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Religious studies

Q5) I. Jainism

Like Buddhism, Jainism arose in the context of Hinduism. Although it is hard to confirm, Jainism probably arose before Buddhism. However, the life of the founder of Jainism, Mahavira, is similar in many important details to the life of the Buddha. So, it is reasonable to believe that these stories influenced one another. Like the Buddha, Mahavira lived a very ascetic life, that is, a life of very harsh renunciation of worldly comfort and pleasure.

Like Hindus and Buddhists, Jainism claims that life is a cycle of death and rebirth, or reincarnation. One’s karma determines one’s future life. Jainism teaches that the way to avoid bad karma is to avoid doing as much as possible.

Jainism also teaches a view that reality is dual in nature: there is spirit and there is matter. (Such dualism is common to many other religions, and is a staple of western philosophical thinking.) The ultimate goal of Jainism is to release the soul from the matter in which it is trapped.

Finally, for the Jain, salvation is an individual journey. Only you can save yourself. Even though many Jains believe in gods, and might even pray to them, they do not believe the gods can save you.

The monk, who lives a life of renunciation, represents the ideal in Jainism. Most people cannot live such lives, for various reasons. The Jain monk takes five vows (Hopfe pp. 125-126 provides the details). I have put them in terms of principles.

Do not injury of life
Always speak the truth.
Do not steal.
Renounce sexual pleasure.
Renounce all attachments.
Such a life would be difficult for most of us to lead, although the first three are aspired to be Jains who are not monks. You might also notice their similarity to moral principles from other religious traditions.

II. Sikhism

Sikhism arose somewhat later in history than the other religions we have studied so far. Sikhism was founded by Nanak, and the religion is thought to be an original development by their teacher. However, scholars claim that the religion arose as the outcome of a religious conversation between Hindus and Muslims.

Nanak taught that God, whom Sikhs call “The True Name,” created the universe, with human beings the pinnacle of that creation. Sikhs share with Hindus a belief in karma and reincarnation. However, Sikhs believe that The True name can save you and release you from the endless karmic cycle of death and rebirth.

Today, Sikhism remains a minority religion in India, but despite its relatively small size it has divided into three sects. However, despite differences, various forms of Sikhism retain their simplicity.

III. Paper

The paper this week asks you to imagine that you are a Jain nun or monk. Besides assessing your writing skills, the assignment has the purpose of trying to get you to put yourself into the shoes of someone from a different religion. The paper should be written from your personal perspective as this person. Below I have reproduced some ideas from the syllabus about writing papers, modified for this particular assignment.

In this class, we will use APA as detailed in the APA 6th edition handbook or The World’s Easiest Guide to Using the APA. Full APA format is required for papers that are submitted in Word format to the assignments folder.

This paper will contain a maximum of 10% quotations. I am interested in seeing how you can synthesize the research into your own ideas, not just how well you have mastered cut and paste. Quotations should support your thinking, not replace it. Additionally, quoted material is not included in the paper’s word count.

OWL at Purdue’s APA page says: “You should try to use your own words (citing appropriately) whenever possible…. Therefore, you should use quotations sparingly, if at all” (

In general, a paper should be no more than 10% someone else’s words. If you want to use the information you need to paraphrase it. Put it into your own words – and be sure to use a citation at the end of the passage.

Also, any direct quote should be explained if its meaning is not totally obvious to the non-expert reader.

Papers with technical errors, superficial and/or careless grammatical or content errors will be penalized. As a general rule, technical errors (e.g. typographical mistakes, misspellings, sloppiness, sentence fragments, etc.) totaling in number an amount greater than the number of pages in the paper, will result in grade penalties that become more severe as their frequency increases. Moreover, papers that deviate significantly from APA format will likewise be penalized.

Substance of information, while vitally important in its own right, can be seriously impaired if presented in a manner that renders the communication process clouded. Clarity of message is vital to such communication. More simply, what one says is important, but saying it clearly is also critical.

The following is how I evaluate writing assignments:

Content/Development: 40%
Organization: 25%
Readability: 10%
Format: 10%
Grammar/Punctuation/Spelling/APA: 15%
Note: following directions (about how and where to post the assignment, about how to name the file, etc.) can result in up to a 10% reduction in the grade.

[All of this is reproduced on the Paper: Jainism page.]

IV. World Religions Chart

No World Religions Chart due this week.




Students are expected to:

Articulate the personal experience of religion
Recognize the similarities and differences between the major religious belief systems
Students are expected to:

Understand the ways in which elements of both Hinduism and Islam contributed to the development of Sikhism.
Understand the major divisions within Sikhism and how they developed.
Be familiar with the basic teachings and ritual practices of Sikhism.
Understand the major beliefs and practices of Jainism.
Understand the position of Jainism in contemporary India.


Develop the ability to think clearly and without bias about different religions and belief systems.


READING: Hopfe: Chapters 5 and 7


Discussion Questions. Please use a subject line of yournameDQ1WK4, etc. (so mine would be titled SteveBrownDQ1WK4, etc.)

What arguments can be made for the use of animals to improve human life? What arguments can be made against the use of animals to improve human life?

Why is religious tolerance necessary? What are the limits of religious tolerance?

What is the difference, if any, between a religion that is worth living for and one that is worth dying for?

Your discussion questions should be posted to the Discussion folder on Day 3 (Wednesday midnight).

Please post to the Paper: Jainism folder ONLY (as an attachment to preserve the APA formatting.)
Write an essay based on the following:

Make a rather detailed list of your activities from the time you rise in the morning through lunch. Once the list is finished, review it from the perspective of a devout Jain nun or monk. What activities would have to be altered or abandoned during this time period?

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Category: Sample Questions