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Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism: Comparison of The Influence

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“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” John Milton.

Religion is commonly interpreted as a belief or worship in an omniscient, superhuman entity who is typically held responsible by their worshippers for the creation, development, and continuation of the planet we live on, as well as life itself. Most of these entities are incorporeal. With many religions citing that their Godhead figure once existed in the flesh and walked along the Earth bearing the same burdens as the mere men he presides over. These figures typically endured some sort of pilgrimage, adversity, intense peregrinations, or experienced some sort of outstanding enlightenment. Most were also known to perform miracles such as raising the dead, curing the diseased, and walking on water, among other things. As a result of their sacrifice or “service”, they ultimately ascend to whatever spiritual idyllic place that religion regards. However, with developments in science, extensions to our philosophy, and increasing knowledge of our history; we have begun to question the foundations of what we once assumed to be an inherent part of each individual. John Milton’s quote from Paradise Lost shows that the only unambiguous interpretation of religion, is that it is a form of hope, a means to explain what is essentially inexplicable, and as a result, this is extremely taxing on the mind to ponder. This is why believing that there is somebody who “knows better”, and that somebody controls everything that’s going on down here, can take the edge off of what can be a brutal, despondent, and enduring existence. By these deductions, to measure how influential Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism were, hope must be the unit of measurement.

The Sanātana Dharma – eternal order. Some consider Hinduism to be the oldest of all religions accompanying us to date. The conception of Hinduism is referred to as a sort of fusion or synthesis. Where many people observing many different cultures came together to form the religion. Though their holy text, The Rig Veda, was written over 3800 years ago, the Hindu synthesis or “The Second Urbanization” is believed to have begun developing somewhere between 500BCE and 300CE along the sacred Ganges River. Hinduism contains a broad range of philosophies, multiple gods, and many ideologies. They worship Brahman, the supreme Godhead figure in the Hindu triumvirate. The triumvirate consists of Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu. Brahma is responsible for creation, Vishnu for preservation, and Shiva for destruction. Hinduism is not necessarily an organized religion and has no single “modus operandi” to teaching their values and beliefs. They don’t have something similar to the Eight-fold path, or the ten commandments. Hinduism did have “Truths”, those being: Truth is eternal, Brahman is truth and reality, The Vedas are ultimate authority, everyone should try to achieve Dharma (Dharma is behavior that accords to these “Truths”), individual souls are immortal, and the goal of the soul is to achieve “Moksha” or liberation – the release from the cycle of death and rebirth, where the soul unites incorporeally with Brahman. The elastic interpretation of this religion was key in its development. This along with the Caste system and community-driven practices influenced the interpretation and practice of beliefs in the Hindu world. This is integral to the influence of Hinduism, many people weren’t enticed by the austerity and intense observations that many religions were bound by. Today there are over one-billion Hindu adherents with around 95% of them living in India. This makes it the fourth largest religion in the world, behind Christianity, Islam, and nonsecular peoples.

On the contrary, Judaism is rather illiberal with their practices. Jews are an ethnoreligious group comprised of those who were born Jewish, along with converts. The holy text of the Jews is the Torah, which is part of a larger text known as the Hebrew bible. Founded by Abraham Judaism has grown to about 15 million adherents worldwide today (0.2% of the world population), making it the tenth-largest religion in the world. The religion buried its roots in the middle-east during the bronze-age. It’s always been a very organized religion, evolving from ancient Israelites around 500BCE. The three main beliefs of Judaism are monotheism, identity, and covenant. Although covenant is foundational to Judaism, Jews believe God is concerned with the actions of mankind, they also believe God has not presented himself in the flesh yet. This means that the adherents maintain “God’s Will” in each of their actions. This is because they anticipate the arrival of their savior, and they attempt to beckon for their savior to come by way of their uncompromising practices. Judaism teaches that a person serves God by learning the holy books and doing what they teach. These teachings include both rituals, along with rules for morals and ethics. Judaism teaches that all people are made in the image of God and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Judaism seems to have been under extreme and typically violent scrutiny. Ranging from the Assyrian Exile in 740BCE (they were being bullied before they even declared themselves an organized sect), to Tiberius expelling Jews from Rome in 19CE, to the Grenada massacre in 1066CE, to the oppression received from the Holy Roman Empire, to the Holocaust, and countless other acts of anti-semitism toward the Jews. The clairvoyance and faith required to persevere through the seemingly arbitrary despotism bestowed upon them had been extraordinary. About 43% of all Jews reside in Israel and another 43% reside in the United States and Canada, with most of the remainder living in Europe, and other minority groups spread throughout Latin America, Asia, Africa, and Australia. Throughout the exiles, attempted exterminations, and condemnation of their heretic, the Jewish people never let go of their holdfast.

Part of the reason for Hinduim’s exorbitant expansion was due to the fall of Buddhism in South-Central Asia. However, it remains a significant religious sect to date with 520 million adherents worldwide (7% of the global population). Believed to have begun it’s development between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE; Buddhism encompasses a variety of beliefs, traditions, and spiritual practices. Originating in India (founded in Nepal), Buddhism is based on the teachings of Siddhārtha Gautama, more commonly known by his stage name – “Buddha”, or “The Enlightened One”. Buddha was a monk, vagrant, sage, philosopher, teacher, and religious leader. The religion is non-theistic, Buddha was not seen as a God. Though he didn’t necessarily seem mortal to his students and the general public. Buddhist worship is called Puja. People chant to show their love for the Buddha. They make offerings of flowers, candles, incense and pure water at a shrine. People thank Buddha for his teachings, not for the creation of the earth or its preservation or destruction as the Hindus and Jews do. According to Buddhist teachings, the Buddha refused to answer questions about the origins of the Earth. Another rather elastic sect. You can see how Hinduism began to develop around the basis of Buddhism, and vice versa. The proximity of the two religions seems to have had a tangible effect. Many people see Buddhism as a religion, but I see it rather as a philosophy, a way for the adherents to find reality – if you can consider that in any way possible. Theravada, the oldest surviving denomination of Buddhism, is relatively conservative, and generally closest to early Buddhist practice. Most Buddhist traditions share the goal of overcoming suffering and the cycle of death and rebirth by following the Eightfold Path which consists of eight practices: right view, right resolve, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right samadhi (‘meditative absorption or union’). This ultimately results in the attainment of Nirvana, the transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self, and the subject is released.

The question is an old and venerable one: If God is good, and God is all-knowing, and God is all-powerful, then why is there so much pain and suffering in the world? And if God is responsible for all of this pain and suffering, why do we see people so polarized by entities they’ve never witnessed as somatic mortals. How do people latch their hope onto the same person that they believe to be responsible for all tribulations in this world – even this universe. Of the three religions explored here, I would consider the Jewish people to display the utmost impressive perseverance, resilience, adaptability, faith, trust in their God, and ultimately, they derive hope out of situations that seem to be about as compatible for hope as Mariana’s Trench is to life. How do they do it? From Pascal to Goethe, Tolstoy to Twain. One answer is that a capacity for resilience along with a deep affinity for their creator has been woven into the fabric of Judaism over thousands of years.

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