Within the Indian family of religious beliefs (understood broadly as Hinduism), one of the prominent areas of concern is moksha, or liberation from suffering (and the cycle of rebirth). This emphasis on liberation emerges from the Hindu concept of rebirth, and the cyclical nature of time, which leads one into repetitious patterns of ignorant and painful behaviour over many lifetimes. In light of this, Hindu religious philosophy has attempted to clarify methods of release from samsara – the rounds of birth and death – and these methods can be classified according to a tripartite schema: the trimarga. In this essay, we will attempt to explore the three approaches recognised by orthodox Hinduism, and how they relate to one another.
The 20th century Indian thinker Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan described moksha as ‘…spiritual realization … the fulfilment of the spirit in us in the heart of the eternal’ (1971, p.58) and elsewhere as, ‘…the extinction of the individual, his annulment in the Absolute’ (1940, p.100). It is worth noting, however, that this leans towards an understanding of moksha rooted in knowledge (jnana); as we will see, there are other ways in which the goal may be reached and understood. Whilst this fulfilment might, in theory, represent the apogee of human existence, it is also a profoundly difficult proposition (Beckerlegge, 2005, p.72), and for many Hindus it represents a goal that is ‘…often indefinitely postponed while theoretically extolled’ (Doniger, 2010, p.208).
In order to approach moksha, there are three recognised methods (trimarga is Sanskrit for three ways); in alphabetical order they are bhaktimarga, jnanamarga, and karmamarga. Each represents a differing style and emphasis for the religious adherent, and to some degree also presupposes a differing theological framework.
Bhakti is the way of devotion to a divine power, which (despite apparent multiplicity) is envisioned as the supreme deity (Beckerlegge, 2015, pp.75-6). According to Swami Prabhupāda, bhakti-yoga is ‘…the proper activity of the soul, and when one actually engages in unalloyed, uncontaminated devotional service, he is already liberated…’ (2016, p.65). This devotion frequently takes the form of ecstatic love, expressed through activities such as singing, worship, and chanting.
Depending on the theological background of the adherent, the chosen deity (or Ishta-Deva) generally has an anthropomorphic personality via which one may approach, and the goal is liberated existence ‘…in a world of selves, forms, bodies, and relationships’ (Frazier, 2013, p.108). Devotees will often assume the position of a servant, a child, or a lover - human relationships that embody love, adoration, and respect (Martin, 2003, in Frazier, 2013, p.107). Some notable examples of the personal nature of these relationships include the Indian mystic Ramakrishna, who was reported to have carried a small statue of an infant Krishna, which he treated like a child (Nikhilananda, in Gupta, 2007, p.24)). The loving relationship between Krishna and his consort Radha is also held as an aspirational ideal for vaishnavites in their pursuit of God (Prabhupāda, 2016, p.98-9), while more physical engagement are not unheard of; the ancient text of the artha-shastra makes a point of prohibiting sex with images of gods (Doniger, 2010, p.203)).
The second route to liberation is jnanamarga, or the way of knowledge. It centers around the principle of emancipatory knowledge of the Self, usually won by ‘…solitary, ascetic and yogic practices…’ (Beckerlegge, 2005, p.75). This understanding of reality is contrasted with avidya, or ignorance, which is presented as the usual state of perception for people, and the underlying cause of their suffering.
As with bhakti, theology has an impact on the nature of the truth revealed by jnana, though it is usually presented in advaitic terms. In the Chandogya Upanishad we find the passage ‘The Self is one, though it appears to be many. Those who meditate upon the Self and realize the Self go beyond decay and death, beyond separateness and sorrow. They see the Self in everyone and obtain all things’ (trans. by Easwaran, 1996, p.190). This approach requires introspection and philosophical insight, and is not recommended to the majority; Krishna advises in the Bhagavad Gita that ‘…greater is the toil of those whose minds are set on the Transcendent, for the path of the Transcendent is hard for mortals to attain’ (trans. Mascaró, 1962, p.96).
Before exploring the last of the three ways, it is necessary to consider the Indian concept of karma from which it draws its name. From the Vedic period onward, karma was understood as ritual action that appeased the gods or ensured a favourable outcome, and was the domain of brahmin specialists. During the Upanishadic era, a more general, ethical principle developed that one’s actions bind to oneself in the form of consequences, both metaphysically and psychologically; in this sense karma became not just religious action - but all action, and by extension, its impact on one’s life (Hamilton, 2001, p.10-12). This development in the idea of karma is highlighted by Beckerlegge, who distinguishes between karmamarga: the older, ritualistic approach to leading a good life, and karmayoga: the practice of ‘disinterested detachment’ that leads to liberation presented in the Bhagavad Gita (2005, p.91).
The consequences of one’s actions, therefore, are important from both a material and spiritual perspective in Hinduism, and it is easy to see that since most actions carry with them some negative consequences, many would seek to renounce the world and abstain from action altogether. It is this renunciation in search of freedom from karmic blowback that Krishna challenges in the Gita; he states quite robustly that ‘Not by refraining from action does man attain freedom from action … not even for a moment can a man be without action…’ (trans. Mascaró, 1962, p.56). This insistence on the reality of material existence, and the necessity of working within it, typifies karmayoga, and helped inspire the social activism of Mohandas Gandhi (Knott, 2000, p.79).
Karmayoga, stated simply, is action in accordance with dharma and without attachment to the outcome of that action, liberation in this sense results from a life unhindered by worries and doubts, where action is performed for its own sake because it is righteous. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna sums this up by instructing Arjuna, ‘Set thy heart upon thy work, but never on its reward … Seers in union with wisdom forsake the rewards of their work, and free from the bonds of birth they go to the abode of salvation’ (trans. Mascaró, 1962, p.52-3).
In summary, we can see that all three approaches provide a potential solution to the suffering found in life, but there are differing opinions about this multiplicity. In keeping with the tripartite theme, we can articulate three possibilities:
The first possibility approaches the practices and theories as cultural products, and therefore articulates a historical relationship between them. Based on the available evidence, it seems that some form of karmamarga emerged during the vedic period, alongside bhakti as described in early texts like the Rig Veda. This approach to securing salvation was later developed by Upanishadic thinkers and mystical practices of personal emancipation came to predominate, with a particular focus on experiences of unity with the transcendent other. It was only later, as more popular forms of worship began to find footing, that devotion of a more relaxed kind was recognised as a legitimate route to salvation, and the intercessory power taken from brahmins. As Frazier highlights, ‘…from the Gita’s defence of bhakti over renunciation and ritual onwards … [bhakti] has sometimes been used to empower marginalised groups, to some extent justifying its reputation as a form of ‘protest’ Hinduism that championed direct access to the presence and the gifts of the divine…’ (2013, p.103).
The second possibility takes a relaxed attitude to the relationship between the margas, and instead suggests that how salvation occurs is less important than the fact that it does. The Bhagavad Gita states that all three have merit, albeit with differing levels of difficulty. This suggests that the different methods may simply have developed (or been presented) in order to accommodate the significant differences between human personalities. There are, of course, more than three types of personality, but by offering a specific pathway for those who seek a devotional relationship with God, and those who seek an intellectual understanding of reality, and those who are compelled to make their faith a reality in the world, a far broader section of the population can engage with the orthodox religious tradition than would otherwise be possible.
The third option can be framed in a number of combinations, but ultimately it requires some value judgements about what counts as authentic, and what counts as worthwhile. In discussing the work of the bhakti Rupa Gosvami, Prabhupāda writes that a jnani’s knowledge is ‘…considered impure because he has no information of devotional service and thus neglects the direct worship of the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead’ (Prabhupāda, 2016, p.94). He also stresses, while providing commentary on verses from the Bhagavad Gita, the difficulties faced by jnana-yogis (while tacitly acknowledging that they ultimately achieve the same goal as bhakti-yogis) (Prabhupāda, 2008, pp.504-6). Here, the hierarchy is clearly bhakti-first. Elsewhere, particularly in the works of advaitins like Shankara, we can find an emphasis on the supremacy of jnana, with devotion to a personal god ranking proportionally lower.
In conclusion, we can see that the trimarga has been understood with differing degrees of emphasis by different Hindu groups, and whilst none have outright denied that the alternative routes to salvation exist, they have certainly made value judgement about their efficacy. We must also be careful of taking this analysis too far; the very notion of Hinduism as a self-contained, religiously homogenous unit is widely disputed, and tends towards a misunderstanding of India’s vast cultural heritage (Knot, 2000, p.116-7). There are no simple answers to the question of how Hindus understand the trimarga, but there are many interesting perspectives. We can, with some certainty however, say that a historical process of religious development has occurred in the land east of the Indus, and the value of these multitudinous branches is as divergent and elaborate as the modern complex of Hinduism.
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[Reports] A Report into Anti-Sikh Hate Crimes The All Party Parliamentary Group for British Sikhs 2020 [sikhi sikhism hate crime discrimination]
[Reports] A Report on the State of Hinduism in Religious Education in UK Schools Insight UK 2021 [hinduism religious education]
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[Figures] A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada [stub iskcon hinduism vaishnavism bhakti]
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[Texts] Ahadith The ahadith are texts containing reported stories about Muhammad, and are frequently used to fill in details about the life of the prophet; they also provide guidance on points not directly addressed by the Qur'an. [islam stub]
[Traditions] Ahmadiyya Muslim Community [islam stub]
[Figures] Ahura Mazda The supreme deity in Zoroastrianism. [zoroastrianism deities stub]
[Concepts] Akashic records The Akashic records are a non-physical storehouse of information, proposed by Theosophists to contain a record of all thoughts, words, and actions in the past and future. [stub]
[Figures Scholars] Alan Watts [stub]
[Figures] Allah The supreme deity in Islam. [islam deities stub]
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[Entheogens] Ayahuasca A drink prepared by indigenous groups in the Amazon, containing a number of psychoactive chemicals. It is often used in groups to facilitate healing, visions, and insight. [dmt shamanism indigenous religion]
[Videos] BASR 2020 Worldviews in RS and RE Panel [religious studies religious education]
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[Books] Be Love Now Ram Das 2010 [hinduism yoga]
[Concepts] Belief Religious systems often include beliefs about the world (both seen and unseen), which describe (or dictate) how the world operates. Subscribing to a set of beliefs (orthodoxy) is not always essential for belonging to a religion.
[Texts] Bhagavad Gita A popular Hindu text, part of the larger Mahabharata, which contains a conversation between Krishna and Arjuna. [stub hinduism]
[Places] Blaauboschkraal stone ruins A series of stone circles in South Africa. [megaliths south africa stub]
[Places] Bodh Gaya The site of Buddha's enlightenment. [buddhism stub]
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[Figures] Brahma The Hindu deity of creation. [stub deities]
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[Traditions] Buddhism Buddhism is a family of traditions which trace their lineage back to a figure known as Siddartha Gautama, a man who discovered a means of escape from the suffering of existence. It is said that he became 'awakened', and this is the meaning of his title: Buddha. [buddhism india china tibet japan]
[Books] Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction Damien Keown 1996 Provides a good overview of the essential points of Buddhism. [buddhism]
[Books] Buddhist Yoga Anonymous 1995 A translation of the Sandhinirmochana-sutra (Scripture Unlocking the Mysteries) - a classical sourcebook of Buddhist yoga. [buddhism yoga]
[Traditions] Candomblé [stub]
[Entheogens] Cannabis Cannabis is a psychoactive drug from the Cannabis plant used primarily for medical or recreational purposes, however it can also be used for spiritual purposes. [marijuana weed pot herb ganja]
[Traditions] Caodaism Caodaism emerged in Vietnam during the 1920s and based its structure on that of the Roman Catholic Church, but drew its principles and practices from Buddhism, Daoism, Christianity, and Confucianism. [vietnam new religious movements]
[Perspectives] Capitalist Spirituality A term used to describe the use of religious ideas, practices, and materials in the support of capitalist ideologies, for example the promotion of meditation in the workplace in order to boost productivity.
[Scholars] Carl Jung A Swiss psychologist who helped introduce and develop ideas about the human unconscious.
[Scholars] Catherine Bell An American religious studies scholar who specialised in the study of Chinese religions and ritual studies. [ritual chinese religion china]
[Practices Sounds] Chanting A vocal practice in which words or sounds are repeated, either alone or in a group.
[Articles] Chemically-Induced Visions in the Fourth Book of Ezra in Light of Comparative Persian Material Vicente Dobroruka 2006 [entheogens]
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[Traditions] Christianity Christians follow the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, a man born around the beginning of the first century in the land which is now Israel. [christianity israel jesus]
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[Objects] Crucifix A physical representation of Jesus dying on the cross, used by Christians as a reminder of Jesus's death and resurrection; the crucifix is used in a variety of contexts, often as a focal point within a church.
[Concepts] Cults One of the key aspects of religion – particularly in public discourse – is the relationship between 'organised religion' and small groups of devotees lead by charismatic individuals, commonly referred to as cults.
[Journals] Culture and Religion [religious education]
[Concepts] Dharma The Hindu concept of law, righteousness, or way of life.
[Scholars] Dimitris Xygalatas An anthropologist and cognitive scientist studying ritual and cooperation. [ritual anthropology cognitive science]
[Entheogens] DMT A chemical substance that occurs in many plants and animals and which has historically been prepared by various cultures for ritual purposes as an entheogen. [N,N-Dimethyltryptamine]
[Scholars] Douglas Marshall A scholar of religion and ritual.
[Articles] Early Christians Might Have Been High on Hallucinogenic Communion Wine Ed Prideaux 2020 A discussion on the early use of hallucinogenic chemicals mixed with alcohol to form so-called 'spiked' wine. [entheogens wine]
[Traditions] Eastern Orthodox Church
[Occasions] Eid-e-Shuja’ Eid-e-Shuja’, also known as Eid-e-Zahra, is a ritual festival observed by most Twelver Shi‘a Muslims. It marks the end of the two-month mourning period after the events of the Karbala massacre, which occurred in 680 AD. [islam]
[Figures] El The name for any god or deity in the ancient Near East, is also the name of specific deities in that region. [deities]
[Figures] Elohim [deities]
[Podcasts] Encounter Encounter is a discussion podcast produced by the Woolf Institute and presented by its Founder Director Dr Ed Kessler, exploring the relationship between religion and society.
[Practices Food] Eucharist
[Texts] Gathas A collection of 17 hymns, believed to have been composed by Zarathustra – the Gathas represent the core of the Zoroastrian liturgy (the Yasna). [zoroastrianism]
[Places] Glastonbury A town in Somerset, United Kingdom, which acts as a site of pilgrimage for many. [united kingdom somerset pilgrimage christianity pagan]
[Online Courses] Governing Religion: Global Challenges and Comparative Approaches Explore the relationship between religions and governments and learn how religions have come to be governed across the world. [diversity]
[Scholars] Graham Harvey
[Figures] Guru Amar Das
[Figures] Guru Angad
[Figures] Guru Arjan
[Figures] Guru Gobind Singh
[Figures] Guru Har Krishnan
[Figures] Guru Har Rai
[Figures] Guru Hargobind
[Figures] Guru Nanak
[Figures] Guru Ram Das
[Figures] Guru Tegh Bahadur
[Scholars] Gwilym Beckerlegge
[Figures] Hassan al-Banna Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, is alternately praised as a leading social reformer, and decried as laying the foundations for modern Islamic terrorist groups. [islam egypt]
[Concepts] Henotheism Henotheism means the worship and veneration of one god, in a world where many gods exist – for example the worship of Artemis within the Greek Pantheon.
[Traditions] Himalayan Institute Of Yoga Science And Philosophy The Himalayan Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy was founded by Swami Rama, and is dedicated to sharing so-called Himalayan Yoga. [hinduism india]
[Books] Hindu Myths Wendy O'Flaherty 1975 A collection of Puranas - stories about Hindu deities and mythological figures. [hinduism india mythology]
[Traditions] Hinduism A diverse range of Indian religious systems, which regard the Vedas as authoritative scripture. [india]
[Books] Hinduism: A Very Short Introduction Kim Knott 1998 [hinduism]
[Books] History of Western Philosophy Bertrand Russell 1946 [philosophy greece catholicism]
[Scholars] Hugh Beattie
[Practices Sounds] Hymns
[Reports] Improving Religious Literacy: A Contribution to the Debate The All Party Parliamentary Group on Religious Education 2016 [religious education religious literacy]
[Books] Indian Philosophy: Volume 1 Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan 1923 This volume of Radhakrishnan’s two-volume work on Indian philosophy goes into detail on the Rig Veda and Upanishads, Jainism, Buddhism, and the theism of the Bhagavad Gita. [india philosophy buddhism hinduism jainism]
[Podcasts] Inside Fundamentalism Four-part podcast series reflecting on aspects of strictly observed religion.
[Online Courses] Interfaith Dialogue for Combating Extremism among Young People Explore the role of interfaith education in preventing forms of violent extremism and building resilient communities. [interfaith extremism young people violence]
[Reports] Interim Report: Religious Education for All The Commission on Religious Education 2017 [religious education]
[Books] Introducing World Religions Victoria Kennick Urubshurow 2008 A textbook on religious studies, surveying traditions from around the world. [religious studies world religions]
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[Figures] Isaiah Shembe
[Traditions] Islam A monotheistic tradition that developed during 7th century Arabia, and which traces its roots back to the one god of the Hebrews. [arabia muhammad]
[Traditions] Jainism The Jain religious tradition focuses on liberation from the suffering of rebirth, and in this sense has common ground with its near geographic neighbours - Hinduism and Buddhism. [india]
[Scholars] James George Frazer
[Figures] Jehovah [deities]
[Figures] Jesus The founding figure of Christianity, Jesus was a Jewish mircle-worker and teacher who proclaimed a divine message in the 1st century CE.
[Scholars] Jonathan Z. Smith
[Places] Kanniyakumari A town in southern India, named after Kanya Kumari, a Hindu goddess. Also the site of a memorial to Swami Vivekananda. [india hinduism tamil nadu vivekananda]
[Scholars] Karen Armstrong
[Practices Concepts Food] Kashrut Jewish dietary law.
[Podcasts] Keeping it 101: A Killjoy's Introduction to Religion Aimed at a general audience who want to get to grips with contemporary religious studies, this podcast explores a range of topics, including the concept of religion as category, and the significance of race, gender, and sexuality.
[Practices Sounds] Kirtan
[Figures] Korean Martyrs
[Practices Concepts Food] Kosher Food which is appropriate to eat in Jewish traditions.
[Texts] Lankavatara Sutra
[Figures] Lao Tzu
[Youtube Channels] Let's Talk Religion [islam sufism philosophy religious studies]
[Scholars] Linda Woodhead
[Perspectives] Liquid Religion
[Perspectives] Literary Bias Texts (of all kinds) are controlled and mediated by people, and therefore restrictions can sometimes be made about which texts are preserved and shared, and which are ignored or destroyed. This can lead to an erasure of certain material from a religious tradition, or from the public understanding of that tradition, particularly if the material disagrees with the perspective of those in positions of power. [texts scripture bias]
[Perspectives] Lived Religion
[Podcasts] Living in Harmony The role of music in religious practice and interreligious encounter across the Middle East.
[Texts] Lotus Sutra
Luke Burns Luke Burns is the founder and director of the Online Centre for Religious Studies.
[Occasions] Mabon Mabon is a pagan festival that takes place on the autumnal equinox, during which foods are harvested and thanks is given to the Earth.
[Occasions] Maghi This is an annual festival commemorating the forty Sikh martyrs who originally deserted Guru Gobind Singh, but later returned to fight alongside him at Muktsar.
[Traditions] Mahayana Buddhism A form of Buddhism which is focused on attaining liberation for all beings out of compassion for the suffering of the world. [buddhism india]
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[Practices Sounds] Mantra
[Scholars] Marion Bowman Marion Bowman is a scholar of religion at the Open University
[Scholars] Mary Douglas A British anthropologist, known for her writings on human culture and symbolism, whose area of speciality was social anthropology. [culture symbolism anthropology]
[Perspectives] Material Religion
[Entheogens] Mescaline Cacti
[Scholars] Mircea Eliade
[Figures] Mohandas Gandhi A figure of Indian independence against British rule, Gandhi was a revered Hindu activist. [hinduism india]
[Figures] Muhammad Muhammad is the revered prophet of Islam, who was active during the 6th Century in Arabia.
[Objects] Murti Used by Hindus, a murti is a physical representation of a deity, which that deity can inhabit, and through which the deity is worshipped. [hinduism]
[Online Courses] Muslims in Britain: Changes and Challenges Develop your understanding of Muslims and their faith through an exploration of communities in Britain. [islam muslims britain united kingdom]
[Places] Nabta Playa An ancient North African megalith. [megaliths]
[Podcasts] Naked Reflections Reflecting on recent science news stories and current events, authoritative thinkers unpack the implications for society.
[Scholars] Nancy Ammerman
[Traditions] Nazareth Baptist Church
[Figures] Neem Karoli Baba
[Perspectives] New Animism
new religious movements
[Texts] New Testament
[Podcasts] New Testament Review Influential works of New Testament scholarship discussed by two Duke PhD candidates.
[Scholars] Ninian Smart Smart was a Scottish writer and educator who developed the field of academic religious studies, and helped to distance it from theology. He took the investigation away from which religion was 'true', and instead looked at the lived experiences of religious adherents. [phenomenology religious studies]
[Podcasts] NT Pod Podcast about the New Testament and Christian Origins. Condensed comment from an academic perspective for everyone interested in historical approaches to the New Testament. By Mark Goodacre, Frances Hill Fox Professor of Religious Studies, Duke University.
[Occasions] Obon A Japanese celebration of people's ancestors, which developed out of Buddhist and Confucian traditions. [japan buddhism confucianism]
[Texts] Old Testament
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[Concepts] Panpsychism The belief that the universe is one, collective intelligence or consciousness.
[Concepts] Pantheism The belief that everything is god.
[Figures] Paramahansa Yogananda
[Scholars] Pascal Boyer
[Practices] Pilgrimage Pilgrimage is a practice of journeying to a significant location, but the location, method of travel, and meaning attached can vary widely. There is often a close relationship, or even overlap, with tourism.
[Concepts] Polytheism Polytheism is any system of belief involving multiple deities.
[Practices] Practice Religious practices are those behaviours and actions that have religious meaning for those who perform them; there are many different types and examples of such practices, including pilgrimage to holy sites (such as the tomb of Imam Husayn for Shi'ite Muslims), prayer, and song – to name a few.
[Texts] Principia Discordia The Principia Discordia is a semi-satirical work on the nature of divine chaos. [discordianism eris fnord stub]
[Entheogens] Psilocybin Mushrooms [magic mushrooms shrooms cubes]
[Books] Psychology and Religion G. S. Spinks 1963 A detailed review of the psychological study of religion, touching on the theories of Freud and Jung, and exploring the psychology of prayer, worship, and mystical experiences. [psychology]
[Figures] Ram Dass
[Occasions] Ramadan Ramadan is the period of fasting and contemplation undertaken by Muslims in the ninth lunar month of the year. [islam]
[Texts] Ramayana The Ramayana (literally Rama's travels) is about the character Rama, prince of a kingdom called Ayodhya (and later its king), but Rama is actually the god Vishnu who has taken birth in a human form, or avatar. [hinduism india]
[Traditions] Rastafari Movement
[Traditions] Ravidassia religion A tradition with roots in Sikhi, which reveres Ravidass as Guru. [sikhi]
[Figures] Regina Jonas
[Podcasts] Rejected Religion Discussions on religious topics typically viewed as alternative, forbidden, or heretical. [religious studies hermeticism occult esotericism alternative religion]
[Online Courses] Religion and Conflict Understand and analyse the role of religion in conflicts and peacebuilding in present-day societies, with this free online course. [violence terrorism]
[Reports] Religion and Worldviews: the way forward. A national plan for RE The Commission on Religious Education 2018 [religious education]
[Podcasts] Religion Bites This is a podcast by Malory Nye on the study of religion.
[Youtube Channels] Religion for Breakfast [religious studies]
[Online Courses] Religion, Radicalisation, Resilience Understand religious radicalisation and violence and learn strategies to build resilience in communities and schools. [violence radicalisation terrorism]
[Online Courses] Religions From The Inside: Improving Interreligious Dialogue Explore the value of cooperation between faiths and learn how the five main world religions’ core beliefs relate to each other. [interreligious dialogue]
[Online Courses] Religious Literacy: Traditions and Scriptures Learn how to better understand the rich and complex ways that religions function in historic and contemporary contexts. [religious literacy]
[Books] Revelations of Divine Love Julian of Norwich 1966 [christianity women mystic mysticism religious experience]
[Scholars] Richard King Co-author of 'Selling Spirituality'
[Practices Concepts] Ritual Some religious practices have specific rules about how they are performed, these practices are sometimes called rituals. There is no hard line between 'religious practice' and 'ritual', but practices with more rules can be described as more ritualistic. [ritual order meaning]
[Scholars] Robin Horton An English social anthropologist and philosopher, he carried out specialised study in comparative religion which challenged and expanded views in the study of the anthropology of religion. [anthropology philosophy africa indigenous religion magic myth ritual]
[Scholars] Ronald Grimes A ritual theorist who founded the interdisciplinary field of ritual studies. [ritual anthropology american religion media]
[Scholars] Rudolf Otto
[Youtube Channels] Rune Hjarnø Rasmussen [nordic animism denmark animism]
[Traditions] Santo Daime
[Experiences] Satori An experience of enlightenment within Zen Buddhism. [zen buddhism enlightenment]
[Perspectives] Self-Religion Self-religion is a term used by scholars to describe the modern phenomenon of highly individualised religious practice, which draws from diverse spiritual traditions in order to create a unique form of religion that is acceptable to the individual.
[Concepts] Seva Within the Sikh religion, one of the important practical aspects is seva or selfless service, which takes the form of charitable actions.
[Perspectives] Seven Dimensions of Religion The seven dimensions of religion are a framework for exploring and understanding religion, developed by the Scottish scholar of religion, Ninian Smart. [phenomenology religious studies]
[Practices] Shechita A form of ritual slaughter in Jewish traditions.
[Figures] Siddhārtha Gautama (Buddha) The founder of Buddhism. [buddhism india nepal]
[Scholars] Sigmund Freud
[Traditions] Sikhi (Sikhism) Sikhi is the name of a religious tradition which emerged in the Punjab, initiated by Guru Nanak, and led by a series of Gurus who acted as divine intermediaries between God and humanity. The final human Guru bestowed spiritual authority onto the community's scriptures and the community itself. [punjab india]
[Concepts] Six Articles of Faith Within Islam, there are three aspects which are generally agreed upon - these are islam (submission), iman (faith), and ihsan (perfection). In this article, we're going to focus on iman and see how it is understood in relation to Islam as a religious tradition, but it's clear from this threefold division that faith by itself isn't the whole story. [islam]
[YouTube Channels] SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies: YouTube Channel Run by SOAS University, the Centre of Yoga Studies researches and shares information about yoga practices and history.
Sources Useful articles, books, and online resources.
[Texts] Sri Guru Granth Sahib The Sikh holy text, revered as a guru.
[Figures] Swami Vivekananda
[Traditions] Sámi indigenous religion [indigenous]
Terms and Conditions The boring bits...
[Podcasts] Text Talks Text Talks provides teachers and students (and anyone else who’s interested) with weekly podcasts and resources based around the GCSE and A Level Syllabuses for Buddhism and Hinduism. [hinduism buddhism religious education gcse a level]
[Texts Concepts] Texts Although the word 'texts' might imply a written document, the term has a wider scope in the field of religious studies. [texts scripture art material religion]
[Texts] The Bible The Christian holy text, which includes accounts of the creation of the world and God's dealings with humanity.
[Podcasts] The Classical Ideas Podcast The goal of The Classical Ideas Podcast is to empower students with the core knowledge of major world religions to improve citizenship and agency in a diverse society.
[Websites] The Database of Religious History The world’s first comprehensive online quantitative and qualitative encyclopedia of religious cultural history.
[Podcasts] The Faith and Belief Forum: Podcast Produced by the Faith and Belief Forum, an organisation dedicated to building good relations between people of different identities.
[Books] The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion James George Frazer 1922 [comparative religion mythology]
[Books] The Indian Theogony Sukumari Bhattacharji 1970 A work on comparative mythology, focusing on Indian deities and mythologies - particularly with reference to the triad of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. [hinduism india comparative mythology]
[Traditions] The International Church of Cannabis The International Church of Cannabis is a religious group based in Denver, Colorado, USA, which uses cannabis during its ceremonies in order to help members have a better understanding of themselves. [stub entheogens]
[Journals] The Journal of Religion, Nature and Culture [religious studies social science cognitive science nature]
[Books] The Last Days of Socrates Plato 1954 A collection of Plato's writings, centered around the life and death of Socrates, including Euthyphro, The Apology, Crito, and Phaedo. [greece philosophy]
[Books] The Life of Milarepa Rechung 1928 An abridged version of Evans-Wentz’s translation, telling the life story of the Tibetan Buddhist monk Milarepa. [tibet buddhism biography]
[Podcasts] The Panpsycast Philosophy Podcast A weekly philosophy podcast inspiring and supporting students, teachers, academics, and free-thinkers worldwide.
[Texts] The Pañcadaśī The Pañcadaśī is a Hindu philosophical text, in the tradition of advaita vedanta, also known as non-dualism. [hinduism vedanta]
[Podcasts] The RE Podcast [religious education]
[Books] The Religious Experience of Mankind Ninian Smart 1969 A comprehensive survey of religious experiences from around the world. [comparative religion]
[Podcasts] The Religious Studies Project The Religious Studies Project (RSP) is an international collaborative enterprise producing weekly podcasts and resources on the social-scientific study of religion.
[Podcasts] The Sacred Listen to Theos in conversation, and interviewing other thought leaders, about Christianity and faith in the world today.
[Books] The Science of Self-Realization A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada 1977 A collection of essays on Vaishnavite devotional yoga, or bhakti. [bhakti yoga vaishnavism iskcon]
[Books] The Serpent Power Sir John Woodroffe 1918 An introduction to the concept of laya yoga, along with translations of two Sanskrit works - the Sat-Chakra-Nirupana and the Paduka-Pancaka. [yoga kundalini hinduism india]
[Online Courses] The Sharia and Islamic Law: An Introduction Discover Sharia and Islamic law, and learn more about some of the diverse roles they play in Muslim life. [islam sharia fiqh]
[Books] The Study of Religion: An Introduction to Key Ideas and Methods George D. Chryssides and Ron Greaves 2007 [religious studies world religions]
[Books] The Upanishads Anonymous 1965 Mascaró presents a selection of the Hindu Upanishads in English translation. [hinduism]
[Books] The Varieties of Religious Experience William James 1902 Published at the beginning of the twentieth century, The Varieties of Religious Experience is a far-ranging exploration of the psychology and philosophy behind different kinds of religious experiences. [religious studies world religions religious experience]
[Perspectives] The World Religions Paradigm When the category of religion is used to describe 'world religions', it is often in a way that turns multiple diverse traditions, philosophies, and practices, into one single entity for the sake of simplicity. [religious studies]
[Books] Theogony and Works and Days Hesiod 1988 [greece mythology]
[Traditions] Theravada Buddhism Theravada is a form of Buddhism that venerates the Buddha but does not deify him, follows the teachings of the old scriptures (the Pali Canon), and values the aspirational figure of the arhat. [buddhism india]
[Figures] Thomas Aquinas
[Practices] Trimarga The trimarga are three methods of liberation found within Hindu traditions.
[Concepts] Trinity The so-called 'holy trinity' is a Christian formulation of the order or structure of god, comprised of the father, the spirit, and the son.
[Occasions] Tu BiShvat A Jewish holiday occurring on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat, the 'new year of the trees'. [new year trees judaism israel]
[Traditions] Vajrajana Buddhism
[Traditions] Wana people [indigenous]
[Scholars] Wendy Doniger
[Questions] What is religion? Although at first glance, you might think that religion is an easy to understand concept - it becomes very difficult to pin down, the more you look at it. There are lots of possible definitions, but none of them are 100% right.
[Questions] What is religious literacy? Religious literacy is a term that has become more popular in recent years, but what exactly do we mean when we talk about it? [religious studies religious literacy]
[Questions] What is religious studies? Religious studies is the academic study of religion - but what does that really mean? [religious studies]
[Questions] What makes a place sacred? To claim that a location, structure, or geographical feature is sacred is to assert that it is set apart and regarded with special reverence, yet there are many ways to understand this sacrality, where it comes from, and how it is expressed by different groups of people. [sacred place geography]
[Questions] Who creates religion? The modern study of religion, beginning in the 19th Century, has been traditionally driven by male European scholars, who have carried their own cultural biases and assumptions - some unconscious, others less so. [religious studies]
[Online Courses] Why Religion Matters: Religious Literacy, Culture and Diversity A free online course from the Open University, exploring the importance of religious literacy. [religious studies religious literacy]
[Podcasts] Wise Studies Podcast
[Podcasts] Woolf Research What's the leading research in the field of religion and society? And how are we contributing to it?
[Reports] Worldviews in Religious Education Theos Think Tank 2020 This report interprets and develops the idea of worldview and explores its implications for the classroom. [religious education]
[Videos] Worldviews in Religious Education launch This is a recording of 'What are worldviews and why should schools teach them?' on 21st October 2020. [religious education]
[Reports] Worldviews: A Multidisciplinary Report Céline Benoit, Timothy Hutchings and Rachael Shillitoe 2020 As part of the Worldview Project, the REC commissioned a multidisciplinary academic literature review on the worldview concept. This was prepared by three academics working in different disciplines in different universities. [worldviews religious education]
[Traditions] Yazidism Yazidism is a monotheistic tradition, which believes that the universe was created by a single deity, Xwedê, and is governed by seven angels.
[Videos] Yoginī temples and their antecedents: reassessing the textual evidence A live recording of an online talk and Q+A via zoom on 21st October 2020 for the SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies. [yoga]
[Scholars] Émile Durkheim