Eastern Religions

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The term “Eastern Religions” refers to those major world religions that began, or are associated with, geographic regions that are located to the far east of Europe, mainly in the regions of India and China. The best known of these religions are Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. Many other smaller movements also exist, with splinters and modifications evolving within and between major groups over time.

 

Some of these systems of belief and practice are explicitly spiritual, and encompass spiritual issues such as God(s), evil, afterlife, reward and punishment, etc. Other of these systems more closely resemble what the West would call a philosophical structure. Thus, as a generic term, Eastern Religion could refer to a monotheistic, deistic or atheistic system of thought and behavior. 

 

The more spiritual elements, when present, often share various forms of “prayer” or life style that we would associate with Christianity. One such activity is meditation. Meditation, in this context resembles Christian contemplation. There are some important differences though, the most significant being that while eastern mediation attempts to empty the mind and find “nothingness” the Christian contemplative attempts to empty the mind of everything less than God in order to experience God directly.

 

The use of the term eastern religion should not be confused with the term “eastern church”. In the history of Christianity the original geographic areas where Christianity was located were in regions we would now call the near east, or, middle east. As Christianity spread westward to regions now known as Europe a slow division developed between the older forms and newer “western” forms. With time the European (or Roman) forms became known as the western church (or Roman church) and the forms that developed in the original lands  became known as the eastern church.