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Hinduism Posted on: 2004/3/20 14:45
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Hinduism is the most ancient religion known to the world as Sanatana Dharma. This is the only religion in the world which is also a way of life for all to follow, specially Indian's. It is a religion that gets its guidance from theVedas Upanishads Sutras Epics Granthas and Prabhandhams. Aagama Shastra is one of them.

The Bhagavat Gita preached by Lord Krishna to Arjuna, on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, suggests various parts to reach the ultimate aim that God is one. Sanathana Dharma based on the eternal Vedas, faced many upheavals for several centuries, and could withstand the onslaught only because of its innate strength. The Vedas proclaim that God is one. The Bhakthi cult preached by various Saints "Nam Smaran" (chanting God's name) is the easiest way of reaching Him. The Hindu sees God in the form the devotee likes most.

The temples were and are places where man learnt about himself, learnt various arts like music, dance, religion, etc. The temples reveal the various manifestations of the Supreme Being installed therein.

An important factor almost universally accepted is that faith in a divine power shapes the destiny of mankind. Sanathana Dharma had famous Saints who had expounded their own specific philosophy.

Sankhya is another religion-great and ancient of our land. This religion has produced more Ascetics and Gnanis than Buddhism or Jainism. But we do not find any images in honour of those ascetics and gnanis or any literature in the form of songs or stories. We find more reference to Sankhya than Buddhism or Jainism in philosophical works.

Shri. Madhavacharya expounded Dwaita philosophy where the emphasis is on Bhakthi (devotion). He insisted that one should perform one's duties as an offering to God. Shri Madhvacharya founder of Dwaita philosophy said, "God is the continuing cause of all activities of man. The purpose of creation by the Lord is to enable individual souls to work out their salvation." He prescribed Bhakthi as the supreme method to attain God. He pleaded to lead a life of purity to enable us to meditate on the Supreme Being. Devotion and duty import meaning into human life.

Adi Shankaracharya expounded Advaita philosophy. From time immemorial, Hinduism was subjected to severe tests on account of attacks by other religions. As a result, people strayed away from the path laid by the Vedas. Whenever there was religious degeneration, God saw to it, that a spiritual personality appeared amidst mankind, to revitalize Hinduism and establish Dharma. Lord Shiva Himself manifested as Adi Shankara to reinforce the declining religion. Adi Sankaracharya's Advaita philosophy propounds of only one Supreme Being, Lord Shiva - the philosophy is known as Shaivism - he stressed that spiritual knowledge, deep devotion and detachments are necessary for reaching the goal.

Vasishtadwaita was expounded by Shri Ramanujacharya which lays emphasis on the cult devoted to the worship of Lord Vishnu, signifying the cult of Vaishnavism. To propagate the cult of Vaishnavism, God deputed Alwars who established the Truth and Reality through their Hymns called "Prabandhams". There are thousands of temples - sanctified kshetras of worship - where divine power is manifested. Every temple has a Sthala Purana, through which the significance of every temple can be learnt.

Though God is the ultimate authority to grant salvation to a devotee the method of approach to attain Moksha (salvation) can be obtained by an Acharya or Guru, the intermediary, who represents Almighty, a learned intellectual, dispels the disciples spiritual ignorance. The Acharya who initiates the disciple into spiritual bliss is the link between the individual and the Cosmic Soul. Acharyas are chosen representatives of God.
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Morman Posted on: 2004/3/20 14:36
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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claims 11 million members throughout the world. In the U.S., there are more than 5 million Mormons. The church is headquartered in Salt Lake City.

NameMormons are officially referred to as Latter-day Saints. The name Latter-day stems from the belief that after the death of the early apostles, the Christian church fell into apostasy. The church needed to be restored in the latter days, which Mormons believe began in 1820.
History

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded by Joseph Smith, who is considered a prophet by Mormons. He began receiving visions at age 14, in 1820, in which he was told it was his mission to restore the church of Jesus Christ on earth. When Joseph Smith was killed, leadership of the church passed on to Brigham Young. Young was responsible for leading Mormon pioneers west to Salt Lake City in 1847.

Scripture

Latter-day Saints believe the Bible is sacred. They also include in their canon The Pearl of Great Price, which includes two lost books of the Bible, a translation of the Gospel of Matthew, and the 13 Articles of Faith; The Doctrine and Covenants, a group of 138 revelations from God and two other official documents; and The Book of Mormon, originally published in 1830.

Christ

Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus is the Son of God in the most literal sense. He is eldest brother of all mortals and firstborn spirit child of God. They believe that from Mary, a mortal woman, Jesus inherited the capacity to die, and from God, an exalted being, he inherited the capacity to live forever.

Salvation

Latter-day Saints believe that salvation comes through Christ's atoning sacrifice. But they don't believe in "original sin" or in human depravity. Still, Latter-day Saints believe that fallen men and women do need redemption. Works are a necessary condition, but they are insufficient for salvation.

Missionaries

More than 60,000 men and women serve the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as missionaries in more than 330 missions around the world. Missionaries are referred to as "Elders."

Dietary Restrictions

Latter-day Saints caution their members against using tobacco, consuming alcohol, tea and coffee. They interpret the misuse of drugs--illegal, legal, prescription or controlled--as a violation of the health code known as the "Word of Wisdom."


Polygamy
Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon church, said the idea of "plural marriage" was revealed to him by God. Among early Mormon pioneers, 20-25% of families were polygamous. LDS president Wilford Woodruff announced an official end to the practice of polygamy in 1890. Read more about the LDS church and polygamy here.

Family Ties

Mormons operate the largest genealogical library in the world containing millions of volumes of birth, marriage, death, and other records. In addition, the Church obligates Latter-day Saints to stand as proxies for their deceased ancestors in sacred rites such as baptism and eternal marriage.
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Shintoism Posted on: 2004/3/20 14:30
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Numbers: 4 million

Founder: Shinto claims no founder

Main Tenets: Shinto (or kami no michi, "way of the kami," or gods) is a prehistoric religious tradition indigenous to Japan, which has been influenced by Buddhism and Chinese religions and provides a worldview that has become central to Japanese culture and national identity. Shinto recognizes no all-powerful deity and is a diverse set of traditional rituals and ceremonies, rather than a system of dogmatic beliefs or ethics. The kami are the powers of nature primarily associated with such things as animals, trees, mountains, springs, boulders, the sun, and so forth. They also sometimes include the earliest ancestors of the Japanese, as well as the souls of the dead, and are revered in matsuri, or celebrations that seek to ensure continued order in the cosmos. Offerings such as fish, rice and vegetables are presented to the kami and later eaten. Music, dancing, and praise are also offered, and Shinto priests bless all with the branch of the sacred sakaki tree dipped in holy water. Another, shamanistic type of Shinto ritual exists in rural areas, in which miko (women shamans) speak for the kami by falling into a trance.

Main Sacred Text: Shinto has no comprehensive canon of scripture. No written Shinto documents survive from before the seventh century. But a written Shinto mythology appears in the early sections of the eighth-century books "Kojiki" ("Records of Ancient Matters," completed in 712 C.E.) and "Nihon Shoki" ("Chronicles of Japan," completed in 720 C.E.), which record the role of the kami in creating Japan and the Japanese imperial lineage. The divine pair Izanagi and Izanami brought forth Amaterasu, the sun goddess and ancestress of the Japanese emperor (hence the sun on the Japanese flag).

Principal Center: Shinto shrines can be found in groves of trees all over Japan. All the shrines have sacred gates (torii) and often contain water for symbolic purification of hands and mouth; larger shrines have main halls, buildings for offerings, and oratories. Inside the main hall resides the goshintai (god-body), which is sometimes represented by a mirror, but more often nothing at all. The classic Shinto shrine is the world-renowned Ise Shrine, the primary cult site for Amaterasu, arguably the most important kami.
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Baha'i Posted on: 2004/3/20 14:26
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Numbers: About 6 million people claim affiliation with Baha'i and its predecessor, Babism. Main tenets: Baha'i believe in the unity of all humankind, and therefore the unity of all religions. This means that Baha'i adherents believe that all religions teach the same truth. They therefore reject all prejudice--racial, political, or otherwise--and stress ethical teachings such as world peace, education, and sexual equality. Although they believe that God is completely unknowable, they hold that God's presence and works are evident in the creation of the world and the existence of the prophets, among other things. Important Baha'i prophets include Adam, the Jewish prophets, Jesus, and Muhammed, all of whom have been succeeded by Baha'ullah, the founder of Baha'i.
Founder: Baha'i was founded in Iran in the mid-nineteenth century by Mirza Husayn Ali (1817-1892). Better known as Baha'ullah, he believed that he was the prophet foretold by the Bab, a religious leader who was a direct descendent of the prophet Muhammad. Baha'ullah was persecuted and banished several times during his life, and he died as a prisoner in Palestine. After his death, one of his two sons set out on missionary journeys to Egypt, Europe, and America, establishing branches of the community.

Main sacred text: Among his many writings, Baha'ullah's Kitab al-Aqdas ("The Most Holy Book"), which contains detailed instructions for Baha'i life, is perhaps the closest to scriptures for Baha'is. However, there is no formal public ritual or priesthood. Local congregations hold informal devotional sessions.

Historical roots: Baha'i is an outgrowth of a religious movement known as Babism. Babism stemmed from the Twelver Shi'a sect of Islam, which holds that the twelfth of a series of great imams vanished from sight but is still alive and will return to institute an era of justice and peace.

Headquarters: The headquarters of Baha'i is currently in Haifa, Israel, near the graves of Baha'ullah and his predecessor, the Bab.
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