OTHER RELIGIONS AND BELIEFS
The most important non-mainstream religions are Jainism counting 8 million adherents, Shintoism the indigenous religion of Japan, Taoism in China and Baha`i, founded by the Persian aesthete Baha`u`llah.
Ahisma non-violence is central in Jainism which stresses that all living things are equal. Although emanating from early Hindu doctrines, it therefore rejects the caste system. Jainism derives it name from the word `jina` or tirthankaras teachers of whom the 24th, Mahavira, was born in the mid-6th century. 98 per cent of Jains live in the western states of India and there is a flourishing small community in Leicester, England. Pilgrimage sites are usually associated with the tirthankaras. The Dilwara Temple at Mount Abu and the Adinath Temple at Ranakpur are places of worship and meditation.
Evolving in pre-Buddhist Japan, Shintoism focussing on the purity of nature aims to strike a balance between material and spiritual worlds. Central and omnipresent are kami, spirits. Some reside in high places such the sacred site of Mount Fuji. Others may be simple things such as a fishing net. A kami can also be a family deity or the patron of a certain trade. Complex rituals are associated with worship in Shinto shrines where offerings are left for deceased. The torii gateway outside a shrine delineates the boundary between nature and the spirit world.
Taoism from the Chinese `tao` or way encompasses various schools of thought mixed with ancient Chinese beliefs. Taoist philosophy, notably the teachings of the legendary sage Lao -Tzu, centres on finding a `way` to live. Order is maintained by the opposing forces of `ying` and `yang` which constantly interact. Stress occurs when they are out of kilter. Common areas of Tao thought concern care of the body through correct breathing, exercise and diet. As in most Asian religions, honouring the dead is also paramount. Most adherents live in China, but many Westerners are embracing Tao precepts. There are no specific places of pilgrimage but many sages withdraw to meditate in the sacred mountains of China.
The `Earth is but one country and mankind its citizens` is the basic belief of Bahai`s who follow the teachings of the Baha`u`llah, who was born in Iran in 1817. Baha`u`llah taught that God has revealed Himself through a series of Divine messengers or prophets each of whom founded one of the world`s great religions. His central theme promotes peace and unity irrespective of race, status or education. A collection of his writings in the holy Kitab-I-Aqdas are translated into the many languages spoken by the world`s five million Bahai`s. The two most sacred sites are Baha`u`llah`s tomb and the Shrine of the Bab, both in Israel.
DG90CS Pig offerings Chinese funeral in Cambodia
LBD041BU A zen garden in Japan
DG5892CS Chinese temple dragon Bangkok