World Religions: Mandatory Essay

World Religions: Mandatory Essay

A cardinal theme found in a number of the world’s most influential religious philosophies, particularly those from the East, is the idea that human existence is afflicted by a powerful illusion—a false picture of the way things are. Moreover, the overcoming of this illusion is the key to our moral and spiritual advancement.

Two notable examples of this idea: the notion of maya crafted by Indian philosophers in order to expound upon the meaning of the Hindu scriptures; and the doctrine of anatta found in all denominations of Buddhism. According to the former, the illusion is that of a material universe made up of discrete and separate things (cars, trees, mountains…etc.); while according to the latter, the illusion is that of an eternal soul or permanent “I” underlying and abiding beneath the stream of our ever-changing experience. In short, while one school of Hindu thought (Advaita Vedanta) denies the existence of an independent universe, Buddhism rejects the presence of a stable and enduring ego-self.

The general point of your essay is, first, to outline both of these concepts in full detail; second, to provide the broader context in which they operate; finally, to draw upon your own perspective and explain what you think of them.

Using ONLY your lecture notes and the course eText, simply follow these instructions step-by-step.

1) Find the two concepts in the course text: pages 83-84 for the idea of maya, and 131-132 for that of anatta. Describe both of these as clearly as possible, and in your own words.

2) Provide the larger philosophies in which both of these are a part. For Hinduism, just offer brief definitions for the concepts of Brahman, Atman, Samsara and Moksha. These are found on pages 81-86 in the course text. For Buddhism, outline the three marks of existence and the Four Noble Truths. These are found on pages 130-135.

3) Now for your own thoughts and reflections on these radical ideas! You may complete this section of your essay in any manner you please. Below, however, are some guiding questions in order to help you fill out your response:

· Do the ideas of maya and anatta conflict with the beliefs you were raised with? If the answer is yes, does this force you to question your prior beliefs? Explain your answer.

· Do the ideas of maya and anatta seem to fit your actual experience of the world or contradict it? If the answer is no, does this make them more suspect? Explain!

· What, in your opinion, would be the implications of believing either concept? How would believing one or either of them impact your life?

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