Sample Essay On What Makes Non Abrahamic Traditions Different?
The history of Western Civilization is usually taught within the context of the three major Abrahamic religious traditions, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. These three religions have greatly impacted society, for both better and worse. However, for these people living within the West, the many non-Abrahamic religions are usually ignored. The most popular ones are Buddhism and Hinduism, which are most frequently practiced in Asian countries. These religions differ from the Abrahamic traditions in that they are older and not based on the teachings of the Torah and ancient Israel. They do not have a strict Holy Book, and are usually based in peace and harmony amongst each other.
Buddhism is one of the oldest religions, as it is estimated to have been developed between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE. Buddhism is based off the traditions and teachings of the Siddhartha Guatama, who is known today simply as the “Buddha.” The word Buddha actually means “awakened one” and this is a very fitting description of what Buddhism represents in its teachings. Buddhism teaches that all temporary things and states are unsatisfying. Humans, however, usually crave these temporary things, which results in the need to be continuously reborn. However, a simpler solution to this problem would be to stop these cravings. Consequently, to follow the path of the Buddha, a practicing of meditation and self-control will ultimately deliver all who practice it from these harmful cravings, and then reach true inner peace or a state of Enlightenment (Grubin, 2010).
In order to reach this stage, the teachings of Buddha stress several specific truths to live by. First, Buddhism stresses the pursuit of wisdom, which is all about viewing reality in its current state and intend to set oneself free of this. Second, there are a number of ethical rituals which should be stressed. Buddhism teaches speaking in a truthful manor, and in the spirit of not hurting each other through words. In fact, to act ethically according to the Buddha would be to not harm anyone at all. Furthermore, continuous improvement is the goal, and ultimately, an awareness of the present reality within oneself without the harmful craving or temporary delights (Grubin, 2010).
What is obvious in Buddhism is that it is a whole different philosophy than that of Abrahamic religions. Abrahamic religions are based on traditions of conquest. The ancient Jews conquered Canaan and sought to create an empire. Despite the fact Jesus’ actual teachings have some similarities to those of Buddha, especially those of not harming one another, Christianity also took to violence at times to spread its message on a global scale. The Crusades are a prime example of this. Islam too has spread through conquest, especially throughout the Ottoman Empire. Muhammad himself was a conqueror, taking over cities in Saudi Arabia. However, none of this is true with Buddhism. It does not strive to spread through conquest, and certainly has not produced an event like the Crusades. This is because it is ultimately concerned with the individual and inner peace with each other and nature. The direct instructions of the Buddha are to seek harmony and not focus on temporary ideals, which conquest and war would fit under. Because of these fundamental differences, Buddhism has not had an event like the Crusades.
Hinduism is another common non-Abrahamic religion, practiced mostly in India. Hinduism, unlike the Abrahamic religions, grants a freedom of belief and worship. They do not really have issues of heresy or blasphemy because it does not have a set holy book. Diana Eck describes Hindu worship as:
The central act of Hindu worship, from the point of view of the lay person, is to stand in the presence of the deity and to behold the image with one's own eyes, to see and be seen by the deity. Darsan is sometimes translated as the 'auspicious sight' of the divine, and its importance in the Hindu ritual complex reminds us that for Hindus 'worship' is not only a matter of prayers and offerings and the devotional disposition of the heart (Eck, 1998, p. 1).
What this description of Hinduism is teaching is that Hindu worship is very individualistic, and what a person can see as the image of the divine could be different for others. Once again, there is very little emphasis placed on conquest, just a personal interaction with the divine.
Hinduism, especially as practiced in India, is very concerned with the pursuit of darsan. This “seeing” of the divine is what leads Hindu’s to take pilgrimages to various divine images, as well as anyone who has been influential to the Hindu cause. Mohatma Gandhi was one these people who crowds would flock to in order to experience his darsan. However, while some might a parallel between this practice and the Abrahamic religions, Hinduism does not concern itself with the “idol” verses “image” debate. Anything that is an interpretation of a deity, or brings the people closer to a deity is good at the meaning of worship for Hinduism (Eck, 1998).
In conclusion, non-Abrahamic traditions, like Buddhism and Hinduism are primarily peaceful, individual, and self-improving. While there is some overlap between these philosophies and the Abrahamic traditions, the fact that conquest and crusade is so distinctively counter the messages of Buddhism and Hinduism, these events have not happened. They more than likely will not happen in the future either as these two religions are spread by peace, meditation, and divine interactions, rather than by the sword.
Eck, D. (1998). Darśan: Seeing the divine image in India (3rd ed.). New York: Columbia University Press.
Grubin, D. (2010, April 8). The Buddha, A Film by David Grubin. Retrieved January 19, 2015, from http://www.pbs.org/thebuddha/
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