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(526 words)

Author(s): Stephan, Peter
[German Version] According to Indian tradition, the Upaniṣads generally define Vedānta, the “end” or “ultimate goal” of the Veda. Vedānta is associated specifically with philosophical and religious schools that deal with the interpretation of the Upaniṣads ( uttara mīmāṃsā). The central issue of Vedānta is to comprehend Brahman as the causative principle of the world and to develop a method for final deliverance from the cycle of existence (Saṃsāra). All schools of Vedānta accept the Brahmasūtra (2nd/3rd cent. ce; Sūtra) as the primary authoritative text for these purpos…


(329 words)

Author(s): Stephan, Peter
[German Version] Śaṅkara (Śaṃkara, Shankara; c. 7th–8th cent. ce, India), founder of so-called kevalādvaita, historically the most influential school of Vedānta (Hinduism: I, 1). Historically accurate information about Śaṅkara’s life is not immediately available. Myths and legends glorifying his ministry were spread by biographies canonized in the 14th–18th centuries. Śaṅkara, a reincarnation of Śiva, is said to have been the son of a South Indian Brahmin, a student of Govinda, who had himself been a stu…

Prehistory and Protohistory

(1,127 words)

Author(s): Bumbacher, Stephan Peter
Paleolithic: Homo erectus and the associated lithic industry ("scree tools", so-called Olduvai) appear in East Africa about 2 million years BCE - about 500,000 years after the first appearance of hominids of the species Homo. H. erectus then seems to have spread beyond Africa in the course of approximately 200,000 years. The fossil find of Dmanisi (Georgia) is dated at 1.7 million years BCE. H. erectus should have reached Java (Indonesia) between 1.8 and 1.6 million years BCE, though the dating is still controversial. In the course of this expansion he presum…


(1,385 words)

Author(s): Bumbacher, Stephan Peter
Traditional Western concepts and classifications of religion are of little use when seeking to describe and explain Chinese religious phenomena, given, for instance, that it is common practice in China to consult a Daoist priest when medicine fails to cure an ailment, then to sacrifice to one's ancestors at home (possibly in accord with a ritual devised by the Confucian Zhu Xi), and, in the event of a death, to employ the services of a Buddhist monk for the funeral rites. For example, Daoism and…