The Quran

The Quran
This is the copy of the Quran I’ve been reading. Colorful sticky notes mark sections that drew my attention, that seemed important to the Islamic Beliefs, and that people ought to know about Islam.

Dear readers of World Religion,

I spent the last week studying the Quran. That is what my week of studying Islam consisted of. Hopefully, I will be able to go to a mosque this week, though currently technical difficulties are making contacting a little difficult.

The Quran’s narrative style reminds me of the Bhagavad Gita, and its content reminds me of the Bible. The voice alternates from first person (Allah), and third person (describing what Allah says), and second person (describing what will happen to you).

For those who don’t know, Islam is an Abrahamic religion.

Abrahamic religions believe that Abraham, a Jewish patriarch, performed an important spiritual role. The most popular Abrahamic religions are Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. All of these religions include a belief in one, all-powerful, all-knowing-god. From my perspective at least, they believe in basically the same god (whether they are called Allah, God, Yahweh, or any other language’s equivalent it still means god). Despite their many similarities, the Abrahamic religions have a history of strife. Even currently, many Christians would be surprised to learn that the Quran includes biblical stories in almost every chapter. Basically, Islam respects both Judaism and Christianity as legitimate ways to carry out Allah’s will, though Islam considers itself the most recent and truest manifestation of Allah’s will.

But what is in the Quran?

Again, there are a lot of of stories from the New and Old Testament. The Quran also includes a fairly complex legal code. It includes things such as how to properly go about getting a divorce, how to deal with chiefs, and how to divide inheritance. Yes, this law code does seriously inconvenience women. I am interested to see how these sections relate to modern American Muslims, who function under the fairly secular law code of this country.

The Quran also fleshed out some of the issues that divide the Abrahamic religions. Apparently, they believe that the Jews should not consider so many things forbidden, and they do not believe that Jesus was the son of God. They believe that Jesus was created by God, like Adam, and distributed God’s word, like Abraham. The assumption that Jesus is the actual son of God puts him almost equal to God, which is disrespectful to God. I think that Jews have a similar perspective on this.

There are also sections lamenting these divides. The Jews, Christians, and Muslims all worship the same one god, so why do they each believe the others will not achieve the desirable afterlife? I believe that the Quran’s author would be happy that currently many people believe that individuals of different faiths can be good people and achieve the desirable afterlife.

Thank you for reading,

Audrey Cole

The Holy Bible

Dear readers of World Religion Weekly,

This is the copy of the Christian Holy Bible that I came across at a thrift-shop.

The Christian holy scripts consist of the Bible. It is split into two parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament. Interestingly, the Old Testament is the same as the Jewish holy book, the Tanakh.

The Old Testament:

 consists of the adventures of the Jewish prophets, who came before Jesus. It contains many instructions which modern Christians consider non-essential, like circumcision and not eating certain animals. I read a large portion of it when I studied Judaism, so I refrained from rereading this portion of the Bible. Christians consider it second in accuracy and value to the New Testament.

The New Testament:

contains several accounts of the life of Jesus and his apostles, along with the Book of Revelation. Honestly, I only managed to get through this with the help of a long, boring car ride. The story of Jesus’s life was fairly interesting the first few times. However, the New Testament rehashes it, with fairly similar content and wording, four times. I have to say that my favorite account was Matthew. It has one of my favorite quotes from the Bible, “So, why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin” (Matthew 6:28). I like the language of it best.

After Jesus’s death, the New Testament continued to describe the lives of the apostles. The apostles generally spread the Gospel far and wide, performing miracles and getting persecuted. This part of the Bible rehashed a lot of Jesus’s message and brought in a few new elements.

Then there was the Book of Revelation. It describes the circumstances of the apocalypse in strange, disordered detail. It includes a seven-eyed sacrificial lamb, and a dragon with seven heads and ten horns. Honestly, I did not really understand it. At least I’m not alone in my confusion. My friend’s Christian grandmother assured me that she had no idea what the Book of Revelation was about either. I will have to ask more Christians. I hope some of them know about it.

Thank you for reading,

Audrey Cole

How to Live Without Fear and Worry

Dear readers of World Religion Weekly,

This book was not a holy script of Buddhism. Rather, it is exactly what its title suggests: “How to Live Without Fear and Worry.” Of course, this instruction is heavily influenced by Buddhism because a life without suffering (including fear and worry) is one of the goals of Buddhism. It is well-written, with little anecdotes spaced throughout. It gives sensible advice such as: avoid toxic relationships, anger is useless, and let children pursue their true passions and talents. The Buddha and other religious leaders are cited throughout.

I would definitely recommend this to just about anyone, regardless of religion. It is just good advice. However, just use your good judgement. I don’t advocate all of it, and parts, especially the sections about marriage and family, may be a bit controversial.

Thanks for reading,

Audrey Cole

The Bhagavad Gita

Dear readers of World Religion Weekly,

As opposed to many of the other texts, which were more of epic stories, this text was far more instructional. It really has more specifics on the “rules” of being a Hindu and far less plot. A dialogue between Arjuna, a legendary warrior, and Krsna, the supreme god. Arjuna has doubts about going into battle and asks many questions about the nature of the universe and divinity, and Krona explains that it is his duty to fight and answers these questions.

For me, this book really cleared up the whole concept of Hinduism as a monotheistic religion. The copy that I read was heavily annotated by the founder of the International Society for Krsna Consciousness. Honestly, without this annotation, the book would have been several hundred pages shorter. This annotation actually cleared up how these “rules” should be implemented in this day and age, so I would recommend reading a similarly annotated copy. However, one should always remember that these annotations are the beliefs of a person, however well-educated and holy. If you disagree with someone’s interpretation, remember that your issue is with that individual interpretation and not the entire religion. A few passages rankled me, but, on the whole, this book’s message was very uplifting and universal.

The state of Krsna Consciousness was heavily promoted. This basically means that  you keep God (Krsna) in your mind constantly and do things, not for yourself or anyone else, but for God. Your exact relationship with God is a personal decision (examples: lovers, friends, parent and child, master and servant). However, individuals should seek out a personal, loving relationship with God. Does this sound familiar? Yes, Hinduism actually really reminds me of Christianity. Moreover, the annotations accept the prophets of other religions (including Jesus) as incarnations of Krsna, in the form which was most relevant to the other location. Of course, Krsna Consciousness is the quickest and best way to attain the best afterlife (Krsnaloka, the home of Krsna), but other religions can result in the afterlife that they deem best (example: Buddhists may be absorbed by the impersonal Brahman and devotees of demigods may attain the homes of those demigods).

I really recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand how being Hindu affects your life (WARNING: there are many different interpretations of Hinduism, just like every religion, so please don’t assume that all Hindus adhere to all of these rules or believe all of these things).

Thanks for reading,

Audrey Cole

The Pali Canon (Tipitaka)

Dear readers of World Religion Weekly,

This is the ultimate doctrinal holy book of Theravada Buddhism. It is incredibly long (thousands of pages), so I will not be able to read it in its entirety. However, I will link in the sections that I do read.

This book is believed to contain the word of Buddha, or at least the spirit of those words. Monks of the highest order who had it perfectly memorized passed it down orally, for hundreds of years, before it was committed to text.

You can find a large portion of the Pali C

anon here on a Theravada Buddhist website, or  here on a website which claims to have it in its entirety.

If you are interested in more Buddhist literature, check here.

Thank you for reading,

Audrey Cole

The Avesta

This is the Zoroastrian holy book. It is actually split into two sections. The actual Avesta consists of the seventeen Gathas, Zoroastrian hymns which were written by Zarathustra, the founder of Zoroastrianism. The Younger Avesta was composed later and contains commentary on the Avesta and newer stories and content.

You can find this and more Zoroastrian holy scripts here and here. The first link is from an actual Zoroastrian source, and the second source is my go-to source for all religious texts.

The Mahabharata

This is one of the holy books which I read. It is a fascinating epic, which I describe far more fully here. There are eighteen books of it (I only read book one: The Beginning). The sixteenth book is the most important. It is called the Bhagavad Gita. It really reminds me of the Bible.

Others

There are MANY other Hindu holy texts. I only included the ones which were listed as holy books on the website I checked earlier.