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I. Buddhism
Buddhism arose in the context of Hinduism, perhaps as a reaction to it. Buddhism differs from Hinduism in having an acknowledged founder, Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha.
The life of the Buddha is a good starting point for understanding Buddhism as a religion. Not only do we see how the religion originated, but we also see a modeling of the Buddhist life in its founder.
As Buddhism spread out from India, where it began, it developed into two major sects, Theravada and Mahayana. Theravada is considered the more conservative of the two. It teaches that one must achieve enlightenment on one’s own with no help from others or from any gods. Mahayana Buddhism is more complex, and suggests, among other things, that there are secret teachings of the Buddha and that the Buddha was himself close to a godlike being.
Central to all forms of Buddhism are the Buddha’s teaching of the Four Noble Truths (see box in Hopfe, p. 140). This describes the path to Nirvana, which is the extinguishment of desire. Removing this obstacle breaks the cycle of birth, suffering, death, and rebirth.

World Religions Chart
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Religion:
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Central Beliefs
Nature of God(s)
Scriptures / Sacred texts
Ritual and practice
Ethics and morality

ASSIGNMENTS
TOPIC:
Buddhism
COURSE OBJECTIVES:
Students are expected to:
Develop awareness of the validity of divergent cultural perspectives on religion
Recognize the similarities and differences between the major religious belief systems
OTHER COURSE OBJECTIVES for Week 3:
Students are expected to:
Be familiar with Buddhist accounts of the life and teachings of Siddhartha Gautama.
Be familiar with major Buddhist festivals and holy days including the new year, the celebration of the birth of the Buddha, the Chinese and Japanese Buddhist festival of souls, and the robe offering.
Recognize the major Buddhist schools and understand their differences and similarities.
LEARNING OUTCOMES:
Develop the ability to think clearly and without bias about different religions and belief systems.
Evaluate and compare various religious beliefs and traditions.

WRITING:
Discussion Questions.
-Can a religion exist without a belief in the direct relevance of God or gods? If so, how would this kind of religion differ from one in which the deity is important?
-To what extent are religions simply systematic responses to the problem of pain and suffering? What other problems or realities do religious impulses address?
-The concept of enlightenment is very significant in Buddhism. How has this word been used in the West and what does it mean today?

Weekly Summary about Buddhism.

II. Hinduism
Hinduism is a very old religion that began in the part of the world now known as India. We do not know who the founder of Hinduism was. Hinduism also gave rise to two other major world religions: Jainism and Buddhism, which we will look at in weeks 3 and 4.
Like any major religion, Hinduism is complex and diverse in its beliefs and practices. I leave you to read and think about the chapter. I will only mention some main features of Hinduism.
Hindus recognize three major gods. Brahma is creator of the world, though Brahma is not the most popular of the gods. Shiva, “the destroyer,” is much more popular. But besides being a god of destruction, Shiva is also lord of the dance and god of fertility and reproduction. Finally, Vishnu, “the preserver,” is a popular god of love.
Another main feature of Hinduism is that it stresses devotion to knowledge. One of its most well known paths to knowledge is Yoga. Many of you are probably familiar with the stretching exercises and meditation (breathing, focusing) practices of Yoga. However, Hindus who attempt to master yoga are not just seeking flexibility, relaxation, or stress-reduction, but rather are seeking a deep form of enlightenment (see Hopfe pp. 104-105 for the stages of Yoga practice).

TOPIC: Hinduism

Students are expected to:
Have a basic understanding of the origins and historical development of Hinduism.
Be familiar with major Hindu texts including the Vedas, Laws of Manu, Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita.
Understand Hinduism's major gods and goddesses.
Be familiar with the tradition’s ritual and spiritual practices.
LEARNING OUTCOMES:
Explain the beliefs of the major religions and the history behind their development.
Evaluate and compare various religious beliefs and traditions.
Recognize what distinguishes a religion from other forms of belief.

WRITING:
Discussion Questions.
- Some Hindu traditions recognize millions of gods while others speak of a single, underlying divine reality. In your view, is it possible for these notions to co-exist within a single, religious tradition—or must one speak of several irreconcilable traditions?
- Over its long history, Hinduism has demonstrated remarkable religious tolerance and flexibility. What are the implications of having such a flexible religious system? What are the advantages and disadvantages?
- Many people have heard of the caste system even if they have not studied Hinduism in detail. Reformers have called for its abolition on moral and social grounds. To what extent should external moral and social norms be permitted to limit, infringe or supersede indigenous religious beliefs and customs?

Write a summary on Hinduism.

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This week we studied Buddhism, one of the so called world religions. Buddhism emerged in present-day India or Nepal around the VI century BCE, but currently, very few adherents of Buddhism live in India. Buddhism spread to most of South and South-East Asia including such countries as Sri-Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, China, Japan, Korea, and Mongolia. I find it interesting that nowadays North America and Europe are experiencing a rise of interest in Buddhism, and that religion is gaining converts outside its traditional area of influence.

The founder of Buddhism was prince Gautama, later, after his enlightenment, known as Buddha, or the enlightened one. Buddha taught that the main feature of existence is pain and suffering. Life with its desires and wishes is the main cause of that suffering. Buddha taught that through right thoughts, right words and right deeds men can leave that endless cycle of deaths and rebirths and attain liberation, or enlightenment. If one cannot do it within his or her lifetime, there is always a chance in the next life. Buddhism teaches to treat all living beings with loving kindness. The ideal way of life for a Buddhist would be like that of a monk, and monasteries are extremely popular throughout the Buddhist world. However, a lay person also can gradually work his or her way towards liberation by trying to live according to Buddhist teachings and by helping the monks. Overall, I find the Buddhist teaching somewhat similar to Christianity.

Buddhism produced an enormous amount of sacred texts called sutras. There has always been divergence of opinions and interpretation within Buddhism. No wonder it very soon split into a number of factions or sects. The oldest tradition is called Theravada, it is popular in Sri Lanka, Burma, and Thailand. When Buddhism entered China, the largest Buddhist school, Mahayana emerged. Later other branches such as Vajrayana (or Tibetan Buddhism) and Zen appeared.

Buddhism grew out of Hinduism. However, Buddhism became a world religion. I think this happened because Buddhism was open to all people with no...

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