The Sacred Journey:
Religions of the World
Core Discovery Course 116
Study Guide for the Second
(tentative, corresponding to what we are able to cover during class sessions)
Specific Class Study Questions for the Second Exam include materials from in-class lectures, presentations and videos, and readings: chapter 2 "Hinduism, " from Smith's The World's Religions and Shri Swami's Bhagavad Gita.
If one's life can be understood as a grand pilgrimage, discuss the four essential goals of this pilgrimage: within the Path of Desire, 1. kama - pleasure, and 2. artha - wealth, fame and power, and within the Path of Renunciation, 3. dharma - religious and civic responsibility, and 4. moksha- spiritual liberation and realization of the hidden Infinite Self within our own being, the Atman. What is the Hindu meaning of each goal and the unique challenges faced along the way to realizing them? Which is the highest goal, and how does this differ from Euro-American values and goals
What are the great lessons of the Bhagavad Gita? While advocating for war, how does Krishna show a path toward non-violence? How does one act when one does not act in anticipation of the fruits of one's action?
As a pilgrimage, discuss the four possible paths (marga) one can pursue in order to reach the goals of life: jnana (way through knowledge), bhakti (way through love and devotion), karma (way through work and action), and raja (way through physical and mental meditative discipline). What are the unique characteristics and stages of each path, as well as methods used along the way? Discuss the nature of and explain why the methods, goals, conceptualizations of God and the Universe of the jnana and bhakti paths differ.
As a pilgrimage, discuss the four stages of life each individual moves through. What are the particular challenges of each?
How is the Hindu concept of "self" understood within the contexts of the three gunas, the four paths and stages of life, and how does it differ from the Euro-American concept of self?
What is the nature of the Hindu soul (jiva), and its relationship with time, with reincarnation, and with Atman? What is karma and discuss the consequences of this understanding on human behavior?
What is the nature of the Hindu God and its varied manifestations? Differentiate the significance and meaning of Brahman, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Lakshmi, Rama, Krishna, Kali, and Ganesha, among others. What is the relationship of the self to the cosmos? How does this conceptualization differ from the prevailing Euro-American idea of divinity?
How is the Hindu cosmos - universe understood, with its cyclic notion of time and transcendent notion of space (non-dualist view)? Within this understanding, what is the role and understanding of maya?
A central axiom upon which Hindu philosophy is based in the paradox of ultimate unity and oneness within a world of differentiation and multiplicity. How does the metaphor of the "mountain paths and its summit" help reconcile this ambiguity? How is this axiom expressed in other aspects of Hindu life, as well as religious doctrine?
movie Shadow Kill, consider the following:
What is the significance and describe the process of a tirthayatra or pilgrimage? What is the goal of a Hindu pilgrimage?
From a Hindu perspective, how would you respond to the question, "why do bad things sometimes happen to good people?"
Some Key Hindu Terms and Concepts
- Darshana - name of Hindu religion, meaning "Seeing" or "Experience"
- Bhagavad Gita ("Song of the Blessed One") - luminous scriptures, part of the longer epic, Mahabharata (400 BCE). If the Rig Veda (poetic hymns that contain the oral traditions of the gods; the foundations; 1,500 BCE) can be thought of as the pure grain and the Upanishads (collection of teachings; the methodology; 900 BCE) can be thought of as the sacred cow, then the Bhagavad Gita is the holy milk - the nectar of Hinduism. The Gita is in the form of a dialogue between Sri Krishna (avatar of Vishnu) and the mighty Pandava warrior, Arjuna.
- Brahman - Godhead; the Infinite and Ultimate Divinity in all phenomena; inclusive of the trinity of Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu - the Trimurti
- Brahma - the Creator
- Shiva - the Destroyer
- Vishnu - the Preserver
- Rama - one of Vishnu's earthly incarnations (one of ten avatars of Vishnu)
- Krishna - one of Vishnu's earthly incarnations (one of ten avatars of Vishnu)
- Ganesha - step-son of Shiva, elephant-headed god of wisdom and business success
- Lakshmi - consort of Vishnu; goddess of good fortune and wealth
- Kamadeva - god of love
- Hanuman - god of strength, humility and loyalty
- Kali - one of Devi's incarnations; consort of Shiva; mother of all other Gods
- Atman - the "Self"; the God within each being, what is pure within, the inner most eternal soul in every creature, which is divine
- jivas - individual living soul, that is identified with a separate existence, as opposed to Atman, the eternal Self within; from the word "jiva" meaning "life"
- Path of Desire (goals of pleasure and desire - kama - and of material success - artha)
- Path of Renunciation (goals of civic and religious duty and responsibility - dharma - and of spiritual liberation - moksha)
- the three gunas: sattva, rajas, tamas
- dharma - the essence of a thing; the law of duty and responsibility of a being; every individual has a personal dharma
- moksha - liberation; obtaining infinite being; Infinite and Eternal; final stage in cycle of reincarnation; life's supreme goal
- marga - ways to Infinite Being
- guru - revered teacher; usually from the Brahmin caste
- jnana yoga - way of knowledge
- bhakti yoga - way of love/devotion
- karma yoga - way of action
- raja yoga - way of deep mediation
- samsara - the cycle of bith and death; reincarnation
- karma - moral law of cause and effect
- brahmins - seers, priests and scholars
- kshatriyas - administrators, rulers and warriors
- vaishyas - producers, craftsmen and merchants
- shudras - workers, laborers and peasants
- maya - world as it appears to senses, full of multiplicity and paradox, expressing the creation of God, but secondary to the Infinite and thus illusionary
- wayang - shadow play
- tirthayatra - "journey to a ford" - a pilgrimage - Varanasi and puja
- tirtha - a crossing place, a ford" - a scared place - Ganges
- Charvaka School of Hinduism
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