Religions of East Asia

Rel 152 Fall 1998 Questions for Final Exam

Answer one of the following questions. Your answer should be compact, but complete. Keep in mind that this exam is optional, but it is not non-risk. If you take it, I will grade it, and that grade will be averaged into your final grade. Submission requirements are as follows:

Note: I have decided against shortening the list as I earlier announced I would do. You are free to address any one of the four questions here

Typed paper copies may be given to me, or put in my box before 5:00 Thursday, Dec. 17. Electronic versions should be sent to my Penn e-mail box by the same date. Do not send e-mail to my Albright address. Please include your name and the course name (Religions of Asia) in your subject line. I will write you back to verify receipt.
1. Many people have noticed significant points of similarity between the stories of the life of the Buddha (Gautama) and the life of Mahavira. What are those points of similarity? In contrast, how are their stories different? Venture some guesses as to why the stories are so similar.

2. Hinduism is sometimes presented as a polytheistic system, sometimes as a monotheism, and occasionally even as an atheism. Pick one of these approaches and try to make a case for it. Remember, in order to make your case, you must acknowledge the arguments for the other positions and try to show why your position is closer to the truth than theirs.

3. Both Hinduism and Buddhism have a sub-tradition of practices which they call 'tantra'. What is this all about (be as specific as you can)? Is it the same in Buddhism as it is in Hinduism? Who practices it, and how is it view by the larger religious communities?

4. Religious studies scholars sometimes argue about whether Confucianism should be considered a religion at all. Argue both sides of the issue. It may be necessary to present at least a working definition of 'religion' in order to be able to show how Confucianism fits or doesn't fit into the pattern.