Religions of Asia Hinduism Hinduism is one of the oldest religions in the world. This religion developed in India, taking much from the religion practiced by the Aryans, a group who had invaded the country from the north around 1500 BC. The worship of Aryan priests followed complicated rituals and hymns known as the Vedas, of The Books of Knowledge. These prayers and rituals, along with many other
Aryan beliefs, led to the development of the religion known as Hinduism. Hinduism Hinduism is polytheistic, meaning they worship many gods, but Hindus believe that all of these gods are part of a supreme spirit named Brahman. Hindus also believe that all living beings have souls animals as well as people. Some animals, like the cow, are considered especially sacred.
Many Hindus are vegetarians, meaning that they eat no meat. Hinduism All Hindus also believe in reincarnation, the idea that the soul does not die with the body, but enters the body of another being, either a person or an animal. The type of life a person leads determines what his next life will be like. A good person will have a better life in his next reincarnation. An evil person will suffer in his next life.
A soul is reincarnated over and over again, until the life it lives is good enough to bring it to be united with Brahman. The belief that ones actions determine ones fate is called Karma, another important Hindu belief. Caste System Another important part of Hinduism is the caste system, a belief that social class is hereditary (inherited), and does not change throughout a persons life. The only way to move to a higher caste was to be born into one in the next life. There are four main castes:
1. priests and wise men, or Brahmans 2. warriors and rulers 3.merchants, traders and small farmers 4. peasants and field workers, are last 5. a fifth caste is considered even lower the untouchables, who do work no one else would do Caste System There are divisions within each caste, making Indian social structure very complicated. Traditional families would not let their children marry someone from a different caste.
Many jobs in India are still awarded based on caste connections. The government of India is working to make caste divisions less important, but this is a tradition that is slow to change. Hinduism is the religion practiced most widely in India and it is the third largest religion in the world, behind Christianity and Islam. Buddhism Buddhism is a religion that also began in India. Siddhartha Gautama, a rich young man, founded
the religion about 500 B.C. He had a life of luxury, but he was troubled by the poverty and suffering he saw in the world around him. He left his family and became a wandering monk for a number of years, hoping to learn why people had to suffer. Finally, he quit wandering and simply sat and thought, meditated, about the unhappiness of man. Buddhism He felt he understood what needed to be
done. He believed that people could find peace if they could reject greed and desire. He accepted the Hindu belief in reincarnation and karma, but he did not accept the caste system or the need for priests. He was called Buddha, or The Enlightened One, by his followers. Four Noble Truths Buddha taught that there were Four Noble Truths in life.
One was that life always brought pain. The second was that this suffering and sorrow were usually caused by greed and the desire for material things. The third was that by giving up these greedy desires, a person could end his suffering and reach Nirvana, a state of perfect peace. The fourth was that to achieve Nirvana. Eightfold Path The Middle Way was accomplished by following what Buddha called the Eightfold Path (eight rules for
conduct): try to recognize the truth try to avoid evil actions and bad people do not say things that hurt others respect other people and their belongings choose a job that does no harm to others do not think evil thoughts avoid excitement or anger work at meditation, thinking carefully about what matters in life Buddhism Buddha believed that unselfishness was the key to
everything. He did not recognize gods or see a need for priests. He felt man alone could change evil into good. If one followed the Middle Way, ones soul would eventually reach a state of perfect peace. About 6 percent of the worlds population today is Buddhist, making it the fourth largest religion in the world. Buddhism is practiced all over the world, though its largest numbers of followers are found in Southern and Eastern Asia.
Islam Islam is another religion that is widely practiced in Southern and Eastern Asia. Islam began in the Arabian Peninsula in the 7th century AD with the teachings of the prophet Muhammad. Islam gained followers rapidly in Southwest Asia and North Africa in the years following Muhammads death. Islam came to India in the 1500s AD when Muslim armies swept into the country from the northwest. They established the Mogul Empire that ruled India for almost 200 years. Muslim conquerors treated the Hindus as conquered
people and introduced Islam as a new religion. Five Pillars of Islam Muslims practice what is known as the Five Pillars of Islam: profession of faith - there is only one god and Muhammad is his messenger pray five times a day facing the direction of Mecca charity to the poor fasting during the holy month of Ramadan pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a
persons lifetime Islam Because Muslims believe in only one god, this religion is called a monotheistic religion. Muslims do not believe in the caste system, something that many of the Hindus in India have accepted. They also do not believe cows to be sacred, and they have no rules against eating beef. Few Muslims will eat pork, however, believing the meat to be unclean.
Islam Today, many millions of Muslims live in Southern and Eastern Asia. Islam is the second largest religion in the world. Only Christianity has more followers. Shintoism The earliest religion of Japan was Shintoism, which literally means the way of the gods.
Shintoism centers on reverence for the kami, divine spirits that Shinto followers believe live in nature. The word kami means superior. Shintoism These spirits are believed to live in beautiful places, animals, and especially as a persons ancestors. Many Japanese people believe some of the mountains and rivers in Japan are the homes of these kami, and these places are
considered sacred. Shintoism also stresses the virtue of cleanliness. Shintoism Those who practice Shintoism offer prayers and perform rituals to honor and please the kami, or spirits they feel are special. There is no elaborate philosophy in Shinto, and the religion does not stress life after death. Most Japanese households have a small altar
where the family will offer prayers for the spirits they hope will bless and protect them. Shintoism The worship of nature has also led the Japanese to perfect the art of creating small, beautiful gardens, areas of quiet and reflection in their crowded world. Shintoism was once the state religion of Japan. It is no longer the official state religion, but Shintoism is still widely honored among the Japanese.
There are followers of Shintoism around the world, but they are relatively few in number when compared with other major religions. Confucianism Confucius was one of the most important scholars in Chinese history. He was born around 550 BC at a time when the government was having trouble keeping order and warlords controlled much of the countryside. He believed that the key to peace and social
order was for people to behave with good character and virtue. Virtue is behaving fairly and with justice toward others. Confucianism His Golden Rule of Behavior was What you do not like when done unto yourself, do not unto others. He believed a good ruler was one who treated his people fairly and was kind to them.
Confucius was not a religious prophet or even a religious leader. He saw himself as a teacher and Confucianism is thought of as a philosophy or ethical system based on good deeds and Confucianism Confucius believed there were five basic relationships among men: ruler and subject father and son husband and wife
older brother and younger brother friend and friend He believed if each relationship were based on kindness, there would be peace and harmony in the country. Confucianism Wudi, the Han emperor of China in 121 BC, declared that Confucianism would be the official guiding practice for the Chinese government during his reign. He hired Confucian scholars to make up his
government staff. Confucian philosophy continued to have a great influence on Chinese government for almost 2000 years. Confucianism Even since the Communist revolution in China in 1949, many in China still support the teaching of Confucius and his emphasis on dealing with others fairly. Many other people in Southern and Eastern Asia also admire the teaching of
Confucianism. Many historians see Confucianism as one of the foundations of Chinese society. Summary Compare and contrast the prominent religions in Southern and Eastern Asia: Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Shintoism and the philosophy of Confucianism.
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