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Mormonism, Hinduism, And Buddhism- Salient Similarities


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>> Q: Why are you excluding Jains, Sikhs, the ancient Greeks, and others who had and have notions of reincarnation?

>> A: I thought if the research stuck to the three main spiritual philosophies, there would be a higher chance of it getting accepted as a thesis proposal. Another reason I picked these three is because a significant part of the Bible and early parts of the Book of Mormon take place in Hindu and Buddhist settings If you'd recommend an examination or reincarnation/transmigration/multiple phases of existence in ancient history and with Mormonism, I'd be happy to submit a thesis proposal based on that. >> >>

>> Q: What do you mean that "[t]he many similarities between reincarnation and eternal progression can not be explained by mere chance"? >>

>> A: Joseph Smith was an uneducated farm boy in farming areas of New York around 1820. I don't know of any Hindu or Buddhist influences or books or literature in that area at that time, so I'm curious as to how reincarnation and eternal progression are so similar. There is a theory that Adam and Eve were taught all truth. They taught there children who moved all over the earth and, over time, modified and apostatized such teachings, including transmigration/eternal progression. My proposed research might strengthen or weaken this theory. >>

>> Q: For both Buddhists and Hindus their soteriology involves the attainment of moksha (or transcendence) and nirvana (the blowing out of the candle). At that point, presumably the eternal progression ends. >>

>> A: True, and in both cases one's soul or energy becomes one with the Ultimate Reality. In Mormonism, one reaches the highest level of salvation and exaltation, when that person becomes one with God the Father, or the Highest, Ultimate, etc. In all three philosophies, a willing submission of free agency (1) in addition to intervention by Deities beyond our control (2), are requisite to reach the final goal. Since the final release/exaltation is the main goal of all three philosophies, similarities (1) and (2), in my opinion, are significant. >>

>> Q: Also both Buddhism and Hinduism posit the rebirth of the soul in other physical manifestations, such as animals. Unless, I'm mistaken, Mormonism does not propose such a transmigration of the soul from one life form to another. >>

>> A: True, however, Mormonism proposes that we existed as: intelligences, then we were organized into spirit bodies or souls, then we came to earth and obtained a physical body, then we'll die and our soul will continue living in just as specific a form as it lived with our physical body, then we'll be resurrected and our body and spirit will never be separated again, then we progress eternally and eventually become gods (theosis). In each of these phases the physical or elemental characteristics of our life force/spirit change significantly. In Hinduism and Buddhism, significant changes are also made, with each new phase of life. (It is also important to note that in Mormonism, plants, animals, and insects have spirits, which is very similar to the Hindu and Buddhist view of all living things.) As I understand it, the main difference is in the number of veils of forgetfulness in each philosophy, with Mormonism having one and the Eastern philosophies having many. Also, Mormonism, Buddhism, and Hinduism all believe that what we did in our last life/existence impacts us in this life and what we do here will impact us in the next phase of our existence (eternal law of karma). >>

>> Q: When one lists all the differences between reincarnation and eternal progression, aren't they greater than the similarities? >> >> >>

>> A: Maybe but I'm not really sure and I hope to answer that question by researching this proposed topic. I'm completely open to either outcome. >>

>> Q: Could you clarify what you mean by "cultural and philosophical exchange took place where spiritual beliefs were exchanged"? >>

>> A: At the time of the Tower of Babel (~2100 BC), a group of people known as the Jaredites (http://www.lds.org/s.../ether?lang=eng) were led by God from the Middle East to Meso-America. Religious scholars have suggested they followed the ancient Silk Road, to China where they built sea-faring vessels and sailed to Meso-America and were contemporaries of the Olmec people. The Jaredites must have traded with local people along the way and that would have included many Hindu peoples. Also at this time both Hindu and Jewish religions practiced animal sacrifice by fire for many reasons (thank offering, fast offering, etc.). >>

>> Around 600 BC, during the time of Zedekiah the king and Jeremiah the prophet of the Old Testament, another Jewish prophet named Lehi (http://www.lds.org/s...uction?lang=eng and http://www.lds.org/s...m/1-ne?lang=eng) was led with his family to the Dhofar Region of Oman, where his sons built a ship and they sailed to Meso-America. Some ancient Middle Eastern professors and researchers (http://maxwellinstit...yu.edu/authors/), including Hugh Nibley, have proposed that from Jerusalem, Lehi and his group followed the reverse route of the Frankincense Trail. Sailing from Dhofar to Meso-America, Lehi must have frequently gone to shore, traded with local peoples, and learned about their beliefs and philosophies. >>

>> Q: Are you suggesting that Brigham Young got the idea of eternal progression from Buddhist and Hindu writers? Is there any evidence he read or was otherwise familiar with Buddhist and Hindu ideas?

>> A: I am not suggesting this but I am suggesting that the Jaredites, Lehi and his group, Hindus, and Buddhists are impacted by the cultures around them and borrow (and lend) agreeable philosophical and religious ideas. For example, Lehi's posterity in Meso-America probably borrowed ideas and traditions from the existing local Mayan populations, just as the early LDS Church borrowed things like singing hymns and meeting on Sundays, just as the local non-Mormon congregations did. Also, I am not aware of Brigham Young reading about Buddhism and Hinduism, though he was well read and this research might discover literature that impacted his teachings. Brigham Young was the second leader of the LDS Church, after Joseph Smith. >>

>> Q: What do you mean by "Hindus, Buddhists, and Mormons are as different as they seem"? To whom? The similarities between Hindus and Buddhists in regard to reincarnation have been thoroughly discussed in the scholarly literature. Such similarities are not surprising because the two religious traditions developed out of the same milieu.

>> A: What I meant to write was that the main goal (moksha, nirvana, exaltation) of Hindus, Buddhists, and Mormons are not as different as they seem. I agree with you that "(t)he similarities between Hindus and Buddhists in regard to reincarnation have been thoroughly discussed in the scholarly literature." >>

>> Q: The idea of eternal progression is not so different from some lines of Christian theology, such as "The Ladder of Divine Ascent" of John Climachus. Where ladder theology appears to differ from eternal progression is the question of whether progression continues in heaven. In that sense, doesn't the Mormon idea of eternal progression appear to be an innovation on Christian theology than the result of the influence of Hindu or Buddhist beliefs?

>> A: I understand eternal progression to be or claim to be more of an expansion on existing Christian belief, by returning to truths taught to and by Adam and Eve, whose posterity (Hindu Rishi's, Buddha) modified them but whose modified teachings still carried a portion of the divine reality or truth.* From the research I've done, it appears that the Mormon restoration/instauration claims to have brought forth the fullness of the gospel or truth as it was taught to Adam and Eve. This theory, that Adam and Eve taught their posterity the fullness of the truth about our existence, seems to be strengthened by the similarities between reincarnation/samsara/and eternal progression. If this might be a more acceptable main thesis question, please let me know. >>

>> Q: What other religious thinkers posit continued development or progression after the eschatological goal is reached? >>

>> A: I believe Islam, which states in the Koran a specific and individual pre-mortal existence, posits continued progression and procreation after the ultimate goal is reached. Other than Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and other mostly ancient Far Eastern religions, I'm not aware of "other religious thinkers (who) posit continued development or progression after the eschatological goal is reached." If you'd recommend my research focus only on an examination of reincarnation/transmigration/eternal progression in ancient Far Eastern religion/philosophy and Mormonism, I'd be happy to submit a thesis proposal based on that. >> >> >> >> >>

>> * - On February 15, 1978 the First Presidency of the Church issued the following declaration: "The great religious leaders of the world such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as philosophers including Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God´s light. Moral truths were given to them by God to enlighten whole nations and to bring a higher level of understanding to individuals.... Our message therefore is one of special love and concern for the eternal Welfare of all men and women, regardless of religious belief, race, or nationality, knowing that we are truly brothers and sisters because we are sons and daughters of the same Eternal Father" (Palmer, 1978). >> >> >> >>

* - In the words of Orson F. Whitney, an apostle, the gospel "embraces all truth, whether known or unknown. It incorporates all intelligence, both past and prospective. No righteous principle will ever be revealed, no truth can possibly be discovered, either in time or in eternity, that does not in some manner, directly or indirectly, pertain to the Gospel of Jesus Christ" (Elders´ Journal 4, no. 2 [Oct. 15, 1906]:26). "If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things" (Article of Faith 13). >> >>

>> >> >> What is your research question?

>> 1. How similar are the doctrines of reincarnation and eternal progression?

>> 2. What documents in history support or weaken the answer to question number 1? >> 3. What are some probable reasons that help explain the similarities between reincarnation and eternal progression? >>

>> What is your hypothesis to be tested against the evidence?

>> 1. The many similarities between reincarnation and eternal progression can not be explained by mere chance. That is to say, cultural and philosophical exchange took place where spiritual beliefs were exchanged.

>> 2. The similarities between reincarnation and eternal progression are greater than the differences. >>

>> What types of evidence will you use to test your hypothesis?

>> 1. Primary scriptural texts from the three subject philosophies

2. >> Peer-reviewed research papers in the field of comparative religion

3. >> Interviews with spiritual leaders and academic professors of each of the three philosophies

>> >> What is the broader significance of your research? In other words, answer the "so what?" question.

>> 1. The broader significance of my research is significant. Hindus, Buddhists, and Mormons are as different as they seem.

>> 2.One of Mormonism's core beliefs (eternal existence) is more comparable to Hinduism and Buddhism than to traditional Christianity.

>> 3. This research will contribute to future students and professors of comparative religion who are interested in the same subject. >> >> I know the subject seems broad, but it will be tightly focused on the two compared principles only and will not digress into secular or tangential information except to briefly provide context on modifications to the two compared principles. If you would recommend I approach this comparative study with a different outline or different approach, I'd be happy to discuss it with you, at your convenience. >> >

I have decided to write a comparative study of the doctrines of reincarnation and eternal progression (LDS). If it is agreeable, I would like to send you a thesis proposal which follows this basic outline: >> >> >> Progress historically: >>

>> 1. In 2100 BC, Reincarnation and Eternal Progression meant X and Y to Hindus and the Jaredites, an ancient group of people who were led to the promised land from the tower of Babel, most likely along the Silk Road; contemporaries of the Olmec people. >> >> Similarities at this time included animal sacrifice by fire to Deities, for many different purposes; fasting; meditation/prayer; etc. >> >>

2. 1400-1200 BC: Reincarnation and Eternal Progression meant X, Y, and Z to Hindus, Buddhists, and Jews >> >>

3. Circa 600 BC, Jerusalem was destroyed and two groups discussed in the Book of Mormon, the Nephites and Lamanites, and the Mulekites, left that city at that time. Reincarnation and Eternal Progression had evolved and meant roughly X2 and Y2 to Hindus & Jaredites. >> >> Similarities at this time included: >> >>

4. The New Testament times: Reincarnation and Eternal Progression meant X, Y, and Z to Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians >> >> 5. 600 AD: Buddhism begins and Reincarnation and Eternal Progression meant X, Y, and Z to Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians >>

>> 4. In 1820 AD, reincarnation and eternal progression meant X and Y to Hindus, Buddhists, and Mormons. >>

>> 5. Modern times: Reincarnation and Eternal Progression meant X, Y, and Z to Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians >> >> >> So if this outline (salient journeys of prominent spiritual people in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Mormonism at roughly 600 year intervals, with noted modifications in the doctrines of reincarnation and eternal progression) is not agreeable with you, please let me know.

Do you have a point of discussion?

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