Sunday, February 12, 2012

Religious Studies Essay Semester 2. Comparative Scripture.

Nurulkamilah Matkamil
Micheal Agnew
Jan 31 2012
995 words
Question: Analyze and compare Surah 19:16-40 (Qur'an) to Luke 1:26-38 (New Testament)

             Both the Quran and the Bible share some similarity in the content. However, there are also some major differences in how this content is relayed, how it is structured and how these teachings shape the Muslim and Christian theology. To illustrate this, Surah 19, verse 16 to 40 is compared against Luke Chapter 1, verse 26 to 38.

            The two excerpts narrate the birth of Jesus Christ. In both accounts, the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ is an accepted doctrine. Both accounts also confirm that Jesus was born from Mary, and that the angel Gabriel approached Mary to tell her of his birth (Luke 1:28, Quran 19:18). The two scriptures are also consistent about Mary’s status as a virgin and her willingness to obey God’s commands (Luke 1:34, Quran 19:21). In a way, both accounts place Mary’s obedience in full praise and as exemplary attitude of a virtuous woman (Piper).

            However, there seems to be different emphasis on the details presented, as well as the style the story was told. In Luke, Mary’s betrothal to Joseph (Luke 1:27), a descendent of David, was mentioned, whereas the Quran only identifies Mary as the sister of Aaron (Quran 19:28). There is also a parallel story in Luke, which tells of another woman, Elizabeth, wife of Zechariah (Luke 1:26). She was barren, but was also given good tidings from Gabriel that she will bear a son, who will become John the Baptist. The Quran does not make note of this detail. In contrary, the Quran gave further details of how Mary gave birth to Jesus, which was under a palm tree (Quran 19:25), and the hardship Mary had to endure from the scrutiny of her own people speculating that Mary had done something immoral (Quran 19:27).

            Another striking difference between the Quran and the Bible is how they portray Jesus Christ. Verse 22 from Surah 19 is paralleled to verse 32 from Luke 1. Both these verses are regarding the status of Jesus. Luke identifies Jesus as the Son of God (Luke 1:32), but Jesus is only referred to as son of Mary and prophet of God in the Quran (Quran 19:34). Jesus’ status was exalted in the Bible as he is given the right to rule over Jacob’s descendants in a promised kingdom (Luke 1:33). The Bible also emphasizes Jesus’ genealogy to David (Osborne). The Quran does not mention any of this; instead, Jesus professes to be a servant of Allah, and was given a Scripture by Allah (Quran 19:30). The Quran goes further to refute Jesus being the Son of God, and give warnings for those who disbelieved (Quran 19:37-38).
            Luke narrates the story as himself. As at the beginning of the gospel, he indicates that he is addressing the gospel to a person name Theophilus, so that he knows whatever that he is taught in Christianity in its certainty.  The Bible was telling the story of Jesus to enforce the divinity of Jesus himself (Kistemaker). The Quran, however, is written in God’s voice, from a first person, narrating it to Mohammad. The story of Jesus’ miraculous birth in the Quran was treated as a clarification of the actual event, in which Muhammad had to warn the people of the misconception of the status of Jesus. The account ends with a statement of God’s absolute power over his creations to emphasize this point.
            The fact that there are such differences in both of these accounts was due to the different purposes the two scriptures served to the Christian and Muslim community. The Bible, as a whole, has more genealogical information than the Quran. Whereas, the Quran has a more reiterative tone, and assumes that such stories of Jesus and the previous prophets has already been known in general (Corrigan, 43). The Quran gives a brief overview of these stories and frames them in a way that the reader may reflect on the stories on how God has played His hands into those events. The stories also serve as a means to show exemplary behaviour as is the case with Mary. The Quran is more doctrinal as it seems to “correct” the false beliefs, and to reiterate previous teachings of the prophet. The Quran claims that all the previous prophets actually brought the same teaching from God and Muhammad was sent as the last prophet from God. The Bible is structured more chronologically like a historical record. Jesus was not only a prophet of God in the Bible, but he was the Son of God or God himself. Jesus was perceived as the Messiah that fulfilled God’s promises to the Jews and establishes a new covenant (Weaver). Laws in the Jewish scripture were considered null and void. This doesn’t seem to be the case for the Quran. The Quran does not identify Muhammad as a Messiah nor does the Quran consider previous teachings null and void. In keeping with the belief that Jesus was the Son of God, the Bible had to be structured to show the divinity of Jesus. The genealogy is described in detail, and in Luke, the genealogy is traced back to David, Jacob, Moses, Isaac, Abraham, all the way to Adam, to show that Jesus was a continuation of God’s covenant (Kistemaker). His blood tie to David also shows Jesus’ royal bloodline, and has the right to rule over the Jewish people. The account of Jesus’ life is also tied to Roman history as it further gives evidence that Jesus was a real person.

            In conclusion, as there are two sides of a coin, two scriptures can also give two sides to the same story. The way the story is structured and what details it emphasizes serve to present the story for different purposes. Despite the diversity of the scriptures and the construction of similar stories from different perspectives, we can still appreciate the fact that the scriptures actually discuss a common subject, which can become the common ground for these two religions.

Works Cited

Corrigan, John, et al. “Jews, Christians, and Muslims: A Comparative Introduction to  Monotheistic Religions.” 2nd Edition.  United States: Pearson Education Inc, 2012. Print.

Kistemaker, Simon. “The Structure of Luke’s Gospel.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 25 No 1:March 1982, p 33-39. ATLA Religion Database. American Theological Library Association. ATLAS.Web. January 17th, 2012.

Osborne, Grant. “Who Was Jesus’ Grandfather?”  Christianity Today. Vol. 53, No. 12: 2009, p 56. ATLA Religion Database. American Theological Library Association. ATLAS. Web. January 18, 2012.

Piper, Otto A. “The Virgin Birth: The Meaning of the Gospel Accounts”. Interpretation. Vol. 18 No. 2: April 1964, p 131-148. ATLA Religion Database. American Theological Library Association. ATLAS. Web. January 19, 2012.

The Noble Quran in The English Language: A Summarized Version of At-Tabari, Al-Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir with Comments from Sahih Al-Bukhari. Trans. Dr. Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali and Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan. Saudi Arabia: Maktaba Dar-us-Salam, 1996. Print.

The Oxford Annotated Bible with The Apocrypha, Revised Standard Version. Herbert G. May  and Bruce M. Metzger, editor. New York: Oxford University Press, 1965. Print.

Weaver, Dorothy Jean. “Rewriting The Messianic Script: Matthew’s Account of The Birth of  Jesus.” Interpretation. Vol. 54, No 4: Oct 2000, p 376-385. ATLA Religion Database. American Theological Library Association. ATLAS.Web. January 18th, 2012.

Religious Studies Essay Semester 1 Confucianism

Nurulkamilah Matkamil
Micheal Agnew
Dec 2 2011
790 words
Question 2: In context to the Doctrine of the Mean, how would you explain the meaning of this phrase: “…the superior man can find himself in no situation in which he is not himself”? Do you see any similarities between The Doctrine of the Mean and Western ideology? If so, what are they? China is currently experiencing a new interest in the study of Chinese Classics. What aspects of the Doctrine of the Mean do you believe can be utilized in modern lifestyles? Why?

            Good moral conduct is given a great emphasis in Confucianism. This is because if every individual focuses on self-cultivation of righteousness, it will result in a virtuous cycle, starting with the ruler as the exemplar of good virtue for his subordinates. When a superior does not gain confidence from his subordinates, he is not fit to govern (Legge). The Doctrine of the Mean is a documentation of Confucius’ ethical philosophy of good government and moral self-cultivation. The Mean is basically an “instruction” of how to become a virtuous person.

            One of the virtues outlined in the Doctrine of the Mean is that a virtuous person or “the superior man” is a person who acts accordingly to the situation as suggested by the phrase “the superior man can find himself in no situation in which he is not himself.” He is able to adapt to the situations. The phrase also suggests that the superior man is not a hypocrite; he only acts according to what is due. The goal of the superior man is that he relies on his inner resources and is not dependent on material things, similar to the Buddhist goal of becoming detached from the material world as it is impermanent (Kupperman). It is also a Confucian understanding that everything and everyone are interconnected with the universe’s natural cycle of change (Marshak). To act accordingly to this natural cycle of change, which is to be a superior man, the society achieves harmony and is in with accordance with the harmony of the universe.

            The Doctrine of the Mean share some similarities with Western Ideology, one of it is the fact that Confucianism is more humanistic as most Western ideology are, for example, Aristotle’s “The Measure of a Man is Man”. Aristotle proposed that with social sympathy come mutual obligations and duties between each person in a community. This emphasis on social responsibility is an essential characteristic of a “good man” (Hamburger). Similarly, in Confucianism, the concept of ren is given emphasis. Ren conveys the idea of relationship, be it between family members, friends or even a ruler and his subjects (Fisher 157).Another interpretation of the word ren is also humaneness (Tsai). Confucius takes this further by also emphasising li or filial piety. Confucius opines that the foundation of good social service to the community comes from one’s filial piety to family members. Only in learning to pay service to or to maintain a good relationship with the ancestors will one develop better relationships among the community, especially the relationship between the ruler and his subjects. Aristotle also has his own Doctrine of the Mean, which explains the importance of self-cultivation of moral values or the importance of becoming a moral person because a person who has excellence of character he likes acting in a proper way, feeling emotions which he can manifest with pleasure, since there is no internal struggle (Urmson).           

            Most of the aspects of the Doctrine of the Mean can be used in modern lifestyles as the doctrine is in itself a guide to decent livelihood. Humans, being social creatures would interact with each other on a daily basis, and tend to depend on each other not only physical nourishments, but also for moral or emotional support. Therefore, it is important to maintain good relationships within a community. The Doctrine of the Mean can help in achieving this as it outlines the moral values that one must have to be a moral person. The study of the Doctrine of the Mean itself makes one question, what are the values that make one humane? What is considered moral or immoral? It challenges one to think about our worldviews and how we judge things around us. It also teaches one self respect and how to respect others. The Doctrine of the Mean can actually keep and individual in check of himself and his actions. It makes one think deeply how is one’s actions affecting the community, how does one’s actions measure up to the standards of a virtuous person? As a result, one becomes more mindful of his actions and altruistic. This will result in a harmonious society because every individual is mindful of his own actions so as to how it will affect the rest of the society.

            In conclusion, Confucius’ Doctrine of the Mean is one of the most prominent works in Chinese Philosophy that combines humanistic elements in adherence to Chinese beliefs of a universal order in promoting harmony in both heaven and earth. Confucianism promotes self-cultivation of moral values which will contribute to a virtuous cycle in a society. It shares a few similarities with Western ideology especially Aristotle’s own Doctrine of the Mean, and is still relevant to be practised in today’s society. 


Works Cited

Fisher, Mary Pat. “Living Religions.” 8th Edition.  United States: Pearson Learning Solutions, 2011. Print.

Hamburger, Max. “Aristotle and Confucius: A Comparison”. Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 20, No. 2. University of Pennsylvania Press, Apr. 1959: pp. 236-249. Print.

Kupperman, Joel J. “Confucius and the Nature of Religion”.  Philosophy East and West, Vol. 21, No. 2. University of Hawaii Press, Apr. 1971: pp. 189-194. Print.

Legge, James. “The Doctrine of the Mean”. MyReligionLab. Web. Nov 21st 2011.

Marshak, Robert J. “Lewin Meets Confucius: A Review of The OD Model of Change.” Journal of Applied Behavioral Science. SAGE Publications, 1993: pp 393. Print.

Urmson, J.O. “Aristotle’s Doctrine of the Mean”. American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 10, No. 3. University of Illinois Press, Jul., 1973:  pp. 223-230. Print.

Tsai, D F- C. “The Bioethical Principles and Confucius’ Moral Philosophy”. Journal of  Medical Ethics.  2005: pp.159–163. BMJ Group. Web. Nov 22nd 2011.

Religious Studies Essay Semester 1 Daoism

Nurulkamilah Matkamil
Micheal Agnew
Nov 18 2011
1020 words
Question 3: In Chinese religious thought, what is the importance of feng shui and how does it express fundamental Chinese teachings? Do you think that this principle was respected when the room in which you are sitting was built? Why or why not? If not, how would it be different if the principles of feng shui had been adopted by its builders?

            Cosmic balance is an essential element in Chinese religious thought, because ultimately, the universe is one eternal flux of energy; constantly changing and unifying everything that is in it. A person would seek to harmonize his lifestyle with this cosmic energy. One way of doing so is the practice of feng shui, the art of geomancy, which is used in determining the natural flow of qi, the life force (Fisher 146).

            The Chinese believe that the human body is an inner universe which reflects the outer universe, the same way Earth is a reflection of Heaven (Bruun 114). Although the inner universe and outer universe seem like two opposite entities, but in order to strike balance between them, one must complement the other or the inner universe has to correspond with the natural flow or “dao” of the universe, because all the elements of the universe influences an individual’s fortunes or misfortunes (Eitel 22). In Feng Shui, the person and the dwelling must harmonize with each other. In order to do so, one must understand the qi of both the person and the dwelling. Feng Shui teaches one the methods on how to understand the qi. Feng Shui fundamental principles include the understanding of the concept of Yin and Yang; which describes the opposing dual facets of nature, principle of Five Phases; which describe the five physical elements of nature, principle of Eight Trigrams; which describes the patterns of change, and Four Celestial Animals; which describes the method to evaluate the surroundings of a dwelling (Skinner 3). There are two main schools of Feng Shui, the first is the School of Forms, which emphasizes more on the geography of the house based on the principle the Four Celestial Houses, and the School of Orientation that takes into account the constantly changing nature of qi and uses a numerology method. Later schools that developed are the Bagua School, the Black Hat Sect School and the Flying Star School. However, one does not need to adhere strictly to one school and methods from both schools may be used in order to practise Feng Shui in a certain dwelling (Bruun 115).

            All the fundamental principles of Feng Shui provide the guide for the homeowner to orient the elements of his or her home to the direction with the most favourable flow of qi that will help promote prosperity and bring pleasant tidings to the home. Both the house and the owner have their individual “trigram” which has a particular qi that is associated with it (Hook 44). To know whether a house favors the flow of positive qi to the homeowner, the homeowner must determine the compatibility of the trigrams of both the owner and the house. For example, according to Feng Shui principles, the house in which I am residing in is identified as the third most compatible with my personal trigram, according to the Bagua School - Figure 1.1. The orientation of the house also shows that the doorway is favourable for the flow of positive qi, and there are particular areas that are favourable and non-favorable direction of qi- Figure 1.2. According to Feng Shui principles, in areas of favourable qi, the qi can be enhanced with the orientation of the furniture to face the direction of favourable qi or to place elements; be it wall color or ornaments that correspond to the particular qi of that direction to enhance the flow of qi. For example, since the house’s orientation for favourable flow of qi is northeast, chairs must be oriented so that it faces northeast. This isn’t obeyed in some of the spaces in the house due to limited space. For places that does not favour the flow of qi, the negative flow of qi can also be rectified with the same method, with the understanding of how the elements interact with each other in that direction according to the Five Phase Principle. For example, one of the doors is opposite the stairs which is inauspicious as the Chinese believe that whatever good qi that comes in will go tumbling down the stairs. To remedy this, the walls may be colored to the element that counteracts the negative qi it corresponds to. Other elements of the house are the land plot as well as the surroundings of the house- Figure 1.3. The land plot of the house is favourable as it is square and the house is situated in the centre of the plot. According to Feng Shui, this arrangement is favourable as the qi is able to flow all around the house, ‘nourishing’ all sides of the house. The entrance of the house is also favourable as it is oriented in the correct direction of the house’s qi. Next, is the surroundings at which the house is situated, which is on flat land and is surrounded with other housing. Flat land is favourable as it promotes stability, according to the principle of Four Celestial Palaces. Lastly is the road near the dwelling. The housing is arranged along a straight road. Since it is a housing area, the road is quite quiet and has hardly any traffic. This is favourable as it promotes peace and quiet. According to the School of Forms, the house should favourably not have sharp corners as the qi travels in waves, so rounded corners are more favourable to qi flow (Bruun 142). If the house were builte according to Feng Shui principles, it would definitely have less sharp corners. Overall, although the house was probably built without much consideration in Feng Shui, but it has been quite favourable to my personal qi.

             In conclusion, Feng Shui is an important element in cosmic balance as it involves the individual as well as his or her surroundings. Maintaining cosmic balance is the main goal of every individual, and Feng Shui is a means of achieving this. Not only is Feng Shui a practise which is rich in various fields of knowledge, it is also a beneficial exercise to achieve a better quality of living that is simultaneously in harmony with one’s surroundings and one’s inner energy.

Works Cited

Bruun, Ole. “An Introduction To Feng Shui.” United Kingdom: University Press, Cambridge, 2008. Print.

Eitel, Ernest J. “Feng Shui or Rudiments of Natural Science in China”. 3rd Edition. Great Britain: Kingston Press, 1979. Print.

Fisher, Mary Pat. “Living Religions.” 8th Edition. United States: Pearson Learning Solutions, 2011. Print.

Hook, Diana ffarington, “The I Ching and You”. Great Britain: Western Printing Services, 1973. Print. 

Skinner, Stephen. “Flying Star Feng Shui”. Singapore: Tuttle Publishing, 2002. Print.

Religious Studies Essay Semester 1 Buddhism

Nurulkamilah Matkamil
Micheal Agnew
Nov 7 2011
826 words
Question 5: The Jataka Tales  “The Wishing Tree” and “The Noble Hare” with commentary from Rafe Martin. What is a Jataka tale, and what is its characteristic form? All religions incorporate stories about the lives of key religious figures, as for instance the Christian gospels or hadith concerning the Prophet Muhammad. Buddhist lore includes stories about the Buddha’s past lives. In what ways are these Jataka tales similar to the stories found in other religions? In what ways are they specifically Buddhist – that is, reinforcing key tenets of Buddhist belief, and depending on central premises of the Buddhist account of reality?

            Story-telling and narrations are interactive ways that a society can engage with each other and has become a useful tool to not only entertain, but also to educate and encourage thought. Stories like fables imbue moral codes in their narration so that the people can apply the moral values in their own lives. In Buddhist tradition, such stories come in the form of the Jataka Tales, or “birth tales”, which is a collection of 547 poems and is part of the Sutta Pitaka. After attaining Enlightenment, the Buddha remembered all his past lives, and narrated them as the Jataka Tales to his disciples. The Buddha has been reborn as animals 123 times, as humans 357 times and as gods 66 times (Varma).
            Among the characteristics of the Jataka Tale is that it features animal fables, heroic epics, animal-birth stories as well as moral stories (Martin). The stories are also told from the Buddha’s point of view which is recorded by his disciples as they heard the stories. Canonical verses are also included. The Jataka Tales put great emphasis on the moral value of compassion. Selfless and self-sacrificing characters occur throughout most of the stories, for example, the noble hare who willingly sacrificed himself so that he could provide meat to a poor lonely traveller and an ape king who sacrificed himself so that his subjects could save themselves from the king of Benares who wanted to kill the monkeys for their flesh (Fisher 96; Grether). The characters in the Jataka Tales also model righteous behaviours which the audience could also emulate. Similar to the Hindu literature of Bhagavad Gita, the Jataka Tales also outlines the moral blueprints as well as the duties of one to the society. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna, the reincarnate of Vishnu, taught Arjuna the importance of adhering to one’s duties, which indirectly also preaches the same lesson to the audience as they relate themselves to Arjuna, who is an ordinary human being who undergoes internal conflicts (Fisher 57). The same can be said to the Buddhist Jataka Tales, although Buddhism doesn’t advocate the caste system, but it uses the same method to relay the teachings to the audience, regardless of age or social standings.

            As in other religions which also incorporate the stories about the lives of key religious figures, the stories not only model the ideal religious individual after the religious figure, but it also enforces the authority of the religious figure himself and enforces the identity of the individual based on a religious ideal (Patel). Both Jesus Christ and Muhammad were prophets, sent to human kind to relay God’s message of worshiping Him. This authority is further enforced with the stories about the prophets’ lives; their actions, their speeches, which show how they are the epitome of the ideal worshiper and must be emulated by their followers (Ernst). Although Buddha may not be a prophet, considering that Buddhism is a nontheistic religion, but he was the first human being to be enlightened. Like the prophets, he feels compelled to spread the message to other human beings so that they can achieve enlightenment as well. So, through the stories, the Buddha becomes the model for his followers of how to achieve enlightenment. The prescriptions for achieving enlightenment, such as the Noble Eight-Fold Path, are detailed in the stories, and it helps the followers to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong, and how to follow the paths methodically. Buddha himself is aware of the different levels of his audience. Storytelling seems to be the universal way he can reach out to the people. They layman can directly emulate the prescribed morals from the stories, whereas those with capacity of higher understanding can choose to ponder the greater or more abstract meaning behind the stories (Stoesz).  However, unlike the prophets, the Buddha’s message was not to worship God or how to correctly worship God, but his message is the Four Noble Truths. It was simply about realizing the reality of life and being at peace with it. The Buddha does not call for any form of worship; he only prescribed ways in how one can be happy in life. In the Jataka Tales, the stories do not relate to any wrath of God if one displeases Him, nor does it say much about the awesome divinity of god, because they too are subjected to the cycle of rebirth (Lewis; Fisher 139).

            In conclusion, stories are an engaging and an interactive way to teach religion to the masses. In Buddhism, the Jataka Tales become the model of a righteous society as it retells the birth stories of the Buddha and is characterized by its characters and canonical features. These stories also play the same role as other stories in other religions like Hinduism, Christianity, Islam and others. The only difference is that the Buddhist message is fundamentally different as it does not call for worship of God, but the attainment of enlightenment.

Works Cited

Ernst, Carl W. “Following Muhammad: Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World
            Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 2003. Print.

Fisher, Mary Pat. “Living Religions.” 8th Edition.  United States: Pearson Learning Solutions, 2011. Print.

Grether, Herbert G. “Cross and The Bodhi Tree.” Theology Today. Issue 4 (January 1960): page 446-458. Print.

Lewis, Jack P. “Noah and The Flood in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Tradition.” The Biblical Archaeologist. The American Schools of Oriental Research. Vol. 47. No. 4 (Dec 1984.): page 224-239. Print.

Martin, Rafe. “Thoughts on The Jatakas.” MyReligionLab. Web. Oct 28th 2011.
Patel, Eboo et al. “Storytelling As A Key Methodology For Interfaith Groupwork.” Journal of Ecumenical Studies.  Issue 43. No. 2 (Spring 2008): page 35-46. Print.

Stoesz, Willis. “The Buddha as Teacher”. Journal of the American Academy of Religion. Issue 46. No. 2: page 139-158. Print.

Varma, C. B. “The Illustrated Jataka & Other Stories of the Buddha - Introduction.” Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts - Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Kala Kendra - 1999. Web.  29 Oct. 2011. 

Religious Studies Essay Semester 1 Hinduism

Nurulkamilah Matkamil
Micheal Agnew
Oct 21 2011
989 words
Question 4: The Faithful Wife: Construction of Gender and Traditional Role of Women in Hindusim.

            Central to Hindu teachings is the concept of dharma, which in itself has multiple meanings, one of which is the societal roles or responsibilities that one must fulfil in order to achieve liberation or moksha (Creel). Smriti texts such as Dharma Shastra and the Manusmriti explicitly define the dharma for each respective caste, including women (“Smriti”). Marriage is perceived as a vehicle for spiritual discipline, service and advancement towards a spiritual goal (Fisher 65). In doing so, each man and woman has their own roles to play according to their gender, acting as a complement of each other (Pandit). However, the man supposedly has better capacity to attain liberation as compared to women, so this is where their dharma differs (Scovill). A woman’s liberation does not come as a result of her own practices, but it is through her husband’s practices and in fulfilling her duties as a faithful wife (Fisher 65).

            As a contrast to the men who have four stages in life, a woman has three stages of life: maiden, marriage and widowhood or sati, all of which is defined in relation to her relationship with the man (Scovill). When she is a maiden, a woman must be submissive to her father, in marriage, to her husband, in widowhood, to her sons and her husband as well. A woman is never to be independent of those men otherwise it will bring disharmony to the families (Manusmriti 5:147-149). In marriage, the ideal woman is a pativrata, which means a chaste, loyal, dutiful woman who vows to worship her husband (“Pati”). Since the path of liberation of a woman is only through her husband, the husband is worshipped as though he is a god, as the intermediary level of her path to moksha (Manusmriti 5:154),. The woman devotes herself to being a good wife with hopes that her dharma will be fulfilled and she will be reborn as a man of higher caste to get a better chance at attaining moksha. In being a virtuous wife, she does her best to please her husband, and control her behaviour so that she will be exalted in heaven (Manusmriti 5:155, 165).

            Among the prescribed good behaviour of a virtuous woman is being economical in expenditure, obedient, always cheerful and clever in managing household affairs (Manusmriti 5:150). Even any religious actions such as fasting must be done with permission from her husband (Manusmriti 5:155). She must also always please her husband if she wants to live with him after death (Manusmriti 5:156). Apart from that, a woman also has designated tasks she must perform in respect of her husband after his death. She is to not insult his memory and she cannot mention another man’s name nor remarry as it is more important to remain chaste than to procreate (Manusmriti 5: 151, 157-160). However, if a woman desires to remarry, she will lose her place in heaven with her deceased husband and is disgraced. A woman who forsakes her husband for a man of higher caste is also chastised in the Manusmriti (Manusmriti 5:161, 164). Some women even go to the extent of committing sati, or burning herself on her husband’s funeral pyre as it was perceived as the highest merit of a faithful wife (“Sati”). This prescription is effective in a way that it explains the negative consequences as well as the rewards a woman shall have if she either disobeys or obeys the prescriptions. At the same time, the Manusmriti also encourages men to honor their women (Manusmriti 3:55). So, it does in fact balance the seemingly harsh view on women with the emphasis of treating their women well.

            Despite the texts heavily prescribing a woman’s devotion to her husband, her life is still essentially about fulfilling dharma, and eventually attaining moksha, as any other Hindu. A woman is viewed to be equal to men spiritually, as all life is fundamentally the same essence of the divine entity Brahman. Even on a divine level, femininity is also regarded with high esteem as the Divine Mother, Devi; another facet of the same divine entity. Goddesses like Lakshmi and Sarasvati are associated with positive values of wealth and knowledge. The female aspect is also regarded with equal importance in propagating the life because without it, the male aspect cannot act (Fisher 50). The Manusmriti itself is also a secondary text as compared to the Vedas, and is mainly a guideline of how one should fulfill dharma and is not the “word of God” itself. It is secondary to the Vedas and is based on societal positions, time, place and climate (Sivananda). Vedic teachings advocate that any person has equal chances to attain moksha as it is the ultimate goal of every individual. Due to the fact that the Hindus believe in reincarnation based on good or bad karma, the prescribed dharmas are justified, because if one fails in fulfilling dharma, they will get another chance being reborn in another lifetime, whereas those who fulfilled their dharma but have yet to achieve moksha will be reborn as a more ideal being. For the woman, her only hope is to be a good Hindu wife in one lifetime to be reborn as a man of higher caste and achieve moksha.
            In conclusion, gender roles in Hinduism are just as prevalent and justified based on religious texts as in other world religions as well. This is due to the fact that men and women are fundamentally different in creation and nature and play different roles in society. The dharma puts much stress on one’s responsibility to the society as well as the harmony of the society. The differences in dharma of men and women actually help the two complement in each other in a marriage in order to achieve the ultimate goal of moksha. Differences in social responsibilities also do not make one better than the other, it is just a different means of achieving the same goal.

Works Cited

Creel, Austin B. “Dharma as an Ethical Category Relating to Freedom and Responsibility.” Philosophy East and West. Vol. 22. No. 2. (April 1972): 155-168. JSTOR. Web. Oct 17 2011.

Fisher, Mary Pat. “Living Religions.” 8th Edition.  United States: Pearson Learning Solutions, 2011. Print.

"Manusmriti: Chapter 5." Pearson MyReligionLab. Trans. Georg B├╝hler. Pearson   Learning Solutions. Web. 15 Oct. 2011.

Pandit, Bansi. “Explore Hinduism”. Google books. 2005. Web. Oct. 15 2011.

“Pati.” Telugu to English Dictionary. n.d. Web. Oct 15 2011.

"Sati." Women In World History. Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, 2006.Web. 15 Oct. 2011.

Scovill, Nelia Beth. “The Liberation of Women in Religious Sources. Section 5: Hinduism.” Religious Consultation. n.d. Web. Oct 15 2011.

Sivananda, Sri Swami. “All About Hinduism”. Divine Life Trust Society. 1999. Web. Oct 15 2011.

“Smriti- Definition from the Miriam-Webster Dictionary.” Dictionary and Thesaurus - Merriam-Webster Online. n.d. Web. Oct 15. 2011.