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Opening (15 minutes), Workshop 7: Introduction to Eastern Religions

In "Building Bridges," a Tapestry of Faith program

Materials for Activity

  • Chalice, candle, and lighter or LED/battery-operated candle
  • Newsprint, markers, and tape
  • Globe or world map
  • Leader Resource 2, Eastern Religions Background
  • Optional: History game pieces (Leader Resource 1) youth used in (optional) Welcoming and Entering activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Read Leader Resource 2, Eastern Religions Background, so you will be comfortable presenting it.
  • Draw a 100-year time line on newsprint. Mark "600 BCE" on the left end and "500 BCE" on the right. Add a single mark at the halfway point and label "550 BCE." Post the time line.
  • Post another, blank sheet of newsprint.

Description of Activity

Answer any questions you were unable to answer at the last workshop meeting.

Then light the chalice with these words:

We light this chalice in celebration of Unitarian Universalism and the sustaining faiths of all people of the world. May the flame represent the fire of our commitment to understand all faithful people and build bridges that connect us as one human family.

Tell the group they will look at several Eastern religions that all began around the same time. If you have done the Welcoming and Entering activity, invite them to name all five based on the game. Ask participants what Eastern faiths they are familiar with. If the group has done Workshop 4, Hinduism might also be named. Comment that while the youth might not be familiar with all the religions born in the Eastern hemisphere during this explosive time in human history, all five of these faiths have been influential in world history and still are practiced today.

On the 100-year time line, write:

  • Zoroastrianism — around 600 BCE
  • Jainism — around 556 BCE
  • Taoism — around 550 BCE
  • Buddhism — around 531 BCE
  • Confucianism — around 500 BCE

Remind youth that "BCE" stands for Before Common Era, that is, before the year zero; the bigger numbers indicate longer ago, like negative numbers on a number line.

Explain, in your own words:

Iran, India, and China in the several hundred years leading up to 600 BCE were places of danger, turmoil, and radical social change. The tensions in which people lived had multiple effects: artistic expression and scientific invention abounded, and because life was so tenuous in their physical world, people looked beyond themselves for answers. From this fertile spiritual soil of high energy and creativity, rapid change, and great uncertainty emerged five major religions, all of which survive, including one of the five largest faiths on earth, Buddhism. These religions, born in dynamic answer to human need, have been sustaining people ever since.

There are remarkable similarities among these faiths and notable differences. All emerged on the contiguous land mass of Asia. (Show countries on map as they are named.) Zoroastrianism arose in Iran, Jainism and Buddhism emerged in India, and Taoism and Confucianism in China. We can speculate why there might be such similarity among faiths born in the same part of the world around the same time.

Read aloud or share in your own words the information in Leader Resource 2. List important terms on newsprint.

As you go along, or afterward, invite participants to share knowledge they already hold about Zoroastrianism, Jainism, and Confucianism. Tell the group they will study Taoism and Buddhism in greater depth in later workshops.

For more information contact web @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Wednesday, October 26, 2011.

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