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1.1: Chapter Summary

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    This chapter introduces the framework of six generic ways of being religious as a solution to the problem of how to make sense of the similarities and differences that may be found among religious phenomena: how to give due weight both to similarities and to differences without compromising either, and how to do so without privileging the beliefs of one tradition over another. It explains the problem and the proposed solution by means of a parable of six partially blind elephant handlers, each of whom is well acquainted with the same elephant but in an entirely different way. The blindness of each is that of having no peripheral vision: each can make no sense of the possibility that the elephant can be known any better or more fully than his own way of knowing it. But to know the elephant in the round, one needs, nevertheless, to take into account what can be known of the elephant from the perspective of each handler. The elephant stands for any particular religion or, more precisely, the ultimate reality recognized within a particular religion. The six partially blinded men stand for persons identifying with a specific way of being religious as the primary way to approach that ultimate reality. Likewise, the parable teaches that to compare one religion with another and avoid confusion (whether realized or not) one needs to be aware of the many different ways there are of being acquainted with that religion and the ultimate reality to which it purports to bear witness. An awareness of this potential plurality of ways within any given religion is found in the Hindu conception of different yogas, different paths to what it takes to be the ultimate reality. This book proposes recognition, therefore, of six different generic patterns of human religiousness, six different ways of approaching whatever a religion takes to be the ultimate reality, or God: sacred rite, right action, devotion, sharnanic mediation, mystical quest, and wisdom.

    This page titled 1.1: Chapter Summary is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Dale Cannon (Independent) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.

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