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Teachings of Hinduism, Sikhism, and Jainism Essay

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Introduction

Hinduism, Sikhism, and Jainism are Indian religions that are sometimes classified under Eastern religions (Matthews, 2008). Though mainly found in Indian communities, these religions are not restricted to the Indian subcontinent. They have different teachings and beliefs on spiritual concepts such as karma, afterlife, and rebirth. Founders of these religions developed the belief systems that they follow.

Their belief systems are similar in that they explain these concepts within a similar scope. However, the fact that their teachings are different explains the distinction in their belief systems. They share certain religious beliefs that are interpreted differently by each of one them. Similarities apply in the rituals they conduct and in the literary field.

For example, they all conduct abhiseka, a head-anointing ritual that has great meaning to them (Matthews, 2008). They show differences in the interpretation of certain teachings. For example, Hinduism interprets dharma as a religious duty while Jainism interprets it as righteousness (Matthews, 2008). These religions have similarities and differences in their respective belief systems.

Karma

Karma refers to means that people use to determine their destiny through their actions, which are either good or evil. The three religions believe that individuals mold their destiny through their deeds. As such, karma is the resulting outcome of one’s actions, which determines the quality of life in the afterlife.

In Hinduism, karma is an expression of the outcome of individual actions. Hindus believe that God is involved in the process of giving and revealing karma (Fowler, 1999). Karma is partly determined by the will of God, in addition to the actions of an individual. God administers karma fairly and does not favor anyone.

They also believe that karma is different from destiny or fate because humans use free will to make decisions (Fowler, 1999). Therefore, their actions result from rational decisions. They teach that one reaps what he/she planted. Therefore, if one commits evil, then evil will befall them.

In Sikhism, three concepts that comprise maya control karma. The three concepts join the body and soul to the planet (Cole and Sambhi, 1999). Individuals possess these qualities in different degrees. Actions of individuals are controlled by eternal time (Cole and Sambhi, 1999).

Sikhs refer to actions executed under maya as karma. They believe that karma is the force that causes observed outcomes of people’s actions. Sikhism teaches and believes that karma makes people responsible for their actions.

On the other hand, Jainism considers karma as consisting of tiny particles that fill the universe. Attraction occurs through the soul, which has a certain karmic field that attracts the micro particles (Balcerowicz, 1999). Vibrations created by the mind, body, and soul initiate attraction. Therefore, prevailing mental, body, and soul dispositions determine karma.

Interaction between karma and consciousness results in life. Sikhism differs with other religions because it considers karma as one of the natural laws that govern life (Balcerowicz, 1999). In addition, it teaches that changing one’s thoughts influences the outcome of karma.

Afterlife

The three religions believe in the afterlife, which is manifested through reincarnation. Hinduism has several beliefs that reiterate the reincarnation teaching. The Baghavat Gita teaches that just like an individual discards old and torn clothes for new ones, similarly the soul gets rid of the old body for a new one (Jennings, 1996). The principal teaching that informs afterlife is that the body is just an object to house the soul, which is sacred.

The soul is eternal and indestructible. That is why it survives death and goes into the next life where it assumes another type of body. Hindus teach that the climax of the afterlife is salvation, which means unity with God (Jennings, 1996). They believe that karma has strong influence on reincarnation.

Hinduism believes that reincarnation depends on an individual’s deeds before death. Reincarnation is only possible if an individual’s deeds resulted in good karma.

Sikhism has several beliefs and teachings on reincarnation. Their teachings hold that the soul belongs to the spiritual universe, which was created by God. Similar to Hindus, Sikhs believe that karma determines reincarnation.

However, they differ with Hindus because they believe that the soul unites with God while Hindus believe that the soul merges with God (Cole, W and Sambhi, 1999). It may be necessary for the soul to undergo further purification by living several other lives before uniting with God.

Jainism’s belief in afterlife is similar to that of Hinduism and Sikhism because they believe that it is determined by karma. However, their teachings claim that an individual could end up enjoying the afterlife in several ways. If an individual is devoid of bad karma, then he/she is ready for the afterlife (Kumara, 2006).

However, if a soul possesses bad karma, then it is necessary for it to go through the eight hells in order to purify it and prepare it for reincarnation. The degree of suffering in the eight hells determines the readiness of the soul for liberation (Kumara, 2006). The more the suffering, the closer the soul will get to liberation. This process takes time but the soul is eventually liberated, thus united with the gods (Kumara, 2006).

Reincarnation/rebirth

Reincarnation is the belief that after death, the soul moves from one body to another to enable it live in the afterlife. Hinduism, Sikhism, and Jainism believe in reincarnation of the soul. Rebirth forms a core part of the teachings of these religions.

According to Hinduism, a human being is composed of a body and a soul, which constantly oppose each other. The soul is spiritual and the body is material. The soul is eternal and indestructible while the body is temporal and destructible (Fowler, 1999). It teaches that the body only exists to house the soul, thus discarded after death. However, since the soul is sacred and connected to God, it proceeds to the next life.

The nature of reincarnation depends on karma. Hindus believe the soul is pure and it is necessary for it to be reborn in order to get rid of attachments to the material body (Fowler, 1999). Rebirth involves migration of the soul into another body depending on its karma. In addition, it involves cycles of birth and death that erase any ignorance and evil from the soul. The cycle involves entry of the soul into a rebirth system (Fowler, 1999).

It can be reborn as a human, an animal, or a spirit. The cycle continues until a state of purity is attained. Hinduism teaches that the soul only enters the rebirth cycle due to ignorance by individuals of the reason of existence. Hindus have several reasons for reincarnation. These include satisfaction of individual desires, attainment of moksha (purity), payment of debt, and completion of an unfinished sadhana (Fowler, 1999).

In Jainism, reincarnation is one of the fundamental pillars of faith. It is related to other teachings and beliefs such as transmigration, liberation, non-attachment, and karma. The soul can be born either among gods or in hell, where it undergoes great suffering because of bad karma. Karma determines birth and death. As such, a soul under the control of karma undergoes cycling that is meant to purify it (Balcerowicz, 1999).

The reincarnation doctrine is closely linked to karma. Karma determines the state of reincarnation. The soul of an individual with bad karma is reincarnated in hell while the soul of an individual with good karma is reincarnated among gods (Balcerowicz, 1999). This teaching is different from the teaching of the other two religions because there is no judgment or reward in reincarnation.

They consider the purification cycle as a consequence of bad choices that individuals make. There are four birth categories in the teachings of Jainism. These include demi-gods, humans, evil beings, and animal, plants or microorganisms (Balcerowicz, 1999). Each of the four categories has a different level of being. Demi-gods inhabit a level that houses heaven while devil-like beings inhabit lower levels.

Plants, animals, and microorganisms inhabit the middle level. Souls with single senses occupy all three levels. The teachings of Jainism differ from those of other religions because of the number of rebirth types that a cycle contains. There are about 8.4 million destinies that a soul can assume during reincarnation (Balcerowicz, 1999). God is not part of reincarnation because it depends on the karma of the soul.

Just like Hindus, Sikhs believe in reincarnation. This implies that the soul can be born several times in form of an animal, human or plant. Their teaching has similar concepts that resonate with the teachings of Hinduism and Jainism. They all believe that after death, the soul undergoes several rebirths before it attains purity that enables it to unite with God.

Sikhism teachings promote the belief that hell and heaven exist, and are used to either reward or punish souls depending on their karma (Cole, 2004). Their teachings define death as expiry of time allocated to the soul to live in a certain body. There are two possible outcomes of death. First, if a soul meditates on God and eliminates all evil, then it units with God and does not undergo the rebirth cycle.

Secondly, if the soul is laden with evil and does not meditate on God, it enters the rebirth cycle until it attains purity to unite with God (Cole, 2004). The reincarnation cycle involves going through the body forms of 8.4 million species. The only way through which a soul can escape the rebirth cycle is by being good and meditating on God. This happens in order to attain purity and establish connection with God.

Moksha is the release of a soul from the birth and death cycle (Cole, 2004). This state is only attained when karma is resolved and purity is attained through meditation on God. People with good karma do not fear death because they do not undergo reincarnation. They do not fear death because it is the only way to unite with God. The three religions believe in reincarnation but hold different beliefs on how it happens.

Conclusion

Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism are Indian religions that hold different beliefs concerning certain religious aspects. These religions have different teachings on concepts such as karma, the afterlife, and rebirth. Their beliefs are similar because they all believe in reincarnation, karma, and the afterlife. They believe and teach that karma results from deeds of individuals, which can be either good or bad.

They also believe that the soul undergoes rebirth and death before it attains purity to unite with God. In addition, they believe that there is an afterlife. However, they differ in how they explain the three concepts. Hindus believe that Karma is partly determined by the will of God, in addition to the actions of an individual. God administers karma fairly and does not favor anyone.

In Sikhism, karma is controlled by three concepts that comprise maya. The three qualities join the body and the soul to the planet. Individuals possess these qualities in different degrees, and their actions are controlled by eternal time. Jainism considers karma as consisting of tiny particles that fill the universe. The particles are attracted by the soul, which has a certain karmic field that attracts the micro particles.

Attraction is generated from vibrations created by the mind, body, and soul. Hinduism teaches that Rebirth involves migration of the soul into another body depending on its karma. In contrast, Jainism teaches that it is necessary for the soul to undergo further purification by living several other lives before uniting with God.

On the other hand, Sikhism teaches that the soul unites with God while Hindus believe that the soul merges with God. Sikhs believe that reincarnation cycle involves all 8.4 million species while Hinduism believes that the cycle involves rebirth into a human, animal, or plant.

References

Balcerowicz, P 1999, Jainism and the Definition of Religion, Hindi Granth Karyalay, Riyadh.

Cole, W 2004, Understanding Sikhism, Dunedin Academic Press, New York.

Cole, W and Sambhi, P 1999, The Shikhs: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices, Sussex Academic Press.

Fowler, M 1999, Hinduism: Beliefs and Practices, Sussex Academic Press, Chicago.

Jennings, H 1996, The Indian Religions, Health Research Books, New York.

Kumara, R 2006, Different Aspects of Jainism, Sunrise Publications, London.

Matthews, W 2008, World Religions, Cengage learning, New York.

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