Ali: (600 C.E.-661 C.E.), fourth caliph (656 C.E.-661 C.E.). One of the first converts to Islam, Ali was the first cousin and, later, son-in-law of Muhammad. Some early Muslims, partisans of Ali (Shi'ites), believed that he and his sons--Hasan and Husayn--should succeed Muhammad as the leader of the community. Ali became the fourth caliph, but the majority of the community did not affirm his sons as successors.
Analects: See Lun Lu
anamism: Animists believe that everything in the universe (other animals, plants, rocks, natural phenomena such as thunder, geographic features such as mountains or rivers) has a spirit. Animism is particularly widely found in the religions of indigenous peoples like the Plains Indians in North America.
Atonement - the act of atoning for sin or wrongdoing (especially appeasing a deity).
Avatar: The "descent" or incarnation of the Hindu deity Vishnu; Rama and Krishna are the two most popular of the avatars of Vishnu
Ayatollah: Title for the most senior Shi'ite religious authorities; literally means a "sign" (ayah) from God (Allah).
Bar or Bat Mitzvah: The Hebrew term for "son or daughter of the Commandment"; the coming-of-age ceremony after which Jewish boys (at age 13) and Conservative and Reform Jewish girls (at age 12) assume full responsibilities to keep the Commandments as adults.
Bhagavad Gita: The most popular Hindu sacred text, which recounts the dialogue between the warrior Arjuna and his chariot driver, the Lord Krishna; the Gita affirms diverse paths while introducing the way of devotion.
bodhisattva: A future "Buddha-to-be," the bodhisattva is one who postpones nirvana and remains connected to the phenomenal world in order to help others.
Brahman: The Ultimate Reality, unknown and unknowable; the Hindu term referring to the eternal reality beyond all conceptualization.
Catholic: Of the Roman Catholic faith.
catholic: All embracing. Universal
Christmas: The Christian holiday celebrating Jesus's birth in Bethlehem; celebrated by Catholics and Protestants on December 25 and by Orthodox Christians on January 7 each year.
dharma: The "way" or "teaching" discovered and taught by the Buddha.
Diaspora The Jewish community outside of Palestine
Diwali: A major Hindu festival of light; in north India, it is associated with the return home of Rama, the avatar of Vishnu who is the hero of the Ramayana.
Double predestination -
Easter: The most sacred day in the Christian calendar; Easter celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus, a sign of victory over sin and death.
Eightfold Path: The fourth Noble Truth of the Buddha's teaching identifies the path toward enlightenment, which embodies right view, right aspiration, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right contemplation
Evangelical - A cross-denominational movement with briefs in the authority of the Bible, salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ's atonement, the centrality of the conversion or the "born again" experience. Includes denominations such as Seventh-day Adventists, Churches of Christ, Presbyterian Church of America, pentecostals and others. Many evangelicals believe in biblical inerrancy.
Four Noble Truths: The first sermon of the Buddha after enlightenment set forth the foundation for Buddhism in the Four Noble Truths; these truths describe the nature of the human predicament and offer a hopeful prescription.
Gnosticism - The doctrine of salvation by knowledge.
hadith: The sayings and actions of Muhammad, whom Muslims understand to be an exemplar of the faith; the hadith is the second source of authority in Islamic law after the Qur'an.
hajj: The fifth Pillar of Islam; the annual pilgrimage to Mecca that each Muslim who is financially and physically able should make at least once during his or her life.
Holy Communion: The Christian sacrament commemorating the sacrifice of Christ in which the faithful eat bread (symbolizing the body of Christ) and drink wine (symbolizing the blood of Christ); the ritual is based on Jesus's final Passover meal with the disciples.
Jesus of Nazareth: (c. 6-4 B.C.E.-c. 34 C.E.). Founder of Christianity whose followers believe him to be the messiah or the Christ and the son of God. The four Gospels of the New Testament tell the stories of key events of his life, including his birth as a Jew to the Virgin Mary; his baptism; his teachings and miraculous deeds; and finally, his arrest, Crucifixion, and Resurrection.
Kali. In the Hindu tradition, the hideous, terrifying deity who haunts the cremation grounds with blood dripping from her fangs while wearing a garland of skulls. Devotees of Kali say that she represents the reality of life in this phenomenal world
karma: The law of the deed and its result. Karma is the principle of justice that connects the effects of one's actions with one's future station in the ongoing process of death and rebirth. Krishna. One of the primary avatars of Vishnu and the key figure in the Bhagavad Gita. Krishna's dialogue with Arjuna synthesizes many key Hindu teachings while elevating bhakti, the way of devotion, as the best path to the ultimate goal.
Koran: See Qur'an
Lent: Christian: The period of fasting or abstinence observed in the 40 days before Easter, not counting Sundays, beginning with Ash Wednesday.
Liturgy: A general term used to designate the whole procedure of ritual actions and prayers used in religious services, in particular in the context of the Jewish and Christian traditions.
Lotus Sutra: A Mahayana text that played a major role in several Buddhist sects and is highly revered among many Chinese and Japanese Buddhists
Lun Lu: 499 sayings of Confucius (Analects)
Mahayana Buddhism: The "Great Vehicle"; the Mahayana schools first appeared in India a few hundred years after the Buddha and spread as the dominant form of Buddhism in China, Korea, and Japan in subsequent centuries.
Mecca: The most sacred city in Islam; located in Saudi Arabia, Mecca is the site of the Ka'bah and the birthplace of the prophet Muhammad.
mosque: The Islamic place of worship during the five daily prayers and, especially, the Friday noon prayer.
Muhammad: (570 C.E.-632 C.E.). The prophet of Islam who received his first revelation at age 40. For 22 years, he proclaimed the message of the one God (Allah in Arabic) to whom everyone will return for judgment. In Mecca (610-622) and Medina (622-632), he led the Muslim community in all areas of life--religion, politics, economics, and civil and military affairs. In addition to the revelation that became the Qur'an, Muhammad's sayings and actions (hadith) became the second source of authority in developing Islamic law.
nirvana: The ultimate goal for Buddhists, referring to the end of the cycle of existence in the phenomenal world.
Pali canon: The earliest authoritative collection of canonical writings used by the Theravada Buddhist tradition.
Qur'an: The sacred text of Islam; understood by Muslims as the literal Word of God revealed through the prophet Muhammad.
Rigveda: The oldest and most important of the Vedas, compiled in early Sanskrit circa 1500 B.C.E.; it consists of more than 1,000 hymns to various Vedic gods.
Rosh Hashana: The Jewish New Year beginning the High Holy Days that culminate with Yom Kippur.
Sabbath: The weekly day of rest and worship observed by Jews and Christians. This sacred time commemorating God's day of rest after creation begins at sundown on Friday for Jews; Christians moved the Sabbath to Sunday, the day of Jesus's Resurrection.
Satan: The biblical name for the devil; the same figure in Islam is known by the Arabic name Shaytan
seder: The ceremonial meal and recitation of the Haggadah on the first night of Passover, during which the Exodus from Egypt is commemorated.
Shi'ite: "Partisan"; originally applied to the "partisans" of Ali, those Muslims who believed the leadership of the community should be passed down through Ali and the descendants of Muhammad. Approximately 15 to 20 percent of Muslims worldwide are Shi'ites. Shiva. One of the primary Hindu deities, Shiva is known through various popular manifestations as the dancing Shiva, the rigorous ascetic, his son, the elephant-headed Ganesha, and several female deities, including Kali.
Sharia Law:Shari'a literally means "the path to a watering hole. A religious code for living, in the same way that the Bible offers a moral system for Christians." It is used to refer both to the Islamic system of law and the totality of the Islamic way of life
Siddhartha Gautama: (563-483 B.C.E.). The name of the historical Buddha. Born a prince in north India, Siddhartha left his home and family in pursuit of the spiritual life; he "woke up," or became enlightened, at age 35 and spent the next 45 years teaching others.
Sufi: The mystics of Islam.
Sunni: "One who adheres to the sunnah" (the "trodden path" or "way of the prophet"). Approximately 80 to 85 percent of the Muslims worldwide are Sunnis. Temple of Jerusalem: The focus of ancient Israel's religious life; the Temple was built by Solomon in the 10th century B.C.E., destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E., rebuilt, and destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E.
Talmud:The collection of ancient rabbinic writings consisting of the Mishnah and the Gemara and considered authorative in Orthodox Judaism.
Theravada Buddhism: The "teaching of the elders"; the Theravada schools are often considered the earliest forms of Buddhism. This form of Buddhism continues to reflect the majority in Southeast Asia.
Torah: The Jewish designation for the first five books of the Bible, also called the Law or the Pentateuch. The Torah can also stand for the entire tradition of learning gleaned from the Bible as a whole.
Transcendental Meditation (TM) - A procedure where you sit quietly for 20 min. twice a day. e is based on the ancient Vedic tradition of enlightenment in India.
In this state of restful alertness, your brain functions with significantly greater coherence and your body gains deep rest.
transubstantiation: The doctrine that the bread and wine literally become the body and blood of Christ when the priest blesses these elements during Holy Communion
Trinity: The Christian understanding of the one true God who is manifest in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
varnashrama dharma: The elaborate system detailing a Hindu's duty, or dharma, depending on his or her caste, or varna Brahman,, Kshatriya, Vaishya, or Shudra, and stage of life, or ashrama (student, married householder, forest dweller, or sannyasin).
Vishnu: The most popular of the pantheon of Hindu deities, Vishnu is made known through 10 avatars. Rama and Krishna are the two most well-known and beloved incarnations of Vishnu. Devotees of Vishnu primarily express their religious faith through devotion, or the way of bhakti.
Voodoo: A black religious cult practiced in the Caribbean and the southern U.S., combining elements of Roman Catholic ritual with traditional African magical and religious rites, and characterized by sorcery and spirit possession.
Yom Kippur: Day of Atonement; the most solemn day of the Jewish calendar, observed 10 days after Rosh Hashana. A full day of fasting, prayer, and repentance is observed, primarily as a means of seeking atonement for sins.
zakat: The third Pillar of Islam; Muslims are expected to give 2.5 percent of their overall wealth to religious and charitable causes each year.
Zen Buddhists: One of 13 primary schools of Buddhism
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