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Topic: Religions in Ladakh< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 02 2003, 5:10 pm  Skip to the next post in this topic.    QUOTE

I've been putting off this topic, as it could tend to be a "hot" one (but not as hot as an upcoming one about the war situation with Pakistan). My Storytelling posts are not meant to rile anyone up, but this one could. Especially if someone thinks I am wrong about something. So, what I am going to do today is give very general information about the religions primarily found here in Ladakh. Be aware that entire books have been written about each of these, and I am going to be VERY general and summarize the five most common religeons found here. At the end, I will have one last paragraph summing things up.

VERY BASIC SUMMARY:
Buddhist = Reincarnation system with no supreme God.
Sikh = Reincarnation system with one God.
Hindu = Reincarnation system with many gods.
Muslim = One life with Mohammed as its founder.
Christian = One life with Jesus as its founder.

BUDDHISM:
I will start with Buddhism, as it is the largest religion found here. Buddhism, as practiced in Ladakh, is basically Tibetan in character. And, it is often described as a lifestyle rather than a real religeon. I've also heard of it as an offshoot of Hinduism, which I can understand. Basically, it is a system of reincarnation until you "get things right" and achieve nirvana. What Buddhists are trying to overcome are the basic evils of hatred, ignorance and desire through moderation in all things. When that is accomplished, Nirvana is achieved. But, this proves to be very hard, and thus the system of reincarnation. Many times Christians come here talking to the locals about "being born-again." This is a mistake, as being born again is the cycle the Buddhists are trying to break! Anyway, during their life here, Buddhists feel that karma (good or bad) determines what the level of rebirth will be. They have 6 levels. The highest level are gods. But, not in the sense that we think of them. But, even the gods have faults (pride in being highest). The second highest level are demi-gods. Their fault is in having envy (of the gods above them). The fourth level are animals (problems with ignorance). The fifth level are something called "hungry ghosts." These are depicted in paintings as humanoids with very thin necks and fat stomachs. They are always hungry, but can not get anything to eat due to their necks. And, even sun rays are like needles to their skin. Level 6 is for those with the worst karma in their past human life. It is like a hell level. But, not permanently. Only until the bad karma has worn off. Just like the gods are only gods until their good karma has worn off. So, level three (humans) is the best level, because it is only as humans that it is possible to break the cycle. There are two main branches of Buddhism, but I will not get into that.

HINDU:
The Hindu religeon is one of which I am not well-versed in. But, as we have many army men serving here who are Hindu, I do need to cover this one. I will tell you what I do know. I had a friend fill me in on the Hare Krishna sect, which is a very rigid sect based on the teachings of Ram and Krishna. They are on the conservative side, although they are one of the few mission-oriented branches. This is why you'll see them in airports world-wide. I did visit their temple in Bombay, and was impressed with the building and displays (although not the worship). The reason their worship did not impress me was that the older generation was all Indian, while virtually all of the people under age 40 were Westerners! They were there not for religeon or belief, but for a sense of identity. I am also familiar with the Vendanta branch of Hinduism, which was advocated by Swami Vivekananda around the turn of the century near 1900. He actually was in America for a time and had a following there. His branch of Hinduism is based on the consciousness of people and the mind. Some good ideas in the three books of or about him that I read, but I had problems in his willingness to accept other deities (including Jesus) into their system. It has the flavor of cults in America like the one north of Yellowstone where "anything goes." But, Hinduism in general has the same cycle of re-birth based on Karma as in the Buddhist belief. And as it is older, this is why many say that Buddhism is only an offshoot of Hinduism. The main difference, though, (there are many other smaller differences) is that the Hindu system has many deities. These include Ram (the most important god), Vishnu, Krishna, Ganesh (elephant-head god), Shiva, and many others. The Hindu temples throughout the majority are impressive, especially in the south.

SIKHISM:
The Sikhs are also here due to their large presence in the army. Of all the non-Christian religeons in India, I have the most respect for this group. The Sikhs are recognizable due to their turbans, and are the butt of jokes in India (I've been told not for unfounded reasons). But, I have friends here who are Sikhs. They run the best camera stores, and there are two Sikh friends who have what I consider the best German bakery here. The Sikhs were founded by Guru Nanak, the first of 10 gurus who founded their religeon. His system combined ideas from Hinduism and Islam. Basically, it is another system of reincarnation, but with only ONE god. They believe in equality of all, including women. There is no caste-system in Sikhism, and all are welcome. The Sikhs are also very generous. I've been on a bus here in Ladakh, and we've stopped at the Sikh shrine near the Sikh military regiment, where they fed the entire bus for free. In Delhi, their largest temple will prepare and serve over 3000 free meals a day! Besides covering their heads, strict Sikhs will not shave their hair or beards and have with them at all time a comb, a steel bracelet, clean undershorts (I almost laughed when I first heard this until I realized that the Sikh explaining this was serious), and a dagger.

ISLAM:
This religeon is growing here, and is about 40 percent right now. It is expected to pass Buddhism in numbers in the next 6 years. Due to events of the past two years, many people have studied up on this one, so I will try to be more brief. Muslims believe in one God, Allah, and that Mohammed is His prophet. All people have to do to become a Muslim is state this! Due to their belief in one life, they believe they have to earn their way to heaven. This can be done through giving to the poor, praying 5 times a day, taking a pilgrimage to Mecca, being a martyr for the cause (the reason for militancy among them) and other things. But, unless they die in a Jihad, they are never sure of a trip to heaven. The problem with the Jihad, though, is it is a misinterpretation of the Qiran as it is written. It is simply a "war against evil" such as impure thoughts and other things. And, it was specified that Jihad was not directed to be directed to activities of "people of the Book." This means Jews and Christians. So, they have strayed in this. There are two main branches of Islam (Shia and Sunni), which I discussed in a previous post. Many Muslims here, including shop owners and restaurant owners are my friends. And, 4 of my 5 best keyboard students at the school are Muslim girls.

CHRISTIAN:
Again, I don't need to say much about this, as it is the most familiar in America. The Christians were here as far back as 150 years ago when the Moravians came to this area. There is now also a Catholic church, and several small discreet groups (I'm told) working here. Christianity, like Islam, believes in only one life, heaven and hell, and one God. But, unlike Islam, Jesus is the founder rather than Mohammed. And, it is often referred to by Christians as a relationship with God, rather than a religeon. This is because Christians consider Jesus God. According to the Bible, all people have flaws and faults. And, the penalty for this is death. No one can pay this penalty for another because of his/her own flaws. But Jesus, because he is considered God, is perfect and COULD pay this price for others. And, this is exactly what is believed by those who accept this "free gift."

SUMMARY:
In the above paragraphs, I kept everything as objective as I could in each of the 5 religeons. Here is the paragraph where I will insert my own feelings and findings. Regardless which religeon a person is here, I find that the dedication to that religeon is stronger here than in the states. I am a Christian, and have found that my own faith is stronger now, despite my exposure to the other religeons in India. Through my learning of what others believe, watching the Buddhists repetatively saying prayers with prayer bead or mindlessly spinning prayer wheels, watching a Muslim Muharram procession, and other such things, it makes my own beliefs stronger. I am not the outgoing type that is out to make converts of everyone I meet (besides it being illegal and I'd be deported with my visa revoked), but have had some good discussions with others who have been interested in my faith. Christians here pretty much all attend church much more regularly than in the states, except when ill. And, they are all dedicated. In all fairness, I should say that their main fault is in their unwillingness to except new Ladakhi's into their fold for fear that they are Buddhist spies. About 15 years ago, the Buddhists almost burned the church and home of every Christian when they produced tracts in Ladakhi. Today, the only threat is from the Assemblies of God, who has a group here whose "zeal" is doing more harm than good here to the Christian cause. In general, though, all the groups are getting along most of the time. The most recent problem was two weeks ago when a Buddhist-Muslim flare-up caused an enforced strike for two days of all businesses by the police while things calmed down again.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 02 2003, 5:34 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Interesting summary of five different religions.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 02 2003, 6:00 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

This, along with all of Keith's posts, can be found at http://www.oktrails.com
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 03 2003, 1:10 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic.    QUOTE

Yeah, I know. It was about the best I could do in just a post. And, it was long at that. I was way too general in the space and time I had, and omitted much of the finer details that should have been mentioned about each to do them justice. I was gearing that post mainly towards those who have not done much travelling, and wanted an overview.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 03 2003, 6:49 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Thank-you Burntfoot for your summaries of the 5 major religions in Ladakh.Very informative.I do have to raise the question of Islamic jihad just being a war against the evil that exists in man and not a war against non-Islamic people and more specifically "people of the book".Qu'ran,surah 9:29 says"Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the Religion of Truth, from among the People of the Book[Jews and Christians],until they pay compensation with willing submission,and feel themselves subdued."surah9:5 says"But when the forbidden months are past,then fight and slay the pagans wherever you find them,and seize them,beleaguer them,and lie in wait for them,in every stratagem of war."English interpretations of the Qur'an are by Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall in"The Meaning of the Glorious Koran."
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 27 2006, 6:34 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic.    QUOTE

I'm bumping all of these India stories to the top, so they won't be lost when the new software kicks in.
Keith

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PostIcon Posted on: Apr. 12 2014, 5:29 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

I don't want to lose these, so I'm bringing them back to the top before the new software kicks in.
Keith


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