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Essay on Dharmic Faiths: A Comparative Analysis

Dharmic faiths are similar, so one has to inspect each religion to understand the differences. People of these faiths are often confused for one another, but if you are willing to look you can find the differences. Each religion, especially Sikhism presents its own challenges to its young followers as seen in the movie Bend it Like Beckham and the novel Under the Lemon Trees. Hinduism is so old that historians do not know exactly when it was founded (Wilkinson, 163). It is speculated that it started around three or four thousand years ago (Hinduism. pptx, 3).

They do however have a good idea of where it was founded, the “Indus Valley civilization” (Wilkinson, 164). Just like many other religions Hinduism has gone through changes as it was exposed to other civilizations. As well as influencing other religions, such as Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism (Hinduism. pptx, 2). Hindus believe that every one of their deities is a part of a “universal spirituality or supreme existence known as Brahman” (Wilkinson, 163). Brahman can’t be described, so many people describe it in ways that it’s not. Such as Brahman has no gender or doesn’t have just one form (Wilkinson, 168).

Their version of a holy book are called the Vedas, which is not just one scripture but many. One of the more well know epics is the Ramayana (Hinduism. pptx, 20). Their daily worship is called puja and involves offering things, such as food or flowers, to the deity, as well as burning an oil lamp and incense (Wilkinson, 174). There are sixteen rituals to mark different stages of life, many of them are pertaining to children (Wilkinson, 174). Some of the most important rituals are for sacred thread ceremony, betrothal, marriage, and death (Wilkinson 174-75). Another important aspect of Hinduism is the caste system. There are

Brahmin priests at the top of the caste system. Then Kshatriyas who were the warriors. Vaishya who are the merchants and traders. Sudras who are said to not be born of Aryan descent and are considered peasants. Finally there is the Dalits, they are given the unclean jobs in society (Hinduism. pptx, 9-13). Important concepts in Hinduism are Karma and reincarnation. “Karma is the result of our good or harmful deeds”, basically translating to me as, the way we act effects how the universe treats us. If you make a mistake or do something bad in your life then you are reincarnated and have to be better the next time around.

If you are lucky enough and do enough good deeds you can escape the cycle and achieve moksha (Hinduism. pptx, 18). Jainism was established around the 6th century BCE by Mahavira; Mahavira was one of the twenty-four spiritual teachers who are Tirthankara (Wilkinson, 226). A Tirthankara is someone who has escaped the cycle of reincarnation and has achieved moksha, but came back to help others (Jainism. pptx, 6). Jains do not worship any Gods or Goddesses, they do however recognize them. Jains believe in Karma, but unlike Hindus they believe that one must break free from all Karma in order to reach moksha (Wilkinson, 228).

Once they have reached moksha they are considered Gods and because of this Tirthankaras are worshiped more than Gods (Jainism. pptx, 17). Jains have “Three Jewels-Right knowledge, Right faith, and Right conduct” as well as five vows (Wilkinson, 228). The five vows include being non-violent to every living thing in the world, honest, not exploiting others, celibacy, and not forming attachment to material objects (Jainism. pptx, 8). Around the fourth century there was a big split between the Digambaras and the Shvetambaras. The Digambaras believe in getting rid of ego and goods, including clothing (Wilkinson, 226 and Jainism. ptx, 11).

Only men can be Digambaras. The Shvetambaras are similar to the Digambaras, however they allow clothing. It is three simple pieces of cloth (Jainism. pptx, 15). Buddhism was created around 400 BCE by a wealthy prince who left his life of luxury to find a way to end human suffering (Buddhism. pptx, 4 and Wilkinson, 183). Buddhism has two major branches Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism (Wilkinson, 186). While most sects of Buddhism do not believe in “an all-powerful god” there are a few Mahayana sects that do (Wilkinson, 183).

Buddhist do not have one set holy scripture, instead it is a collection of the teachings of Buddha known as Pali Canon (Wilkinson, 186). Buddhists have four noble truths all dealing with suffering. They believe “that all life is suffering”, desire causes suffering, once we let go of desire we will not suffer, and that the way to escape desire is through the “Noble Eightfold Path” (Wilkinson, 190). Followers must attempt to practice all of the “Rights” at the same time; understanding, intention, speech, conduct, occupation, effort, mindfulness, and concentration (Wilkinson, 190-91).

Buddhist believe in Karma and depending on their good or bad Karma it will influence how they are going to be reborn. Good Karma leads to a favorable reincarnation. Much like Hinduism and Jainism, Buddhist would like to escape the cycle of reincarnation, but they also know that it can take some time (Wilkinson, 194). Much like Jainism Buddhist practice similar vows called the “five moral precepts” or sila (Wilkinson 195). This includes being non-violent and they have to be given something, they cannot take. They must be honest and must abstain against “sexual misconduct” and drugs or alcohol (Wilkinson, 195).

Sikhism was founded in the fifteenth century by Guru Nanak, who was the first guru. He rejected Hinduism and Islam in favor of creating his own religion with just one god. This however does not mean they are prejudice against any other religion or its followers, in fact the embrace others and believe that all are equal. Their sacred book is called the Guru Granth Sahib (Wilkinson, 209). Also called the di Granth, “It is a book of poetry and praise rather than one of moral instruction” (Wilkinson, 214). The also go to services regularly in a building called a gurdwara (Wilkinson, 222).

Like other dharmic faiths Sikhs believe in Karma and reincarnation. believe that god will help them escape the cycle. They believe that they should spend ten percent of their time on prayer and volunteering. As well as donating ten percent of their earnings (Sikhism. pptx, 15). There are five evils in the religion; ego, having an attachment to material goods, lust, greed, and anger (Sikhism. pptx, 16). Sikh followers are easy to identify as they wear the “five Ks”; kesh, long hair, kangha, a comb, kaccha, shorts, kara, a bracelet, and kirpan, a small sword (Wilkinson, 219).

Growing up as a Sikh there are many challenges that people do not understand. There are certain expectations that youth are required to fulfill, young woman especially. There are many restrictions placed on women, the book, Under The Lemon Trees, is set in the forties and Bend it Like Beckham is more modern, but from what I can tell there has not been many changes. The woman in both are expected to be ladies. Jeeto and Jess are not allowed to have romance in their lives. Jeeto is not allowed to go to college at first, just like Jess is at first not allowed to play football.

In the end however both girls are allowed to follow their dreams. Under the Lemon Trees is a book narrated by Jeeto, a young Sikh girl. It follows not only her life as she grows into adulthood, but also her family’s journey. Growing up Sikh in the west is difficult many people will confuse you with other religions, especially when Jeeto’s uncle Avtar first came to the United States. Young girls often try to find romance before their parents marry them off. Even if their romance is with another follower of their same religion, like with Naleem and Hari and Jeeto and Pritam, parents will still not approve.

There is sometimes fighting within the Sikh communities, like when Uncle Girpal fought with Hari in the gurdwara and when Pritam beat a kid to near death while he was on duty. Similarly Bend it Like Beckham is about Jess, a young Sikh girl. This movie follows Jess’ attempt to become a more independent young adult and to play football in the U. S. At first she has to hide what she is doing from her family because playing football is not something that men will find attractive in a wife. Fortunately, her friends and sister help her out. Her sister would lie to her parents for her or even give Jess a ride to the bus taking her to a game.

Her Sikh guy friend encourages her to follow her dreams because he does not think that he ever can, being as he is gay. It also helps that this movie takes place in modern times, when it would be more likely that the parents would accept that their daughters and sons want to live their own lives. My favorite thing to learn about, in the entire class, was Hinduism. I love the fact that there are many Gods and Goddesses for every aspect of live. Each one represents something different and you can go to that specific god if you need help in that area.

Unfortunately, I did not get to see all of the presentations about the gods, I was especially looking forward to learning about Durga. My presentation was about Sita and I got to learn quite a bit about her and her journey as a wife and mother. There are a couple different variations of her story, but they all involve the avatar of Vishnu, Lord Rama. Sita is the perfect wife, mother, and embodies all the favorable characteristics of women. I even have a friend who is Hindu and he told me a bit about her. Obviously Ganesha, god of good fortune, is very popular and not just within the religion.

But there are many aspects of his depiction that require further inspection. Such as his big ears representing wisdom and the ability to listen (Ganesha presentation). One of my favorites is Kali, the goddess of time, death, empowerment, change, preservation, and destruction (Kali presentation). I also learned on my own that she is sometimes called The Dark Mother, which is really cool. Probably my least favorite god is Hanuman, I don’t really know why he seems a little weird to me. The goddess Saraswati, representing knowledge, music, arts, wisdom, and learning, is depicted in all white she’s interesting as well.

In the beginning did not realize how closely related dharmic faiths are to each other. They all have aspects of Karma and reincarnation which is a fascinating concept. Having a cycle of lives and many chances to get it right is a comforting notion. I also did not know that Hinduism influenced almost every other dharmic faith and it’s more of a lump of Indian faiths that people just put a label on to have a name for it. Aspects of dharmic faiths are everywhere and I did not really notice it until this class. Now that I am more informed it will be interesting to see if I can pick up on new things.

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