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Response paper

Buddhism, in turn, refers to a “vast and complex religious and philosophical tradition” stretching over some 2500 years, including Hindu tradition (Gethin, 1998); while Christianity and Islam derived their foundations from the Bible, which is considered the cornerstone of Judaism (Steinsaltz, 2006), being based on the lives and teachings of Jesus Christ and Mohammed respectively. Each and every one of these religions is comprised of a particular set of beliefs and rituals, whose centerpiece is the concept of divinity. The latter not only represents the hub of any religious doctrine, but also accounts for the major source of either difference or similarity between one and another. In that regard, Hinduism and Buddhism on the one hand, being an amalgamation of various ancient traditions (Ahloowaila, 2009), and Judaism, Christianity and Islam on the other – having developed, and respectively build on the notion of the One pre-eternal, omnipresent, omnipotent, and infinite God – epitomize the monotheistic-polytheistic divide. Besides the divinity concept, as developed in the monotheistic and polytheistic beliefs, this paper examines the focal tenet of Hinduism/Buddhism – reincarnation/rebirth – as against the notion of eternal life in monotheistic religions. The Concept of Brahman-Atman and It’s Expansions The relationship between Brahman (the Supreme Being) and Atman (a ‘self’, or a world for all beings, along with the human soul), which is generally described as the “frame and the substance of universe”, hence “inseparably united but not identical” (Oxtoby and Amore, 2008), is central to Hinduism. Despite some prima facie similarity to the Holy Trinity, the Brahman-Atman relationship actually implies certain imperfection. This is not only because of Brahman’s need of additional powers and classes in order to get fully developed, thus necessitating an array of deities as vehicles of those powers, but also, and perhaps more importantly, due to both components’ mutual dependence on each other – Brahman is the inner controller of Atman and Atman provides Brahman with corporeal avataras which are Gods’ physical presence (Hume, 1921; Klostermaier, 1998). On the other hand, according to Klostermaier (1998), avataras are required to make Supreme Vishnu accessible to humans (Pancaratra doctrine), along with the super-human spiritual beings, called ‘vinhas’, an inner presence, named ‘antaryamin’ – the ruler within – and ‘arcavatara’, which is Gods’ visible presence in an image made of either stone or metal. Thus, to put it in a nutshell, Hindu deities need specific attributes in order to become recognized in the material world and to make themselves available to the believers. The twin concepts of Karma and Samsara are characteristic of both Hinduism and Buddhism; while the former generally refers to a system of cause and effect, or action and reaction, which is considered a natural law, rather than an act of divine judgment, the latter is defined as a cycle of death and rebirth, or reincarnation (Oxtoby and Amore, 2008). According to the Upanishads, one would be liberated from the Samsara cycle – hence to become immortal – only if achieved transforming experiential wisdom (Oxtoby and Amore, 2008). Thus, polytheism, as represented by Hinduism and Buddhism, has laid great emphasis on human senses, perceptions, experiences and demands, rather than being ...Show more

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Monotheism vs Polytheism Does Monotheism, as Represented by Judaism, Christianity and Islam, is Superior to Polytheistic Belief? Introduction The world’s most important religions nowadays – in terms of diffusion, inspiration capability and spiritual influence – are Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Judaism…
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