Sunday, September 28, 2014

An update on my Eastern religions class

Lately in my Eastern religions class, we have been discussing Shinto and Hinduism.  It's pretty awesome studying these religions, there is so much culture and history wrapped up with them, and it feel really cool to gain some additional perspective on ancient religions that still exist today.

It's really sad to me how so many people are closed minded about religion, or about understanding other people.  I study religion, because I want to understand people better.  I want to comprehend what they believer, and why they feel that way.  I feel like this is especially true with Shinto and Hindu, because these traditions have been around for such a long time - there is a really rich sense of tradition, and importance around religion.

I've actually studied aspects of Hinduism for years, and have a deep, abiding respect for Hatha Yoga, a practice that actually has its roots in Hinduism.  I would say that my own personal new-agey form of spirituality is most closely aligned with Hinduism.  I believe in a communal divine, that every thing in this world has a divine spark within it, and that when we do wrong against someone, or something else, we are doing wrong against ourselves, because we are all linked through our divine natures.  Hinduism makes a compelling case for understanding, and for peace, a message that seems to be overlooked all too often.

As for Shinto, it isn't necessarily a religion I feel any calling to.  It's an interesting religion, and I can see the draw that it holds in Japan.  However, it is uniquely suited to Japan, and doesn't really translate well outside of the Japanese culture.  Some practices, such as the remembrance of ancestors, and Zen, make sense to my Western mind, but are not really practices that I see myself personally undertaking.  I think that, for me, Zen would just be a giant exercise in frustration.

Has studying these two religions changed me?  Yes and no.  It has expanded my mind to the cultures of other people, so that I can better understand and accept their views.  However, my own views on life and spirituality have not shifted in a tangible way as a result of learning about them in a class.  I think that religion is too personal, and requires deep exploration and consideration that extends far beyond what a class can teach in order to move the spirit.

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