RLG100Y1 Master Study Guide:
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artha ‐ Artha is a Sanskrit term that includes wealth, power and anything one must do to find meaning
or a purpose within their life. Artha is significant as it can be found written in the Laws of Manu, under
the section devoted to the four goals of life known as the Purusharthas. The other 3 are dharma, kama
avatara ‐ Avatara is a Sanskrit theological term meaning the “coming down” of a god to earth. The
avatar is a god in a human form and are in every way human as they breathe, feel hunger, thirst and die.
The avatara is significant as devotion and faith in the avatar saves one from hell and ensures them a
place in heaven.
Bhakti ‐ Loving devotion to a deity seen as a gracious being who enters the world for the benefit of
humans. Such as when Shiva came down in human form to help Arjuna in his battle. When Krishna
reveals himself in cosmic form, Arjuna is filled by love and awe at what he witnesses.
Brahmin ‐ A member of the priestly class. They are the highest class of the hindu society (brahmins,
kshatriyas, vaishyas and shudras) and reserve the authority to teach the Vedas to themselves.
dharma ‐ coming close to religion via acts of righteousness, justice, faith, duty and religious & social
Obligations that are to be fulfilled. does not cover all what is sacred for hindus. Can also be means of
gaining jnana (higher knowledge) in order to achieve moksha (escape from the cycle of death/rebirth).
guru ‐ holy teacher who teach Vedas (which only Brahmins are allowed to teach) and other scripts.
kama ‐ Sensual (not merely sexual) pleasure; one of the three classical aims of life. The aims are dharma,
the discharging on one's duties; artha, wealth and power in all forms; kama, sensual pleasure of many
types, including sexual and appreciation of beauty; and moksha, or liberation from the life‐death cycle.
Sensual (not merely sexual) pleasure; one of three classical aims of life.
kshatriya ‐ rulers/warriors. Permitted to study but not to teach the Vedas. Their duty or dharma was to
protect the people and the country. Lines of descent important, believed to have divine connections
from the sun or the moon. Laws of Manu describe specifically the duties of a king: He must strive to
conquer his senses, on those who have done so can lead others, he must shun the vices of pleasure –
hunting, gambling, drinking, women‐ but also the vices that arise from wrath, such as violence, envy
moksha ‐ achieving liberation from the cycle of reincarnation. According to the Upanishads, this
requires a transforming experiential wisdom. Those who attain that wisdom become immortal. Quest
for unifying truth, this 'higher' knowledge is clearly distinguished from the 'lower' knowledge that can be
conceptualized and expressed in words. Its nature cannot be explained or taught, it can only be evoked.
'Higher Wisdom' not connected to any Vedic or book, it is only through the experience of enlightenment that one is freed from the birth‐and‐death cycle.
prasada ‐ (literally “clarity” but meaning “divine favour”. A gift from the deity usually an edible food,
that is first offered to a deity, saint, Perfect Master or an Avatar and then distributed in His or Her name
to their followers or others as a good sign. The prasad is then considered to have the deity's blessing
residing within it. In contemporary Hindu religious practice in India, the desire to get prasada and have
darshana are the two major motivations of pilgrimage and temple visits
As a spiritual state prasada has a rich history of meanings in the Sanskrit tradition from Vedic literature
onwards. In this textual tradition, prasada is a mental state experienced by gods, sages, and other
powerful beings which is marked by spontaneous generosity and the bestowing of boons. Prasada is
understood in this sense of a mental state from the earliest literature (Rig Veda) onwards — not as an
aspect of ritual practice. In later texts such as the Shiva Purana, references to prasada as a material
substance begins to appear alongside this older meaning.
In its material sense, prasada is created by a process of giving and receiving between a human devotee
and the divine god. For example, a devotee makes an offering of a material substance such as flowers,
fruits, or sweets — which is called naivedya. The deity then 'enjoys' or tastes a bit of the offering, which
is then temporarily known as bhogya. This now‐divinely invested substance is called prasada and is
received by the devotee to be ingested, worn, etc. It may be the same material that was originally
offered or material offered by others and then re‐distributed to other devotees. In many temples,
several kinds of prasada (e.g., nuts, sweets) are distributed to the devotees.
puja ‐ is a religious ritual performed by Hindus as an offering to various deities, distinguished persons, or
special guests. In Hinduism, it is done on a variety of occasions and settings, from daily puja done in the
home, to temple ceremonies and large festivals, or to begin a new venture. The two main areas where
puja is performed are in the home and at public temples. There are many variations in scale, offering,
and ceremony. Puja is also performed on special occasions such as Durga Puja and Lakshmi Puja. The
puja is performed by Hindus worldwide. Various puja’s are performed at various times of the day and at
various times. Puja is modelled on the idea of making an offering or gift to a deity or important person
and receiving their blessing in return.
Puranas ‐ ancient Hindu texts eulogizing various deities, primarily the divine Trimurti God in Hinduism
through divine stories. Puranas may also be described as a genre of important Hindu religious texts
alongside some Jainand Buddhist religious texts, notably consisting of narratives of the history of the
universe from creation to destruction, genealogies of kings, heroes, sages, and demigods, and
descriptions of Hindu cosmology, philosophy, and geography. The Puranas are frequently classified
according to the Trimurti (Trinity or the three aspects of the divine). The Padma Purana classifies them in
accordance with the three gunas or qualities as Sattva (Truth and Purity), Rajas (Dimness and Passion)
and Tamas (Darkness and Ignorance).
Puranas usually give prominence to a particular deity, employing an abundance of religious and
philosophical concepts. They are usually written in the form of stories related by one person to another.
Vyasa, the narrator of the Mahabharata, is traditionally considered the compiler of the Puranas.
Rishi ‐ A seer; a sage of insight. They are important as they are the composers of the ancient Vedic hymns (such as the Vedas). Many people find their titles through Rishis. An example of this is the
founder of the Transcendental Meditation movement, which is popularly known in the West as ™.
Another example of a great seer is Marishi Mahesh Yogi (approximatly 1911‐2008), who is thought to
be one of the most influential teachers of the Western World. A popular, important figure is Mohandas
Karamchand Gandhi (1869‐1948). He is best known for his non‐violent protest in campaigning to gain
India’s independence from Britain. He was given the title “Mahatma” meaning great soul, by a famous
Indian poet and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore.
sadhu ‐ A holy man. These men are said to have commanded anything from obedience to veneration.
Sadhu’s are important because many Hindu people believe that their primary religious experience is
mediated through somebody (like a sadhu). They believe these men are divine. A sadhu devotes their
life to finding liberation (the fourth and final stage of life) through meditation. Sadhus devote their lives
to praying, meditating and chanting to either Shiva or Vishnu.
samnyasin – life stage of the renouncer. Considered the highest and final stage of the ashram systems.
Typically taken by men or women older than 50 or young Brahmacharis who want to renounce all their
worldly and materialistic positions in exchange for a spiritual life. They focus only on self and spirituality
and usually abandon fire. It is significant because it is a life that is lived without any materialistic
possessions, and instead focuses on the self.
shruti: “What is heard”, the sacred literature of the Vedic and Upanishadic periods, recited orally by the
Brahmin priests for many centuries before being written. The earliest compositions are said to have
been revealed to rishis (visionaries or seers). It is the most revered body of sacred literature, considered
to be the product of divine revelation.
Smrti: “What is remembered”, a body of ancient Hindu literature (the Epics → Ramayana & Mahabarta,
Puranas and Laws of Manu) formed after the shruti and passed down in written tradition. Smriti
literature elaborates, interprets, and codifies Vedic thought but, being derivative, is considered less
authoritative than the Vedic Shruti. Most modern Hindus, however, have a greater familiarity with
Smriti scriptures. In time the term Smriti came to refer particularly to the texts relating to law and social
conduct, such as the celebrated Laws of Manu.
Upanayana: Also known as “the thread ceremony”, is the initiation of a young Brahmin boy into ritual
responsibility in which he is given a cord to wear over his left shoulder and a mantra to recite and is sent
to beg for food for the day. Only occurs for the twice born castes (Brahmin, Kshatriya and Vaishya) and
signifies the beginning of studenthood (the 1 stage of life). During the ceremony, a sacred thread is
The thread is made up of three separate threads, each with a symbolic meaning: one meaning to
worship God, one meaning to show love and respect to parents, and one meaning to learn from the
religious teacher. Mantras from the Hindu scripture the Rig Veda are used during the ceremony. The
importance of the Upanayana ceremony is that it makes a person fit to receive instruction in the Vedas
and spread their divine power throughout the world.
Vedas ‐ Alexandra M. ‐ Four collections of hymns and ritual texts that constitute the oldest and most
highly respected Hindu sacred literature. Vedas comes from the Sanskrit word for knowledge. Each Veda has its own Upanishad, or philosophical works. The whole corpus of hymns, ritual treaties, and
philosophical works are called the Vedas.
1. Describe the role of the vedas in ancient indian religion. Be sure to mention the activity of ritual,
the concept of sacrifice, and any relevant content from the vedas. How are Gods, actions, and ‘text’
all interconnected? why is the “oral dimension” so important?
The vedas are seen as ancient scripture within the Hindu religion. There are four collections: Rig, Sama,
Yajur and Atharva. The Vedas are seen as more of a manual for ritual rather than just a text to be read in
their homes. The ritual of sacrifice was seen as being connected with the preservation of cosmic and
earthly order, otherwise known as Rta. The oral dimension is really important because the mantras are
seen as coming straight from the God’s, it wasn’t written or composed by any humans and has just
been transmitted orally from the very beginning.
2. Briefly describe the transitions from vedic religion to classical hinduism. How does classical Hinduism
build on the earlier vedic tradition? What did the classical tradition provide (in a religious sense) that was
not present in the vedic tradition? Provide concrete examples in your answer (for example, texts,
symbols, and ideas):
‐ Vedic religion began with the early Harappan culture, then to the Indo‐Aryan culture.
‐ Early vedic tradition included the vedas, (Oral tradition) the shruti, (What was heard) as well as the
vedic gods ( Dyaus Pitr, Indra, Agni, Soma.)
‐ The early vedas included sacrificial hymns, songs and spells and the Upanishads. (Only Brahman taught
vedas that spoke of karma, atman, maya and samsara.)
‐ Classical Hindu traditions were built on the oral tradition and transitioned into epics (Mahabarata and
Ramayana) and smrti (What is written.)
‐ Classical Hinduism provides one with a path to reach liberation (Through yoga: Jnana, Bhakti and
‐ Classical Hinduism venerates deities such as Vishnu, Shiva and Devi.
‐ In classical Hinduism, individuals are born into a caste and class system, undergoing the stages of life
trying to fulfill the 4 goals. (dharma, artha, kama, and moksha.)
3. What does it mean when the upanisadic tradition says that ‘atman equals brahman’?:
Before we can make a comparison between Atman and Brahman, and make a conjecture about what
the saying 'Atman equals Brahman' means, we must first understand the meaning behind these terms.
Brahman is the Supreme Being or the “world‐soul.” It can not be adequately described any more than
infinity can be contained. According to the Taittiriya Upanishad, Brahman is truth, knowledge, infinity,
consciousness and bliss. Brahman is therefore seen as the “frame” over which the universe is woven. On the other hand, Atman is the human soul. Each person has an Atman and they must seek to acquire the
knowledge and wisdom necessary to achieve Moksha and release their soul from Samsara.
The phrase Atman equals Brahman can be translated in many ways. The phrase “you are that” from the
Upanishads probably suggests that Atman and Brahman are one, since Brahman is the basis over which
the universe was created, Atman is part of Brahman and thus they are one. The belief that Brahman is
the inner (hidden) controller of Atman further solidifies this theory that without Brahman, Atman has
no meaning and Atman exists because of Brahman. Brahman transcends all living things and therefore
Atman equals Brahman.
4. Explore 2 of these specific “Hindu Paths” – Vedanta, Yoga, or Tantra:
Tantra‐ Sometime around the fifth or sixth century B.C.E., there was a radical shift that gave rise to a
body of texts, oral traditions, and practices known by the name Tantra, meaning "loom" or "weave."
· the Tantras affirmed the existence of spirit and matter; however, neither was granted
· they affirmed the supreme unity of all reality.
· Tantric philosophers resolved the issue with a masterful weaving together of these two great
teachings. In essence, they chose radical acceptance of all reality, both spiritual and material. The
physical universe is explained as a diverse manifestation of the one supreme reality of divinity.
The grounding matrix of physical reality (prakriti to Classical yogis) is the Vedantic supreme self.
The world we live in is the manifestation of infinite forms of this supreme consciousness.
· There are a number of recognized paths of yoga, two of which are lesser known forms of
yoga, but very empowering: bhakti and jnana.
o Bhakti yoga is the yoga of devotion. It emphasizes the opening of the heart to divine
love, the union of lover (the yogi) and beloved (the divine). This devotional love is often
translated into song or chanting, with ecstatic repetition of the names of the beloved, in
gatherings called kirtans.
o Jnana yoga is the yoga of wisdom. Jnana means "knowledge." This is a path of
self‐realization through the exercise of discerning the real from the unreal or illusory. It is
a practice of discriminating between the products of nature and the transcendental Self,
until the true Self is realized in the moment of liberation. This is a strictly non‐dualistic
path that requires the seeker to separate the real from the unreal, the Self from the
non‐Self. Since the mind is considered part of the unreal, one must use the mind to
outwit the mind. The principle techniques of this path are meditation and
contemplation. BUDDHISM TERMS:
anatman: Sanskrit term meaning “Without Atman” or“No soul”. Atman is the eternal self, or the eternal
soul in humans that is related the Brahman (the underlying energy of the universe). The Atman is a
Hindu concept. Buddhism believes that no such external, unchanging self exists., the doctrine that the
human person is impermanent, a changing combination of components. In denying the existence of an
unchanging, external self, he (Buddha) made the concept of ownership radically unsustainable for
Buddhists. If there is no “I”, there can be no “mine”. The significance of the term is that it recognises the
impermanence of all things, and as such, wise people will not become emotionally attached to material
goods or to fixed images of themselves.
Arhat: worthy one, sometimes translated as Saint. Someone who has realised the ideal of spiritual
perfection. The term is significant because there was a disagreement among early Buddhists about who
could enlightenment. The majority of the monks said that ordinary people could do it, while the sthavira
(elders) argued that the attainment of Arhat was beyond the reach of all but a few. The disagreement
created a schism in Buddhism, which led to the creation of two sects: Mahasanghika (Great Sangha)
‐sangha means lay people (as opposed to Monks), and Theravada. Those who believed the majority of
people could reach Arhat formed the Mahasanghika sect, and the elders who disagreed formed the
Theravada sect. Many scholars believe the Mahasanghika was the forerunner of the Mahayana sect.
Based on the readings, Arhat SEEMS to be both a level of spirituality and a group of people (those who
have reached it). It is also relevant to note that the attainment of Arhat is open to everyone, but some
Buddhists believe that a person must become ordained (become a monk/priest) first. I believe this is
how the schism originated, with one groups of Buddhists claiming that lay people (sangha) could reach
Arhat, while the sthavira (elders) disagreed ‐ I am assuming this means they thought only
priests/monks could reach Arhat.
dharma (see dharma in the Hinduism section as well): Sanskrit word meaning ‘closer to religion’. In
Buddhism Dharma generally means teachings concerning the ultimate nature of things. Dharma is a part
of the three jewels of the Buddhism. The other two are the Buddha and Sangha (congregation) . The
three jewels are what Buddhists rely on for happiness. Dharma is a set of doctrinal teachings or eternal
truths. These truths include the laws of nature, the reality of spiritual forces such as karma, and the rules
of moral conduct/duty. In Hinduism Dharma means righteousness, justice, faith, duty ‐ a religious and
social obligation. In the Bhagavad Gita (Hindu text) dharma is a person’s duty according to it’s caste and
life situation they are born to. The Buddhist sense of Dharma may be expansive than Hinduism. Dharma
is significant in Buddhism because followers of Buddhism believed that Buddha’s understanding of the
eternal truths were definitive and created a program of instruction that anyone seeking enlightenment
could follow. This path is set out in the four noble truths that Buddha taught. They are 1) Life is suffering
2) Desire creates suffering 3) Suffering ends when desire ends 4) It is possible to put an end to desire by
following the 8 fold path.