BOOK Sacred Writings
Introduction • Images may not always be welcomed or condemned in the 5 major religious traditions, but they all have writings that they consider authoritative. • Human language can capture the divine voice
Questions to consider • Form and Contents: • Basis of Authority • Who were the human authors involved? • Who reads the text and how are they used in ritual and daily practice?
Hindu Tradition • Sacred rites and rituals require a ritual expert who is trained in making offerings or sacrifices in accordance with the sound of sacred words. This is how things are done properly • Pandit-one who chants sacred texts by memory at official religious sacrifices. • Vedas (knowledge/vision): written in Sanskrit, these are the earliest and most revered texts in Hindu traditions. • Composed between 1500 and 500 BCE (Vedic Age)
The Vedas: • 4 Works • Rg Veda (The Veda of Verses) • Oldest and most important; collection of hymns (samhita) to early deities including Indra (god of war), Varuna (god of law), and Agni (god of fire) • Sama Veda (The Veda of Chants) • Anthology of mantras drawn from Rg Veda and rearranged for ceremonial musical performance • Yajur Veda (The Veda of Sacrificial Prayers)- • Formulas used at sacrifices • Atharva Veda (The Veda of the Fire Priests) • Magic spells and incantations of folk religion
Appendixes of the Vedas • In addition to the core hymns, each Veda has attachments called brahmanas that provide detailed instructions for properly carrying out rituals. • Other appendixes : Philosophical dialogues exploring major questions of human existence • Aranyakas (forest treatises) • Upanishads (sitting at the Feet)-idea of re-incarnation emerges
Vedanta • Vedanta is the theological tradition inspired by the Upanishads, understood as the fulfillment or completion of the Vedas, bringing them to their highest purpose • Contents of the Vedas • Shruti (“that which is heard”)-implies non-human source/divine source • Written for adult males of 3upper classes (twice-born) • Smriti(“remembered”): mix of divine inspiration and human composition. Less authoritative than Shruti, but also less restricted. Include some of most well known tales including the Ramayana and the Mahabharata which inlcludesthe Bhagavad Gita (Song of the Lord)
Bhagavad Gita • The Gita • 700-verse poem • Conversation between Arjuna and Krishna (avatar of Vishnu disguised as Arjuna’s charioteer). • Krishna advises Arjuna on the importance of duty and devotion • Epitomizes the 4 ways of liberation the 4 ways to liberation taught in Hinduism: • Meditation • Selfless action • Wisdom • Loving devotion
The Three Baskets of Buddhism: Tipitaka • Canon of the Theravada tradition has sacred texts written in the Pali language. Three The eternal truth of the dharma, as manifested in the particular form of the Buddha, is transmitted in human language in the Three Baskets • VinayaPitaka: The Basket of Discipline • Bhikkhus (monks) and bhikkunis (nuns) • SuttaPitaka: The Basket of Threads • Teachings that “sew” together the meaning of life • Sayings said to be the Buddha’s • Dhammapada—ethical maxims: inner peace, compassion, selfless giving • JatakaTales: Stories about the Buddha’s former lives (only the oldest are canonical). These tales are often depicted in shrines and images. • AbhidhammaPitaka: The Basket of Higher teaching • Latest addition, not spoken by Buddha, but for advancement of his teachings • Dense philosophical reflection on earlier doctrine/highly advanced form of Buddha’s teachings
Later Writings of Mahayana • Lotus Sutra • The Lotus Sutra (100CE) claims that the historical Buddha appeared to live and die like an ordinary man, but in reality he had bee enlightened from time immemorial. In this sutra, Siddhartha’s journey was an elaborate means of teaching the people of his time in order to reveal his teachings in a way that they would be best understood. It was only over time that the full depth of the dharma could be understood which is why the Mahayana considered itself a significant improvement over earlier forms of Buddhism. • Authorship: Though composed anonymously and by many authors are regarded as visionary and inspired and they represent a key phase in the development of dharma. • Because the Mahayana cosmology suggests that the Buddha as bodhisattva is still looking out for us, these later texts are considered to be the products of the Buddha’s spiritual authorship even though they are not directly his words. • Wisdom Sutra-Perfection of Wisdom • Yoga Sutra
The Hebrew Bible of Judaism • Torah • Books of Moses • Books of the Prophets • Ketuvims-writings • Talmud: “Oral” Law • Halakha/theway-law and ethics • Mishnah: Study of the Law • Aggadah/the telling-stories and explanations • Midrash : interpretations of the Torah
Christian Sacred Text • The Bible refers to the sacred writings of the Christian tradition • The Bible is comprised of 2 parts: The Old Testament and the New testament • Old Testament • Includes 3 texts that comprise the Jewish TaNaKh: Torah, Nevi’im, Ketuvim • New Testament: 27 books generally held to have been originally composed in Greek
Christianity and the New Testament • Chronology • 33CE: Jesus executed • 55CE: Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians • 60CE Gospel of Mark • 70CE Destruction of 2nd Temple • 70CE-85CE Gospels of Matthew and Luke • 90-100CE Gospel of John
The Qur’an of Islam • the Qur’an is the believed to be the perfect and eternally unchanged Word of God, given by the Prophet Muhammad in Arabic (which technically makes it inappropriate to quote the Koran in any language other than Arabic. • divided in 114 chapters called suraswhich are instructional teachings • These suras are like teachings organized based on their length from long to short
Fatiha • 1stSura is called the Fatiha and begins with a prayer: • “In the name of God, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy! • Praise belongs to God, the Lord of the Worlds, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy, Master of the Day of Judgment. It is you we worship; it is You we ask for help. Guide us to the straight path: The path of those You have blessed, those who incur no anger and have not gone astray (1:1-7).
Sira and Sunna • Muhamad’s life is told in the Sira—exemplary Muslim life to be followed • The Sunnais the interpretation of the Sira that tells followers more specifically how to live rightly