Aviva Directory » Faith & Spirituality » World Religions » Eastern Religions

Generally speaking, Eastern religions are those which originated in East Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia, and are significantly different than Western religions.

Eastern religions includes Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Jainism, Shintoism, Sindoism, Sikhism, Tantra, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, and several indigenous animistic religions.

For the purpose of categorization, we will include the Baha'i Faith as an Eastern religion, as it originated in Iran and the Middle East, although it is a syncretic religion, differing from the other Eastern religions in significant ways.

The cultural and geographical distinctions betweeen Eastern and Western religions are not precise.

The goal in most Western religions is to know God, obey God, and form a relationship with God. Eastern religions tend to be nontheistic, the goals of its practitioners being awareness and unity. While some Eastern religions do have a place for gods, they tend to view reality as something that is beyond the gods, but existing within the heart of every individual.

In Western thought, time is viewed as flowing in one direction, moving toward eternity, which is in the future. Time, in Eastern thought, is something that has always existed, as both our source and our destination. As we are always present in eternity, it is not something that awaits us.

Western religions use historical events to give significance to basic beliefs. God acts through history to teach us, to redeem us, or to punish us. This concept does not exist in Eastern religions, in which history results from the actions of humanity rather than as a part of God's plan.

Because of the lack of emphasis on deity, many people view Eastern traditions as philosophies rather than as religions, as the lines between religion and philosophy are blurred in Eastern thought. All branches of knowledge are viewed as parts of one truth.

Every Eastern tradition leads to another aspect of life. Art, breathing techniques, ethics, manners, meditation, metaphysics, sexuality, and worship are all intertwined, leading from one to the other in all directions.

As with other types of religion, Eastern religions have been subject to change over time. Those that have been exported to different cultures often pick up some of the attitudes and traditions of that culture. For example, the practice of Hinduism in Bali differs from that on the Indian subcontinent, as does Buddhism in India and in the East Asian countries.

The West places great emphasis on distinguishing between religions, denominations, sects, and traditions, that concept is not emphasized within some of the Eastern traditions.

For the purpose of categorization here, of course, we will have to differentiate.

The religions that originated on the Indian subcontinent (Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism) have several concepts in common, including dharma, karma, maya, and samsara.

A key concept with multiple definitions, there is no word in the Western languages that translates dharma. In general, it refers to proper religious practices, duties, order, laws, and conduct.

The philosophy of karma is a reference to the principle of cause and effect, although it may also be associated with the idea of rebirth.

Also used as a name for various deities within the Eastern religions, maya is used in reference to extraordinary power and wisdom, but it may also refer to something that is constantly changing or illusionary.

A Sanskrit word that means "wandering" or "world," samsara implies cyclic, circuitous change, or to the theory of rebirth, transmigration, or the karmic cycle.

East Asian religions (East Asian Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Shintoism) share the concept of tao, which is a Chinese word that means "way," "path," "route," "road," or "doctrine," and is used in reference to the natural order of the universe.

Originating in Greater Iran, Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest religions that are still active. Major elements of Zoroastrianism have influenced many of the other major religions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Gnosticism, Islam, and Judaism. A monotheistic faith, Zoroastrianism is not a perfect fit within the Eastern religions, but neither is it an Abrahamic religion, or pagan in nature. For the purpose of categorization, we will include it here.

The focus of this category and its subcategories is on the Eastern religions, which may include any of those discussed above, as well as folk religions from the Indian subcontinent or East Asia, or others that may not have been specifically covered here.














Recommended Resources

Search for Eastern Religions on Google or Bing