Death and Afterlife: Perspectives of World Religions

Death and Afterlife: Perspectives of World Religions

Death and Afterlife: Perspectives of World Religions

Death and Afterlife: Perspectives of World Religions

Synopsis

Major religious traditions of the world contain perspectives of perennial importance on the topic of death and afterlife. Such concepts are not only reflected directly in mortuary and funerary practices, but also inform patterns of beliefs and rituals that shape human lifestyles. Here thirteen scholars, each a specialist in a particular religious tradition, outline the beliefs and practices relating to death and afterlife. The volume introduction provides a framework for understanding the evolutionary relationships among world religions and the unity as well as the diversity of their quest for overcoming death.

Excerpt

This book offers a historical and cross-cultural survey of the varieties of perceptions regarding death and hopes for survival beyond death found in different religiocultural settings. Major religious traditions of the world, past and present, contain perspectives of perennial importance on the topic of death and afterlife; this is especially evident in their mythical patterns and doctrinal teachings. These myths and doctrines are not only directly reflected in mortuary and funerary practices, but also inform patterns of beliefs and rituals that shape human lifestyles. It may not be too difficult to explore the understandings of death and afterlife in various cultures by simply isolating and discussing relevant teachings and narratives from their religious traditions. But issues such as these concern more than sacred texts; they affect the innermost core of the human psyche and constitute the very fabric of human existence. For this reason they can be explored adequately only by a comprehensive understanding of a given religious system rooted in an overall culture. For example, the Christian concept of death and resurrection is certainly misunderstood when it is uprooted from the context of a particular biblical framework and the subsequent evolution of Christian theology. The same can be said of Hindu concepts of reincarnation and the Taoist cult of immortality. Only those who have a comprehensive historicocultural familiarity with such traditions can provide a proper focus for these issues and help us come to a true understanding of them. No single scholar can master all the cultural blocs and religious traditions necessary for a thorough comprehension and penetration of the manifold conceptions of death and afterlife. Thus one must rely on experts in each field.

Although the thirteen chapters that constitute this volume share a common objective of offering an outline of the beliefs, myths, and practices, reflecting the views of respective religions on death and afterlife, the way in which they . . .

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