Introducing World Religions

Introducing World Religions

By: Victoria Kennick Urubshurow (author)Paperback

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Introducing World Religions offers an exciting new approach to the study of the world's religions. Taking its inspiration from performance studies and using an innovative dramatic metaphor, it enables students to explore religious ideas and culture in terms of the players (key figures), the script (foundational texts) and performance (religious practices). The discussion of key players treats human and non-human figures on the world stage, including the principle (God, Dharma, Dao), imaginal figures (angels, baals, bodhisattvas), exceptional persons (founders, prophets, gurus), and historical persons (significant players in the drama of religions). The discussion of the foundational texts includes materials that balance or challenge mainstream texts with an alternative perspective. The section on performance explores non-verbal religious activities such as pilgrimage, icon painting, dance, divination, and meditation. Those concerned with introducing "post-colonial" discourse to students without losing the classic category of "the sacred" should find this textbook to be balanced and evocative. It presents workable concepts from the camps of both "religionists" and "reductionists" and students are challenged to move between "inside" and "outside" positions as they survey what have been called (controversially) "world religions". Specially designed to assist learning it includes: chapter timelines showing key persons, events and dates themed boxes to encourage methodological enquiry key-point chapter summaries to support understanding and review study questions to assist classroom discussion maps, charts and photographs glossary of key terms and concepts key reading, a comprehensive bibliography and index. Ideal for one-semester or modular introductory survey courses on the world's religions, Introducing World Religions will be essential reading for any student of religions, worldwide. The accompanying website to this book can be found at

About Author

Victoria Urubshurow is Associate Professor at the University of Maryland University College, where she was given a "Teaching Excellence Award" in 2007. She has taught college courses in world religions and culture for over two decades in various permutations including: Religions of the World: East, Religions of the World: West, Buddhism, Hinduism, Religions of China and Japan, Islam, Introduction to Philosophy, Myth and Ritual, and Women in the Western World. As an historian of culture she has written on theory of religious symbols, spiritual biography, and aspects of Buddhism, including a volume on Buddha's life.


Preface Religions in our world today A word about problematic terms Editorial formalities [dates - treatment of terms] Chapter enhancements Chapter 1 - Approaching religious traditions The insider-outsider challenge Two approaches to the study of religions [the "truth" question in the study of religions - the orientation of this book] A religionist primer [creating religious symbols - the power of Religious Impressions - hierophany and kratophany - the sui generis nature of religion] Reductionist warnings Three functions of religion in society [religions of the status quo - religions of resistance - religions of revolution] Roots of the modern study of religions Cultural imperialism and "world religions" The fallout from colonialism Subtle erasures The east-west diptych Defining religion Drama: a root metaphor for world religions Players in the drama of world religions [the ultimate principle - imaginal players - exceptional players - historical players] The religious texture of world religions [foundational texture - supportive texture - cross-over texture] Meaningful performance in world religions [three expressive aspects - seven expressive functions] Key points Study questions Glossary Key reading Chapter 2 - Expressive traditions of Oceania, America and Africa Timeline Lived time: ceremonial gardening Lived place: Aboriginal Dreaming Lived object: Maori tattoos Donation: Sioux Sun Dance Restoration: Navajo sandpainting Enactment: Mexican identity Symbolization: Candomble dance Transformation: Dagara initiation Accession: Fon divination Transmission: the Lion King Story Between old and new Key points Study questions Glossary Key reading Chapter 3 - Zoroastrian tradition Timeline Part 1: Zoroastrian players The ultimate principle [Ahura Mazda] Imaginal players [cosmic twins - the fravashis - Sayoshyant] Exceptional players [Zarathushtra Spitama - Zarathushtra's story based on the Gathas - Zarathushtra's sacred biography] Historical players [Cyrus the Great - the three magi - Kirdir - Iranis and Parsis - Parsi innovators] Part 2: Zoroastrian texture Foundational texture [the Avesta] Supportive texture [Bundahishn creation story] Cross-over texture [responses to the Abrahamic traditions] Part 3: Zoroastrian performance Living a sacred history [keeping the fire - initiation - funerals] Key points Study questions Glossary Key reading Chapter 4 - Judaic tradition Timeline Part 1: Judaic players The ultimate principle [Ha-Shem - YHVH] Imaginal players [angels- Prophet Elijah - sephiroth of the cabbala - the Canaanite baalim] Exceptional players [Abraham's lineage - early Israelite leaders - prophets and a prophetess] Historical players [temple builders - Jews of the Hellenistic era - rabbis - medieval Jews - Jewish mystics - Jewish thinkers of the European Enlightenment - Jews of modern times] Part 2: Judaic texture Foundational texture [The Tanakh] Supportive texture [The Talmuds - Midrash] Cross-over texture [a modern view of Havah - Yiddish tehinott] Part 3: performance Jewish ritual life [blessings - daily prayers - the Sabbath day - Pilgrim Festivals - Days of Awe] A living tradition Key points Study questions Glossary Key reading Chapter 5 - Christian tradition Timeline Part 1: Christian players The ultimate principle [God the Father] Imaginal players [Christ: transfigured and resurrected - the Holy Spirit - angels - saintly figures] Exceptional players [Mary - Jesus of Nazareth] Historical players [early followers of Jesus - Christian martyrs - Christian emperors - Christian religious specialists - critics of the Roman Catholic Church (1300-1600) - Martin Luther - John Calvin - proponents and prisoners of the Catholic Counter-reformation - more Protestant Christians - Pentecostalists - Christian existentialism - modern activists] Part 2: Christian texture Foundational texture [Old Testament - New Testament] Supportive texture [Confessions by Saint Augustine - ritual validations of the mystery of bread and wine] Cross-over texture [the Nag Hammadi texts - women's rights and the Woman's Bible] Part 3: Christian performance The history of icons [the iconoclastic controversy - Christian art: flat or round? - the first icons] Byzantine sacred art [icons as symbols - how to portray a hierophany - iconographic technique - degeneration of art] Key points Study questions Glossary Key reading Chapter 6 - Islamic tradition Timeline Part 1: Islamic players The ultimate principle [Allah, the one God] Imaginal players [Allah's angels - Khidr - Bedouin deities] Exceptional players [Al-Mahdi - Allah's prophets - Prophet Muhammad] Historical players [the Rightly Guided Caliphs - Umayyad caliphs - 'Abbasid and later caliphs - Muslim theologians - Muslim philosophers - Muslim mystics - Postcolonial activists - North American Muslims] Part 2: Islamic texture Foundational texture [Qur'an: The Recital - six articles of faith] Supportive texture [Hadith - Shari'a] Cross-over texture [Islam and women - women's shari'a] Part 3: performance Mecca: the holy city The Five Pillars of Islam [shahada - prayer - social welfare tax - fasting during Ramadan - hajj: pilgrimage to Mecca - Allah's will] Key points Study questions Glossary Key reading Chapter 7 - Baha'i tradition Timeline Part 1: Baha'i players The ultimate principle [God] Imaginal players [manifestations] Exceptional players [the Bab - Baha'u'llah - 'Abdu'l-Baha] Historical players [Qurratu'l-Ayn - Shoghi Effendi Rabbani - Ruhiyyih Khanum - Louis G. Gregory] Part 2: Baha'i texture Foundational texture [the Bayan - basic teachings] Supportive texture [authoritative works - inspirational works: world scriptures] Cross-over texture [healing through science and spirituality] Part 3: Baha'i performance Life according to the Baha'i Calendar Key points Study questions Glossary Key reading Chapter 8 - Jain tradition Timeline Part 1: Jain players The ultimate principle [the life force: jiva] Imaginal players [twenty-four tirthankaras - yaksas and yaksis] Exceptional players [Parsva - Vardhamana Mahavira] Historical players [the eleven ganadharas - Digambara and Svetambara Jains - a modern "renunciate"] Part 2: Jain texture Foundational texture [Vardhamana's divyadhvani - the Five Homage Mantra - Mahavira's last sermon] Supportive texture [the lost scriptures - a story on spiritual protection ] Cross-over texture [extraordinary perception: Jain psychology] Part 3: Jain performance The ritual of holy death: samlekhana [ritual requirements for the holy death - experience of samlekhana] Rituals of a holy life: pious action Key points Study questions Glossary Key reading Chapter 9 - Buddhist tradition Timeline Part 1: Buddhist players The ultimate principle [universal dharma and Buddha-dharma] Imaginal players [Buddha Amitabha - Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara - Bodhisattva Manjusri - Bodhisattva Tara - samsara's invisible beings] Exceptional players [supreme buddhas - arhats - bodhisattvas - Gautama Buddha] Historical players [Asoka Maurya - Bodhidharma - Hui-neng - Tantric adepts - Chinul - thirteenth century Japanese reformers - Tenzin Gyatso - Sulak Sivaraksa] Part 2: Buddhist texture Foundational texture [vinaya: Buddhist training for monks and nuns - Gautama's discourses: the poisoned arrow - abhidharma: karma and its fruits - the Four Noble Truths - Mahayana sutra literature] Supportive texture [Nikaya commentary] Cross-over texture [songs of the early Buddhist nuns - coping with starvation in a Thai village] Part 3: Buddhist performance Meditation [Nikaya Buddhist satipatthana meditation - Tibetan Buddhist lam-rim meditation - Zen koan meditation - Pure Land meditation] Key points Study questions Glossary Key reading Chapter 10 - Hindu tradition Timeline Part 1: Hindu players The ultimate principle [Brahman] Imaginal players [Vedic devas and devis - the Hindu trimurti - Visnu - Siva - Sakti] Exceptional players [rsis - priests - renunciates - bhaktas] Historical players [sutra writers of "sacred science" - three Vedanta commentators - the new Hindu saints - modern Hindu social activists - modern Hindu gurus] Part 2: Hindu texture Foundational texture [the Rgveda - the Upanishads] Supportive texture [the Bhagavadgita in the Mahabharata - the Ramayana - the Puranas - Patanjali's Yoga Sutras] Cross-over texture [poems of a Sakta bard] Part 3: performance Encountering the divine through "pilgrimage" [sacred land: Bharat Mata - sacred body: the inner landscape - sacred story: The Holy Lake of the Acts of Rama - sacred emotions: bhavas and the rasa of spiritual love] "Making perfect" this life Key points Study questions Glossary Key reading Chapter 11 - Sikh tradition Timeline Part 1: Sikh players The ultimate principle [Sat Nam] Imaginal players [Guru Granth Sahib] Exceptional players [Guru 1: Nanak - Guru 2: Angad - Guru 3: Amar Das - Guru 4: Ram Das - Guru 5: Arjan Dev - Guru 6: Hargobind - Guru 7: Har Rai - Guru 8: Har Krishan - Guru 9: Tegh Bahadur - Guru 10: Gobind Singh] Historical players [Gobind Singh's human successors - Ranjit Singh - respondents to British colonial rule - modern Sikhs - cross-cultural Sikhs] Part 2: Sikh texture Foundational texture [Guru Granth Sahib - Sikh teachings] Supportive texture [Dasam Granth - Sikh collections] Cross-over texture [voices of women in Guru Nanak's life] Part 3: Sikh performance Contemplating the Divine Name [remembering the Divine Name: Nam simaran - reciting sacred verses: gurbani - singing God's praises: kirtan - the sound of silence: anahat shabad] Key points Study questions Glossary Key reading Chapter 12 - Chinese traditions Timeline Part 1: Daoist and Confucian players The ultimate principle [the high powers - Dao] Imaginal players [culture heroes - sage kings - Daoist immortals - folk deities - Confucian ancestors] Exceptional players [emperors] Historical players [the 100 scholars - Lao-zi - Confucius - Mo-zi - Mencius - Zhuang-zi - Xun-zi - "Religious" Daoists - proponents of Dark Learning - Zhu Xi - Wang Yang-ming - Mao Ze-dong - contemporary Daoists] Part 2: The religious texture of Chinese traditions Foundational texture: Confucian tradition [the classics] Supportive texture: Confucian tradition [the Four Books] Foundational texture: Daoist tradition [Dao De Jing - Zhuang-zi] Supportive texture: Daoist tradition [Kuo Xiang's commentary on Zhuang-zi] Cross-over texture [Xun-zi's Art of War] Part 3: performance in Chinese traditions Divination in the Book of Changes [symbolism of the sixty-four hexagrams - levels of meaning in the Book of Changes - a sample coin toss] Key points Study questions Glossary Key reading Chapter 13 - Shinto tradition Timeline Part 1: Shinto players The ultimate principle [Mysterious - Nature - Life - Creative Energy] Imaginal players [nature kami - mythic kami] Exceptional players [emperors - charismatic humans] Historical players [Queen Pimiku - Crown-prince Shotoku Taishi - Lady Murasaki Shikibu - fifteen shoguns - the Imperial House of Japan - Mrs. Nakayama Miki] Part 2: Shinto texture Foundational texture [stories in the Kojiki and Nihongi - myth, history, and ritual] Supportive texture [modern Shinto theology] Cross-over texture [Japanese poetry] Part 3: Shinto performance Purity and communion in Shinto ritual [harai (purification through rites) - misogi (purification with water) - imi (avoidance of pollution) - keeping a kamidana (home altar) - visiting a Shinto shrine - participating in shrine festivals (matsuri)] Key points Study questions Glossary Key reading Chapter 14: The challenge of religion A challenge from your author [dealing creatively with discomfort - Gandhi's Asram Bhajanavali: counteracting exclusivity - the Jefferson Bible: seeking authenticity - the Woman's Bible: attacking prejudice] The Wheel of Faiths [discipline: orderly society - discipline: personal - balance: cultural attitudes towards gender and race - balance: personal states of mind - care: cultural preservation - care: personal sense of responsibility for nature] Parting words Glossary Bibliography Index

Product Details

  • ISBN13: 9780415772709
  • Format: Paperback
  • Number Of Pages: 416
  • ID: 9780415772709
  • weight: 746
  • ISBN10: 0415772702

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