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Other Eastern Religions

Other Eastern Religions

Author: Ted Fairchild

This lesson introduces and briefly discusses other eastern religions, including Jainism, Sikhism, Taoism, and Shinto.

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Hello. Welcome.

Some of the religions that originated in India that you might be familiar with include Hinduism and Buddhism. But there's another religion that is traced back to the same roots. It's called Jainism. Like Hinduism and Buddhism, Jainism has roots in the Sharamana movement, which was a spiritual movement and discipline that combined an emphasis on mastering sacred text with certain ascetic practices.

A follower of Jainism believes in spiritual independence and universal equality among all life forms. The practitioner upholds the principles of nonviolence and self control as the primary means of liberation from the endless cycle of reincarnation. From Buddhism and Hinduism, you may be familiar with the term Samsara. This is the Sanskrit word that refers to the potentially endless cycle of suffering and reincarnation into other life forms of different varieties of that.

The Janist refers to the state of freedom as Moksha. And if one attains true Moksha and complete karma-less perfection, one enters a realm known as Siddha. Siddha is characterized by the perfections of the eight Gunas, which is also a Sanskrit word that means thread and quality. There are approximately four million practicing Janists in the world today.

Another more recent religion from India from the Punjab region of the Northwest is called Sikhism. It was founded by a man known as Guru Nanak in the 15th century. It's different from other traditions of India, because it is monotheistic. A Sikh refers to the supreme creator being as Waheguru. Waheguru is considered to be God, to the supreme creator being.

The focus of a Sikh is to overcome personal imperfections and weaknesses through meditation, self control, worship of God, Waheguru, as well as the pursuit of social equality and justice. There are approximately 30 million practicing Sikhs in the world today.

If we go to China in the sixth century before the common era, we'll find a man named Lao Tzu. He was a philosopher and sage whose ideas and writings became known as Taoism. The foundational concepts and spiritual principles inspired its own movement as well as finding common ground within other traditions, including many martial arts and certain schools of Buddhism.

If there is one principle beyond all principles but nevertheless associated with Taoism, it is the Tao itself, a Chinese word that means the way or the path. The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. This is the first line of the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu's primary text that the Taoist tradition in philosophy is based on.

Taoism offers a follower the possibility of attaining spiritual balance which is symbolized in the principles of yin and yang and directs one on a path toward full awareness of self, the cosmos, and the interpenetration of being and becoming. The follower of the Tao seeks harmony with the Tao, with the source of all.

Most of the religions that we've mentioned so far have made it to Japan in one way or another through a particular religion or a philosophy. But the native indigenous ancient religion of Japan is called Shinto. It emerged in the eighth century. Its main feature is to offer a way of maintaining a link with the past. The word Shinto itself means the way the gods. One of its core beliefs is that everything contains a spiritual essence or Kami.

In Japan, many people recognize both Buddhism and Shinto today. Buddhism is recognized more for things related to this life, and Shintoism is used and recognized for things related to the past-- death and the remembrance of things prior. Shinto has many creation stories and myths which emphasize the importance of nature, and harvest festivals are a very common feature of Shinto. Many of their shrines are natural structures like hills and sacred groves and waterfalls.

Now we can review. We started out with Janism, and we noticed that it had common roots with some of the other religions in India, notably Hinduism and Buddhism. Then we looked at Sikhism, and we noticed that it's a monotheistic religion, also originating India, but very unlike the other religions in that it is monotheistic. Then we looked at Taoism in China, and we identified the founder of Taoism, Lao Tzu, and we looked at some of the main principles. Then we went to Japan, and we looked at the indigenous religion Shinto.

Terms to Know

A fundamental belief (often confused with "tenant").