Among figures of religion, Mahatma Gandhi, Mohammed, and Siddhartha Gautama are some of the prominent individuals who have shared before the world their religious experiences with respect to their own religion. Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism have all received a great amount of fundamental advancement from the ideas and actions of these important individuals. Not only did they help shape the very religion they are attached to—they established it like no other.
Yet even though their beliefs and characters are particularly unique from one another being human examples of the tradition in which they are a part of, they still hold one common strand—they all had religious experiences that were influenced by their family ties, geographical location and cultural background to name a few. Through the course of the years, history tells us that the raids later evolved into a struggle motivated by religious grounding— believers against non-believers. This indicates the idea that the spiritual experiences and conquests of Mohammed hold a central position in defining the religious practices of Muslims.
While Gandhi espouses peaceful and non-violent methods in attaining the causes of Hinduism, Mohammed and Islam’s concept of jihad adopts the idea that religion itself can be the primary reason for engaging in violent measures in order to further the goal of Islam. Nevertheless, the fact remains that Mohammed’s role in the development of Islam as an established religion in many countries separated by geographical boundaries is crucial inasmuch as it cannot be denied. The same holds true for Siddhartha Gautama whose reputation in the religion of Buddhism is greatly acknowledged as essential both by believers and academic scholars.
As Herman Hesse suggests, Siddhartha espouses the idea that, for one to know one’s quest in life, it is imperative to find the source from within and not from without, like a “flowing river” that attracts “a deep love for this flowing water” (Hesse 100). Introspection, or an inner contemplation, is one of the main precepts being pushed forward by Siddhartha which further suggests the idea that each individual must take time to isolate one’s self from others in order to be able to focus and to introspect. This idea can be rooted from one of Siddhartha’s life-transforming moments.
The religious experience of Siddhartha began after his encounter with a sick man, a poor man, a beggar and a corpse that revealed unto him the idea that humanity is filled with sorrow brought about by the sufferings in life . Being isolated away from the outside world after being confined within his home for almost the entire duration of his early years, Siddhartha began to realize the deeper side of life after the experience. He decided to leave behind his previous lifestyle and pursued, instead, a life of intense asceticism.
However, Siddhartha realized that to live one’s life is to neither live in excessive abundance of wealth and material possessions nor in extreme plainness after overhearing a teacher discussing music. In the end, he pursed the Middle Way, or the way of life that takes the middle path instead of the extremes . These aspects hold the key to understanding the Buddhists’ primary religious experience which is significantly felt, at least in modern times, in the social context of teaching others the way of living life in the Middle Path through a life of internal contemplation or personal reflection.
As Siddhartha dedicated his life to pursuing the Middle Path after his yogic meditations, followers of the Buddhist religion later on adopted this method as one of the cornerstones or identities of their group. This suggests the idea that the religious experience of Buddhists in general is strongly tied to a personal level as its most basic foundation. Manifested through yogic meditations, Buddhist monks of today incorporate in their daily lives these principles .
Moreover, it can be observed that Islam calls for a life that is centered on Allah while Hinduism, as exemplified by the life of Gandhi, calls for a life that should be dedicated towards the lives of others . It is religious imperative in Islam that Muslims should direct their lives towards revering Allah in every thought and action and that, correspondingly, the religious experience of every Muslim should all the more reflect their strong attachment to Allah (Boyd 69).
As Mohammed himself is the foremost Muslim who has been able to fully actualize this thought, it remained an integral part in the lives of the millions of Muslims all around the world. This incorporates the idea that the religious experience of a single individual—the prophet Mohammed—has greatly affected the succeeding generations that came to follow the same path. While Islam essentially requires the primordial importance of Allah, Hinduism has been closely attached to the sense that it is a religion that is centered on others.
The same holds true for Buddhism although the religion reflects reverence to “the Awakened One” or Buddha and that Hinduism itself has its own versions of celestial entities or “Devas” as well as the concept of “Brahman” which refers to the greater Self or God. These things constitute the belief that, although Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam have parallel ideas of higher beings or divine entities, it appears that Islamic treatment for a higher being supersedes those of the other two.
This can be rooted out from the fact that the scriptures of Islam and its religious followers and believers put Allah above everything else while Hinduism and Buddhism, through their yogic meditations, allow or give due importance to the self as well. This is not to say that Islam as a religion does not give due importance to its believers. It only entails the idea that Islam treats man as a being that should be placed under Allah and that Hinduism and Buddhism illustrate a rather more salient consideration for the welfare of man.
Mahatma Gandhi, for example, showed his concern for others by teaching the poor exploited peasants in the region of Champaran in Bihar about the satyagraha, inquiring about their sufferings, educating them to fight for their rights and at the same time to carry out their obligations to the nation as a whole . Siddhartha, on the other hand, lived his forty-five years traveling along the country, finding sustenance on the alms given by other people after teaching the people the means that will liberate humanity from worldly sufferings .
Moreover, one of the notable religious experiences of both Gandhi and Siddhartha is pegged on the idea that they both waged a “battle” in terms of forwarding their beliefs in the context of their religion. While Gandhi strived for peaceful measures—passive resistance, for example—in order to achieve his aim for a peaceful world with equality among religions and Siddhartha pushed his ideologies of liberating humanity from the worldly sufferings they experience through teaching them the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, Mohammed took a rather different approach.
The fact that Mohammed engaged in jihad or in battles through the “sword” reveals the idea that Mohammed will take up arms in defending the religion against aggressors or in forwarding Islamic tenets. Thus, it can be argued that the religious experience of Mohammed, or at least the part in which he waged battles in his religious life, is distinctively different from those of Gandhi and Siddhartha. The differences in the religious experiences among the three can be largely seen on their corresponding actions and exploits during their existence and the resulting consequences it created on their religions.
This also affects these religions view on disasters. Jihad is indubitably a central part of Islam; Yogic meditations play a significant role in Buddhism and Hinduism with former embracing the Middle Path and the latter guiding the lives of its believers through its sacred texts. The Qur’an greatly emphasizes the idea that Allah should be above everything else; Hinduism seeks to treat everyone and every other religion their due recognition in the sense that to each is his own truth or, at the most, God; and Buddhism’s goal is to free human beings from suffering and the cycle of rebirth and make them know the “truth”.
Conclusion The religious experiences of Mahatma Gandhi, Siddhartha Gautama, and Mohammed all have a great bearing on the religions they belong to. These individuals have a large sum of contributions not only to the expansion of the reaches of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam but on the very central precepts of these religions. Although each of them has their own specific religious experiences and beliefs, and that while it may be true that each of them forwards distinctive approaches in meeting their religious goals, they all nevertheless share the parallel idea that religion is a significant section of their lives.
In essence, however, their respective cultural background, geographical location, and family ties among many others have strongly shaped their religious experiences which, as a consequence, influenced their religion. Above all these, by comparing and contrasting the lives of Mohammed, Siddhartha and Gandhi, one is able to better understand some of the main—and oftentimes subtle—differences between these religions view on disasters in life. References: Aly, A. “The Life of the Prophet Muhammad”. 1999. (October 3, 1999): AT&T Knowledge Ventures. April 2008.
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