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Since time immemorial religion has always been the key to gaining a wider knowledge base and learning of new and better means to express the knowledge within. Professor Roderick Ninian Smart is a well known author who has also been credited with taking religious studies to a level where secularity and openness become the norm of the day. A Scottish by descent, he has written many a revolutionary volumes on the actual essence of religion and religious thinking. (www.wikipedia.com) As a religious writer, Ninian Smart has managed to demonstrate the various levels at which religious thinking can affect the lives of individuals irrespective of the corner of the world where they dwell. This paper is concerned with one of the most important concepts evolved by Ninian Smart. This concept is known as the dimensions of the sacred. Contained in his book titled Dimensions of the Sacred, this concept demonstrates the various elements that bring religions together and the basis on which they may be compared so as to find the common teachings which humans may follows. (Ninian, 1999) In this paper, there will be a focus on proving the fact that knowledge can be developed in any place of worship through the use of the aspects that Ninian Smart has described as the dimensions of the sacred. For this purpose, the place of worship chosen is a Hindu temple.
Hinduism is a religion that enjoys a large number of followers the world over. In a country as secular as India, there is a majority in the population of Hindus. Yet, Hinduism has always propagated secularism. Therefore, it has been chosen in order to demonstrate three of the six dimensions of Ninian Smart's theory. (Ninian, 1999)
To begin with, the six dimensions in Ninian Smart's theory are as follows:
Social (Ninian, 1999)
The first dimension in this paper is that of the mythical. According to Ninian Smart, the role of the mythical is an important one when it comes to the spread of knowledge. (Ninian, 1999) This dimension helps put preaching into reality through a demonstration in the form of stories. The mythical dimension is one where there is complete freedom of thought and imagination. This helps a person make better choices. (Eklund, 2006)
In Hinduism, there has been a strong mythical orientation as far as religious duties are concerned. The Hindus believe in various doctrines that may or may not be plausible in real life. But it has generated into a force and helped form an entire system of belief and a way of life. The Hindu temples, as places of worship, are filled with paintings of these mythical characters and depictions of scenes from their lives. It has been believed that these characters came down, or were sent down from the Heavens at some point or another to cure people of any wrong doing and to ensure that there is a strict adherence to the path of nature and God. In this way, mythology symbolizes the way of living for Hindus. They are constantly in search of symbols in their daily lives especially when it comes to decision making and other such forms of asserting their identity. (Vishwanathan, 1992)
Mythology, in the old days, was a way of spreading knowledge and explaining science and technology as well as the law and forces of nature. The Hindus have developed mythology as a science and a body of knowledge according to which they live various aspects of life - medicine, education and righteousness. Mythology was initially created to bring people to do the right thing. It carried on as a source of passing down relevant knowledge and information. Thus, the mythical dimension is an important one in Hindu temples, as even today, one will find the priests reading these mythological books out loud and people taking an hour or two out of their daily routines to listen to and absorb the teachings of the same. In this way, the temple is a place where mythical characters dwell and draw people in times of need to show them the path of ancient knowledge.
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