Essay, Research Paper: Eastern Religions Comparison


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Over the past several thousand years, many faiths have arisen and developed all
over the globe. All of these faiths are unique and seem to be quite different
from each other, at least on the surface. However, when one starts to
investigate more closely he realizes that there are oftentimes some startling
similarities. A good example of this would be the religious traditions of the
Middle East and Asia. Buddhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism, for example, have
very similar philosophies and practices while they all have different origins.
Upon examination of these faiths one will be able to more clearly see the
relationship between the traditions of the Middle East. In Christianity, we bind
our selves to the truth unveiled through scripture, myths, tradition, and the
church’s teachings. Hinduism, however has a much different interpretation of
the idea of binding oneself to the truth. Like many religions Hindus have the
basic belief that we all came from God and we must return to God. According to
the Hindu faith, the way to accomplishing this is through freeing oneself from
the material possessions and pleasures and thus obtaining Moksha. Moksha, for
Hindus, would be the point of freedom and the attachment to Brahman. The goal of
a Hindu is to release themselves, but also to gain a complete understanding of
life. By doing this, they are freed from the continuous cycle of reincarnation.
The yogas are the specific direction taken to unleash the human potential of
Moksha. The goal of the yogas is to come in to and remain in touch with Brahman.
The first way to God is through knowledge. The three steps taken on this path is
learning, thinking, and the third, a little more complex, consists of separating
one’s material ego form one’s Atman. The second way to God is through love.
The love we show to others can be translated into a love for God. The third path
to God is though work. Through a devotion to one’s work, God can be seen
through the highest rewards if done so wisely. The final Hindu path to God is
through Psychophysical Exercises. In this way, a Hindu experiments with mental
exercises and observing their effects. Not all Hindus take the same path to God,
but the goal is identical. The Buddha made much reform to the path to God. Well,
not so much a reform as perhaps an alternate route. He called this the Middle
Path. A way between sensuality and asceticism, the Middle Path lay through
intelligence. All forms of life, according to the Buddha, can be shown to have
three characteristics in common; impermanence, suffering, and an absence of
permanent soul which separates us from other forms of life. The Buddha also
pointed out that nothing is the same as is was only a moment ago. Everything is
changing. Even the hills are being worn away, and every human particle is being
replaced every seven years. There is no finality or rest within the universe,
only a ceaseless becoming and never-ending change. Buddhism denies that man has
an immortal soul. The Enlightenment which dwells in life does not belong to one
form of life. Man is always changing and entirely mortal. In addition, Buddhism
is a natural religion. It does not violate either mind or body. The Buddha
became aware that men are born and die according to their good or evil actions,
according to their self-created Karma -- the consequences of good or evil deeds.
Even though there are several different forms of Buddhism that have come into
existence since Buddha’s death, there is still a basic essence that all
Buddhists agree with. All Buddhists recognize these. In all, there are four
basic noble truths. The first noble truth of the world according to Buddha is
dhukka, or suffering. The second truth is tanha, or desire, which is the cause
of suffering. The third truth is that in order to free oneself from suffering,
one must overcome desire. The fourth truth tells us how this can be accomplished
through the eight-fold path. According to Buddha, the eight-fold path is the
means to achieve liberation from suffering. It helps one weed out cravings and
ignorance, to overcome rebirth, old age, disease, death, sorrows, lamentation,
grief and despair. It helps to end mass misery and aids people in attaining
Nirvana, or salvation. Specifically, this path includes: 1. Right View 2. Right
Thought 3. Right Speech 4. Right Action 5. Right Livelihood 6. Right Effort 7.
Right Mindfulness 8. Right Concentration The most simple teaching of the Buddha
was to do good, to avoid evil and to purify the heart. The main revolutionary
idea behind the Buddha’s teachings was that he rejected asceticism, which at
that time had been a popular belief and a socially approved route to salvation.
Not only did he reject self-denial, but the worship of gods. In his Eightfold
Path, there is never any mention of worship. Also, he refuted the idea that one
had to pass through countless rebirths to reach the Brahmin caste before being
able to obtain salvation. For this very reason, Buddhism ultimately failed in
India, because of the widespread control by the Brahmins. The most challenging
concept for the Hindus to except was that the Buddha taught that the soul did
not exist. Hindus thought that the Atman, or soul, was actually God. The Buddha
reasoned that if the soul is purely God, then it is not individual and therefore
is an An-Atman, or no soul. The achievement of liberation then for Buddhist
takes form in Nirvana. Nirvana occurs when people release their yearning for a
false selfhood, which is similar to Hinduism. Paradoxically, as with Hinduism,
the act of extinguishing this yearning occurs simultaneously with an
enlightenment. As one can see, there is quite a strong relationship between
Buddhism and Hinduism. They are very different in many aspects yet they have
many similarities upon closer examination. Another religion which one can relate
Hinduism and Buddhism to is Confucianism. Although Confucianism originated from
Asia rather than India, some very interesting comparisons can be made. The
premise of Confucian teachings are centered around the idea of Jen or the virtue
of humanity. To accomplish this divinity, five relationships must be honored:
ruler and minister, father and son, husband and wife, elder and younger brother,
and friend and friend. These relationships led a push for a revolution of the
political system to adopt the methods of Jen. Confucius sought to revive the
ancient Chinese culture by redefining the importance of society and government.
He described a society governed by reasonable, humane, and just sensibilities,
not by the passions of individuals arbitrarily empowered by hereditary status.
He felt that this could be achieved through education and the unification of
cultural beliefs. He believed that a nation would be benefited by citizens that
were cultivated people whose intellects and emotions had been developed and
matured by conscious people. He felt that those born into the feudal system had
a personal duty to excel socially by means of power. Those who were of lesser
class should also seek out education to better themselves. All purposes for
betterment of man and society as one whole is known as Li. Li means the
rationalized social order. Confucius felt that love and respect for authority
was a key to a perfect society; this strict respect was practiced through
rituals and magic. The Confucius traditions have caused a tradition to set
within its institution and is extremely active. It has, unfortunately, allowed
the political institution to manipulate the Confucius system. On the surface,
the practices and philosophies of confucianism appear to differ greatly from
those of its Indian counterparts. Confucianism is much more politically oriented
while Hinduism and Buddhism are more self oriented. However, The main connection
behind all three different beliefs is their striving for order and balance.
Confucianism strives for order and balance through Jen and Li, while Hinduism
and Buddhism use Yogas and the eight fold path. This balance and order brought
about these different practices extends to a greater purpose which all three of
these religions have in common, to achieve a higher form of enlightenment.
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