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Different Interpretations Of Religion

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"Nearly everyone has some conception of religion. In fact, sometimes it appears that there are as many definitions of it as there are people" (Schmidt 9). Not only does each person have his or her own way of defining religion; each person has his or her own way of practicing religion. Studying these different practices can be difficult. There have been many people who have studied religion and through many different methods. While some people share similar findings, each person has his or her own interpretation of religion.

Michael Malloy found three major patterns in his studies of religion. These patterns can be seen in many religions, especially Hinduism. The first pattern Malloy describes is the way each religion contacts the sacred. There are two ways that Hindus contact the sacred. One is through the Vedic Hinduism sacrifice, and the other appears in Upanishadic Hinduism, which is through mystical orientation, where a person "seeks union with a reality greater than ones self" (Burke 11). The sacrifice follows a scheduled routine in which many priests are present to ensure the event's accuracy. The sacrifice is used to contact the gods in an attempt to please them so that they improve relations with the gods. This will help the sacrificer receive things from the gods that he asks for. "Usually the sacrificers praised the god for deeds they wanted the gods to repeat, such as the release of rain on the earth" (Srauta Sacrifice 76). Often sacrifices dealt with the natural aspects in life, the things the people could not control on their own.

In The Katha Upanishad, Nachtketa asks the King of Death for the secret of morality. "Ask for cattle, elephants, horses, gold," says the King of Death (Burke 39). Nachtketa declines these offerings so that he may obtain the knowledge of immortality. The King of Death tells him to know Brahman. Brahman is sacred to the Hindus. Through mystical orientation Hindu's try to reach this knowledge of Brahman. "Often techniques for lessening the sense of one's individual identity (such as seated meditation) help the individual experience a greater unity" (Malloy 11). Hindu's use seated meditation, yoga, to control the body, senses, breath and mind to reach a state where they can find Brahman.

The second pattern Malloy describes is the importance of worldviews in a religion. Each religion has a different way of seeing the world and interpreting experiences. Worldviews include all aspects of life, especially; the nature of sacred reality, morality, and a view of time. Hindu's Brahman is an example of sacred reality. They believe Brahman is everywhere and in everything. The True Self is the Brahman that is found in every person. "The Self...It is indestructible, for it is never destroyed. It is not for the love of the husband that a husband is dearly loved. Rather it is for the love of the self that the husband is dearly loved" (Burke 20,21). Hindus look for the True Self in every person. Because Brahaman is found everywhere, liberation can be found everywhere.

Hinduism's view of morality includes the Law of Karma. This is an impersonal law that regulates morality throughout time. "To reward the good and punish the wicked" (Burke 22). The Law of Karma plays a role in Hindu's view of time. They believe that people are born and reborn during this cycle of samsara and the class, high or low, that a person is reborn into is determined by the Law of Karma. Karma exists constantly because to the Hindus time is on going. Life is an endless cycle that can only be escaped by the knowledge of Brahman.

The third pattern is the role of male and female, and how each sex plays a role in the religion. In Hinduism there are male and female gods and they both play a significant role in the beliefs of Classical Hinduism. The god Shiva is the god of destruction, who destroys ignorance and gives Hindus mystical knowledge. Kali is the wife of Shiva, the goddess of time. She is the great mother who creates life only to later destroy life. For each male god there is a female counterpart, and the union between them, sex, is valued as the highest union that people can have. Hindus simulate this union through sexual acts, or Kama Sutra. The valued idea that the god Khrishna made love to 16,000 women in one night demonstrates the Hindu's goal of union. The union of being and togetherness, the union of god and goddess, is what Hindu's want to simulate because they want that same union with god. The patterns Malloy describes are very evident in Hinduism. Other people have also found commonalities among religions.

Sigmund Freud, a psychologist, has his own views of the patterns he has found in religion. Hinduism contains the belief of kathenotheism, which means Hindu's believe in many gods, but only one god is supreme at a time. Many of the gods represent aspects of nature that the Hindu's believe those gods control. Hindu's believe that Agni is the god of fire, Varuna is the creator of the cosmos, Rta controls the seasons, and Tvashtri is the god of the volcano. Freud believes that the people prayed to these gods to protect themselves, "against the dangers and nature of Fate"(Freud 110). Freud feels that this is and illusion, for example the god Tvashtri does not control volcanoes, a volcano has a scientific reason for erupting. Freud believes they created the gods for comfort and to explain the things in nature that they did not have enough scientific knowledge to explain. Therefore Freud does not blame these people for their ignorance, but he feels that they need to be taught the scientific reasons for why things happen. He recognizes that people are afraid of these elements and that they use gods to comfort their fears. "Men are not entirely without assistance. Their scientific knowledge has taught them much" (Freud 114). Freud believes if men use the knowledge of science to calm their fears of nature then they would not need religion.

T. Patrick Burke along with Malloy and Freud found commonalities amongst the religions of the world. Burke describes a formula for religion. "Each of the major religions has a message about human condition; each points to something that it views as fundamentally wrong an unsatisfactory about our existence; each offers a diagnosis of the cause of that unsatisfactoriness and points to a possible remedy" (Burke 2). This describes the idea that each religion has a problem, path, and a solution. Taoism and Confucianism share this structure. Confucianism's main problem is the lack of harmony in society. If there is no harmony, then society does not run smoothly and people do not develop to their full potential as human



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