung, which became the basis of Confucian moral philosophy, it is explicitly stated that the sage, having realized true integrity (ch’eng), becomes one with Heaven and Earth. Confucian moral metaphysics reaches over into the religious quest for unity with the ground of being. Confucianism gave primary emphasis to the ethical meaning of relationships. Confucius is remembered as the model of a great teacher on the concept of order and harmony between the various segments of the society – parents to the children, ruler to the ruled, old to the young. Confucius defined the ideal man or Gentleman as one governed by propriety (li) serious in personal conduct, deferential to superiors, just and benevolent to all people, particularly the poor. He observed “filial piety”, which is 156

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the duty of sons to care for their parents, and the veneration of ancestors as prescribed by tradition. Confucius is best remembered for being the first to use the “Golden Rule”, albeit in negative form – “what I do not wish others to do to me, that also I do not wish to do to them”. The central Chinese concept of Tao (The way) which later was interpreted as harmony with the way of nature, was applied by Confucius to mean the “way of action”, the practical performance of morality and social living. The Chung-yung claims that this harmony puts a person in touch with the cosmic processes of life and creativity. Confucianism was advanced more through the works of his later disciples, the best known being Mencius and Hsun-tzu. Mencius or Meng Tse (the old sage) (371–289 B.C.) became the best exponent of the teachings of the master. Mencius was very successful in influencing the rulers of his day to administer the people according to the teachings of Confucius, whom he always called “The Master”. Asked by one Duke how a good ruler should rule the people, Mencius responded:

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“By following the five constant virtues of Confucianism which are benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom and Sincerity”. Due to his persistence and ability to communicate, Mencius moved from one providence to another progagating the teaching of Confucius 6JG&GXGNQROGPVQH%QPHWEKCPKUO After Confucius and Mencius, other notable Confucianists have appeared, Hsun-tzu (298-238 B.C.) popularized the doctrine of ritual action, Li, and provided a model for daily life which supports the religious and ethical teachings of Confucius and Mencius. In the course of time, the word Heaven (T’ien) started to shift in meaning and came to represent an early idea of a supreme deity in 157

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Confucianism. However, neo-Confucianism continued to become more and more pantheistic (belief that the divine is everything, i.e. the universe is divine). A later Chinese philospher, Chang Tsai (1020–1077 AD), developed a mystical vision of the unity of the world expressing it as one perfect family. His vision was that the world was united to him as members of his own family. Other Confucian philosophers continued to provide life-models for those seeking Confucian sagehood. The thrust of their teaching can be summed up as the quest for a moment when the mind of man, in its tendencies to do good or evil, would be transformed into the mind of Heaven, and attain the state of perfect excellence.

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In past and recent times, Confucianism has gone through one crisis after another – the influence of Buddhism, the recent assault from the communist ideology (the teachings of Mao Tse-Tung) and the new trends in secularism – have not extinguished the deep influence Confucianism has had on the Chinese people for over 25 centuries. An authority in Chinese society has said that while Confucianism has been under attack, particularly during the last fifty years, much of it is alive in Chinese morality, benevolence, respect for family and state, and even belief in the way of Heaven. No one can conceive of Chinense culture without the influence of Confucianism. #EVKXKV[

1.

Some authorities have found it very difficult to classify Confucianism as a religion. Give some reasons why this is so.

2.

Confucianism is best known for its moral philosophy. Describe the basis and implications of this moral philosophy.

3.

In what ways does Confucianism compare with the African Traditional Religon in the belief and veneration of the ancestors?

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Yang, C.K. Religion in Chinese Society. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1961. Hume, Robert E. The World’s Living Religions. New York: Charles scriber, 1959. Bradley, David G. A Guide to the World’s Religions. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall Inc., 1965. The World’s Religions – A Lion Handbook, Herts, England: Lions Publishing House, 1982. Thomson, Laurence G. Chinese, Religion, an introduction. Los Angeles: University of South California Press, 1969. Earthart, Bryon, J. Japanese Religion: Unity and Diversity. Belmont, California: Dickson Publishing Company Inc.

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Parrinder, G. The World’s Living Religions, London: Pan Books, 1964.

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22 6CQKUO D.W. Waruta +PVTQFWEVKQP

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This chapter covers the second of the religions of China, Taoism. Tao means a path or a way, and so it becomes a way of acting or a principle or doctrine. The Tao of heaven describes how the universe works; the Tao of man describes how man lives in harmony with the universe. In Taoism, and this is true of Chinese world view, Tao is the ultimate reality and unity behind the diversity of things; it is that by which men live and in losing which they die. By which men live and which they lose when they die. Tao Te Ching is the basic Book of Taoism and may be described as the most original and influencial Chinese book. The book defines Tao the way and its power. The book’s authorship has been in dispute although legends have it that it was written by Lao Tse (The Old Master) who is claimed to be the founder of Taoism. Recent studies have not only questioned the stories and legends about the life of Lao Tse but also cast doubt as to whether he really existed. Traditional legends say that Lao Tse was born in 604 BC and lived for over 160 years. The legends say he spent sixty years in his mother’s womb before he was born. He was therefore born with white hair and a beard, the old baby was named Lao Tse – The Old Master. Legend tells of how Lao Tse met Confucius and tried to tell him to abandon his arrogant ways and many desires which were not worthy of a sage. Confucius, in turn, is said to have heard of this Old Master, Lao Tse, and described him as a dragon.

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The legend may have been necessary at least to explain the origins of the book, although even the best of Chinese historians have claimed that they cannot tell fact from fancy in these legends. It can be argued that the Tao Te Ching as a book was compiled about the 3rd Century BC by an anonymous author. Compared with the writings of Confucianism, the Tao Te Ching does seem to be aware of the teachings of Confucius and may have been written to provide an alternative world view to Confucianism. There are about 50 million adherents of Taoism although this number cannot be ascertained because one who is a Taoist may also be a Confucian or Buddhist.

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6JG$CUKE6GCEJKPIQH6CQKUO Tao is the Way, the unchanging, indescribable, and nameless way. It is a mystery of darkness, the source and doorway from which all the creatures of the earth have come. It is a mysterious and quiet way, yet powerful and eternal. It is symbolized by water, for water is soft, does not scramble, is content with the lowest place yet it gives life to all creatures and finally overcomes all. This quietness, naturalness, and power of Tao must be reflected by all who follow it, who therefore became “quietist”. The sage does not struggle or push himself to the front, but his water like behaviour gives him fulfillment and long life. The sage seeks this “actionless activity” (win wei) and teaches by example rather than by words. In this manner he is able to control all things including himself. By moving, towards the void and holding fast to quietness, one is in Tao and survives death. Morality and ethics, with their artificial rules and regulations, do not make anyone moral but only give rise to theft and profitmaking. If people stopped to worry about secular law and wisdom, they would be more compassionate and dutiful to ethics and their own nature. Thus applies to teachers and rulers. The Tao opposes all warfare for it brings but devastation and decay. To delight in weapons means to delight in death which can never achieve peace but only suffering and misery. 162

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Tao is therefore the original, the One uncarved block, the unity behind all multiplicity and the basis of being for all that is. Tao, like a drifting ship, goes where it will, covering all creatures without dominating them, great and lowly in its manifestations and will sharpen without dominating them. The sage who is in Tao does without doing and speaks in silence, for those who speak do not know and those who know do not speak. The way of the sage is to act without striving.

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Taoism may appear as a religion of passive contemplation and laziness. This emphasis on quietness and inactivity was, however meant to assist the religious minded people to a way by which they may transcend the limited conditions of human existence. This desire was “to steal the secret of heaven and earth” and to unite themselves with the mystery of life itself in order to fulfil their desire for immorality. In many ways, Taoism taught the very opposite of Confucianism. Confucianism attempted to make people perfect and taught them how to live in harmony with the world and with each other. Confucianism started with man and his society. Taoism, however, seeks to turn man away from society to the contemplation of the mysteries of the universe. Fulfilment in Taoism is spontaneous and trans-ethical and cannot be accomplished by following certain rules or guidelines. The Tao became the metaphysical absolute, which only requires that each person be placed within its currents. Taoism may have emerged to offer an alternative way of life to the constraints of the authoritarian Chinese state established on the Confucian moral demands. It may have been an escape from a too-this-worldly approach to life. Confucianism had popularized a quest for immortality and union with the all-embracing reality, the Tao. Within this new quest for authentic living, the Chinese people found the power to live in a spontaneous fashion. Probably the most famous statement of the freedom of the Taoist immortal is that ascribed to Lao-Tse where he said:

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“The ways of men are conditioned by those of Heaven, the ways of Heaven by those of the Tao, and the Tao came into being by itself”. Taoism is a religion that claims that life is beautiful but a frightening series of transformations. By this, Taoism evokes a sense of awe and wonder which these transformations give to mankind. Taoists have been the best poets of nature as they seek to celebrate life with serene resignation and hope: “Just surrender to the cycle of things. Give yourselves to the waves of the great change. Neither happy nor yet afraid and when it is time to go, then simply go, without any unnecessary fuss”. 6CQKUO6QFC[

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Due to great revolutionary changes in China, Taiosim as a religion is not as apparent as it used to be. However, a Taoist association has been established to revive the functions of the religion and to claim its part in the making of China’s great history. Taoism has always been at odds with the government due to its emphasis on freedom from traditions and restrictions. Yet it has survived and will continue to make its own contribution within the Chinese culture and even beyond. Taoism as one of the “Three ways” accepted by the Chinese is an integral part of the great Chinese heritage. For centuries, it has been accepted in the “Three are one” system of the Chinese culture. A syncretic religious culture of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism has become a basic component of the Chinese mind and no modern movements of change will ignore that very foundation of the Chinese personality. The “Three ways” will continue to influence the Chinese culture in the future as in the past.

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1.

Define the concept of Tao and describe its religious aspects.

2.

Taoism has been described as being the very opposite of Confucianism. Give reasons.

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23 5JKPVQKUO D.W. Waruta +PVTQFWEVKQP In this chapter we move to Japan and see how the idea of the Tao has taken a distinctive form. We trace the development of Shintoism, the Japanese national religion, and examine its beliefs and practices.

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The name Shinto is of Chinese origin, Shen-tao, and means the Tao or the ‘way of the Gods’. The Japanese have an equivalent to this term – Kami no michi. The word Kami means ‘gods’ in Japanese but mau also means any divine power manifested in great rocks, trees and other natural phenomena. Shintoism has roughly 30 million followers but, as with Confucianism and Taoism, the followers may be identified with other religions such as Buddhism or even Christianity. This religion is found mostly in Japan although some pockets of it may be found elsewhere in Asia. 5JKPVQKUOŌ+VU&GXGNQROGPVCPF6GCEJKPIU The stories of the Shinto gods are collected in the Nihongi and Kojiki (chronicles of Japan). These contain lists of names and traditional stories rather than religious devotional writings. After many names of ancient deities with roots in prehistoric Japan, two of these deities emerge. One is called the Male-who-invites, the other is the female-who-invites. These two are the primordial pair that gave birth to the Islands of Japan. From the pair came the chief deity of Japan, the sun-goddess, Amaterasu Omi Kami, or

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the ‘Heaven illuminating goddess’. She rules the light and the day, wisely and kindly, giving peace and order and protecting the food supply. But her brother, Susa-no-wo (swift, impetuous) the storm god, destroyed her domains and polluted her shrines. Amaterasu escaped to a heavenly cave and plunged the world in total darkness. All the other gods assembled outside the cave, uttered magical words and performed a ceremonial dance which made Amaterasu look outside the cave, only to see her image in a mirror they had placed there. As she attempted to reach for her beautiful image, the other gods pulled her out and light came back to the world. The gods banished Susa-no-wo to a sanctuary in Zumo on the north coast of Japan. Susa-no-wo belonged to the domain of the invisible, magic and exorcism and is believed to be the cause of pestilence and disaster unless he is propitiated through ritual during times of calamity. Amaterasu is thus the chief of the Shinto gods and her shrine at Ise is the holiest of all shrines. A special imperial symbol, a mirror, a sword and a bead which are believed to have been hers are kept there. Amaterasu sent her son Ni-m-gi to rule over the Japan Islands. He married the daughter of Mount Fuji and their grandson, Jimmu Tenno, is said to have been the first emperor of Japan. The supremacy of Amaterasu is thus maintained by the imperial line. The emperor of Japan is therefore believed to be a descendant of Amaterasu and given divine quality. The Japanese therefore say that “there is one supreme deity, Amaterasu-omiKami, the heaven-shining-august-goddess.’ However, according to other myths, there are also other gods, at least 800,000 of them. These are the spirits of wind, rain, earthquake, sea, trees, healing, purification, family and so on. Some Japanese heroes are also deified and they may be referred to as Kami. From the Yamato period, the imperial household has taken a central place in Japan and Shinto religion. From about 1868 when the monarchy was returned to the central position in Japanese politics under emperor Meijji, up until the end of the second 168

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world war in 1945, the Shinto religion was tied up with the Emperor cult and the shrine at Ise. After the humiliation of Japan at the end of the war, the Emperor’s semi-divine status was officially denied and Shinto lost its dominant position. Since then, the observance of Shinto practices has become a voluntary matter. However, the imperial family still enjoys very high and probably sacred esteem by many of the Japanese people and leading Shinto shrines still remain important symbols of Japanese nationalism. 5JKPVQ2TCEVKEGUCPF+PHNWGPEG

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Shinto religious practices are usually restricted to individual observances at one of the many shrines in Japan. People visit the shrines to offer their own requests before a journey, before an examination, before any major undertaking and sometimes because one happens to be passing by the shrine. Family occasions also include a visit to the shrine; prayers are said there for the health of a new baby or during weddings. Shrines are visited by large numbers of people, particularly during the New Year from first to third January. Some people go to the shirne just after midnight on December 31. At the new year visits, people buy feathered wooden arrows meant to drive off evil, protective charms and strips of paper bearing the name of the shrine visited (Fuda). These are taken home and placed on the family minishrine or kami shelf. Through Shintoism the Japanese people have developed a culture that loves nature and beauty, which emphasizes the virtues of the family unit, diligence at work and a sense of duty. They have learnt the love of learning from Confucianism and the spirit of self-sacrifice from Budddhism. However, there is no religious sect or influence in Japan that is not affected by Shintoism. There has been considerable growth in Shinto sects such as Tenri-kyo (the religion of heavenly wisdom) and Konkyo-yo (the religion of the golden light). These new sects are organized like churches, providing security and fellowship amid the changing social conditions of modern Japan. Shintoism therefore continues to have significant influence on the Japanese people. In spite of the 169

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industrialization and secularization of modern Japan, it may continue to be the unifying factor in Japanese culture and nationalism. Shintoism and Buddhism seem to have fitted well in the cultural and religious panaroma of the Japanese people and still controls the lives of the majority of the approximately one hundred million Japanese people. Western religions such as Christianity are also gaining limited acceptance. In the final analysis it is Shinto, the native religion of the Japanese, that still has the control of the people of the islands of the rising sun.

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1.

Shintoism is a religion of many gods, spirits and shrines. Explain whether and why you think it may be classified as Polytheistic (belief in many gods) or Pantheistic (belief that god is in everything).

2.

Describe the cult of the Emperor and its role in the development of Japanese nationalism.

3.

List some reasons the Japanese people have for visiting the Shinto shrines.

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24 /CJC[CPC$WFFJKUO S.G. Kibicho +PVTQFWEVKQP Very early in the history of Buddhism in India, it split into two divisions, the Theravada and the Mahayana Buddhism. The former became established in southern countries while the latter spread in the northern countries.

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The Theravanda and Mahayana branches of Buddhism began in India. The difference between the two branches, which led to the schism, centred around the doctrines of salvation; the way to get it and how the Buddha and other related divine beings should be viewed. The school of thought which eventually split to form the Mahayana branch of Buddhism came to hold the view that salvation was not something which could only be achieved by self-effort, and which therefore only monks could attain, as taught in Theravada Buddhism. Rather, it was something attainable by faith in and devotion to one or the other numerous heavenly beings (Buddha and Bochisattvas) contained in the Mahayana mythology. As such, salvation or Buddha-hood was accessible to all human beings. It was mainly for this reason that this new, liberal school of thought called itself Mahayana (“the great vehicle”) while they named the older, conservative school of thought Hinayana (“the lesser vehicle”).

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%JCTCEVGTKUVKEUQH/CJC[CPC$WFFJKUO 5CNXCVKQP6JTQWIJ(CKVJ

The Mahayana school taught that salvation could be attained through faith in the power and compassion of some heavenly beings (Buddhas and Bodhisattvas). This doctrine has already been touched on above. It was in sharp contrast to the teaching of Buddha which had no place at all for a saviour or saviours; and no place for prayers. Salvation was wholly one’s self-effort: accepting and meditating on four Noble Truths and following rigorously the Noble Eight-fold path, until one got release (Moksha) from desire and subsequently attained Enlightenment and Nirvana; and this was a path only the Buddhist monk (the Arthat) could walk.

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By contrast, as already noted, Mahayana offered in its mythology and doctrine many divine saviours who had the compassion and the power not only to assist the believer to attain enlightenment and Nirvana, but also to meet the mundane needs of life. All that was required of the believer was to have faith in and devotion to one or the other saviour, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and to call to him for help. In the doctrine of universal salvation by faith in and devotion to some divine beings, Mahayana has similarities with the Hindu Bhakti (i.e. devotional) cults. It is likely that these Hindu Bhakti cults had some influence on Mahayana Buddhism. 6JG&QEVTKPGQH/CP[$WFFJCUCPF$QFJKUCVVXCU

Another notion which developed in Mahayana Buddhism and helped to strengthen its devotional Bhakti features, is the idea of many Buddhas, past, present and future, besides Gautama and Bodhisattvas. They are regarded as heavenly, divine beings and saviours. They are three kinds:

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(i)

Manushi Buddhas (Past Buddhas)

Manushi Buddhas appeared on earth like Gautama, that is, as human beings. They attained enlightenment, but in their great compassion, they postponed their entry to Nirvana so they could teach others the true way of life (dhamma), which leads to enlightenment. They then finally entered Nirvana. Prayers cannot reach them; they remain primarily teachers of Dhamma. (ii)

Bodhisattvas

They are beings who have attained enlightenment and therefore can enter Nirvana, but out of their great compassion, have postponed entering Nirvana so that they may help others in their suffering and in the ultimate achievement of enlightenment. Bodhi means “enlightenment” or “wisdom” while sattva means “being” or “essence”. Thus Bodhisattva may be translated as “being of enlightment” or “wisdom”. Bodhisattvas are also properly thought of as Buddhas of compassion. Prayers are said to them; they are objects of love, loyalty and devotion.

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In the Theravada scriptures, only two beings are recognized as Bodhisattvas. These are Gautama before his enlightenment and Maitreya (the next Buddha). But in Mahayana there are innumerable Bodhisattvas. Another popular Mahayana belief is that a Boddhisattva, in his long and perfectly holy life, has accumulated a great deal of merit which, in his compassion, he distributes to suffering human beings who are otherwise unworthy, but who in faith call on his name. The most popular Bodhisattva is Avalokitesura or Lord Avalokita. He has a special interest in the present age. Seen as the “personification of divine compassion”, he watches over all inhabitants of the world. He has come to earth in human form more than 300 times and once in the form of a miraculous horse to rescue humans in various kinds of danger, who have called upon him. Besides helping devotees overcome moral problems (anger, greed, lust, etc.), he also rescues from other evils and calamities, such as robbery, and violent death. He gives children 173

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to childless women who pray to him. He is usually represented in images dressed finely. Noss describes him as a: “great prince, with high headdress, carrying in his left hand a red lotus…, and extending his right hand with a gracious gesture. Frequently he is shown seated on a large lotus, and called with poetic devotion. “The jewel in the Lotus”. Sometimes he is given four or many more arms all laden with gifts to men”.1 In Tibet, Lord Avalokita is represented as having a spouse, Tara, while in China he is a female, with the name Kivan-yin, the goddess of mercy, and very popular. In Korea, she is called KoanEum, and in Japan, Kwannon. She is compassionate, and is often represented with a child in her arms. Another popular bodhisattva is Ti-Tsang in China (Jizo in Japan). When a grieving person prays to him on behalf of their deceased relatives in hell, he descend there and rescues them. He also helps women at childbirth.

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(iii)

Dhyani Buddhas

The term is from Dhana, meaning contemplation. Dhyani Buddhas are also called Buddhas of Contemplation. They are heavenly beings who achieved Buddhahood but, unlike Gautama and other Manushi Buddhas, not in human form. Out of their great compassion for suffering humanity, they put off their entry into Nirvana. From their heavenly abode, they continue to minister to men’s needs. Their images show them in the form of a monk in deep meditation and great calm, with a quiet smile. Among the many Dhani Buddhas, the three most outstanding are Vairocana, Bhaisajaguru and Amitabha. Vairocana is associated with the sun (a solar Buddha) and occupies an important place in Java Buddhism. In Japan, the sungoddess Amaterrasu is regarded as a manufestation of Buddha Vairocana. Bhaisajyaguru is a ‘Buddha of healing’ and has many 1

Noss, J.B. Man’s Religions, pp. 200.

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devotees in Japan, Tibet and China. Amitabha is also known as O-mito in China, and Amida in Japan and Korea. Devotees who call his name in faith are, at death, reborn into his wonderful paradise which he creatred for this purpose. This paradise is also known as Western Paradise, or the Pure Land of the West. From this paradise, the devotee eventually enters Nirvana, all with the assistance of Buddha Amida. 6JG&QEVTKPGQH%QORCUUKQPCVG$WFFJCUCPF$QFJKUCVVXCU

Another important characteristic of Mahayana is the ethical inspiration of the doctrine of the compassionate Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The devotees are encouraged to follow their examples. Any person can make a vow to be a Bodhisattva, and everyone is a potential Buddha. It may take a long time to realize this ultimate goal. But the devotees are urged that taking the first step is the most important thing. Then they will be set on the path of potential Bodhisattvas and Buddhas, following their example and with their ready assistance. This doctrine therefore is a source of great inspiration to the devotees towards moral excellence, and with great emphasis on compassion and unselfish concern for others, especially those in need. The notion of being a potential Buddha also gives the devotee a great sense of worth.

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A fourth important characteristic of Mahayana is that, in contrast to Theravada Buddhism, it is more open and accommodating to new and non-Buddhist ideas, beliefs and religious practices in the new areas of its spread, that is from Brahmanism, Shintoism and Taoism. It was therefore able to absorb gods and practices of popular religions in the new areas, for instance, from Shinto. The opposite, however, also happened sometimes, for instance Mahayana became re-absorbed into Hinduism in India. This is one of the factors that contributed to the virtual disappearance of Buddhism in India.  175

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6JG5ETKRVWTGUQH/CJC[CPC$WFFJKUO The scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism are known, collectively, as the Great Vehicle canon. They are written in Sanskrit and include in their contents much of the original Theravada canon. But they also have additional writings. The most important of these is the Lotus Sutra, or Lotus of the Wonderful Law. The work was first written in Sanskrit about the second century A.D. It was then translated into Chinese, and later into Japanese. The English translation of the Lotus Sutra is about 400 pages. It is in the additional writings that the fundamental additional Mahayana doctrines, not found explicitly in the original Theravada canon, are given their authoritative basis, as coming from the glorified Buddha in a new revelation.

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The Buddha in the Lotus Sutra is portrayed as a heavenly being proclaiming eternal truths to thousands of gods, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas from past ages. Most important, the Buddha declares a new revelation of a wider way of salvation by faith in which all men are called to become Buddhas, with the ready assistance of the countless Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. All this, by the Mahayana scriptures, was in accord with Buddha’s plan; he had intended that the old “narrow way” revelation of Theravada Buddhism should be superseded by the new revelation of the wider way of salvation, when the disciples are ready. #EVKXKV[

1.

Explain the main factor which led to the rise of Mahayana Buddhism?

2.

Explain what you understand by “Salvation through faith” in Mahayana Buddhism.

3.

Discuss the practical importance of the doctrine of compassionate Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, to the adherents of Mahayana Buddhism. 176

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4.

Why did the new schismatic branch name themselves the Mahayana and the other branch Hinayana?

5.

Explain some main similarities between Mahayana Buddhist ideas and practices and those of the Hindu bhakti cults.

6.

Explain briefly the difference between Bodhisattvas, Dhyani Buddhas and Manushi Buddhas.

(WTVJGT4GCFKPI

Ling, T. A History of Religion East & West. London: MacMillan, 1968. Noss, J.B. Man’s Religions. New York: Collier-MacMillan, 1974. Parrinder, E.G. The World’s Living Religions. London: Pan, 1964.

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Smart, N. Religious Experience of Mankind. New York: Scribner 1969/Collins, Fontana, 1971.

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25 6JG5RTGCFQH/CJC[CPC$WFFJKUO VQ0QTVJGTP.CPFU S.G. Kibicho $WFJKUOKP%JKPC This chapter will trace briefly the spread of Mahayana Buddhism to northern lands: to China, Korea and Japan.

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Buddhism seems to have been introduced into China from India in the first century AD. Chinese historians relate how Emperor Ming Ti, (58–75 AD), became interested in Buddhism because he had seen the golden image of the Buddha lying in his room, with the head glowing like the sun in a dream (Noss 192). According to the ancient legend, Emperor Ming Ti sent his envoys to northwest India to get more information on Buddhism. They brought back many sacred books and statutes, and two Buddhist monks as missionaries who began the task of transplanting the Buddhist sacred literature into China. It is likely that the Emperor did not become a Buddhist, but seems to have been positively inclined in its favour. He allowed the erection of a statue of Buddha, and the spread of Buddhism. At first, Buddhism met resistance and made little progress. This was because some of its teaching (especially the Hinayana Buddhism which came first) threatened some important Chinese traditions and beliefs or were incompatible with the Chinese world view and temperament. For instance, the doctrines of rebirth and nirvana were incompatible with the Chinese ancestral cult; the ideal of monkhood threatened to break the Chinese ideal of the family; it would also take away sons from the performance

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of filial duty. Some Buddhist doctrines were pessimistic and world-denying: the transitoriness of the world, the unreality of worldly activity, the non-exisence of the ego, and the need of salvation from the misery of existence. These contrasted sharply with the Chinese optimistic and dynamic affirmation of this present life. On the other hand, there were some similarities with Taoism, for instance, both traditions shared love of quiet and meditation. Also, Buddhist ritual and imagery were attractive. Gradually Buddhism, especially the Mahayana school took root. By the end of the second century AD Buddhism seems to have been adequately established on parts of China that border India.

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One event which helped the establishment and spread of Buddism in China was the disintegration of the Han Empire in the latter part of the second century AD as a result of the incursion of nomad tribes from central China. It was a period of social and political disintegration and civil wars, unrest and misery. The Chinese intellectuals as well as the ordinary people stood in need of a faith with a message of personal salvation, giving meaning and hope to life. The Mahayana message of salvation for all through faith in the Buddha, was attractive to many at this time. The idea of monkhood continued to receive opposition and it was not until the 4th Century that Chinese were allowed to become monks. From time to time, especially during the reigns of antiBuddhist Emperors, there was Buddhist persecution. For instance, Noss tells us that: ‘Wu Tsung of the Tang dynasty, in 845 AD, destroyed 45,000 Buddhist buildings, melted down tens of thousands of Buddha images and sent over 400,000 monks, nuns and temple servitors back into the world.1 However, emperors hostile to Buddhism were usually followed by others who favoured Buddhism and during their reigns the damaged physical facilities would be restored and more added. The period from the 6th to the 9th Century AD was one of Buddhism’s most glorious 1

Noss, J.B. Men’s Religions, p. 194.

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periods in China. It became well established and indigenized and (with Confucianism and Taoism) one of the three Chinese religions, or what are referred to as “China’s three ways”. A number of sects flourished, according to tradition ten were introduced into China. Two of them came to be dominant. These are Ching-tu or the Pure Land Sect and Chan Buddhism. 6JG%JKPIVWQT2WTG.CPF5GEV

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This was founded in China in the latter part of the 4th Century. Tradition says that the founder was a concerted Taoist (HuiYuan). It teaches salvation to everyone who calls with unquestioning faith on the name of the great Buddha Amitabha (Ami in Chinese, Amida in Japanese or the Buddha of Boundless Light). Its doctrine of Salvation is based on the idea that merit, especially that of Buddha, can be transferred to a Buddhist devotee who is otherwise unworthy and who would have no hope of gaining salvation on his own. Thus salvation here is not by self-effort as taught by Buddha Gautama, but by faith in the power and merit of another, a heavenly being. Here Buddhism comes close to theism and as we said earlier, has affinity with the Bhakti cults in Hinduism. The good which the devotee of the Pure Land Sect seeks is to enter Amitabha’s paradise, the Pure Land of the West, from which he is sure ultimately to enter Nirvana. All this occurs through the assistance of Buddha Amitabha. The Pure Land of the West is represented as a kind of Garden of Eden paradise of incomparable beauty, peace and joy. By the power of Amitabha, the devotee who calls on his name in unshakable faith is reborn, at death, into this paradise, and from there eventually he enters Nirvana. All a devotee needed to do was repeat the name Amitabha in devotion and in unquestioning faith, especially using the formula Namu Omito Fo (Hail, Amitaba Buddha). The Chinese have called this way of salvation taught by the Ching-tu sect, the “short-cut”.

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%JCP$WFFJKUO The name, Chan, is said to have been the Chinese corruption of the Sanskirt term dhyana or contemplation; when the Chinese tried to pronounce dhyana, they came out with Chan. In Japan, Chan is known as Zen. The sect is said to have been founded by Bodhidharma, Indian Scholar and teacher, in the 6th Century AD. Its teaching emphasizes that salvation comes not by rituals or by scholarly reading and knowledge, but by an inward look into one’s heart, by meditation and intuition or inward vision. Some Chinese saw similarities between Chan and Taoism. There is emphasis on effortlessness and passivity as one meditates and a strong feeling or realization of oneness with nature, or rather allowing nature to flow into one, so that the two (the mediator and nature) merge into one. This is nature mysticism. In contrast to the Pure Land School, the Chan school also emphases the master-pupil relationship as well as the important role of the Sanga and spiritual effort and discipline for the attainment of enlightment. $WFFJKUOKP-QTGC

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We shall confine ourselves only to a brief statement on Buddhism in Korea, then move on to its spread in Japan where it next moved from Korea. Buddhism was introduced into Korea from 4th Century AD and it spread and found acceptance quite fast in the whole country. Tradition (or legend) relates that a Chinese monk called Sundo, with the encouragement of a Buddhist ruler of a small state in north China, crossed over into Korea, carrying with him images of Buddha and Buddhist sacred books and with much missionary zeal. The introduction of Buddhism into Korea may have been more involved than the story the monk Sundo portrays. But there seems to have been a ready acceptance of Buddhism and its accompanying culture by the Koreans. By the middle of the 6th 182

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Century AD it is said that a certain king of one Korean state was already sending Buddhist missionaries, images and sacred books to the emperor of Japan. $WFFJKUOKP,CRCP Buddhism reached Japan through Korea in the 6th Century AD and later influence came from China. There was resistance from some noblemen, and later from militant traditionalists. But by gradual infiltration it eventually established itself there. By 593 AD Prince Shotoku who had studied Confucian classics and Buddhist scriptures and who had like his parents became a Buddhist did a lot to spread and strengthen Buddhism in the country. He is reputed to have founded an important multipurpose Buddhist institution incorporating within it a religious center, an orphanage, an old people’s home, a hospital and a dispensary.

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Under Shotoku’s patronage, Buddhism became virtually the state church. Because of his important role in establishing Buddhism in the land, Shotoku is regarded as a great Boddhisattva of compassion, a saviour, greater even than the Buddha of India. At Mara, the imperial capital and palace which became a Buddhist Centre, there is a 50 foot bronze statue of Buddha. To meet the resistance of native Japanese religion (now given the name of Shinto to distinguish it from Buddhism), the chief Shinto goddess Amaterasu was at one stage identified with one of the Buddhas. Other ancient Japanese gods were in a similar manner absorbed into the Buddhist system of heavenly beings, as Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Buddhism also took over or dominated most Shinto Shrines, by introducing Buddhist rituals and images. The period of this mingling of the two religions, 8001868, when it was at its peak, is referred to as the period of twogold Shinto or Double Shinto. Shinto was in danger of being fully submerged in Buddhism and losing its identity. This danger was averted when the separation of the two religions was forcibly carried out by imperial order in 1868 at the start of the Meiji period. Shinto, now purified of Buddhist syncretistic incursions, 183

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was made the state religion. Buddhism suffered some persecution and suppression in the process of the cleaning and restoration of Shinto. But largely due to the fact that its ideas were deeply rooted in Japanese lives, through its ideas and practices which were long established, it survived and eventually regained its status as one of the main religions of Japan, a status it has continued to hold to the present.

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#EVKXKV[

1.

How was the disintegration of the Han Empire a help in the establishment of Buddhism?

2.

Explain why the Chinese called the way of salvation taught by the Ching-tu sect the “short-cut”.

3.

Explain the way Mahayana Buddhism used to overcome the resistance to it from the Japanese ancient religion, Shinto.

4.

Explain why monkhood initially received so much opposition in China, when Buddhism was being established there.

5.

What are some of the main teachings of the Ching-tu sect of Chan Buddhism?

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26 5QOGQHVJG/CKP5GEVUQH $WFFJKUOKP,CRCP S.G. Kibicho 5KIPUQH$WFFJKUOKP,CRCP In the previous two chapters, we discussed the rise of Mahayana Buddhism in India, and its spread to China, Korea and Japan. In this chapter we look in more details at Buddhism in Japan.

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Mahayana Buddhism is most advanced and most active in Japan. Its influence and presence are manifest in most aspects of Japanese life. There are many Buddhist temples in the towns and in the countryside, and most Japanese visit them. They also visit Shinto shrines. Many have a Buddhist altar at home where the head of the family makes offerings and says prayers. The priests are married. Besides conducting congregational worship at the temples, which includes preaching of sermons, they also help at funerals and memorial services. Sometimes they are invited to homes to officiate at some of the ceremonies performed at the home shrines. These days, there are Buddhist sunday schools, youth associations and so on, similar to those in Christian churches. 5QOGQHVJG/CKP,CRCPGUG$WFFJKUV5GEVU Japanese Buddhism is divided into a number of sects, most of which had their origin in China.

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6JG2WTG.CPF5GEVU

The Pure Land Sects are the most popular and the largest. Their main feature is belief in the Buddha Amida as the only saviour. Any one who calls on him in faith is liberated and reborn at death in Amida’s paradise known as the Pure Land of the West where one is certain to enter Nirvana eventually. The Pure Land of the West is described as a kind of “Garden of Eden” paradise, of incomparable beauty, peace and joy. There are two main Pure Land Sects, Jodo Buddhism and the Jodo Shintu Sect. Jodo Buddhism Jodo Buddhism known as Ching-tu in China is also called Amidism. Jodo is the Japanese rendering of the Chinese term Ching-tu. Jodo Buddhism was founded in Japan by a Japanese scholar by the name of Genku. He was later known as Honin Shonin or Saint (St.) Honen (1133–l1212).

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Honen’s father died in his boyhood as a result of being attacked by gangsters. His last instructions to his son just before he died were that he should not seek revenge for his death, because violence breeds violence. He advised him to become a monk. Honen followed his father’s advice and entered a Buddhist monastery at Hiei. Here he excelled in the mastery of Buddhist teachings, rituals and monastic disciplines. But he continued to feel a deep spiritual dissatisfaction. He kept seeking liberation and peace for quite a long time through the traditional Buddhist way of self-discipline and contemplation, but without success. Then, one day while in a library, he read in a Chinese commentary of the Amidist school, the following words, which helped him to gain the enlightenment and liberation he had been seeking for so long. “Only repeat the name of Amitabha with all your heart, whether walking or standing, whether sitting or lying: 186

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never cease the practice for a moment. This is the very work which unfailingly issues in salvation”.1 Honen believed this and accepted the salvation thus offered, by grace through faith. He attained release, enlightenment and peace and the assurance of being born into Amida’s paradise – the Pure Land of the West. In this conviction that salvation was not by works but by grace through faith alone, Honen left the monastery and went to live in a hermitage (i.e. secluded dwelling of a hermit). His fame spread, and many came to hear him. He taught that the repetition with faith of the formula ‘Namu Amida Butsu’ or ‘Nembutsu’) which means ‘Reverence to the Buddha Amida’ or ‘I fly to the Amida’) was sufficient to gain one salvation and the assurance of being born into Amida’s Pure Land paradise.

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Honen stressed that although good works did not bring salvation, yet salvation by its very nature must manifest itself in good works as its unfailing effects. The saved or enlightened one is filled with Amida’s love, and this love must flow through the life of the enlightened one, in works of love and mercy and in related practices and dispositions towards all living beings. This compares well with the Christian teaching on the fruit of the Holy Spirit which must flow from one who has experienced salvation by grace through faith in Christ. Honen’s teachings posed a real threat to monastic life, and to ecclesiastical power and authority. This was so because salvation by grace alone meant that it was no longer necessary to beome a monk and to follow the rigorous life, meditation and ceremony to obtain release (moksha) or salvation. This resulted in the undermining of the authority and influence of the temple. Honen was exiled by the state to a small island in the sea. He was allowed to return after four years and ended the last years of his life in great peace, exhorting his disciples on the efficacy of the 1

J.B. Noss, Man’s Religions, p. 209.

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devoted practice of “Nembutsu”. He died in 1212 at the age of 79. In a last testament which he left to his disciples he reiterated: ‘Our practice of devotion does not consist in that of meditation as recommended and practicised by sages of the past. Nor is our “calling the name..” uttered in consequence of elightenment in truths attained through learning and wisdom. When we invoke (the) Buddha and say Namu Amida Butsu with the firm belief that we shall be born in (the) Buddha’s paradise, we shall surely be born there”. He also counseled even the most learned in the teachings of Gautama Buddha (Sakya Muni) to “put his faith in (the) salvation”’ of Amida, and to ‘regard himself as an equal with the most ignorant and they should whole-heartedly practice Nembutsu… in company with many simple folk, entirely giving up the demeanour of a wise man.2 The Jodo or the Pure Land Sects have the largest number of followers in japan. The Shin Sect

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The Shin Sect is also known as the Jodo Shinshu Sect or the True Pure Land Sect. This sect was founded by Honen’s disciple Shinran Shonin (1173–1263). Shinran carried Honen’s teaching of salvation by grace through faith alone further, by teaching that even the repetition of the Nembutshu formula was unnecessary. He asserted that simple faith in Amida, even without repeating the Nembutshu formula was sufficient to get saving grace; that monastic and acclesiastical restrictions are unnecessary. Therefore, Shinran left the monastery, married and raised a family. He de-emphasised the distinction between the lifestyle of priests and monks, on the one hand, and the secular life, on the other. He thenceforth worked as

2

Smart, N., Religious Experience of Mankind, p. 267–8.

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a simple preacher, independently of ecclesiastical authority, and lived the life of an ordinary man. Although Shinron went further than Honen, his teaching can be regarded as the logical conclusion of Honen’s teaching. The Shin sect is the most powerful of Buddhist sects in Japan, with more temples, priests and teachers than any other. Noss observes that: The cheerful, world-accepting nature of the Shin sect has had a natural result; emotional and religiously easy-going persons have found it a highly attractive faith (Noss, p. 200).