World Religions is a broad category employed in the study of world religion to demarcate the major five most widely prevalent and historically important religious groups. Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and the other five are almost always included in this list, being collectively known as the “Five.” In addition, other religions like Unitarian Universalism and Eastern Orthodox Christianity are sometimes noted, but not in enough detail to qualify. While many modern religions regard the study of world religions as a serious academic undertaking, there is very little in the way of professional literature on the topic. This has left scholars and students of world religions confronted with the problem of developing an accurate classification system.
The primary challenge facing the student of world religions is the lack of a universally accepted framework from which to categorize the varieties of religious traditions. World Religions tends to be lumped into two general categories: polytheism and pantheism. Pantheism is a belief that “everything in the universe is god and nothing else is god.” On the other hand, polytheism involves the idea that “everything in the universe is god and nothing else is god.”
Distinguish Between Monotheisms and Polytheism
The two concepts used to distinguish between monotheisms and polytheism are highly subjective, although both have been identified as major world religions by some of their key proponents. Pantheism and monotheisms alike share a rejection of traditional religious practices, focusing instead on an impersonal, all-encompassing god. The key difference between these two world religions comes from the specific practices they attribute to a single deity. As a result, each of the five great world religions–Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism–has its own set of rituals and beliefs associated with it.
A common example of a polytheistic tradition is that of India, where there are countless numbers of different religions with multiple gods and goddesses, many of which are vastly different from each other. Hinduism is one of the world’s most commonly practiced religions, with Hinduism defining much of the modern world into three main sub-genres: Karma Yoga, Jainism, and Buddhism. Karma yoga, for example, believes that one’s good actions, such as those of meditation, will eventually lead to favorable consequences, such as enlightenment. Karma yoga is one of the oldest forms of yoga and its followers believe that all life is connected. Another important aspect of the Hinduism paradigm is the notion of reincarnation, wherein the soul lives on after death and is therefore believed to continue striving toward enlightenment even after death.
World’s Major Religions
Buddhism is another of the world’s major religions with a long history and multiple manifestations. One of the most well-known and oft-misunderstood facets of the Buddhist philosophy is its five-point mantra, the Mahayana Sutras. The Mahayana Sutras are considered to be the core teachings of the Buddhist religion, and form the basis of much of the Buddhist language as well as the meditation techniques used. A map showing the path of each of the five points along the Mahayana Sutras can help readers better understand this profound religion.
Buddhism is a religion of strong regional variation and has existed in India for thousands of years, yet it is still practiced widely in China, Pakistan, Tibet, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. A popular middle east tour guide to the region describes Buddhism in terms of five disciplines: mindfulness, kama, jnana, samadhi, and dharana. While this represents an oversimplification of the practice, it does represent a key distinction between the various world religions.
Listening to Podcasts
Finally, listening to this podcast on podcasts is a great way to gain a deeper understanding of the most fundamental teachings of any religion, especially yoga. In the podcast, hosts Krishna Das and Mike Johnson share an insightful look at the Hindu mind and the path to samadhi, the highest stage of yoga. The two men also explain how yoga’s numerous facets can benefit modern people, while providing a path for ultimate happiness and fulfillment. This podcast is a great complement to anyone who is already a practitioner of yoga, or for anyone who would like to learn more about the religion from a new perspective.
If you are interested in learning more about the most influential world religions paradigm, this podcast is an excellent resource for you. Although the podcast covers many different religions, it is centered around Hinduism. The authors do an excellent job of describing the philosophy, and the subtleties of the ritual. They also explain how different traditions apply to modern people, while helping people appreciate the commonalities among all of the traditions. It is an excellent introduction to the subject, and the authors do a good job of defining the field. If you are already a practitioner, this podcast provides a unique window into the ancient practices of some of the world’s most respected religions.