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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 16, 2015

Our quote for today is from Gautama Buddha. He said, "A man is not called wise because he talks and talks again; but if he is peaceful, loving, and fearless then he is in truth called wise."

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, "Theravada Buddhism" 

Buddhism is the fourth largest of the world's religions, with about 350 million followers, and like Hinduism, its influence extends far beyond the actual numbers. Theravada, the most traditional, conservative form today is found primarily in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. Although some of its followers intermingle animistic beliefs and practices, Theravada is essentially nontheistic, believing that enlightenment must be achieved by one's own efforts, without supernatural assistance. Since Theravada is closest to the original, Buddhism's beginnings will be described in this chapter. 

Buddhism began in India, though now it is a tiny minority there. Like Jainism, which began at about the same time, it started as a reform movement within Hinduism but developed into a separate religion. Siddhartha Gautama, its founder, was born into the family of a Kshatriya raja (minor ruler). Many legends have developed regarding his life, and sorting fact from later additions is difficult. Generally accepted dates for his life are 560-480 BC. 

According to tradition, at his birth it was foretold that if he saw only beauty and youth he would become a great king, but if he saw disease and death he would become a religious teacher. Since his father preferred the former outcome, Gautama grew up in an extremely sheltered environment, rarely leaving the walls of his palace. He married and had a son, but around age thirty became restless with his confined life. He slipped out and, deeply disturbed by seeing sick and dead people in the area, left his family and took up the life of a wandering monk. He tried philosophy, then the most extreme form of asceticism. One legend claims that during this period he lived on one daily grain of rice. However, even this did not bring him the answers he sought. He gave up asceticism, ate a meal, and sat under the shade of a tree to meditate. Finally, through meditation, Gautama found enlightenment and became the Buddha, meaning "Enlightened One." 

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