The World's Wisdom: Sacred Texts of the World's Religions Summary & Study Guide

Philip Novak
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The World's Wisdom: Sacred Texts of the World's Religions Summary & Study Guide Description

The World's Wisdom: Sacred Texts of the World's Religions Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

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"The World's Wisdom - Sacred Texts of the World's Religions," by Philip Novak, is a historical account of the seven great religions of the world and a summary of primal religions that preceded them and no longer exist. The author describes the most revered and sacred writings and tomes for each of the religions. The author points out that of the estimated 100,000 religions that man created, most have faded and been overtaken by the larger religions that are showcased in the book.

The book begins by describing Hinduism, including its origin and progression throughout its history. The Hindu religion originated in Europe and was exported to India. There is an explanation and examples of Hindu hymns, which were called "Vedas" or "sacred knowledge." These vedas were fundamental in the formation of the Hindu religion. The rituals associated with these hymns were used for the well-being and success of Hindu adherents. Although reincarnation is an element of modern Hinduism, there is no mention of the concept in the early vedas. Reincarnation was introduced into the religion a thousand years after the early beginnings of the religion. The Bhagavad Gita emerged as the most important sacred book of the Hindu religion.

Buddhism first emerged in ancient India 2,600 years ago. It has been the most influential religion of the many and diverse peoples of Asia. The man who came to be known as Buddha began life as a prince named Siddhartha. Buddha, of course, is credited with the inception of the religion. Buddha stands for the "Awakened One." He taught the Dharma, also known as the Way of Truth, which is the most sacred of all texts of the Buddhist religion. Buddha lived a life of sacrifice which served as an inspirational example to the followers of the religion. He gave up a life of privilege, power and opulence in order to best serve his god and attain salvation.

Confucius was unlike most leaders of religious sects. He did not consider himself a profit or spiritual hero. Instead, he preferred the title of "student and teacher." Confucianism was based on the morality of man and of the orderly cosmos in which he lived. Confucianism is credited with having the biggest impact on the shaping of the Chinese mind.

The sacred books associated with Confucianism include its canon which is comprised of ten volumes. Some of these books were written prior to the emergence of Confucius. Later, the great educator is credited with writing what became known as the Four Books of Confucius which include: The Great Learning, The Doctrine of the Great Harmony, the Mencius (the teachings of Confucius' disciple, Mencius) and the Analects which contain sayings and observations by Confucius. Although he did not think of himself as inspirational as stated before, he was a humble man who took no credit for his knowledge. He credited others for what he learned from them. Confucius never stopped learning.

Taoism advocates living in harmony and emptying the mind of all thoughts which will allow the spirit to enter the soul. Since the Chinese are known for their attraction to contrasts as exemplified in the yin and yang, the contrary forces of the universe that man must contend with, it followed that a blending of Taoism and Confucianism would appeal to the culture. Both religions surfaced in China around the same time in the sixth century BCE.

Lao Tzu is credited with establishing Taoism. He wrote the Taoism Bible and the Tao Te Ching which has become an inspiration for people of all walks of life and of all religious affiliations. The second greatest sage associated with Taoism is Chuang Tzu who lived several hundred years after Lao Tzu. There are three types of Taoism: philosophical Taoism, yogic and vitalist Taoism and religious Taoism.

Judaism is considered to be the oldest of the world's modern religions, dating back to the exodus from Egypt some 3,200 years ago. The holy and most sacred book of Judaism is the Tanakh. It consists of three books: The Torah, Nevi'im and Ketuvim. The Torah is defined as law or teaching and refers mainly to the first five books of the Jewish Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The narrative of the Nevi'im focuses on the prophets. Ketuvim encompasses the rest of the Holy Bible, those chapters following the first five books which comprise the Torah.

Judaism is based on two concepts: the idea of one God and the idea of human dignity. This melding of ideas is sometimes referred to as "ethical monotheism" (p. 176). Both Christianity and Islam originate from Judaism.

Christianity had its beginning from just a relatively small group of followers of Jesus Christ. It became the fastest growing religion in history when in just 300 years. After its inception, it became the most dominant religion in the Roman Empire. The religion was based on devotion to Jesus of Nazareth who was called "Christ" by his followers. "Christ" was taken from the Greek word "Kristos" which translated to messiah. The Jewish people had long-awaited the coming of the Messiah and savior. The story of Jesus of Nazareth is told in the New Testament of the Holy Bible which is the most sacred writing of the religion. The story of Jesus Christ is referred to by many as the greatest story ever told.

Islam is the newest of the world's major religions and it is currently the fastest growing. Islam originated from both Judaism and Christianity. Muslims had major differences with the two older religions. The Muslims did not believe that Jesus was a god and felt the Jews had corrupted their own scriptures and were arrogant in proclaiming themselves as the "chosen ones."

For those reasons, God selected Muhammad as his messenger. For twenty-three years, Muhammad received the word of God and from them created the Qur'an which is the holy book of Islam. Muslims stress that Muhammad did not write the Qur'an but it was written by God through Muhammad. The Qur'an is designated by the Mecca suras, or chapters, and the Medina suras which were the two locations in which Muhammad lived while he received the word of god and compiled the Qur'an.

The primal religions that have long ago disappeared have no literature associated with them. Descriptions of these religions have been passed down by legend and myth and by archaeological discoveries.

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