Ushering Joy, Harmony, Peace through Religion
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 17 Jan 2022
Dr. Ravi P. Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service
There are several religions or faiths in the world. Of these, the principal ones are (In approximate order of establishment) Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, Baha’i Faith, Sikhism, Arya Samaj, etc.
Each of them has its Holy Books and special temples of worship.
The Hindu religion comprises Upanishads, Vedas, Bhagwad Gita that teach the meaning of Hinduism especially that of dispensing with the attitude of attachment while taking action. Hindus had built beautiful temples of worship many of which were destroyed by invaders, but rebuilt later by India.
Arya Samaj is basically Hinduism that believes in the values of the Vedas. It was founded by Dayanand Saraswati in 1875 in Bombay.
The Jewish faith is compiled in the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament. Their places of worship called Synagogue were destroyed in many European countries, Palestine and other places. Many have now been rebuilt by Israel. Jews also faced extreme persecution — Holocaust committed by Hitler in Germany which was an extreme form of hatred for and persecution of Jews. Apart from the millions of European Jews killed, some eminent people could escape to other countries. Albert Einstein the well known scientist, managed to go to Princeton University in USA.
The Christians have magnificent churches all over the world — Europe, America, Australia, India and elsewhere where sermons on their holy book Bible and religion are regularly given mainly on Sundays. One of the beautiful religious places is the Vatican City home of the Roman Catholic Church and is built in an area of only 109 acres next to Rome and has a population of 800 people. It has magnificent, unforgettable paintings on the walls and ceilings of churches.
The Pope being the head of Catholic Church draws millions of people to its faith. At present Pope Francis is their head; he meets many political personalities including the present Prime Minister of India — Mr Narendra Modi. A well known educational institution in Delhi is St. Stephen College which has a small Christian chapel in its premises allowing students to pray there.
Buddhism was started by Siddharth Gautam who left his princely life about 2500 years ago and is now known as Lord Buddha. It spread to many parts of the world including Tibet, Bhutan, Japan, China, Thailand, Sri Lanka etc apart from its place of origin near Bihar in India. Buddhism teaches that there is suffering in life caused by people’s attachment to desires but this can be eliminated by means of some steps called the Eightfold Way. The faith has many memorable places of worship called Stupa or Pagoda with statues of Lord Buddha inviting people in several regions of the world to follow his teachings. One small beautiful Pagoda is named Peace Pagoda on a hilltop in Darjeeling (north India) that was built by Japan. Dalai Lama is the Spiritual head of Buddhism and lives in India after Tibet was colonised by China. Gyalva Rinpoche (born 1935) is the 14th Dalai Lama and has been awarded Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for promoting peace and harmony.
Pagodas were built in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after these cities were bombed by USA at the end of WW II, as symbols of peace and remembrance of tens of thousands of people killed in these bombings. One Pagoda was started in 1947 in Kumamoto by Buddhist monks by simple hand tools and was completed only in 1954.
Islam, propagating the Muslim Faith following the tenets of Muhammad started from Saudi Arabia and Mid eastern countries in 610 AD and gradually spread to many regions of the world — India, Pakistan, Bangladesh etc. Followers of Islam are called Moslems with Indonesia having the largest number and India having the second largest number. The number of Moslems in the world is second largest. Beautiful and special places of worship — Masjid, have been built over the last few centuries in these countries and elsewhere. Their holy book is the Quran originally written in Arabic. There are two main sects of Islam —Shia, Sunni; sometimes there are violent conflicts between them. India, Pakistan are largely Sunni countries, but Iran is mainly Shia. Some countries use Sharia Law based on Islamic scriptures to decide family disputes.
A spiritual leader called Baha’u’llah promoted a peace loving faith known as Baha’i Faith in Iran in the 19th century . However the dominant Moslems didn’t allow this leader to propagate his views that led him to leave the country. Several followers followed suit and migrated to different regions including India. They have built a few Baha’i temples in Delhi especially the majestic Lotus shaped temple that propagates unity of all faiths. There are also some Baha’i people in USA, Canada and Africa. Its religious book is called Kitab I Aqdas.
Sikhism is the youngest organised religion that owes its beginnings in 15th century to a spiritual leader — Guru Nanak. His views were distinct from those of Hinduism or Islam. The formalisation of the Sikh faith was executed by the tenth Guru — Guru Gobind Singhin April 1699 and their holy book is called Guru Granth Sahibwhom Sikhs venerate as their 11th and last Guru. Its teachings promote truth, fidelity, harmony, seva (free service to people). Sikhs are dominant in the Punjab province of India but have spread to many regions in England, Canada, USA, are recognised by the turban the men wear and the head scarves and bangles the women wear.
They have built majestic temples called Gurudwara that usually have golden tops. One gurudwara — popularly called Golden Temple located in Amritsar is considered as headquarters of Sikhism. Some temples are located in Pakistan. Recently a special corridor was built in the India — Pakistan border that allows people to go to the Kartarpur Sahib gurudwara located 5 km across the border without having a Pakistan visa.
In addition to the principal world religions there are also several faiths believed in and practiced by tribal people in many parts of the world. However these are not being discussed here.
I have hardly talked of the ancient faith of Hinduism which even today is one of the principal religions in India. I shall write a separate chapter on it especially on the Bhagwad Gita that is proving to be very attractive and meaningful to the spiritually inclined people not only in India but overseas also. Its main character is Lord Krishna. He is driving a chariot and clearing many common doubts of his companion Arjun.
Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University. His new book, A Garland of Ideas—Gandhian, Religious, Educational, Environmental was published recently in Delhi. email@example.com
Tags: Religion, Spirituality
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 17 Jan 2022.
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