Path to Siva: A Catechism for Youth

4 What Is a Religion?§


An encyclopedia of religion sits on the bookshelf, with a volume dedicated to each major religion. Exploring any of them will reveal great complexity concealed beneath the simple title.§


A religion is a system of belief about God, soul and world. Throughout history, seekers around the world have tried to understand the nature of things. They struggled to unravel the mysteries of the mind, of ultimate reality and the purpose of life. They puzzled about the cause of suffering and the way to relieve it. They analyzed good and evil, virtue and vice. These quests for truth have produced various systems of thought. Those based on a belief in God or a holy presence are called religions or faiths. Today there are about a dozen major religions in the world and hundreds of smaller ones. Of Earth’s 7.4 billion people, six billion are followers of a religion. Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Chinese folk religion and Buddhism are the five largest. Many traditional cultures have ancient faiths. Most religions have sacred texts, called scriptures. Hinduism’s primary scriptures are the Vedas. Buddhists have the Dhammapada, Christians look to the Bible and Muslims have the Koran. Scriptures, and the teachings of saints through history, define how life should be lived and what happens when we die. Each faith has its places of worship, priesthood and holy rites. Religions are not all the same. Their beliefs and practices differ, often greatly. Of Earth’s major religions, Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism are Eastern. Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam are Western. There is a vast difference between Eastern and Western religions, with Eastern goals being unitive and introspective and Western goals being dualistic, extroverted. Eastern faiths tend to see God in all things, and everything as sacred. Western faiths tend not to believe that God pervades everything, and make a strong distinction between what is sacred and what is profane. While Eastern faiths hold to karma, reincarnation and liberation, the Western postulate a single life for the soul, followed by reward or punishment.§


GURUDEVA: Religion is the connection between the three worlds, and temple worship is how you can get your personal connection with the inner worlds.§