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Extra resources for Ideas and Art in Asian Civilizations: India, China and Japan

Sample text

Time and space are confined to an expanding cosmos some 14 billion years old, originating in a “Big Bang,” encompassing some 120 billion galaxies, each composed of billions of stars, and separated from one another in space by millions of light years. Earth’s nearest galactic neighbor is Andromeda, some 2 million light years away. A message sent to Andromeda would take 2 million years to arrive (light travels at 186,000 miles a second, a cosmic limit) and another 2 million years for a response to return.

In the Indian tradition (with the exception of Jainism), the opposite goal is sought—an end to personal existence and release from the wheel of rebirth. For Christians, there was a single moment of creation by one God followed in due time by original sin committed by the first man and woman (Adam and Eve), a one-time divine incarnation (Jesus), a sacrifice (crucifixion of the man-god to redeem original sin), a last supper with disciples and resurrection of the dead Jesus (the promise of redemption and immortality), and a day of judgment, after which souls would be saved or damned through eternity and the material universe would become irrelevant, having served its temporary purpose as a stage for the drama of salvation.

This is when the social, religious, and philosophical basis of Hinduism was largely established; Sanskrit literature flourished in poetry and drama; the six classical systems of philosophy were formulated; mathematicians contrived the zero and the decimal place; and much spectacular temple building was undertaken, including the earliest surviving structures. e. a rich tradition of sculpted Buddha images is evident with sophisticated iconography that distinguished Buddhas from Bodhisattvas. Society and Thought Stabilize By Gupta times, the Hindu class system (varna) and the caste system (jati) were fully visible in the cultural landscape, and the ideas of karma and reincarnation had become central to most religious and philosophical points of view.

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