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Responses to Discussion Prompts on Hinduism and Buddhism (Essay Sample)


This assignment asks you to select and respond to two (2) discussion prompts about the first three traditions explored in the course (Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism). It requires that you draw from and cite all relevant course material (lectures, readings) from weeks 1-6 in order to develop well-rounded responses that demonstrates your understanding of and engagement with these materials. A bibliography and proper citations in Chicago Style are requirements. Your assignment should be 1000-1200 words in length (approximately 2 pages single spaced, 12pt font). You do have choice here! Select two (2) out of the following three (3) prompts and submit your response to each in essay format - I suggest dedicating approximately a page to each prompt.
Assignment Prompts
Thus far we have explored traditions emerging from South Asia - Hinduism, Jainism, and the we have been introduced to the Buddhist tradition. Select two (2) of the following three (3) prompts and, using your course materials as reference, write cohesive, well-organized, well written responses.
Prompt 1: Hinduism is an incredibly diverse tradition, as such making generalizations of what is or is not key within the tradition is a near impossible task! However, in an effort to understand the tradition better, we did learn about several very important concepts that influence the worldview of many Hindus.
Explain the cycle of rebirth. In your response be sure to address the following questions: What is it that gets reincarnated? What determines one's current and next rebirths? What is it that keeps us trapped in this cycle? With reference to either the Upanishads or the Bhagavad Gita on this matter, how can one end this cycle? Be sure to use and explain the relevant Sanskrit terms in your response.
Prompt 2: Within the Jaina Traditions one of the greatest (if not the greatest) value is ahimsa (nonviolence). For Jainas the very essence of their tradition can be summarized by one simple phrase: "ahimsa paramo dharma." As such, ahimsa colors the way Jainas view the world and the efforts that put forth in order to achieve moksha (liberation).
What does "ahimsa paramo dharma" mean? Describe the Jain understanding of nonviolence, why is it so important for Jains? What is the relationship between ahimsa and moksha? Describe the practice of nonviolence as observed by a Jain monk or nun along with some of the precepts and rules that guide their lives.
Prompt 3: According to Buddhist dharma, existence can be understood as having three characteristics: suffering, impermanence, and anatman. Suffering refers to the all of the forms of pain (physical and mental) that we, as humans, experience in the course of living. Impermanence refers to the constant changing nature of all things - nothing (except nirvana and empty space) is static according to Buddhist understanding.
One of the Buddha’s central teachings is the last characteristic of existence - anatman. What is meant by anatman and how does it relate to the characteristics of suffering and impermanence? Analyze the Parable of the Turtle and the Fish (posted on Brightspace) - what does it teach about the Buddhist understanding of anatman? Briefly reflect upon what we have learned about Hinduism and Jainism, how does the Buddhist concept of anatman differ from these other two traditions?
General Assignment Guidelines
Your written assignment will be evaluated based on the following criteria:
Understanding of the material/how effectively it answers the assigned questions –
your response should clearly and concisely answer the question posed of you. Further, you should demonstrate that you have read the required readings and watched assigned films (if relevant) by referencing them specifically, in some detail, in your answers.
Staying on topic – it is important that you maintain focus in your writing and avoid introducing material that is irrelevant to the topic being discussed. This is an important skill to develop in your writing, which contributes to presenting your thoughts in a clear and concise manner.
Presenting without bias – it is important that you treat the religions that we are studying in an unbiased manner to cultivate a greater understanding of them. As such, you should aim to maintain an unbiased tone in your written assignments.
Correctly organizing, structuring, and formatting your work – present your discussion in a manner that has a logical flow. For example, if in your introduction, you state that you will be discussing A, B and C, then you should discuss these items in the order that you have initially stated them. In addition, you should use properly formatted citations when required to do so.
Producing mechanically correct prose– proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation.


Responses to Discussion Prompts on Hinduism and Buddhism
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The cycle of rebirth, also known as samsara, is an integral part of Hinduism's worldview. It is described as the cycle of death and rebirth, where the soul is constantly reincarnated into different forms. The Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita both describe samsara as an endless cycle of birth and death, in which the soul is the only eternal and unchanging thing.
The first concept to understand when discussing samsara is the idea of the Atman or soul. According to the Upanishads, the Atman is the eternal and unchanging essence of our being, and it is the only thing unaffected by the cycle of death and rebirth. The Atman is seen as the ultimate truth within Hinduism, and it is said to be one with the ultimate truth of the universe, Brahman. The Atman is believed to be the source of all life and is the only thing surviving death. The second concept to understand is karma. The Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita describe karma as the law of cause and effect, in which our actions in this lifetime will determine our next rebirth. This means that if we perform good deeds, we will be rewarded in our next life, and if we perform bad deeds, we will be punished. Our karma is said to be carried with us from life to life, and it is what determines our current and next rebirths.[Will Ford, 2023. Class slides 4 January 24th. Pg 7] [Will Ford, 2023. Class slides 4 January 24th. Pg 9]
The third concept to understand is moksha, or liberation from the cycle of rebirth. The Upanishads and 

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