Religion A Closer Look at Taoism, Jain, Buddhists and Catholic By Sharon Spellman
Definition - Taoism • A principal philosophy and system of religion of China based on the teachings of Lao-tzu in the sixth century B.C. and on subsequent revelations. It advocates preserving and restoring the Tao in the body and the cosmos.
History – Taoism Tao can be roughly translated into English as path, or the way. It is basically indefinable. It has to be experienced. It refers to a power which envelops, surrounds and flows through all things, living and non-living”. The Tao regulates natural processes and nourishes balance in the Universe. It embodies the harmony of opposites (i.e. there would be no love without hate, no light without dark, no male without female.)" 2 The founder of Taoism is believed by many to be Lao-Tse (604-531 BCE), a contemporary of Confucius. He was searching for a way that would avoid the constant feudal warfare and other conflicts that disrupted society during his lifetime. The result was his book: Tao-te-Ching (a.k.a. Daodejing). Others believe that he is a mythical character.
History – Taoism (Cont.) Taoism started as a combination of psychology and philosophy but evolved into a religious faith in 440 CE when it was adopted as a state religion. At that time Lao-Tse became popularly venerated as a deity. Taoism, along with Buddhism and Confucianism, became one of the three great religions of China. With the end of the Ch'ing Dynasty in 1911, state support for Taoism ended. Much of the Taoist heritage was destroyed during the next period of warlordism. After the Communist victory in 1949, religious freedom was severely restricted. "The new government put monks to manual labor, confiscated temples, and plundered treasures. Several million monks were reduced to fewer than 50,000" by 1960. 3 During the cultural revolution in China from 1966 to 1976, much of the remaining Taoist heritage was destroyed. Some religious tolerance has been restored under Deng Xiao-ping from 1982 to the present time.
Beliefs – Taoism Time is cyclical, not linear as in Western thinking. Yin (dark side) is the breath that formed the earth. Yang (light side) is the breath that formed the heavens. They symbolize pairs of opposites which are seen throughout the universe, such as good and evil, light and dark, male and female. Intervention by human civilization upsets the balances of Yin and Yang. The symbol of Taoism represents Yin and Yang in balance. "The Tao surrounds everyone and therefore everyone must listen to find enlightenment." Taoists generally have an interest in promoting health and vitality. Five main organs and orifices of the body correspond to the five parts of the sky: water, fire, wood, metal and earth. Each person must nurture the Ch'i (air, breath) that has been given to them. Development of virtue is one's chief task. The Three Jewels to be sought are compassion, moderation and humility. Taoists follow the art of "wu wei," which is to let nature take its course. For example, one should allow a river to flow towards the sea unimpeded; do not erect a dam which would interfere with its natural flow. One should plan in advance and consider carefully each action before making it. A Taoists is kind to other individuals, largely because such an action tends to be reciprocated. Taoists believe that "people are compassionate by nature...left to their own devices [they] will show this compassion without expecting a reward."
Gods – Taoism The priesthood views the many gods as manifestations of the one Dao, "which could not be represented as an image or a particular thing." The concept of a personified deity is foreign to them, as is the concept of the creation of the universe. Thus, they do not pray as Christians do; there is no God to hear the prayers or to act upon them. They seek answers to life's problems through inner meditation and outer observation. In contrast with the beliefs and practices of the priesthood, most of the laity have "believed that spirits pervaded nature...The gods in heaven acted like and were treated like the officials in the world of men; worshipping the gods was a kind of rehearsal of attitudes toward secular authorities. On the other hand, the demons and ghosts of hell acted like and were treated like the bullies, outlaws, and threatening strangers in the real world; they were bribed by thepeople and were ritually arrested by the martial forces of the spirit officials."
Special Notes - Taoism Tai Chi: There is a long history of involvement by Taoists in various exercise and movement techniques. Tai chi in particular works on all parts of the body. It "stimulates the central nervous system, lowers blood pressure, relieves stress and gently tones muscles without strain. It also enhances digestion, elimination of wastes and the circulation of blood. Moreover, tai chi's rhythmic movements massage the internal organs and improve their functionality." Traditional Chinese medicine teaches that illness is caused by blockages or lack of balance in the body's "chi" (intrinsic energy). Tai Chi is believed to balance this energy flow.
Definition – Jain Jainism – dualistic religion founded in the 6th century B.C. as a revolt against current Hinduism and emphasizing the perfectibility of human nature and liberation of the soul, esp. through asceticism and nonviolence toward all living creatures
History – Jain Jainism is one of the world's oldest religions whose roots go back to times before recorded history. Those who follow Jainism are known as Ajainaor the followers of Jinas, from whom the teachings of this religion have been derived. Jainism's teachers of old whose wisdom and spiritual evolution are most revered are known as tirthankaras or "builders of the ford." The teachings of the these builders ultimately lead humans across the the endless cycle of rebirth to spiritual release. Metaphorically, this endless cycle is compared to a river that only those enlightened by the teachings of the tirthankarasmay hope to cross.
History – Jain (Cont.) In Jain philosophy, time consists of infinite millennia that come and go in cycles of several million years. In our current cycle, twenty-four tirthankarashave appeared and Mahavira the 24th, tirthankara has been the last to appear. Like all preceding tirthankarasMahavira, whose name means "the most courageous one," was an actual historical figure who lived some time between 599-527BCE. Mahavira was a contemporary of another great spiritual teacher--Gautama Sakyamuni--who would come to be known in history as Buddha. According to most accounts, Mahavira was also a high-born member of a warrior caste who renounced the world when he was thirty to pursue a life as an ascetic. His moment of enlightenment came after twelve years of spiritual pursuit. He then gathered twelve disciples around him, and it is through these disciples that his teachings were eventually documented and disseminated.
Beliefs - Jain In Jain culture, lay persons cannot inflict harm on any form of life and are thus generally vegetarians.They are also expected to abstain from acts of violence and avoid any form of labor or activities where the destruction of life might occur. Without practicing the intense ascetics of nuns and monks, lay persons are nevertheless enjoined to live by vows known as the anuvratas or lesser vows which closely parallel the so-called greater vows taken by the nuns and monks. Meditation also forms an integral part of Jain life. Jains practice a form of meditation known as Samayikawhich focus on establishing a peaceful state of mind. Worship in the home as well as in temples also forms an important part of Jainism. Jain homes usually have wooden shrines that are modeled after the stone temples. Jain worship may involve the chanting of mantras or gazing upon an image of one of the gods known as the puja.There are also more elaborate rituals in Jain worship involving the decoration or anointing of images.
Gods - Jain An omniscient god who is creator and destroyer thus has no place within the framework of this epistemology. Hence Jains do not believe in an almighty god. However, Jainism does subscribe to the belief of a perfect universal presence. Furthermore, Jainism teaches that humans too can attain a state of perfect being ness when they have succeeded in transcending the eternal cycle of of karma. The person who is liberated from the bondage of karmic law is then said to have become a liberated soul and achieved a state of bliss known as moksha. All humans thus posses the potential of attaining god-likeness according to Jainism. Jains therefore do not have one but innumerable gods as more people attain liberation and transcendence from karmic bondage. Rejects the ritualistic content of the Vedas but does not necessarily deny their higher teachings.Does not believe in existence of God as creator, sustainer and moral governor or the world. Goal of life according to Jain dharma is to attain kevala (liberation) whereas in other Hindu philosophies the goal is moksha. Both are similar, in that both emphasize transcending the world of names and forms to realize the truth. While adherents are taught to adhere to the call upon self-restraint and self-reliance, they have, nevertheless, recourse for help from a large number of gods and goddesses who are evoked to help assist in worldly matters. One such deity is Ambika, the mother-goddess of Jainism who is the patron deity of material prosperity, child-birth and protector of women. Images of goddesses like Ambika, frequently adorn the temples to the tirthankaras and are usually connected with the supreme beings to whom the temples are dedicated.
Special Notes - Jain Rejects the ritualistic content of the Vedas but does not necessarily deny their higher teachings. Does not believe in existence of God as creator, sustainer and moral governor or the world. Goal of life according to Jain dharma is to attain kevala (liberation) whereas in other Hindu philosophies the goal is moksha. Both are similar, in that both emphasize transcending the world of names and forms to realize the truth. Jainism has a long and rich artistic history. Nuns and monks are not permitted to make art but lay artists have long been able to demonstrate their artistic talents in paintings, illumination of sacred texts, murals and votive objects. Many works are specially commissioned and paid for by lay persons who wish to earn merit through sponsorship of works depicting personalities and events from the Jain traditions.
Definition - Buddhists A religion originated in India by Buddha (Gautama) and later spreading to China, Burma, Japan, Tibet and parts of Southeast Asia, holding that life is full of suffering caused by desire and that the way to end this suffering is through enlightenment that enables one to halt the endless sequence of births, deaths to which one is otherwise subject
History - Buddhists Buddha was born Siddhartha Gautama and the term Buddha was a title meaning "the awakened one", or "the one who knows“. The historical fact is that around 563BC, in Lumbini, in Northern India near the present border of Nepal, Siddhartha was born. The family name was Gautama and they were the rulers of a small feudal kingdom of the Sakya clan. Increasing urbanization and trade meant that that there was increasing affluence in that era. His mother died seven days after the birth, and he was raised by his aunt, the King’s second wife. Soon after Siddhartha was born, he was examined by the holy men, who announced that he would become either, a great political leader and would unify India, or a great religious leader. The king, his father wanted his son to follow in his footsteps. So he set about to provide a life of luxury without any hardships for the boy. Siddhartha wore clothes made of silk, and he grew up in palaces and gardens. Musicians and dancers were there to amuse him. Fearful of the prediction, his father ordered that he be shielded from contact with ugliness, sickness, old age and death.
History – Buddhists (Cont.) From about the age of seven, he was trained in athletic skills and was instructed in the spiritual disciplines of the day, and, by the standards of the day, well educated although it is not known whether he could read or write. At that time in India, Hinduism was the orthodox religion, and this was dominated by the Brahmins who controlled the religious process. The teaching was based on the Vedas and ritual was important. Siddhartha would have been schooled in the Hindu faith and introduced to the many Hindu gods. When he turned sixteen, the council decided that it was time for him to marry. A young woman named Yasodhara was found and the couple married. Yasodhara soon had a son who was named Rahula. He had everything it seemed despite all this affluence he became discontent. The legend of the four encounters, or passing sights. One day, he saw an old man, bent and trembling, and discovered old age, then he saw a sick man suffering from disease, and on the third journey, he witnessed a funeral procession and a corpse. On the fourth journey, he met a wandering monk who had an inner tranquillity despite living an austere life, suggesting to Siddhartha that he had come to terms with old age, sickness and death. On the night of his 29th birthday, the young prince renounced his regal life, left his sleeping family, and set out with a servant. Once he was far enough away, he cut off his long black hair, exchanged his fine clothes for simple cloth and sent back his servant and horse. This decision was not an easy one for Gautama, and in making this choice, he took it upon himself to find out about the origin of suffering and how to overcome it. He did this for his own understanding and for all people.
Beliefs - Buddhists A core belief and practice to which all Buddhists adhere to are the Five Moral Precepts, the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. Buddhists believe that undertaking a moral, compassionate and non-materialistic lifestyle will bring contentment in this life and a better rebirth next time. Five Moral Precepts: • Abstain from killing. • Taking what has not been given. • Sexual misconduct. • False speech • Intoxicants that cloud the mind.
Beliefs – Buddhists (Cont.) The Four Noble Truths: • Existence is unhappiness (dukkha) Birth is suffering, decay is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering. • That unhappiness is caused by selfish desire or craving (tanha). Being kept away from objects we love is suffering. Not to obtain what we desire is suffering. • That desire can be destroyed. As if there is no craving then there is no suffering. • That it can be destroyed by followed the “noble eightfold path”. Eight fold path: • Right views • Right dress • Right speech – plain and truthful • Right conduct – including abstinence not only from immorality but also from taking life whether human or animal. • Right livelihood – harming no one. • Right effort – always pressing on. • Right awareness – of the past, the present and the future. • Contemplation or meditation.
Gods - Buddhists There is no God in Buddhism rather by breaking the cycle of rebirth and achieving enlightenment Buddhists believe that they will reach the state of Nirvana, it is not a place like the concept of Heaven but rather a state of eternal being. It is the end of suffering, a state where there are no desires and the individual consciousness has come to an end. Buddhism is a religion which shares few concepts with Christianity. For example, they do not believe in a transcendent or immanent or any other type of God or Gods, the need for a personal savior, the power of prayer, eternal life in a heaven or hell after death, etc.
Special Notes - Buddhists Since the Buddha’s enlightenment during deep meditation under the Bodhi tree, meditation has been part of the practice all Buddhist followers. Meditation in Buddhism is not sitting and daydreaming, or contemplating the day’s events. It is not staring into space, hoping that some spiritual hammer will land on the mind and suddenly free it from all problems. Meditation for a Buddhist involves awareness of the experience; through meditation, we attempt to expand the consciousness and to raise it to a higher level. According to Thich Nhat Hanh in his book "The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching" meditation has has two parts, the first of which is the process of "stopping, calming, resting". Stopping requires us to cease all activity for a given period. For many people striving to fit so many things into their already busy days, this seems almost impossible. But we should look at the habits we set up to amuse, entertain and basically keep ourselves busy.
Definition – Catholic Christian – church of which the pope or bishop of Rome is the supreme head Catholicism – the faith, practice and system of government of the Roman Catholic church
History - Catholic The Liber Pontifical is ("Book of the Popes") was the Catholic Church's official history of the Popes for centuries. It was considered the most authoritative guide to the history of the papacy and used as a reference by numerous scholars. The book is also a blatant forgery in the most critical area of the early papacy. Most of the information from this page is taken from the translation of the Liber Pontifical is by Louise Ropes Loomis, PhD, who is generally sympathetic to the work. According to Loomis: "in the sixth or seventh century the Liber Pontifical is, the first historical narrative or series of papal biographies, was compiled by a member of the papal court." The work was later expanded as the biographers of succeeding Popes added material. "Throughout the Middle Ages and until comparatively modern times the Liber Pontifical is was accepted as not only the oldest but as also the most authentic existing history of the papacy. Extracts from it were incorporated in church liturgies. It was quoted as an authority by countless historians and ecclesiastical writers from the eighth century to the eighteenth. It served as model for other chronicles, both secular and religious, in particular for the Gesta Episcoporum and the Gesta Abbatum, the records which were kept in cathedral chapters and monasteries of Western Europe during the later Middle Ages. Because of its unmistakable antiquity and because of the profound importance of its subject matter it was reckoned as a source of unimpeachable veracity and as one of the indisputable proofs of the primitive power and activity of the popes."
Beliefs - Catholic The Nicene Creed The Ten Commandments The Great Commandments The Trinity Sacraments The Cardinal Virtues The Theological Virtues The Seven Capital Sins The Gifts of the Holy Spirit The Fruits of the Holy Spirit Spiritual Works of Mercy
God - Catholic Our Lord Jesus Christ is God Through His life and miracles Our Lord Jesus Christ, established (proved) that He is God. Once you know His life and His miracles, you are forced to believe that He is God. Every single thing that He taught must be accepted as true, for God can neither deceive nor be deceived. That means that God cannot tell a lie, and He cannot be lied to (in such a way that He believes the lie).
Special Notes - Catholic Holy Days/Celebrations Easter Lent Passover Christmas
Writers Notes Working on this project I found it to be most interesting and knowledgeable. I chose these religions due to not really working with them directly throughout this class. The one that I am most familiar with is Catholic (therefore I will not be going into discussion about it) but the one that was most addicting was Buddhists. We as Americans seem to be fascinated by things that we are not familiar or accustomed with. It amazes me that Siddhartha Gautama’s (Buddha) father kept him sheltered from things that were normal and a part of everyday life. For example, we have slaves, bums, homeless and the less fortunate but we teach our children what this particular happening is and what we as God’s people can do to help. It’s interesting to see that this religion was established by one person seeking suffering and trying to overcome it. Not just for him but for his people as well. Their beliefs are not that much different from my own; no killing, no stealing, no sexual misconduct. They are not directly the same but they sort of follow a commandment order if you will. Buddhists meditate and believe in Nirvana. Nirvana is an eternal state. I relate this to heaven (even though they don’t). Through meditation they can achieve this state. It is the end of suffering. In relation to Taoism we all have heard of Yin-Yang. This symbolizes opposites such as the good and the evil. It can also be determined as the heavens and hell, white from black and female and male. Taoism is similar to Buddhists in which they strive to achieve enlightenment. What I find most interesting with Taoism is they are people who believe in the goodness of people and are very passionate in which a reward is not the ultimate goal or the return for their good deed. The last one I will briefly discuss is Jainism. They do not believe in harm on any form of life (killing). Therefore, they are vegetarians. Similar to Buddhists meditation is a huge part of their life. When they meditate they are reaching the peaceful state of mind. They also do not believe in one God, a supreme being. In addition to these particular religions discussed in this scrapbook I would like to visit a church, temple or whatever their holy place might be called to personally witness their beliefs and practices. To me this is the only way to really understand what it is that they are doing. Reading from book, reading on the internet and even preparing this scrapbook (in my opinion) is just not enough.
References • Random House Unabridged Dictionary, 2nd Edition • The Sacred Quest, 3rd Edition, Lawrence S. Cunningham & John Kelsay • Enduring Issues in Religion, John Lyden • www.hindunet.org • www.cs.colostate.edu • www.religioustolerence.org • www.wrt.org/beliefs.html • www.mrswebdesign.net/teachingreligion/buddhism/god • http://www.saintfrancis.net/beliefs.htm • www.cnva.com