History Of Hinduism Homework Essay Sample

HinduismIntroduction Hinduism is a religion that originated in India and is stillpracticed by most of the Natives as well as the people who have migrated fromIndia to other parts of the world. Statistically there are over seven hundredmillion Hindus, mainly in Bharat, India and Nepal. Eighty five percent of thepopulation in India is Hindu. The word Hindu comes from an ancient Sanskrit termmeaning “dwellers by the Indus River,” referring to the location of India’searliest know civilization, the Pakistan. There is not much organization andhierarchy is nonexistent. The religion suggests commitment to or respect for anideal way of life know as Dharma. Hinduism absorbs foreign ideas and beliefsmaking it have a wide variety of beliefs and practices. This has given it acharacter of social and doctrinal system that extends to every aspect of life.

The Hindus own definition of their community is “those who believe in Vedas.”History/Origin The practices and beliefs of Hinduism cannot be understoodwithout knowing the background. Hinduism is the worlds oldest religion, itdates back more than 3,000 years. Hinduism is unique in the fact that it has nofounder. Its origins are lost in a very distant past. In 1500 BC the Indo-Aryantribes invaded India and took over the Mahenjo-daro. From the combination ofthese two tribes came the worship of goddesses. The Hindus started practicessuch as bathing in temple tanks and the postures of yoga. Soon gods of warstarted being created and worshipped. Sakas then began invading the Hindus andmade a large impact on the religion. The sacred temples started to be built andthe sacred laws were codified and myths and legends were preserved in thePuranas. Soon great devotional movements began and ways of religion practiceevolved and are still used today. In the medieval times the Hindus evolved intohaving philosophers, plays and music with their religion. A man named Chaitanyacame into power and claimed to have a god reincarnated inside of him. In the19th century, movements to reconcile traditional Hinduism with the socialreforms and political ideas of the day took place. Many people where sent outto Europe and Asia preaching and spreading the religion. Throughout all theseperiods of time, the religion mutated and changed to fit with the times and asit did it just kept gathering more and more followers.

Hinduism Today Today there are numerous self proclaimed teachers who havemigrated to Europe and the United States, where they have inspired largefollowings. In India Hinduism thrives despite all the reforms and shortcutsmade in the practicing due to the gradual modernization and urbanization ofHindu life. Hinduism continues to serve vital function by giving passionatemeaning to the Hindus of today.

Beliefs and PracticesCaste System The ideal way of life is referred to as the “duties of one’s classand station”. In the phrase the word class is changed to CASTE. The ancienttexts tell of four great classes, or castes: the Brahmins, or priests; theKsatriyas, or warriors and rulers; the Vaisayas, or merchants and farmers; andthe Sudras, or peasants and laborers. A fifth class, Panchamas, or untouchables,are people whose jobs make them touch unclean or unholy objects. In the newsociety the system is harder to work with but in the past the caste was verystrict and kept different people in different classes very distinctly.

Stages of LifeThe sacred texts also outline four ideal stages, or stations of life, each withits own duty. The first stage is studentship (brahmacarya). This stage lastsfrom initiation into the religion at 5 years of age to marriage at 13 years ofage. The second stage, householdership (grihasthya) is during marriage, raisinga family, and taking part in the society. The third stage, forest dwelling(vanaprasthya), is after the kids have grown and gone. The fourth and finalstage is renunciation (samnyasa). It is when one gives up attachment to allworldly things and seeks spiritual liberation. Besides the duties from theclass and station, there are also general duties (sanatanadharma). Theseinclude honesty, courage, service, faith, self-control, purity, and nonviolence.

The classes and stations only apply to male Hindus.

Purpose of Life The purpose of life is to respect the ideal way of life. Thereare also two other lesser purposes which are, enjoyment of desires and artha, ormaterial prosperity.

Karma and Rebirth A popular belief in Hinduism is Transmigration of souls, orsamsara. Samsara is the passage of a soul from body to body as determined bythe force of one’s actions, or karma. The strict karma theory specifies that aperson’s type of birth, length of life, and life experiences are determined byone’s previous acts. Yoga is a ritual used to assure rebirth.

Philosophy Hinduism has six philosophical systems. The systems called Nyaya,Vaisheshika, Samkhya, and Yoga emphasize the understanding of basic principlesof metaphysics and epistemology. Nyaya in addition includes an analysis of logic.

The systems called Mimamsa identify the performance of ritual. The many Vedantasystems emphasize understanding of the relationship between the self andultimate reality.

Hindu Deities (gods) The Hindus believe the universe is populated with many gods.

These gods behave much as humans do and are related much like humans are. Thisview is very similar to the ancient Greek theories. The supreme gods Brahma,Vishnu, and Shiva are often viewed with the relations they have with femaledeities. The females are called Shakti. The gods are ranked by how closelythey are related to the supreme gods. All the gods have duties but the supremegods control the destiny. Each god has its own part of the year when it isworshipped and own style that it gets worshipped in.

Worship Typical Hindu daily worship includes a stop at several shrines, a visitto the temple, and home worship. A Hindu may be devoted to several gods butthere can only be one shrine in the family house and it must be devoted to justone god. To worship another god they must go to the nearby temple. Becauseeverything is sacred in a Hindu’s eyes, almost anything may be considered worthyof worship, such as rivers, cowpens, etc. During worship everything must bepurified through fire, water, and drawing symbolic diagrams. Depending on aHindu’s class and station, the requirements for worship change. But they mustoffer food, flowers, and incense to the deity, as well as say the appropriaterecitations of sacred words or text.

Festivals Certain festival days are celebrated throughout the Hindu society on afixed day according to the Hindu lunisolar calendar. One festival is Dipavali,the “Festival of Lights” occurring in October and November. On this day lampsare placed around the house to welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity. Holi,a spring festival in February and March, is a day of fun making, involvingtemporary suspension of a persons class or caste and social distinctions.

Practical jokes are the purpose of the day. In fall, is a ten-day period setaside to honor the Mother Goddess, a day of processions and celebrations.

Sacred Texts The ultimate series of books is the Vedas. The Vedas are the ruleswhich the Hindu people follow. The oldest of the four Vedas is the Rig-Veda,which is made from an ancient form. This text was composed between 1300 and 1000BC and contains 1028 hymns dedicated to many different gods. Other Vedas booksare the Yajur-Veda (the text book for sacrifice), the Sama-Veda (a hymnal), andthe Atharva-Veda (a collection of magic spells). The Atharva-Veda was probablyadded around 900 BC. The rituals for worship were also written down so thatthey would always be done correctly and never forgotten.


Is Our Society Becoming

Is our society becoming post-literate?Thousands of years have passed since our culture invented an alphabet to allow spoken words to be permanently recorded. This ‘great leap’ from orality to literacy had many consequences that will be discussed here. However, many other technologies have come into existence since the alphabet was invented and it has been suggested that we have moved beyond a stage of basic literacy into a new kind of ‘post-literacy’ or ‘secondary orality’ (Ong 1982), brought about by these new technologies. This essay will look at the differences between an oral culture and a literate one, describe the effects of literacy upon society, and look at technological breakthroughs, such as the Gutenberg press and more modern inventions such as television, telephone and computers, to see whether we are entering a new era in our progression from oral communication. I will try to examine if this supposed post-literacy, created by new means of communication, is a new stage in our development with profound effects on the structure of our society and look at how different life is with modern technology than life with simple literacy.

I will start by comparing orality and literacy to illustrate the deep implications of each. An oral culture is one in which all communication is by talking and listening. The fact that there is no means of writing anything down means that all values and morals of the given society are stored in the minds of the people. As cultural knowledge is so deeply embedded into stories and ritual the concept of knowledge actually existing as a separate entity is non-existent in an oral society. Walter Ong (1982) says that in these kinds of societies knowledge is performed through the telling of stories and the carrying out of rituals. There is no separation of the ‘knower from the known’ (Havelock 1976).

The myths and folktales of the village storyteller do not have a script, this would be an oral version of literacy, they are recreated anew with each performance. There simply is no ‘text’ apart from each individual incarnation of each tale. The performer of a tale is combining an act of creation with an act of transmission. His primary work is to transmit the culture of the tribe, and in this act of transmission he must be conservative as changes in oral knowledge cannot be undone, for there are no old copies to go back to. Over time, however, subtle differences in the plot can be detected, a process Ong calls ‘homeostasis’ (Ong 1982).

This homeostasis comes about because of the nature of the way cultural knowledge is communicated. When a storyteller stands in front of a group of people he doesn’t stand and give a lecture, he tells a story using different words each time it is retold. There is a large degree of interaction between the storyteller and the people listening to what is being said. Gestures and the use of tone emphasise certain parts of the story. If the values that are held in high regard by the culture shift to suit changing circumstances, the heroes in the tale will acquire new characteristics or even cease to be heroes. In oral societies individual creativity is profoundly rhetorical, for it is the subtle interplay between teller and audience that shapes the tales to match the values of that audience.

Although there have been pictographic alphabets for many thousands of years, in ancient Egypt and the Mayans in Meso-America, these kinds of alphabets use symbols to represent things, people and events and many hundreds of pictures are needed to record a lot of information. It was the invention of the Greek alphabet in the fifth century BC that marks the beginnings of literate society in Europe. This is because the Greek alphabet uses twenty six meaningless symbols to reproduce the sounds of words on a page, meaning anything that can be spoken can be easily written down and recorded forever. According to some observers (Mcluhan 1962, Havelock 1976 and Ong 1982) the invention of the phonetic alphabet has incredibly significant effects on the creation and communication of knowledge in the society that possesses this tool. As things can now be written down and recorded forever the concept of authorship arises.

In oral cultures nobody is credited with the creation of stories, they belong to everybody and the storyteller is simply reperforming them for the group. In a literate society, however, the fixation of knowledge by print causes a separation of the ‘knower from the known’ (Havelock 1976) and gives the printed material a separate existence apart from the mind of the individual who created it. It is this abstraction of knowledge which is the most significant effect of literacy upon society. Literacy allowed the creation of new knowledge and ideas and is thus credited with the creation of academia by allowing things to be studied in depth. In literate societies the idea of interaction between the creator and audience is removed and knowledge is now created for its own sake, not to please the group. Literacy enabled a profound shift in human conscious, bringing about the linear, abstract forms of Western logic that we take for granted today but which were simply unthinkable without literacy as a means of preserving complicated original thought.

For Marshall Mcluhan, however, it was not simply the invention of the phonetic alphabet that was the major agent of change, it was the invention of the Gutenberg Press. Before the Gutenberg Press was invented manuscripts were hand-written by monks and read aloud to an audience of listeners. To Mcluhan this was still representative of an oral culture. The printing press, however, significantly changed this. As books could now be mass produced and distributed at speed they were widely available to the masses and not just an educated elite of readers. It was the printing press that finally ‘split apart thought and action’ (Mcluhan 1962, 22). Now that everybody had access to books an increase in silent reading took place which Mcluhan claims linearized our thought processes and offered the final separation of author and ownership. Transmission was now a mechanical act, performed by a machine.

Originality, once a deadly danger to a society that had to struggle to maintain its equilibrium, could now be seen as more valuable than ownership. Now that the printing press had been invented more and more documents were credited to a single source, the writer. The concept of authorship is so strong in our society that plagiarism is now an academic crime of heinous proportions and copyright laws were created to allow authors to be protected in law. In the Miller vs. Taylor decision of 1767 Mr Justice Aston commented, ‘I do not know, nor can I comprehend any property more emphatically a man’s own, nay, more incapable of being mistaken, than his literary works’ (Patterson 1968, 170). Typography has made the word a commodity. The old communal oral world has been split up into privately claimed freeholdings, ‘the drift toward greater individuality had been served well by print’ (Ong 1982, 131). It is literate, and especially print, that has created the notion of the self. In most oral societies there is absolutely no notion whatsoever of people existing as individuals with free will. In oral cultures decisions are made not on the basis of ‘what should I do? or ‘what is good for me? but ‘what do we need?Mcluhan uses the metaphor of hot and cool to describe the various mediums of knowledge transmission. A hot medium is ‘one that extends a single sense with high definition. High definition means a complete filling in of data by the medium without intense audience participation‚Ķ

In a cool medium, the audience is an active constituent of the viewing.’ (Mcluhan, in Playboy Magazine, 1969). He uses this metaphor to explain why oral and literate cultures are so inherently different. In an oral culture, which Mcluhan would define as being ‘cool’, there is an intense interaction between the orator and the audience. As described above the audience actively participates in the creation process. Writing, then, for Mcluhan is a hot medium as there is very high definition of content and the reader is left to fill in very little.

It is approximately five hundred years now since the printing press was invented and all of these changes started to occur. Since then a whole array of new technological innovations have provided mankind with even more mediums through which to communicate information. The telephone, television and most recently computers and the Internet have made instantaneous global transmission of data a very real possibility. Mcluhan sees these new technologies as the agents of a process of ‘retribalization’ (Mcluhan 1962). The advent of the Gutenberg press started what Mcluhan terms ‘the detribalizing of man’ (Mcluhan (1962). The printing press made us all subordinate to the power of the written word. Mcluhan believes that the human experience is made up of an interplay between the five senses.

Literacy placed a great emphasis on the visual aspect of life and removed man from tribal communality into a state of civilised detachment. These new technologies have placed more emphasis on our other senses and have extended our nervous system to all corners of the world. Television, although we may at first think as a visual medium is actually described by Mcluhan as an extension of our tactile sense and it is this ‘that demands the greatest interplay of all the senses’ (Mcluhan, in Playboy Magazine, 1969). It was Mcluhan who first coined the now very famous term to describe the interconnectedness of the modern world, ‘the global village’ (Mcluhan 1964). This results from the network-like extension of new electronic media that ‘is enabling man to incorporate within himself the whole of mankind. The aloof and dissociated role of the literate man of the Western world is succumbing to the new, intense depth participation engendered by the electronic media and bringing us back in touch with our selves as well as one another’ (Mcluhan, in Playboy Magazine, 1969).

Mcluhan is so adamant that we have moved into a new era of human existence that in his interview in Playboy Magazine he says that the Gutenberg Galaxy, formed by the spread of print-led communication ‘is being eclipsed by the constellation of Marconi ‘ (Mcluhan, in Playboy Magazine, 1969). Under the effects of participatory electronic media, Mcluhan suggests that linear typographic man will again learn to ‘live mythically’ (Mcluhan 1964). The concept of ‘living mythically’ suggests far more than simply being interconnected, of being able to send messages to each other more quickly and easily. It means living in a form of consciousness in which knowledge does not exist outside the knower, embodied in a physical text, but instead is lived dramatically, communally performed as the myths of oral man were performed.

I believe a lot of what Mcluhan says is true. Defining the present and immediate future as the time of Marconi Man I think fairly describes the modern world. I think however his metaphors of ‘retribalization’ and ‘living mythically’ are slightly over the top but I do think that electronic media has, and will even further with the expansion of the internet, profoundly change the way we live and work. We are constantly being told how ‘the information revolution’ will extend its reach into every corner of our lives. Mcluhan is not the only writer who has compared today’s society with our oral past. Walter Ong describes a ‘secondary orality’ with a greater emphasis on a ‘participatory mystique, communal sense and the present moment’ (Ong 1982, 136). He does, however, concede that it is not going to be a total return to tribal existence but ‘a more deliberate and self-conscious orality’ (Ong 1982, 136). Hypertext, the method of publishing print online, may be seen as redefining the concept of authorship as ‘each reader takes a different physical path from node to node and thus metaphorically rewrites the text in the process of reading it ‘ (Slatin 1990).

However, there is something glaringly obvious when talking about a return to a ‘secondary orality’ – text is still text, electronic or not. It is important not to see the current change as a circular movement back to a stage of orality but another ‘advancement’ into the future, although it is useful, as I have found in writing this essay, to use metaphors of primary orality to explain the change. So, to conclude I would answer that, yes, we are becoming a ‘post-literate’ society, especially if you define a literate society as one whose primary means of communicating knowledge is the written document. If this is the definition then it is obvious that the written word is no longer the only way we communicate knowledge. In this essay I have been talking as if the spoken word is completely discarded once a phonetic alphabet is created but this is definitely not the case. The ‘grapevine’ and ‘word-of-mouth’ are terms still very much in use today, indicating that information is often communicated by spoken word. Children will always be taught how to read by a teacher in the classroom and who would think of letting a computer read a child a bedtime story.

The upper classes of our society take great delight in going to a theatre with friends to watch a performance of plays that can communicate the meanings and values of our society, all the more emphatically because they are live. Reading, then, is always going to be with us, even if we do use other methods of communication to a greater extent. It is quite ironic that one of the biggest areas of ‘e-commerce’ is the sale of traditional paper books online.

What Is Marijuana?

What is marijuana? According to Harvard Medical Professor LesterGrinspoon, it is a “miracle drug”, one that prevents blindness, acts as anappetite stimulant for AIDS patients, and prevents muscle spasms in epileptics.

When speaking of the same plant, head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics forover thirty years, Harry J. Anslinger said that this “evil weed” led to killings,sex crimes and insanity. How can two such highly respected experts have suchnight and day outlooks on the same thing? While Anslinger presided as America’sleading anti-drug official his McCarthyish hunt down of Marijuana users led tothe downfall of many well respected Americans. During the 1900’s the UnitedStated has committed itself to and unprecedented war on marijuana that is costly,unjustified and impossible to win.

The topic of Marijuana is quite broad. It encompasses history,legislation, and the benefits as well as the harms of the plant itself.

Marijuana is the name of the plant known to botanists as Cannabis Sativa.

Other names for the plant exist throughout the world. In Africa, Marijuana isknown as “dagga”, in China as “ma”, in Northern Europe as “hemp” and in theUnited States as either “pot”, “buds”, “reefer”, “weed” or the more direct,”smoke”. Marijuana goes back over five thousand years. It is one of the oldestagricultural commodities not grown for food. Hemp, first cultivated in China asearly as 2800 B.C., soon stretched to central Asia where it spread like milkweedor thistle. Marijuana soon began to crowd out neighboring grasses and reachingheights of three to twenty feet stretched over large plains. Local people beganto use the plant for its strong, durable fibers which they used for rope and toconstruct material similar to linen. Early in the Christian Era, Marijuanareached the Mediterranean countries of Europe. Its cultivation spread throughthe rest of Europe during the Middle ages. Hemp’s progression to Africa caneasily be marked through the Middle East where it remains a major cash crop. Itis unknown how the plant found its way to the America’s. One of the mostpopular theories is that European explorers brought the seeds along with them.

The cultivation of Marijuana has been successful in almost every climate. It isthe unbounded growth of Marijuana that will later lead to its difficulty inlegislation. The Hemp plant has dozens of uses. It can be made into canvas,paper, rope, twine, cable, yarn artificial sponges and clothing. The seed ofthe plant can be made into Hempseed oil, paints, soaps, carnishes and birdseed.

For all of its usefulness it is the Hemp plant’s leaves for which it has beencondemned. It is this part of the plant that yields the sticky yellow resin,rich with cannabinoids. This resin contains more that sixty compounds unique toMarijuana. The most prominent is delta-9-tetrahydrocannibinol. This substanceotherwise known as delta-9-THC which causes Marijuana’s psychoactive effects.

“The effects of Marijuana”, according to Leo Hollister, former president of theAmerican College of Neuropsychopharmacology and current professor at theUniversity of Texas “poses no greater risk that moderate consumption ofAlcohol.” Harvard Professor Lester Grinspoon in his book, Marihuana, theForbidden Medicine, claims that the drug has countless benefits, among whichare: relief of nausea associated with chemotherapy, preventing blindness inducedby glaucoma, serving as an appetite stimulant for AIDS patients, warding offasthma attacks and migraine headaches, relieving chronic pain and deduction ofthe muscle spasticity that accompanies multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, andparaplegia, the list continues. Through the 1900’s, specifically the 1970’s, anumber of studies were done on Pot which claimed that it kills brain cells,damages chromosomes, caused impotence in men and prompts men to grow breasts.

These conclusions, as stated by Eric Schlosser a writer for The Atlantic Monthlyand authority on Marijuana, “…were based on faulty research.” However, thereare real consequences to smoking Reefer. One of these consequences is apsychological dependence in some users. The compound delta-9-THC has a half-life of five days. This means an occasional user can fail a drug test threedays after smoking, a heavy user can fail for over a month. There have been noimmunosuppressive of reproductive effects linked to delta-9-THC. Some studieshave shown short-term memory deficiency, although reversible, in heavy smokers.

The biggest health concern with Pot smoke is its damage to the respiratorysystem. The risks run parallel with tobacco smoking.

Category: Social Issues

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