Table of contents
- Common Terms, Ideals, and Beliefs
- Differentiating Factors
Religion in India originated in the Indus Valley Civilization. The people of this area practiced Hinduism as far back as 2600 B.C.E (Jeffrey Brodd, 2019). The Indus were one of the three earliest civilizations of South Asia and the Near East. This early civilization reached across Afghanistan, Pakistan, and northwestern India (Wright, 2009). Jainism began in Northern India in the eighth century B.C.E., the time of Parshva, their twenty-third Tirthankara. Buddhism traces its roots back to 563 B.C.E., the birth of Siddhartha Gautama, the prince who would become the Buddha also in Northern India. Sikhism is the youngest of our four referenced religions. The birth of Guru Nanak in 1469 C.E., in the Punjab region of today's Pakistan, marks its origin. Punjab is also a part of the Indus River Valley (Jeffrey Brodd, 2019).
Common Terms, Ideals, and Beliefs
The four Dharmic religions share ideas of Karma, Dharma, Samsara, Moksha, and Yoga. Though each religion may have a slight difference in meaning or use of these terms, they thrive off the same basic concept. For instance, for a Hindu, Dharma is the basis for living in a way that upholds the cosmic and social order. Buddhists see Dharma as the teachings of the Buddha, the cause and end of suffering. Jains see Dharma as the teachings of their Tirthankaras. Sikhs define Dharma as the path of righteousness and proper religious practice. In any of these religions, it is easy to see that Dharma is the rules, the way to live your life and eventually reach Heaven, Moksha, Nirvana, to cross the ford into the realm of the liberated through Kevala or to reach Mukti. Different words for a similar concept (Jeffrey Brodd, 2019).
Karma decides the status in the next life, based on the deeds of the present life. The cosmic debris weighing the soul that hinders the quest for liberation is Karma. Samsara is the continuous cycle of rebirth people must repeat until they can escape it. Yoga is one of the many tools to help oneself along the path to enlightenment. It is a Sanskrit word that means yoking or uniting. Practitioners of Dharmic religions use different Yoga for different purposes, worship, meditation, enlightenment, or being with their God (Jeffrey Brodd, 2019).
Though the differences mentioned so far seem minor, certain aspects differentiate between the religions. Normally, what separates these religions is the parts of the others it embraces or denies. Hinduism perceives many deities, and avatars, this idea is multi-theistic. Monistic Hindus wish the Atman, their eternal self or soul, to join Brahman, the supreme creator of all things. The Buddha taught about Anatman, the doctrine that there is no God, no Brahman, no Atman or self. This concept is an example of a nontheistic religion. He taught that all things interconnect and that no one thing exists without everything else. A Buddhist wants a state of enlightenment, nirvana. Jainism does not embrace any deities and is trans-theistic, they do not dispute Gods or deities exist, they just do not think the Gods have anything to do with us. We are on our own to reach Kevala. Sikhism is monotheistic, they believe in the oneness of God. Their wish for Mukti is the escape from Samsara and join God (Jeffrey Brodd, 2019).
Another aspect of Dharmic religions is their incredible diversity among the various sects of each religion. The previous paragraphs discuss only a few vague topics, the vast picture is far more intricate and detailed. I consider the Buddha’s doctrine of interconnectedness best serves the defining aspects of the Dharmic religions. These four religions have evolved together, from one another over the centuries, therefore, Dharmic Religions interconnect. One would not exist in its current form without the presence of the others (Jeffrey Brodd, 2019).
- Jeffrey Brodd, L. L. (2019). Invitation to World Religions. New York, NY 10016: Oxford University Press.
- Wright, R. P. (2009). The Ancient Indus (Case Studies in Early Societies).