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A Reflection on World Religions

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The visit to various religious sites had a significant effect on my understanding of diverse religions. Our visit at the Siva Vishnu and ShriMandri temples was the moment, when I was able to reflect on the tenets of Hinduism and acknowledge their significance within the scope of world religions. At the Siva Vishnu temple, I learnt that Akasha was one of the important elements of Hindu philosophy. This element embodies myriad of past and present events in the world of Hindus. I realized that various concepts of Akasha closely rated to the description of spirituality among the diverse religions. At first, I thought that the purpose of ringing the bell in the temple was to make an announcement. However, I came to realize that the bell was a tool for summoning of Hindu gods, and a reminder to the faithful that worldly things were only subject to perception and not possession (Pandit 56). While the priest at the Siva Vishnu temple solely focused on the spiritual aspects of Hinduism, the priest at the ShriMandri temple introduced various concepts that depict the influence of Hinduism on social aspects, such as love, marriage, and dressing. I learned that the Hindu doctrine regarded marriage as a relationship that was sacred, and to which every Hindu had a duty and obligation. I was surprised that Hinduism promoted arranged marriages, in which parents made decisions, regarding appropriate partners for their children. Later, I came to know that although consent by the supposed bride and bridegroom was necessary to ensure fruitful relationships, there was minimal consideration about whether the couples loved one another. Hinduism regards marriage as a component of the ashramas and purusharthas. Now, I also know that in the Hindu perspective, the material wears depict aspects of pureness in terms of region. Since cotton represents pureness, priests wear clothes, made from this material. This confirmed my concerns about Hindus’ selectiveness, when it comes to dressing.

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Our next visit was to the HsiFangTemple, and the JapaneseFriendshipGarden. At the FangTemple, I had the opportunity to understand various concepts of Buddhism. I learnt about the sacred places, dedicated to Buddha, where religious leaders and their followers made offerings and make intercessions. Shrines are designated locations, which symbolize the presence of Buddha and provide settings, in which people have a sense of oneness with their creator. In the shrine at the HsiFangTemple, there was the Sakyamuni Buddha, Amitabha Buddha, Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva, and the Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. I learnt that these Buddhas and bodhisattvas had certain significance in Buddhism. The Sakyamuni Buddha played a central role in the development of the concept of Nirvana, which is a key component of Buddhism (Hua 169). I realized that the role of this Buddha in the growth of Buddhism was comparable with the contributions of Jesus towards Christianity, and those of Moses in Juidaism. The Amitabha Buddha signifies love and compassion, which are some of the most emphasized values in Buddhism. This Buddha encourages the prevalence of openness and gentleness in the way Buddhists relate among themselves and with people from other religions, so that they can attain the state of enlightenment. The Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva represents wisdom and power, while the Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva signifies various aspects of compassion in Buddhism.

 I learned that as Buddhism spread, it underwent some modifications to fit into the traditional aspects of various regions. For example, the translation of Buddhism Philosophy in China led to the development of a new variation that constituted various aspects of Daoism. The inclusion of new concepts to the Indian version of Buddhism created the Chan Buddhism.

Variations in the Chan Buddhism redefined the theory of truth, as depicted in initial ideologies of Buddhism. In addition, concepts, relating to the Daoism description of action, influence the variation in Chan Buddhism, exclusive of effort. Furthermore, I learnt that the concept of attainment of enlightenment in Chan Buddhism contains the philosophy of Daoism. On the other hand, the inclusion of Taoism within the Indian Buddhism led to the development of Zen Buddhism. This variation of Buddhism seeks to enlighten believers on various concept of life, while ensuring minimal influences of logic, the mind, and language.

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I was made to understand that Dharma instruments comprised the Wooden Fish. This tool plays the important role of guiding sessions in temples. The Buddhist doctrine emphasizes the need for believers to attend chant sessions, designated in the morning and evening. When the chanting sessions commence, the reverend, presiding over the session is supposed to knock the Wooden Fish rhythmically in such a way that the pace of sessions remains controlled. In addition, I learnt that different beats ensured the participants remaining engaged in the event. The Wooden Fish is also a symbolic reminder for Buddhists to avoid falling into sin, as they pursue the state of enlightenment. The fact that the Wooden Fish resides inside shrines illustrates the spiritual reverence, attached to this Instrument. 

A  Japanese garden, similar to a Zen garden, is normally a flat area that is made of up of sand and gravel. Upon a closer look at a Zen garden, one will see some rocks arranged in a particular manner around the garden. In addition, there are barely any plants within the garden. The arrangement of stones in a Zen garden is well planned and meant to depict aspects of Buddhist philosophy. Upon further investigations, I learnt that a Zen garden illustrated various stages in the Buddhism with the stage of enlightenment, being visible solely to the people who had attained the state. Thus, a person who has not reached the enlightenment state cannot see all the stones.

Our visit to the Immaculata Parish was an opportunity to learn more about Christianity, whose doctrine originates from the Trinity and Ten Commandments. The trinity describes the relationship between the father (God), son (Jesus) and Holy Spirit (Wilson 83). Although God has bestowed Jesus and the Holy Spirit with the mandate to perform various duties, He is the key decision maker. The role of the Holy Spirit is similar to the description of Akasha in Hinduism. It gives individuals 12 fruits such as peace, love, joy, self-control and mercy. In addition, the Holy Spirit possesses seven gifts, which include counsel, knowledge and wisdom. One acquires these gifts during baptism, and they become strengthened, as he or she matures spiritually. Similar to Hinduism and Buddhism, Christians believe in a state of higher spiritual achievement. According to the Christian doctrine, when a believer dies he or she will go to a place, called Heaven. In Heaven, one is uplifted to a state that is not subject to worldly things. Furthermore, in this place, there is a higher sense of oneness with members of the trinity. However, unlike Buddhists and Hindus, Christians do not believe in reincarnation. The Bible, which contains all the teaching, relating to Christianity, describes the world as something with a beginning and an end. Christians believe that God created the world and He will destroy it due to the sinfulness on human beings. Instead of someone, returning to the world in a different form and using this opportunity to seek a higher spiritual state, Christians believe that God sends sinners to Hell to face punishment, due to their evil deeds. Christians, whether Catholics or Protestants pray in Church and make offerings to their creator. Priests and reverends preside over prayers and other religious practices among Catholics and Protestants respectively.

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The last visit was to the Ohr Shalom. This visit provided an opportunity to identify and associate with the doctrines of Judaism. Judaism originated from the ideologies, presented in the Five Books of Moses. These books, known by the name Torah, include Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. I learnt that Jewish attached significance to Torah, due to the belief that the scenario, in which God dedicated the Torah to Moses, had a spiritual symbolism. The Torah describes the way God wants Jewish to live. It contains about 613 commandments, and includes the Ten Commandments, upon which Christianity thrives. The Torah is a key element during gatherings in synagogues, which are the designated places, where Jews meet for various religious services (Cato 12). Although prayers are not restricted to a synagogue, Judaism doctrine emphasizes on the need for people to pray as a gathering. 

The synagogue is comparable to the church among Christians, or temple among Buddhists. During synagogue gatherings, designated individuals recite Torah scrolls. In Judaism, the main religious gathering in a week is Shabbat. Torah readings occur throughout the year in a sequential manner. Another fascinating attribute of Judaism is the use of a lunar calendar, in which they add one month after four years. This means that various festivals in a year coincide, unlike in the case, when one uses a civil calendar, in which dates shift. This feature introduces differences between Jewish and Christian festivals, since Christians celebrate Easter as their only lunar festival. The length of the Lunar Calendar differs from that of a civil calendar. In Judaism, most of the religious services occur in Hebrew, in accordance with the traditional practices of Judaism, since it is the language for Jews.

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