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Eastern Religion and Modern Society

Hinduism has its impacts on the modern society in India. For the most part, the tenets of Hinduism has become strongly embedded in the minds of the people of India that both the positive and negative effects of the religion can be observed in almost all parts of the country. For instance, cows are considered sacred in Hinduism because it is seen as the symbol of life as well as the source of food.

As a result, cows are forbidden from being killed in India as far as Hinduism is concerned. The larger effect of this dogma is that cows are simply left to die almost everywhere in India, from the bustling city streets to places considered as sources of potable water. Not only do the rotting carcasses of dead cows pose a threat to the health of ordinary Hindus; they also pose a bigger threat even to those who are not followers of the religion.

Such is the great regard of Hindus to the symbols of their fate regardless of whether there are physical harms that might come in their way. The same regard for their symbols also tell a lot about their devotion to Hinduism, which is no wonder why Hinduism continues to shape the politics and society of modern India to great lengths (Stone, 1990). On a positive note, some of the principles of Hinduism have shaped India as we know it today.

The famous Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi took the teachings of Hinduism by heart and practiced them with his life. His efforts eventually led to the independence of India, suggesting that Hinduism has played a very vital role in shaping the course of India’s political and social history as a democratic nation. On a larger scale, the example set forth by Gandhi has inspired numerous individuals around the world who are facing more or less the same problems dealt with by Gandhi during his time.

Another effect of the efforts of Gandhi during his call for the independence of India was that a part of Hinduism became attributed to passive resistance. Because of that perception, society has typically viewed Hinduism as a passive and peaceful religion that keeps away from violence. More generally, Hinduism influenced the society’s view towards spirituality and religion at a time when the call for the independence of India was at its height and at a time when India was in a vicious state where violence thrives.

Hinduism has also influenced the daily lives of the people in India to a large extent so much so that they have created an easily distinguishable culture of their own set apart from all the other cultures in the world. Their identity as a country can be closely associated with Hinduism with little to no opposition because almost all aspects of the life of the people of India are indicative of the influence of Hinduism.

The extent of that identity may have even reached the point where all people living in India are stereotyped as Hindus when in fact there are also other religions in the country practiced by other groups. Unlike Hinduism, it is difficult to say if a person is a Christian or otherwise precisely because the followers of Christianity are so vast in terms of ethnicity and culture that there is hardly any single unifying characteristic that can easily distinguish them.

In the United States of America, Buddhism stands among the prominent religions practiced by Americans and other non-Americans staying in the country. However, Buddhism in America has divided into several trends and groups. One notable divide is the “ethnic” divide between American Buddhists or the so-called “export” Buddhists and the Buddhists from other countries, mostly Asian, or the so-called “import” Buddhists. The generally observed tendency is for Buddhists of the same ethnicity to belong to their own group (Garces-Foley, 2003).

As a result, there are groups of Buddhists that are purely composed of Americans inasmuch as there are also groups of Buddhists whose membership is largely composed of Asians, for instance. The practice of Buddhism then becomes affected as each group of Buddhists follow their own set of specific practices even if they still follow the general principles of Buddhism. Certain groups collectively known as followers of “Engaged Buddhism” have also sprung in America as a trend.

These groups aim at actively participating in socially pressing issues instead of taking the usual stance of being passive at the height of crucial social concerns. For example, several “engaged Buddhists” are actively protesting against war and environmental problems in America. By taking part in shaping the social landscape of America, these Buddhists influence or change the country’s political policies to a certain degree.

With Christianity being the largest religion in the world, it is easy to see why it has been able to influence a large portion of the political and social directions of many countries. To this day, the Pope remains a dominant figure in shaping the politics of the world, from condemning terrorist attacks in many different parts of the world to opposing several critical issues such as medical euthanasia, abortion and population control. Those are the parts where Buddhism—specifically Engaged Buddhism—share the same light with Christianity.

Both religions have leaders—the Dalai Lama for Buddhism and the Pope for Roman Catholics—who actively take part in key issues that directly affect their religious constituents. Both Hinduism and Buddhism have played their own roles in shaping society’s perception towards spirituality and religion in the context of the people’s social and political lives. These eastern religions still have a lot of followers to this day, which is why the decisions and actions taken by their leaders have a great deal of influence in modern societies from Asia to America.

Despite the internal differences among the sects and individual members of these eastern religions, they remain devout followers of the teachings of their respective religious affiliations. They also remain a part of the social forces that define the course of the society over time.

References

Garces-Foley, K. (2003). Buddhism, Hospice, and the American Way of Dying. Review of Religious Research, 44(4), 341-353. Stone, J. H. (1990). M. K. Gandhi: Some Experiments with Truth. Journal of Southern African Studies, 16(4), 721-740.

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