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Phenomenology of Religion

(1,708 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel | Bergunder, Michael
[German Version] I. Religious Studies The phenomenology of religion is the study of manifestations of religious phenomena (Phenomenon, Phenomenology), or their comparative morphology. The prime task is the recording of elements constituting religion, for example sacred objects, sacred sites, sacred times, actions, holy scriptures or people and groups, and also forms of religiosity. But the phenomenology of religion was usually less interested in finding analogies and parallels than in “grasping the essence” ( Wesenserfassung, Lanczkowski) of religious phenomena. In the fi…

Asceticism

(6,235 words)

Author(s): Harich-Schwarzbauer, Henriette | Ries, Julien | Podella, Thomas | Niederwimmer, Kurt | Köpf, Ulrich | Et al.
[German Version] I. Religious Studies – II. Old Testament – III. New Testament – IV. Church History – V. Ethics – VI. Judaism – VII. Indian Religions I. Religious Studies 1. Greece and Rome. The term “asceticism,” the Western meaning of which was shaped by Christianity, derives from Gk ἄσκησις/ áskēsis, a noun denoting activity; ἄσκεῖν/ askeîn originally meant “to craft/to decorate.” In the 5th century bce, the primary meaning became “to train/to exercise.” The exercise was mostly physical (gymnastics, …

Ātman

(282 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel
[German Version] is a Sanskrit masculine reflexive pronoun and noun meaning "self, soul, true personality." It is cognate with German Atem, "breath." Since the early Upaniṣads, it has been the Indian term representing various notions of the soul or self. "Ātman" denotes oneself in contrast to someone else; it can mean the breath-soul (cf. Gk πνεῦμα/ pneúma), a homunculus, the individual soul (sometimes in transmigration), the immortal spirit in a mortal body, or mind and consciousness. Already in the Upaniṣads ( Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad 3, 7, 3ff.) the …

Avatāra

(175 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel
[German Version] (Sanskrit, masc., lit. “descent”) is the Sanskrit expression, already attested as early as around the 5th century bce, for the appearance or incarnation of a Hindu god, especially of the high god Viṣṇu. The Mahābhārata and Purāṇa texts disseminate the idea that the gods descend from their residences and assume human or animal fo…

Āśrama

(273 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel
[German Version] (Sanskrit, masc. & neut., lit. "spiritual abode, stage of life"). Since roughly the 6th-4th century bce, "āśrama" has referred to the classic Hindu doctrine of stages of life, usually four. A common compound with varṇa, "caste," is varṇāśramadharma, "the law (Dharma) governing the four castes and four stages of life," which comprises the moral and legal norms of those Hindus with whom Brahmin priests are concerned, above all the three upper castes (brahmins, kßatriyas, vaiśyas) (Caste). The four stages in the classical àśrama system and their primary duties are: 1. bra…

Brahmin

(160 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel
[German Version] (anglicized form of Sanskrit masc. brāhmaṇa, “priest, scholar”). In classical Hinduism, the Brahmins constitute the highest of the four castes (I), namely priests and scholars. A Brahmin is the bearer of Brahman; his hereditary status entitles and obligates him to learn the Vedas by heart and to offer sacrifice. The Brahmin caste includes not only …

Norms

(2,005 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel | Alexy, Robert | Herms, Eilert
[German Version] I. Religious Studies Social norms are the interiorized but controlled rules of conduct of a social group. They include rules and standards for decency and mores, that is, for religious, moral, and right behavior. Unlike ideals or values, norms are mostly specific and concrete. There are various theories of the meaning of norms; most widely accepted is the thesis that norms serve the development of social controls and group solidarity or cultural identity. Validity is generally claimed for religious and moral norms by appeal to a religious authority (go…

Ancestors, Cult of

(3,486 words)

Author(s): Balz, Heinrich | Harich-Schwarzbauer, Henriette | Podella, Thomas | Seiwert, Hubert | Michaels, Axel | Et al.
[German Version] I. Religious Studies – II. Greco-Roman Antiquity – III. Old Testament – IV. China – V. India – VI. Missiology I. Religious Studies All ancestors that are worshiped are dead, but not all dead people are ancestors, and not every mortuary ritual represents an ancestor cult. For an ancestor cult, there must be a consciousness of a familial and genealogical connection with the ancestors over one or more generations, …

Life Cycle

(2,663 words)

Author(s): Grünschloß, Andreas | Wagner-Rau, Ulrike | Preul, Reiner | Goldberg, Sylvie Anne | Michaels, Axel
[German Version] I. Religious Studies – II. Practical Theology – III. Ethics (Phases of Maturation) – IV. Judaism – V. Hinduism I. Religious Studies In almost all cultures and religions, a person apparently experiences his life not only as a straight line, but more as cyclically sequenced, more-or-less discontinuous phases with varied social status and role claims. The transition between these phases usually takes place as a controlled “growing process,” not only accompanied by so-called rites of passage, but in f…

Dietary Laws

(4,404 words)

Author(s): Borgeaud, Philippe | Willi-Plein, Ina | Ebner, Martin | Puza, Richard | Reichman, Ronen | Et al.
[German Version] I. Religious Studies – II. Old Testament – III. New Testament – IV. Christianity – V. Judaism – VI. Islam – VII. Buddhism – VIII. Indian Religions I. Religious Studies A human society's dietary laws and prohibitions give us an excellent insight into its symbolic and ritual practices. The choice of nourishment (preferences and prohibitions) is closely tied to the overall image that a culture develops of itself, with whic…

Caste

(1,741 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel | Jeyaraj, Daniel | Forrester, Duncan
[German Version] I. India – II. Caste and Christianity (in History) – III. Missiology I. India “Caste” (from Port. casta, “pure, unadulterated, chaste”) is the term used to denote Indian social groups based on criteria of consanguinity and, in part, fictional genealogy; they are distinguished by common occupations, names, and traditions, especially norms governing marriage and diet (Dietary laws: VIII). Traditional Hindu society adopts a hierarchic model of four classes (Skt. varṇa, often mislabeled “castes”) (Hinduism: III, 2). Castes are charact…

Benares,

(148 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel
[German Version] Indian city on the Ganges. The name is an anglicized rendering of the name Vārāṇasī, “city between the rivers Varaṇā and Asī.” Benares is a sacred place for Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists. Founded around the 6th cent. bce, the city numbered more than a million residents in 1991. It is a pilgrimage destination, a center of Sanskrit scholarship, a meeting place for various ascetic groups, and the location of the sanctified death at the Ma…

Law and Legislation

(7,555 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel | Otto, Eckart | Räisänen, Heikki | Sparn, Walter | Starck, Christian
[German Version] I. History of Religion – II. Old Testament – III. New Testament – IV. Dogmatics and Ethics – V. Politics and Jurisprudence I. History of Religion Laws are generally regarded as formulated, i.e. sentential and often codified rules of life and coexistence; this ¶ refers especially to principles of nature (Law/Natural law) and norms of action (Commandment, Ethics). For the modern age, the validity of natural laws arises from hypothetical laws that have been verified through observation and experiments, and have thereby been proven or j…

Rites of Passage

(886 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel | Heimbrock, Hans-Günter
[German Version] I. Religious Studies “Rites of passage” (Fr. rites de passage) is an expression introduced in 1909 by Arnold van Gennep to mark transitions between two stages of life or conditions of being. It refers primarily to transitions in the life cycle (Sanskrit saṃskāra) such as birth, initiation, marriage, and death (Dying); then also to examinations/ordeals, seasonal transitions (e.g. New Year, new or full moon, harvest), and consecrations (e.g. of a house, or ordination of a priest). Van Gennep elaborated a three-level model that divided rites of passage into …

Anxiety and Fear

(1,909 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel | Ringleben, Joachim | Schulz, Heiko | Loder, James E.
[German Version] I. Religious Studies – II. Philosophy – III. Philosophy of Religion – IV. Practical Theology I. Religious Studies Anxiety (Angst) or fear (anxiety is the deeper but less harmful form of the feeling) – S. Freud scarcely differentiates between the terms – is an alteration in feeling and behavior triggered by pain, actual or expected, loss, or expected punishment. Somatic responses triggered by a perceived threat – perspiration, increased pulse rate, a sense of confinement (cf. Lat. angustus, “narrow, constricted”) – are associated…

Liṅga and Yoni

(309 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel
[German Version] In Hinduism a liṅga (Sanskrit: “sign, distinguishing symbol, phallus”) is a phallic symbol of Śiva, common in or near temples of Śiva as a cylindrical pillar with a rounded top. It usually stands on a yoni (Sanskrit: “womb, vulva, source”), a bowl-shaped pedestal with a channel. The two together are considered a sign of creative energy and fertility and a symbol of Śiva and Śakti. What is probably the earliest liṅga, dating from the 2nd or 1st century bce, stands in Gudimallam in southeast India. There is no textual evidence of liṅga worship before the Mahābhārata epic. Liṅga…

Sacrifice

(13,083 words)

Author(s): Borgeaud, Philippe | Marx, Alfred | Chaniotis, Angelos | Bremmer, Jan N. | Moscovitz, Leib | Et al.
[German Version] I. Religious Studies The word sacrifice denotes both the living creature or offering sacrificed and the ritual action (e.g. destruction) through which that creature or object is dedicated to a supernatural being. If a distinction needs to be made, English and the Romance languages can use sacrifice (Eng. and Fr.; sacrificio Ital. and Span.) for the ritual action while using victim (Fr. victime, Span. víctima, Ital. vittima) for the creature sacrificed. Etymologically sacrifice suggests an action in which the sacrificed object is “made holy/sacred” (Lat. sacrum fac…

Darśana

(99 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel
[German Version] In Hinduism, darśana (Sanskrit, neut., literally “vision, sight”) designates: (a) the mutual beholding of believer and divinity in worship (Pūjā), and (b) a philosophical system, especially the six “orthodox” schools of Vaiśeṣika, Nyāya, Sāṃkhya, Yoga, Mīmāṃsā and Vedānta. In Buddhism, the term denotes either a rational insight or the meditative vision of a celestial Buddha or Bodhisattva. Axel Michaels Bibliography E. Frauwallner, Geschichte der indischen Philosophie, vol. I, 1953; vol. II, 1956; ET: History of Indian Philosophy, 1973 D. Eck, Darśan: Seeing …

Body Control Techniques

(1,198 words)

Author(s): Sullivan, Lawrence | Engelhardt, Ute | Michaels, Axel
[German Version] I. Religious Studies – II. Taoism – III. Indian Religions I. Religious Studies Against the background of the significance of the body for religious experience, many religions have developed techniques with the aid of which the body can become the instrument of religious and spiritual transformation. These body control techniques are imbedded in an overall religious context that e…

Bhakti

(1,018 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel | Aleaz, K.P.
[German Version] I. History of Religions – II. Missiology I. History of Religions Bhakti (Sanskrit, “participation, devotion, love”) is a devotional, in some respects ecstatic, adoration of God and personal experience of God. It originated in southern India in the 7th century and spread to northern India from the 12th/13th centuries. The novelty in this often popular bhakti piety was the fact that …
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