Religion and belief system are concerned with moral and ethical behavior of individuals. It offers
people a world view and provides answer to puzzling questions. It also encourages one to rise
above the selfish interests and involves oneself with the needs of others. Good conduct may grow
out of such a world view, but the religious response goes far beyond the following of
conventional behavior. Cultural anthropologists are interested in the interaction of religious
belief and social behaviors of individuals. As in all cases of interaction, there is a two way affair,
and sometimes it is difficult to determine the boundary between religious and cultural beliefs.
Thus, our notions of justice and our form of family life have been influenced by belief system we
adopt from our elders.
Being a student of cultural anthropology, it is your prime responsibility to find out the existing
belief systems across the cultures. In this regard you are expected to do following activity.
1. Choose any religious or cultural belief of any nation around the world and narrate it in one paragraph. (Muslims belief in one GOD, Hindus belief on worship and purity of COW, belief in spiritual powers etc.)
Buddhism and Hinduism: Hinduism does not have roots springing from a single scripture, founder or sacred place. It is more like an umbrella term describing a set of philosophies and ways of life. Buddhism has a single founder, but the Buddha is not prayed to in the same sense as a God or Allah. Buddhism is also a set of philosophies for living. There are marked differences between the two, or course, but in both death is not seen as the end of life; it is merely the end of the body we inhabit in this life. The spirit remains and will seek attachment to a new body and a new “life” – in Buddhism it is called a “kulpa,” which is a unit of time. Where a given person will be born again is a result of the past and the accumulation of positive and negative action, and the result of karma. Followers of both traditions keep in mind the impermanence of life. The transition of a soul to a new life is very important so both traditions observe specific rituals at the time of dying and the handling of the body. The corpse of a Buddhist should not be touched for 3-8 hours after breathing ceases as the spirit lingers on for some time. Hindus believe the body of the dead must be bathed, massaged in oils, dressed in new clothes, and then cremated before the next sunrise. It follows that cremation would be acceptable in a faith where the soul will be released to find another body to inhabit
2. Explore the cultural and social dimensions of this belief within specific society.
3. Analyze how the belief is helping in emotional gratification of individuals in particular culture and society.