wizanda
Zoroastrianism Posted on: 2004/3/20 14:00
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Numbers: 150,000

Founder: Zarathustra (in Greek, Zoroaster) was a Persian prophet who at the age of 30 believed he had seen visions of God, whom he called Ahura Mazda, the creator of all that is good and who alone is worthy of worship. This was a departure from previous Indo-Persian polytheism, and Zarathustra has been termed the first non-biblical monotheist (though monotheism in Zoroastrianism never took on the absolute quality that it assumed in Judaism and Islam). Though there is disagreement among scholars as to exactly when and where Zarathustra lived, most agree that he lived in eastern Iran probably around the sixth century B.C.E.

Main Tenets: Zoroastrian theology is strongly dualistic. In his visions, Zarathustra was taken up to heaven, where Ahura Mazda revealed that he had an opponent, Aura Mainyu, the spirit and promoter of evil. Ahura Mazda charged Zarathustra with the task of inviting all human beings to choose between him (good) and Aura Mainyu (evil). Consequently, Zoroastrianism is a highly ethical religion. Zarathustra taught that humans are free to choose between right and wrong, truth and lie, and light and dark, and that their acts, words, and thoughts would affect their lives after death. He was thus the first to promote a belief in two heavenly judgments: of the individual soul right after death and of all humankind after a general resurrection. His ideas of heaven, hell, and the resurrection of the body profoundly influenced Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Later Zoroastrianism conceived of an opposition between body and soul, though there was no suggestion in its theology that the body was evil and the soul was good. A wandering preacher from Mesopotamia named Mani developed those theories into an extreme form of dualism called Manichaeism.

Main Sacred Text: The Zoroastrian "Avesta" ("Book of the Law") is a fragmentary collection of sacred writings divided into: liturgical works with hymns ascribed to Zarathustra; invocations and rituals to be used at festivals; hymns of praise; and spells against demons and prescriptions for purification. Compiled over many centuries, the Avesta was not completed until Persia's Sassanid dynasty (226-641 C.E.).

Principal Center: Zoroastrianism all but disappeared in Persia after the Muslim invasion of 637 C.E. Only about 10,000 survive in remote villages in Iran, but over the centuries many sought religious freedom in India.
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wizanda
Taoism Posted on: 2004/3/20 13:58
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Numbers: Because Chinese religious beliefs and practices overlap, the exact number of Taoists is difficult to estimate. However, about 225 million people adhere to Chinese traditional religions, of which Taoists is probably the chief one.

Founder: Lao Zi, (or Lao-tzu, according to the older Wade-Giles system of romanizing Chinese characters), supposedly an elder contemporary of Confucius (c. 551-470 B.C.E.), has traditionally been credited with founding Taoism, but few scholars now believe that any such person as Lao Zi ever lived. Unlike Confucius, who sought harmony in the ordering of social life, Lao Zi located life's ultimate principle in nature.

Main tenets: Taoism takes its name from the word "Tao" ("the Way"), the ancient Chinese name for the ordering principle that makes cosmic harmony possible. Not a transcendent ultimate, the Tao is found in the world (especially in nature), and can be encountered directly through mystical experience. It is the ultimate reality as well as the proper natural way of life humans must follow. Taoism prizes naturalness, non-action, and inwardness.

Generally speaking, there are two kinds of Taoism,: philosophical and religious. Philosophical Taoism is rational, contemplative, and nonsectarian, and it accepts death as a natural returning to the Tao. Religious Taoism is magical, cultic, esoteric, and sectarian, and it emphasizes health and healing as ways to gain long life or even immortality. T'ai chi and the medical practice of Quigong are modern manifestations of Taoism.

Main sacred text: It is still convenient to speak of Lao Zi as the author of the Tao Te Ching (or Dao De Jing, "Book of the Way and Its Power"), the most important scripture of popular Taoist sects. Dating from the early third century B.C.E., this text combines religion, philosophy, poetry, and mysticism. The Tao Te Ching later became part of a larger Taoist canon (Tao Zang) which includes revelations, meditative and ritual texts, moral codes, registers of names and functions of spirits, and texts on alchemy, exorcism, astrology, and philosophy. Although Kublai Khan ordered the Tao Zang burned in 1281, it survived, and in its last main printing in 1926, it included 1,120 volumes. Other texts held as important in Taoism include the philosophical writings of Zhuang Zi (369-286 B.C.E.).

Principal center: In China, Taoism came into conflict with Confucianism and later, Communism. Today it survives in most of China only in folk beliefs and small monastic communities. Taoism does survive in other forms wherever traditional Chinese culture survives, especially in Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Hawaii, and, most recently, in continental North America and Europe.
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wizanda
Welcome to my site Posted on: 2004/3/13 3:40
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If you have just joined welcome
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