Last week we started to look at some of the major world religions we may encounter as we talk to people about our own faith. It is important we understand what other people’s beliefs are and where they are coming from. As followers of Jesus we want to replicate his attitude of love and respect towards others.
Last week we looked at; Baha’i, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. This week we will look at 5 more.
Jainism is an ancient religion from India. It is similar in outlook to Hinduism and Buddhism. They believe in Karma and reincarnation but they believe that these things can only be achieved through asceticism and denial. The essence of Janism is a concern for every living thing and so they are strict vegetarians and seek to live in a way that minimises the use of the world’s resources.
The founder of the religion, Vardhamana, attained enlightenment after 13 years of deprivation, eventually fasting to death, in 420 BC
Janism has no god.
The 3 guiding principles (3 jewels) of Jainism are:
- right belief
- right knowledge
- right conduct.
The Jain religion has 5 great vows called mahavratas and these are:
- Non Violence
- non-attachment to possessions
- not lying
- not stealing
- sexual restraint (with celibacy as the ideal).
I guess if all Jain’s really took their religion seriously it would die out in one generation!
Jainism is divided into two major sects;
the Digambara (sky clad) sect
the Svetambara (white clad) sect.
Jainism has no priests, but the ‘professional’ people are monks and nuns.
I’m not going to go into this in detail as most of the readers of this blog are familiar with the Old Testament. Judaism focuses on the first five books which they call the ‘Torah’.
The spiritual leaders are called Rabbi’s and the people worship in Synagogues. There are many nominal followers of Judaism who don’t necessarily believe in or observe Jewish law. They identify themselves with the religion simply because they are Jews
Shinto is an ancient Japanese religion, which is closely tied to nature (It means ‘way of the spirits’). It is devoted to various nature ‘deities’ called ‘Kami.’ The essence of Shintoism is performing various rituals that enable human beings to communicate with Kami. Kami are not gods but spirits that appreciate human interest and if treated properly will bring; health, wealth and happiness etc. Followers of Shinto desire peace and believe that all human life is sacred.
There are “Four Affirmations” in Shinto:
- Tradition and family – families are the main way that traditions are preserved.
- Love of nature – nature is sacred and natural objects are worshipped as sacred spirits.
- Physical cleanliness – bathing, washing of hands and mouth rinsing are performed constantly.
- “Matsuri” – is a festival which honours the spirits.
Shinto has no canonical scriptures. It teaches important ethical principles but has no commandments. It has no recognised founder or main god and in fact does not insist on believers following it exclusively as the only way.
Sikhism was founded in the 15thcentury AD in the Punjab (now mostly Pakistan) by Guru Nanak. It is based on his teachings and the 9 Sikh guru’s who followed after him.
Sikhs believe in a single formless God with many names, who can be known through meditation. Sikhs pray many times each day and are prohibited from worshipping idols or icons. They believe in samsara, karma, and reincarnation as Hindus do but they reject the caste system believing everyone has equal status in the eyes of God.
Sikhism stresses the importance of doing good actions rather than just observing religious rituals. They believe that the way to lead a good life is to:
- keep God in heart and mind at all times
- live honestly and work hard
- treat everyone equally
- be generous to the less fortunate
- serve others
Sikh’s worship at a Gurdwara and they consider their scriptures to be a living Guru called ‘the Guru Granth Sahib’
The men wear distinctive turbans.
There are believed to be about 20 million Sikhs in the world, most of whom live in the Punjab province of India.
Taoism originated in China 2000 years ago and was founded by Lao-Tse, a contemporary of Confucius in China. His writings the Lao-te-ching are a combination of psychology and philosophy and were written in an attempt to help end the endless and bloody feudal system in China. They describe the nature of life, the way to peace and how a ruler should lead his life. ‘Tao’ is translated as ‘way’ or ‘path’ and they believe it is the ultimate creative principle of the universe, unifying and connecting all things.
Becoming one with the Tao involves ‘Tai-Chi’ which is that slow martial art type practice which you may have seen people performing in local parks etc.
Another concept is yin and yang which symbolise the balance of the dark side and light side. It is a balance of opposites; good and evil, male and female etc
Taoism includes many deities which are worshipped in Taoist temples.
- achieving harmony or union with nature
- the pursuit of spiritual immortality
- being ‘virtuous’ (but not ostentatiously so)
Taoist practices include:
- feng shui
- fortune telling (tea leaves etc)
- reading and chanting of scriptures
It is difficult to tell how many followers of Taosim there are today as it was largely obliterated by the Communist revolution fifty years ago, although the practices above are still popular today.
Next week we will start to look at a few popular cults which you may encounter.