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Understanding World Religions

Religion is the driving force behind much of what happens in the world today -- particularly when it comes to the "big three" religions -- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Religious differences have and continue to spark wars, create nations, and spawn ongoing conflict down through the centuries. No matter what religion you adhere to (or even if you claim that you don't adhere to any religion at all), you need to have a basic understanding of the world's religions in order to understand what is happening in the world today so that you can be better informed and a more useful citizen of your nation and of the world. Without some knowledge of religion, you will not understand the underpinnings of what is happening in an increasingly global society.
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Jul 23, 2015

Our quote for today is from Buddha. He said, "There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting."

In this podcast, we are making our way through Garry R. Morgan's book, "Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day."

Our Understanding World Religions topic for today is, "Mahayana Buddhism" 

Early in Buddhism's development, disputes about the correct meaning of Gautama's teaching divided his followers into various schools of thought. Within ten years of his death, there were sixteen different factions. Several councils, one convened by Emperor Asoka, attempted to bring unity but failed. Over the next several centuries, these groups organized themselves, elaborated on their doctrinal views, and deepened what became permanent divisions. 

The Hinayana ("exclusive way") groups were more conservative; today Theravada is the only remaining Hinayana branch. The Mahayana ("expansive way") schools, largely because of their flexibility in accommodating other religions, were more successful in their missionary efforts and now are Buddhism's largest branch. Various types of Mahayana Buddhism are found in China, Korea, Japan, and other parts of Asia. 

Central to the Mahayana system is the belief that in addition to what he taught publicly, the Buddha gave a number of secret or hidden teachings to a select and qualified few. This idea gave authority to additions and changes as the movement spread and developed. One of the first was that Gautama was more than a man. This deification of Buddha as an eternal being who came to help humankind led to Buddhism's decline in India, even while helping it spread elsewhere. Hindus simply adopted Gautama as one of Vishnu's ten avatars, and by encouraging his worship, drew devotees back into Hinduism. 

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