Sunday, October 21, 2007

Religion Cocktail

My last World Religions class brought up an interesting discussion topic. We were discussing how the concept of time in the Hindu religion could be taken in and believed by a Christian in every other sence.

The Hindu religion believes in four time intervals between each destruction and rebirth of the universe: the Krta Yuga, known as the Golden Age, the Treta Yuga, the Drapara Age, and the Kali Age. My professor asked how this concept could be added into a Christian system. Some answered that the start of the Kali Age, which lasts 432,000 years (also the shortest of each time period, amazing as it is to believe) could be recognized as the birth of Jesus. The end of this age could be the seen as the apocalypse, since this is believed as the "temporary" end of the universe in the Hindu religion. By this measurement, it would seem that Jesus' time was not so long ago, and it also means that our "version" of the universe has been around for millions upon millions of years. The Golden Age would have been long before dinosaurs, so this draws the question "what was the Golden Age?" And while we're at it, was the Golden Age even on this planet? What was life like? It's so hard to imagine a world perfect in every way.

But this is straying from the point and the question. Could all this be taken into a Christian belief? And this question isn't even the real question, only an example. Can any part of any religion be shared by another? I could not even answer this question during class, and I still can't. The only thing that came to mind was a book that I have mentioned in an earlier blog: The Life of Pi. As said before, the main plot has nothing really to do with religion, but it adds depth and meaning to the story, and without it the hero of the story surely would have made different decisions over the course of the book. Pi, the hero, practices Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. The novel does not go into much detail about his practices, only that he was born a Hindu, began to believe in Jesus after learning that he was the mortal son of God, and prayed constantly during the day as Muslims do. The combination of concepts of Hinduism and Christianity during class made me think of Pi. Did he ask himself the same questions? How did he clear his mind over combining these religions? Did he try to fit the Hindu time frame into Christian, or Islamic, context? Did he try to fit Christianty's one God, or Trinity for that matter, into Hindu context? I almost wish the author would create a second book which discussed solely the philosophy behind Pi's faith. I like to believe that the boy found a solution for these puzzles. He must have at least found a way around them, otherwise why would he keep practicing all three? How could he live the life he was living without some reconciliation between the three?

I think one of the morals, maybe even a sub-moral, was that these religions have their similiarities. This concept I am learning in class as well. That may have been the secret point to my wise professor's question. He knows some of the similarities, and he wanted us to find our Eureka moment by discussing certain mixtures of religious beliefs. In my mind, this whole matter is like a baby toy. The baby cannot fit a square block into the round hole. That is what we are doing; one religious belief is the square block, and another religion's context is the round hole. Except this time around, the block will eventually fit. I haven't found the answer. Some may have found it, I'll call these people enlightened. Pi was one of these enlightened people, but unfortunately, he was only fictional. Someday the answer will come to me in the form of Pi. He'll knock on my door, and he'll put my mind at rest. Speaking of rest, it's 12:30. I think it's body rest time.

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1 comment:

Paul Devitto said...

You said:

"I think one of the morals, maybe even a sub-moral, was that these religions have their similarities."

Yes, that's one of the morals of the story, but also their differences is another moral. It is not just the similarities which are appealing and, in some way, which tempts us to perhaps bring them together (like concepts of the end-times in Christianity and end-times in Hinduism). It's also their differences which are important and often overlooked and thrown out it seems. The other point I tried to bring out was if a Christian did bring these two ideas together and actually put his/her faith in it, what would that mean for Christianity at large, in his community, for him/herself? I think the answer (whatever it may be) is a very difficult one to arrive at, but food for thought nonetheless. Of course, there are people who have merged different religious concepts, especially here in the west where it's like a shopping mall of religions. One example of being able to bring together a variety of religious concepts can be found in the book 'Pi' you mention. There it seems the character is able to maintain a number of different beliefs at once. But this happens in India and China as well. Yet the religions of these cultures, in a way, are open to bringing in other religions into the religious framework that are espoused. I would still ask here, however, what that means for the religion on the three different scales of understanding that I mentioned earlier: world, community, individual. Whatever it means, it would definitely be different from what the regulative understanding is of the respective religion, be it, for example, Hinduism or Chinese religion.