It can be said that a religion of particular
cultures reflects the psychology of that culture(Cohen, Wu and Miller
1236-1249). In other words, the philosophy and opinions of a group when
combined again for to the religion the following. So by studying a particular
religion, we can thereby get a feel for the philosophy and psychology of a culture.
Eastern philosophies and religions have long
been against the idea of individualism (Cohen, Wu and Miller 1236-1249).
Hinduism for instance, believes that individualism is an illusion (Cohen, Wu and Miller 1236-1249).
It is the collective that holds the power in such beliefs. The idea that an
individual is any different from the
collective is considered to be a naïve view. It is not that the philosophy
discounts the existence of the individual, it only goes against the fact that
an individual is somehow different from the collective. In other words an
individual is part of the whole, and thus the feeling and sense of identity is
an illusion (Cohen, Wu and Miller 1236-1249).
Hinduism originated in India not
through the works of any specific founder but from the various ways of living
that existed in ancient India. Hinduism recognizes many different cultural
structures and authorities, though the highest authorities are recognized as
the Vedas. The Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagavad-gita are other recognized
authorities that are of lesser impact.
“Hindus believe that divine
beings exist in unseen worlds and that temple worship, rituals, sacraments and
personal devotionals create a communion with these … Gods.”(Academy, 2017)
Hinduism as a word means both the
social and relies construct of Indian society. Even though we are focusing on
the religions aspect of Hinduism, we must remember that both bodies are tied to
As is usually the case with
religions(Cohen, Wu and Miller 1236-1249), the basic tenets of Hinduism deal
with the cycle of life foremost and the practicality of day to day life later.
Hindus believe in reincarnation. According to them, after death a person’s
spirit is given body. This body can be that of an animal, a person of another
caste (social level), or a god. This is determined by what is known as the
Karmic law i.e. if one has done good deeds (according to Vedas), he would have
a higher station in the next life and if he has sinned, he would have a lower
station. This cycle of death and rebirth continues on and on until one attics
“There is no eternal hell, no
damnation, in Hinduism, and no intrinsic evil–no satanic force that opposes
the will of God.” – (Academy, 2011)
Christianity has God as the creator
that stands out of space and time (Pratte, 2011). In other words, God stands
outside the product of its own creation. Humans are God’s creation, but not
part of God. The concept of souls inhabiting the body make this viewpoint very
clear since the soul is supposed to be judged for its actions by ending up in
either hell or heaven. This judgement from God forms one of the core pillars of
the religion. The “The Commandments”, the nature of hell and heaven, the
analogies of ‘sheep and shepherd’ various other tenets of the faith point to
fact that God exists outside our reality and this reality serves as the
judgement field of God where the worthy end up in heaven and the unworthy in
hell. For instance, the following quotes do well to illustrate the place of an
individual in relation to the creation.
Isaiah 55:8,9 – “God’s thoughts and
ways are higher than ours like the heavens are higher than the earth.” (Pratte,
Jeremiah 10:23 – “The way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who
walks to direct his own steps.” (Pratte, 2011)
Galatians 1:8,9 – “No teaching except
the gospel of Jesus Christ can bring salvation and a right relationship with
God.” (Pratte, 2011)
Essentially human nature and intellect
cannot pave a way to divine truth. No amount of self reflection can lead a
person to God. (Pratte, 2011). According to Christianity, man is not part of God. Thus a
person cannot find spiritual truth by meditation. It is only God who may reveal
the spiritual truth.
Hence, the hope of Hinduism is to escape
material existence and the reincarnation cycle by looking for God within
oneself, whereas Christians believe that God cannot be found within the heart
of the ‘sinner’. The soul of a person is not a part of God. In other words, one
cannot find God within oneself since no amount of meditation could can reveal
something that does not exist in the self.
Christianity is a faith onto oneself.
But Hinduism claims no faith as there is no ‘self to which we can ascribe a
faith. How can an individual will matter if the entirety is God itself? Thus
the Hindus distance themselves from hell, heaven and free will. God, to them,
is not a lawgiver nor the greater (Cohen, Wu and Miller 1236-1249). Rather the
creation itself is god. While it maintains many gods, all of those are also
part and inclusive of ‘Atman’, the universal consciousness.
Yet, the concept of karma is still
prone to misinterpretation because the of the nature of ‘free will’ in Hinduism. How can one sin if the entire
creation is god itself and there is a specific plan according to which the
world moves. This issue comes up often Hinduism . For instance, if we all are
part of God or greater consciousness and there is no separation between humans
and creation, how could the concept of individual sin or evil doing come into
play. Since everything, including the good and the bad, is part of creation the
very notion of sin disappears.
It seems as if there are two parts of
Hinduism, one that deals with the mystical and the other that deals with the
day to day human activities, hence the need to form the caste system.
The word Peace in itself holds no
meaning. It is not the opposite of violence. A hungry man’s idea of peace is a
full stomach. A nation at war may claim the non-existence of violence as peace,
even though it may come at the price of hunger.
Similarly, a man may seek peace from the stress and tension of the
everyday life. A priest may seek peace in communion with God, perhaps even
death, the ultimate representation of God’s embrace.
Many would suggest that peace is the
antithesis of violence and war (“What Is Peace?”, 2017). But is it logical
to view the different instances of peace, in different societies, with the same
glasses? Can we dare suggest that the peace that exists in a ‘Just’ and
tolerant society is comparable to that of an unjust and fundamentalist society
that keep its citizens in line through fear? If that is the case, then we
should accept the conflict free regimes of dictators and tyrants as peaceful (Rummel,1975,
35). One may derive from the above
argument that peace is not a static phase that either exists or not. It is a
dynamic feature of society that has less to do with violence and more to do
with human interactions and mindset (Rummel,1975, 36). There exists a
relationship between peace and conflict, such that the conditions necessary for
peace and any changes in such conditions make conflict more likely or less
likely (Rummel,1975, 36). We need to consider the idea that peace does not
exist in a vacuum.We might be better off treating peace as a social contract,
such that we as the members of society achieve peace through negotiations,
adjustments, resolutions and decisions. Such a scenario makes peace an active,
dynamic part of society and not a passive tenet (Rummel,1975, 102). It is
through our cooperative existence and interaction that we bring about the
social contract that is necessary for peace. Peace also holds a pivotal
relation with power. It is only through a balance of power that we can bring
about the genuine and worthwhile instance of peace (Rummel,1975, 102).
Peace can both be external and
internal from the point of view of an individual (Rummel,1975, 40). As a social construct,
peace is limited to the external sphere where the interactions and actions of
other members of society plays a role in bringing about peaceful environment.
But if we were to consider human nature we would find the flaw in such an
arrangement (“What Is Peace?”, 2017). If a person is not at peace with
himself and his role in society, it will only lead to dissatisfaction and
resentment and it won’t be long before the same chaos leaks to the external
world. Perhaps we may call the internal peace a ‘spiritual peace’. If the
expectations and desire of an individual are not congruent with the social
reality there can be no peace.
The social reality that is evidenced
in the world in the forms of social contracts, political entities, national and
international interactions, are just the manifestation of the expectations,
values and meaning inherent in the minds of the people that are party to the
social contract i.e. Peace (En.wikiquote.org, 2017).
Buddhism and Taoism are two examples
of philosophies that have their origins in the India. Buddhism originated with
Siddhartha Gautama, who later came to be known as the Buddha or “the awakened
one” (Fieser, 2017). Buddha offered insight into the reality of life.
According to him, suffering exists only because of one’s attachment to material
things. It is only through moderation and Dhamma (or Dharma in Sanskrit) that
we can attain Nirvana (enlightenment) (Fieser, 2017). One
of the six pillars of Dhamma is “Ehipassiko”. It roughly translates as “encouraging
investigation” (“Ancient Eastern Philosophy: Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism,
Confucianism”, 2017). Buddha did not want his followers to follow him because
of blind devotion (Liusuwan, 2017). He invited his followers to question his
teachings and see for themselves if the teaching were reasonable. It is also
worth noting that sense of morality and moderation is placed higher than any
dogma (Liusuwan, 2017). Even the pañca-sila or the
Five Precepts are only practical and dramatic rules that should govern one’s
life (“The Five Precepts: Pañca-Sila”,
2005). One of most fascinating and compelling aspects of Buddhism is the lack
of deities and unnecessary belief structure.
Taoism is a philosophical and
religious tradition that has its origins in China. It is also known as Daoism.
Traditionally, Lao-tzu, translated as “master Lao”,
is credited with the foundation of Taoism and with having written the most
important text of Taoism, Dao De Jing (Book of the way)(Fieser, 2017). It has
since been adopted as the state religion of China even though its tenets have
less to with religious belief and is more of a path to greater understanding (Fieser, 2017). ‘The dao’ is the central concept in Taoism. It is literally
translated as ‘the path’ or ‘the way’ (“Ancient Eastern Philosophy:
Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism”, 2017). Dao De Jing refers to ‘the dao’ as the ‘mother of everything’ (Fieser, 2017). In
other words, everything was born of Dao and everything is sustained by Dao.
Following this logic we can say that everything is part of the Dao and hence
our sense of identity is an illusion. This is very similar to the Hindu belief
of the Creator and Creation being one. Taoism maintains that there exist a sort
of non-permanence in nature, a cycle of life where everything decays and
returns to ‘the Dao’ and is recycled and returns again. Daoism asks us to
follow this cycle of transformation willingly and without anger or regret
because to do otherwise would be a disobedience of nature (Everett and Dun
108). In essence, taoism asks us to live in harmony with nature and oneself. It
also preaches the concept of ‘non-action’ or
effortless-action (Everett and Dun 108). This concept seems contradictory until
we remember that Dao exists in everything and it is only when we are in tune
with the Dao that we can find the best way to live life. This philosophy also
carries into governance. Taoism preaches the need of minimal governance and
claims that the more a government imposes itself on its members the more the
social choice grows (Fieser, 2017).
As is evidenced from the above
discussion, both Buddhism and Taoism have the concept of ‘flowing with nature’.
But Buddhism decidedly tries to avoid the pleasures of life . Taoism on the
other hand, wants its followers to accept the pleasures and the sufferings of
life as natural. It is difficult to choose between eastern philosophies because
they tend to have similar views on death and reincarnation. It is only the ‘how’
of the question that changes.
My personal preference in the face of
the above evidence is Taoism, not because it has any inherent superiority over
Buddhism, but because it fosters a deeper understating of nature and how the
world works. It seeks enlightenment through balance and not by doing away with
or changing a part of your psychology. The concept of Yin and Yang, the
opposite forces of nature, very clearly describes the various shades of
awareness that can exist in a human mind and how we may balance them.