QA: 03

Moses also known as Moshe Rabbenu (Hebrew: מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ‎ lit. “Moshe our Teacher”), is the most important prophet in Judaism, and an important prophet in Christianity, Islam, the Baháʼí Faith, and a number of other Abrahamic religions. In the biblical and Qur’anic narrative he was the leader of the Israelites and lawgiver, to whom the authorship of the first five books of the bible, the Torah, or “acquisition of the Torah from heaven,” is attributed.

Rabbinical Judaism calculated a lifespan of Moses corresponding to 1391–1271 BCE; Jerome suggested 1592 BCE, and James Ussher suggested 1571 BCE as his birth year. Scholarly consensus sees Moses as a legendary figure, while retaining the possibility that a Moses-like figure existed.

According to the Book of Exodus, Moses was born in a time when his people, the Israelites, an enslaved minority, were increasing in population and, as a result, the Egyptian Pharaoh worried that they might ally themselves with Egypt’s enemies. Moses’ Hebrew mother, Jochebed, secretly hid him when the Pharaoh ordered all newborn Hebrew boys to be killed in order to reduce the population of the Israelites. Through the Pharaoh’s daughter (identified as Queen Bithia in the Midrash), the child was adopted as a foundling from the Nile river and grew up with the Egyptian royal family. After killing an Egyptian slave-master who was beating a Hebrew, Moses fled across the Red Sea to Midian, where he encountered the Angel of the Lord, speaking to him from within a burning bush on Mount Horeb, which he regarded as the Mountain of God.

God sent Moses back to Egypt to demand the release of the Israelites from slavery. Moses said that he could not speak eloquently, so God allowed Aaron, his elder brother, to become his spokesperson. After the Ten Plagues, Moses led the Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt and across the Red Sea, after which they based themselves at Mount Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments. After 40 years of wandering in the desert, Moses died within sight of the Promised Land on Mount Nebo.

Jesus (c. 4 BC – AD 30 / 33), also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus Christ, was a first-century Jewish preacher and religious leader. He is the central figure of Christianity, the world’s largest religion. Most Christians believe he is the incarnation of God the Son and the awaited messiah (the Christ) prophesied in the Old Testament.

Virtually all modern scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed historically, although the quest for the historical Jesus has yielded some uncertainty on the historical reliability of the Gospels and on how closely the Jesus portrayed in the Bible reflects the historical Jesus, as the only records of Jesus’ life are contained in the Gospels. Jesus was a Galilean Jew, who was baptized by John the Baptist and began his own ministry. He preached orally and was often referred to as “rabbi”. Jesus debated with fellow Jews on how to best follow God, engaged in healings, taught in parables and gathered followers. He was arrested and tried by the Jewish authorities, turned over to the Roman government, and crucified on the order of Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect. After his death, his followers believed he rose from the dead, and the community they formed eventually became the early Church.

Christian doctrines include the beliefs that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, was born of a virgin named Mary, performed miracles, founded the Christian Church, died by crucifixion as a sacrifice to achieve atonement for sin, rose from the dead, and ascended into Heaven, from where he will return. Commonly, Christians believe Jesus enables people to be reconciled to God. The Nicene Creed asserts that Jesus will judge the living and the dead either before or after their bodily resurrection, an event tied to the Second Coming of Jesus in Christian eschatology. The great majority of Christians worship Jesus as the incarnation of God the Son, the second of three persons of the Trinity. A small minority of Christian denominations reject Trinitarianism, wholly or partly, as non-scriptural. The birth of Jesus is celebrated annually on December 25 as Christmas. His crucifixion is honored on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday. The widely used calendar era “AD”, from the Latin anno Domini (“year of the Lord”), and the equivalent alternative “CE”, are based on the approximate birthdate of Jesus.

Jesus is also revered outside of Christianity. In Islam, Jesus (commonly transliterated as Isa) is considered one of God’s important prophets and the messiah. Muslims believe Jesus was born of a virgin, but was neither God nor a begotten God. The Quran states that Jesus never claimed divinity.Muslims do not believe that he was killed or crucified, but that he was physically raised into Heaven by God. In contrast, Judaism rejects the belief that Jesus was the awaited messiah, arguing that he did not fulfill messianic prophecies, and was neither divine nor resurrected

Muhammad c. 570 CE – 8 June 632 CE, was an Arab religious, social, and political leader and the founder of Islam. According to Islamic doctrine, he was a prophet, sent to preach and confirm the monotheistic teachings of Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and other prophets. He is believed to be the final prophet of God in all the main branches of Islam, though some modern denominations diverge from this belief. Muhammad united Arabia into a single Muslim polity, with the Quran as well as his teachings and practices forming the basis of Islamic religious belief.

Born approximately 570 CE (Year of the Elephant) in the Arabian city of Mecca, Muhammad was orphaned at the age of six. He was raised under the care of his paternal grandfather Abd al-Muttalib, and upon his death, by his uncle Abu Talib. In later years, he would periodically seclude himself in a mountain cave named Hira for several nights of prayer. When he was 40, Muhammad reported being visited by Gabriel in the cave and receiving his first revelation from God. In 613, Muhammad started preaching these revelations publicly, proclaiming that “God is One”, that complete “submission” (islām) to God[12] is the right way of life (dīn), and that he was a prophet and messenger of God, similar to the other prophets in Islam.

Muhammad’s followers were initially few in number, and experienced hostility from Meccan polytheists. To escape ongoing persecution, he sent some of his followers to Abyssinia in 615, before he and his followers migrated from Mecca to Medina (then known as Yathrib) later in 622. This event, the Hijra, marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar, also known as the Hijri Calendar. In Medina, Muhammad united the tribes under the Constitution of Medina. In December 629, after eight years of intermittent fighting with Meccan tribes, Muhammad gathered an army of 10,000 Muslim converts and marched on the city of Mecca. The conquest went largely uncontested and Muhammad seized the city with little bloodshed. In 632, a few months after returning from the Farewell Pilgrimage, he fell ill and died. By the time of his death, most of the Arabian Peninsula had converted to Islam.

The revelations (each known as Ayah – literally, “Sign [of God]”) that Muhammad reported receiving until his death form the verses of the Quran, regarded by Muslims as the verbatim “Word of God” on which the religion is based. Besides the Quran, Muhammad’s teachings and practices (sunnah), found in the Hadith and sira (biography) literature, are also upheld and used as sources of Islamic law (see Sharia).

Buddhism is the world’s fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers, or over 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists. Buddhism encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and spiritual practices largely based on original teachings attributed to the Buddha (born Siddhārtha Gautama in the 5th or 4th century BCE) and resulting interpreted philosophies. It originated in ancient India as a Sramana tradition sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE, spreading through much of Asia. Two major extant branches of Buddhism are generally recognized by scholars: Theravāda (Pali: “The School of the Elders”) and Mahāyāna (Sanskrit: “The Great Vehicle”).

As expressed in the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths, the goal of Buddhism is to overcome suffering (duḥkha) caused by desire, attachment to a static self, and ignorance of the true nature of reality (avidya). Most Buddhist traditions emphasize transcending the individual self through the attainment of Nirvana or by following the path of Buddhahood, ending the cycle of death and rebirth. Buddhist schools vary in their interpretation of the path to liberation, the relative importance and canonicity assigned to the various Buddhist texts, and their specific teachings and practices. Widely observed practices include taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, observance of moral precepts, Buddhist monasticism, Buddhist meditation, and the cultivation of the Paramitas (perfections, or virtues).

Theravada Buddhism has a widespread following in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia such as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. Mahayana, which includes the traditions of Pure Land, Zen, Nichiren Buddhism, Shingon and Tiantai (Tendai), is found throughout East Asia such as China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan and Singapore. Vajrayana, a body of teachings attributed to Indian adepts, may be viewed as a separate branch or as an aspect of Mahayana Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism, which preserves the Vajrayana teachings of eighth-century India, is practised in the countries of the Himalayan region, Mongolia, and Kalmykia.

Buddhism is an Indian religion founded on the teachings of a mendicant and spiritual teacher called “the Buddha” (“the Awakened One”, c. 5th to 4th century BCE). Early texts have the Buddha’s family name as “Gautama” (Pali: Gotama). The details of Buddha’s life are mentioned in many Early Buddhist Texts but are inconsistent. His social background and life details are difficult to prove, and the precise dates are uncertain.

The evidence of the early texts suggests that Siddharta Gautama was born in Lumbini and grew up in Kapilavastu, a town in the Ganges Plain, near the modern Nepal–India border, and that he spent his life in what is now modern Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Some hagiographic legends state that his father was a king named Suddhodana, his mother was Queen Maya, and he was born in Lumbini. However, scholars such as Richard Gombrich consider this a dubious claim because a combination of evidence suggests he was born in the Shakya community, which was governed by a small oligarchy or republic-like council where there were no ranks but where seniority mattered instead. Some of the stories about Buddha, his life, his teachings, and claims about the society he grew up in may have been invented and interpolated at a later time into the Buddhist texts.

According to early texts such as the Pali Ariyapariyesanā-sutta (“The discourse on the noble quest,” MN 26) and its Chinese parallel at MĀ 204, Gautama was moved by the suffering (dukkha) of life and death, and its endless repetition due to rebirth. He thus set out on a quest to find liberation from suffering (also known as “nirvana”). Early texts and biographies state that Gautama first studied under two teachers of meditation, namely Alara Kalama (Sanskrit: Arada Kalama) and Uddaka Ramaputta (Sanskrit: Udraka Ramaputra), learning meditation and philosophy, particularly the meditative attainment of “the sphere of nothingness” from the former, and “the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception” from the latter.

Finding these teachings to be insufficient to attain his goal, he turned to the practice of severe asceticism, which included a strict fasting regime and various forms of breath control. This too fell short of attaining his goal, and then he turned to the meditative practice of dhyana. He famously sat in meditation under a Ficus religiosa tree now called the Bodhi Tree in the town of Bodh Gaya and attained “Awakening” (Bodhi).

According to various early texts like the Mahāsaccaka-sutta, and the Samaññaphala Sutta, on awakening, the Buddha gained insight into the workings of karma and his former lives, as well as achieving the ending of the mental defilements (asavas), the ending of suffering, and the end of rebirth in saṃsāra. This event also brought certainty about the Middle Way as the right path of spiritual practice to end suffering. As a fully enlightened Buddha, he attracted followers and founded a Sangha (monastic order). He spent the rest of his life teaching the Dharma he had discovered, and then died, achieving “final nirvana,” at the age of 80 in Kushinagar, India.

Buddha’s teachings were propagated by his followers, which in the last centuries of the 1st millennium BCE became various Buddhist schools of thought, each with its own basket of texts containing different interpretations and authentic teachings of the Buddha; these over time evolved into many traditions of which the more well known and widespread in the modern era are Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism

https://thomasjudas.ca/secular-buddhist/

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