South and East Asian Traditions

  • Major Traditions
  • Buddhist
    [Established in northern India about 2500 years ago in response to the life and teachings of Gautama Siddhartha who was given the title 'Buddha' or awakened-one, the tradition has spread throughout the world and has subdivided into numerous distinct groups. Although monasticism was a major aspect of early Buddhism, the tradition has both monastic and non-monastic followers.]
  • Confucian
    [A great tradition with a highly developed emphasis on ethics, ritual, and learning. Derives from the life and teachings of Master Kung (551-479 BCE). Unsuccessful in politics and government, but eventually he became a very great influence on Chinese culture.]
  • Hindu
    [The mega-tradition of India (or, some would say, the artificial construct created by Western scholars to interpret religion in India). No founder or single, central authoritative institutions. Possibly the most ancient of human traditions. Requires a fairly steep learning curve to gain competence in understanding Hinduism due to the complexity, multiple classical languages, and mass of information that resists simple classification -- but is fascinating and well worth studying.]
  • Jain
    [Like Buddhism, an ancient ascetical tradition. The last great master was Vardhamana, who was given the title 'Mahavira" (Great Hero) and was believed to be the last of the Tirthankaras (those who had crossed-over or "forded" the ocean of earthly existence and had reached the ultimate realm of eternal bliss). Again like Buddhism, Jainism split into subtraditions, and gained many non-monastic followers. Unlike Buddhism, Jains generally did not travel outside India until recent times. Currently there are probably about four million Jains worldwide, all but about 200,000 in India.]
  • Shinto
    [The traditional "Way of the Gods" in Japan that seems to have grown up around local shrines dedicated to locally powerful forces and the sacred spaces established in their honor. Later became a state cult and contributed to the development of Japanese nationalism.]
  • Sikh
    [The tradition that developed from the teachings of Guru Nanak and his nine successors. The lineage of human spiritual masters ended with Guru Gobind Singh and subsequently the teaching authority passed to the Guru Granth Sahib -- a highly honored scripture -- and the collective membership of the baptisted order within Sikh tradition that was established by the last of the human masters -- the Khalsa Panth. There are about fourteen million Sikhs worldwide, most of them still living in or near the Punjab state of northern India.]
  • Taoist
    [An ancient tradition of China. Among its traditional sages and their teachings are Lao-tzu and the Tao Te Ching and Chuang-tzu and the text that bears his name. Taoism celebrates humanity as a part of the circulation of the energies of nature. Traditional medical techniques and martial arts (such as Tai Chi) are consistent with Taoist traditions. Later Taoism became highly institutionalized and ritualized, with priestly specialists who conduct funerals and other basic rites for their religious clients.]

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