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Coursework on Hinduism

1. Define the following terms: Sanskrit, Vedas, brahmans, sudras, dharma, Upanishads, karma, samsara, dukkha, moksha, puja, Hindutva, Raj, BhagavadGita, Sruti, Smriti, Aranyakas, Dharma Sutras, Puranas, avatars, yogas, bhakti, artha, kama, yugas, guru.

Sanskrit is a sacred language of Hinduism. The Vedas are the earliest Hindu

sacred texts. (Taliaferro & Marty, 2010, p. 236). Brahman is the limitless and unchanged reality in Hinduism. Sudra is a traditional four-section division of the Indian caste system.

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Dharma means teaching and gathering more followers. Upanishads are philosophical discourses at the end of the Vedas. Karma is a belief that morally good or bad actions return to the doer. Samsara is the circle of death and rebirth. Dukkha is the only way to overcome suffering and come to enlightenment. Moksha is the final enlightenment in Indian religions. Puja is a prayer ritual in Hinduism.

Hindutva is a Hindu nationalist movement. Raj means a king or a ruler. Bhagavad Gita is a teaching, which understands yoga as a composition of three other existing yogas. Sruti is the heard sacred writing and Smriti is the remembered. Aranyakas is the philosophy of ritual sacrifice in Hinduism. Dharma Sutras are manuals of human conduct. The Puranas is a genre of Indian literature. Avatar is a symbolic representation of something. Yogas are ways to reach enlightenment. Bhakti is a devotional movement in Hinduism. Artha implies four aims of human life (dharma, artha, kama, and moksha). The Kama is a desire or a wish. Yugas are eras with four age cycles. Guru is a teacher (Taliaferro & Marty, 2010).

2. Describe the caste system of Hindu society; in terms of its historical development and its social, political, and spiritual impact on the people who are part of a particular caste.

The caste system of Hindu society is a social stratification of a society, which originates from the British Raj and is revealed in the social, political, and spiritual life of people, defining their superior or inferior positions.

3. What are the main sacred texts of Hinduism and what role do they play in Hindu thought and practice?

The main sacred texts of Hinduism are the Vedas, Itihasas, Dharma, and others. They guide believers in all their actions (Taliaferro & Marty, 2010).

4. While it would be inaccurate to describe Hinduism as if it were a single tradition, philosophy, or body of teaching, describe the elements of Hindu thought and practice are common to most Hindus.

The elements of Hindu thought and practice are sacred writings and prayers based on the idea that the Universe undergoes an endless cycle and each person has to reach the state of nirvana (Taliaferro & Marty, 2010).

5. Who or What is Brahman? And how does this concept shape an understanding of the Divine or Transcendent in Hinduism?

Brahman is considered as the ultimate reality and the God of creation in Hinduism, while the Divine and Transcendent are understood as revelations (attributes) of God.

6. What are the three main schools or paths of Hindu thought? Describe in brief form those characteristics that are unique to each school.

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The three main paths in Hindu thought are Bhakti yoga (performance of ritual in favor of the god), Raja Yoga (meditation and asceticism), and Jnana yoga (worship by acquiring understanding and knowledge of the order of things) (Taliaferro & Marty, 2010).

7. The Bhagavad Gita, expresses in narrative form many of the concerns of Hindu orthodoxy. What are these concerns and what points of missional contact might Christians have with these concerns?

The concerns, which people have about the Bhagavad Gita, imply that it joins all yoga forms to reach spiritual fulfillment. The Christians have a similar understanding of the truth and sins, which are described by the writings of both religions.

8. What is appealing about Hinduism to contemporary non-Hindu Westerners? How has Western culture imported into India affected Hindu practice there today?

Westerners are attracted by Hinduism because it offers many ways to discover the Truth (through yoga or meditation). Western culture was imported to India with the travelers, who wanted to have some exposure to Hinduism.

9. How was the picture of Hinduism painted in this presentation the same or different from your readings?

The picture of Hinduism was painted in the same way as I formed through my readings.

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10. In what ways were the descriptions of Hinduism similar or different to tribal or indigenous religions?

The descriptions of Hinduism are more exact and developed than those found in tribal and indigenous religions.

11. Why is or is not what a person believes a useful or less than a useful approach to understanding Hinduism as a religion?

What a person believes is a useful approach to understanding Hinduism as a religion, because any person wants to find the spiritual truth, which is one of the main aims of Hinduism.

12. Based on the one lady's response that it means nothing to be Christian, Hindu, or Muslim, how would you know if an Indian person who had embraced Christianity was not just "switching paths" or including Christianity as another spiritual path?

If a person chooses Christianity, he or she has a firm understanding of God and Jesus, which differs from Hinduism. The religion of India is more flexible because it offers multiple ways for reaching enlightenment, namely, through different yoga practices, meditation techniques. Christianity has more classical traditions the Bible, prayers, and church.

13. Discuss some missional approaches to the desire for "good spiritual influences" in a person's family and life. How can these influences from a Christian perspective be more than magic or manipulation of one's environment?

Various missional approaches may include religious discussions, explanations, and knowledge sharing. They can help a person understand the universe and perform the role of spiritual teachings which guide people through their lives.

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The Challenge of Syncretism: Defining this and Other Related Terms

14. How familiar were these terms for you previous to this presentation?

Not all the terms were familiar to me previous to this presentation, namely, I did not know the exact meaning of such Hindu words as The Puranas and bhakti.

15. What concepts need more clarification for you?

The concepts of Bhagavad Gita and Smriti need more clarification.

16. What concepts do you find difficult to agree with?

It is impossible to disagree with Hindu concepts, as they have firm grounds in this religion.

17. To what extent do you think that syncretism is a growing reality in America, the church, your own frame of reference? Give examples!

I think that syncretism is a growing reality for all the enumerated aspects to a great extent. For instance, in international marriages, religious traditions are often mixed and various waves of immigration with people of different religious convictions also contribute to this process.

18. What are some missional approaches to the view that there are many paths to God in American culture? How is this the same or different from Hinduism?

Some missional approaches include a wide range of religious sects and paths, which interpret the basic Christian principles in different ways. For instance, the evangelistic approach does it through Gospels, while Baptists believe in salvation through faith. The essence and purpose of religion are changed. Hinduism is different in this way, as it has three distinct paths to the same aim.

19. In what ways can Christians of differing traditions truly affirm the unity they have in Christ on this side of heaven?

The Christians can truly affirm the unity if they sincerely believe that Christ sacrificed his life for others.

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