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Introduction, Workshop 7: Introduction to Eastern Religions

In "Building Bridges," a Tapestry of Faith program

All things are within me, and on self-examination, I find no greater joy than to be true to myself. We should do our best to treat others as we wish to be treated. Nothing is more appropriate than to seek after goodness. — Mencius, Confucian philosopher (372-289 BCE)

This workshop introduces a cluster of faiths that coalesced between 600 and 500 BCE in the Middle East (Iran), South Asia (India), and Central Asia (China). While differing in their details, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism are linked by some foundational principles as well as by their emergence within a few thousand miles and a hundred years of one another. Each represents a response to people's urgent need for meaning, purpose, and spiritual sustenance. All are still followed in some form today.

The workshop emphasizes Zoroastrianism, Jainism, and Confucianism, as the program provides other workshops on Taoism (Workshop 8) and Buddhism (Workshops 9 and 10). The Faith in Action activity introduces a sixth Eastern religion, Shintoism, which originated earlier and was formalized later than the other religions, yet shares similarities with them.

By presenting this cluster of faiths together in overview, the workshop invites youth to recognize both similarities and differences among Eastern religions. Showing similarities will likely prove easy, as the workshop highlights commonalities that link these faiths. To avoid the impression that the Eastern religions are "all alike," highlight differences among them, too. As with other religions explored in the program, participants will likely discover ideas and practices that resonate with their own.

This workshop provides a large amount of overview information. The group may react with inattentive or physically restless behavior. Be ready to add short energy breaks when needed.

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Last updated on Thursday, October 27, 2011.

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