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Chapter IV: answers

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  • j_vdboogert
    CHAPTER IV 1. What is the conceptual quandary? When Europeans encountered other cultures, the concepts they could use to describe and to understand the `other
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 2, 2003
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      1. What is the conceptual quandary?

      When Europeans encountered other cultures, the concepts they could
      use to describe and to understand the `other' were limited: few
      concepts such as `heathens,' `idolaters,' and `zoolaters' would
      exhaust their stock of labels. Europe also lacked the tools to
      distinguish these traditions from one another: all `heathenism' was
      one. Consequently, divergent traditions in Asia, Africa, and the
      Americas could only be described accordingly, i.e. as `heathenism.'
      Subsequently, whilst making an effort to better grasp such
      differences, the Europeans were constrained, yet again, by their
      own, clearly religious understanding of traditions: they sought to
      uncover the heathen beliefs behind diverse traditions, sanctioned in
      so-called `sacred scriptures.'

      2. `Let 100 flowers bloom.' Explain.

      The Protestant Reformation came to be divided into several factions
      itself. The title refers to the multitude of denominations which
      subsequently came to effloresce. It is relevant to note that these
      religious groups still exhibited the Protestant proclivity to refer
      to the heathen traditions, both Ancient and Indian, in order to
      prove their point. Again, paganism was to testify in disputes about
      the religious truth. While these Christian offshoots were caught up
      in discussions, polemics, and persecutions, many Christian
      intellectuals began to seek commonalities among these Christian
      competitors. It was argued that there exist some common notions
      concerning religion, which are both self evidently true and innate
      in all men. (Notions such as, existence and nature of God,
      connection of virtue and piety, reconciliation trough repentance …)
      Very soon, not only Christian communities, but also Judaism, Islam,
      and, still later, different forms of Heathenism were all absorbed in
      that one framework.
      This ecumenism did not, however, put a stop to Christianity's urge
      to prove its superiority against other religions. Here Heathenism
      serves again as evidence –evidence of a most ambiguous kind.

      3. Explain the title: `Made in Paris, London, and Heidelberg.'

      Both `Buddhism' and `Hinduism' existed, not in the East, but in the
      libraries of the West. They were constructed by the French
      Enlightenment thinkers in Paris, by the British in London, and by
      the German Romantics in Heidelberg.

      4. With reference to the theme of the book, in what sense was
      Romanticism a continuation of the Enlightenment?

      When the Enlightenment thinkers categorised the Ancient and Indian
      traditions, as well as the Semitic religions, into one and the same
      developmental scale, they continued what Early Christians,
      Protestants, and Catholics had done before them. The Romantics
      accepted this history: the distinction between concrete and abstract
      thought was simply replaced by `childhood' and `adulthood' in order
      to mould these phenomena, again, into one and the same category,
      i.e. religion. In addition, whilst emphasising the close bond with
      nature that such primal religions supposedly displayed, the
      Romantics reiterated the Enlightenment explanation about the origin
      of religion. They strengthened the Biblical notion of an original
      religion by depicting India as the cradle of it.
      The Enlightenment categorisation of al religions into one
      developmental scale (running from primitive to more abstract) is
      adopted by the Romantics with only slight alterations. Although
      their evaluation of contemporary Heathenisms is more positive than
      that of their predecessors, they still consider these as less
      evolved. Hence such concepts as "childhood of Man" and "Cradle of
      Civilization". Furthermore these concepts draw heavily on the
      Enlightenment idea of primitive man –a concept that has been
      discussed in the previous chapter.

      5. `On how the Buddha saved souls.' Explain.

      The religious notion about the corruption of religion also came to
      mould the creation-cum-description of Buddhism. The latter was said
      to be a reformatory reaction against a degenerated Hinduism. Buddha
      was described as the `Luther of the East', and Buddhism was to
      Hinduism/Brahmanism, what Protestantism had been to Catholicism.
      The theme of degeneration emerges a second time in this construction
      of Buddhism. Since only scriptural sources were used in the creation
      of Buddhism, this came to be seen as its pure and philosophical
      core, while that what existed in reality was considered to be a
      degeneration (i.e. popular Buddhism).
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