Eastern Religions

Hello Buddhists, Taoists and Hindus!  Here I will say things that may bother you, but I’ll say them with a great deal of wit and charm.

Hindus
The oldest major religion still in existence today, Hinduism is practiced widely in its birthplace of India.  Hindus are the people with the little red dots (bindis) on the middle of their head – usually.  They worship Krishna, Vishnu, Shakti and Shiva among others.  Oddly their creator god, Brahma, is rarely worshiped.  They also believe in karma and reincarnation.  Unlike western religions, Hinduism encompasses all aspects of life from religion to culture and philosophy.  It even dictates social structures and political systems, thought to a lesser extent in recent times.  The primary goal of practice is called liberation, which means to be released from samsara upon the realization of the oneness of all things.

What do Hindus think about the afterlife?
Well, technically Hindus don’t think life ends at death in the same sense that western religions profess.  Hindus believe that after death you are simply reincarnated.  The goal is to become liberated from samsara – not to get into some sort of heaven.

How do you become a Hindu?
There aren’t any popular conversion methods, you simply are a Hindu if you study and practice the teachings and then tell people you’re Hindu.  Head bows with prayer hands might come in handy when meeting other Hindus.

Buddhists
Much like Hinduism on which it is based, Buddhism teaches that one must escape samsara, but they call it awakening instead of liberation.  Buddhists are far less interested in gods than Hindus, and focus more on metaphysics and philosophy.  They too teach the concepts of karma and dharma, though some schools such as Zen don’t believe in literal reincarnation at birth – they interpret each new moment in life as reincarnation.  In order to escape the endless suffering of conventional life, you must become completely aware that you are one with all things, that there is no duality in existence, and that you have no “you,” in the sense that there is no ego and no self.

What do Buddhists think about the afterlife?
Same as the Hindus.

How do you become a Buddhist?
Study and practice the teachings of Buddhism.  You can also pick a particular school (Tibetan, Zen, Pure Land, etc) and then find and join a temple.  While some temples may have a ceremony, there is no widely adopted ritual.  Be prepared to bow a lot.

Taoists
It’s difficult to define Taoism succinctly.  Like Hinduism and Buddhism it’s not only a religion but a philosophy and heavily integrated into the culture of those who practice it.  Taoists are all about wu wei, which basically means “go with the flow.”  Just know that Tao (or “Dao” – pronounced “Dow”) means “path” or “way,” and that the Tao, the Hindu idea of non-dualist reality and the Buddhist idea of “suchness” are all really the same thing.  All of them are pointing to the interconnection of all things.  The yin and yang symbol is Taoist in origin, which most people who have it tattooed on them do not know.  Some forms of Buddhism, such as Zen, are really just a combination of Hinduism and Taoism.

How do you become a Taoist?
Erm, just say you are if you agree with the Taoist teachings.  Taoism is the least organized of any eastern religion, but you may be able to find a Guan if you Google madly.


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