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Robert W. Strayer
Ways of the World: A Brief Global
History with Sources
Second Edition
Chapter 4
Culture and Religion in Eurasia/North Africa
(500 B.C.E.–500 C.E.)
Copyright © 2013 by Bedford/St. Martin’s
I. China and the Search for Order
A. The Legalist Answer
1. High rewards, heavy punishments
2. Legalist principles:
a. Human nature is naturally selfish.
b. Intellectualism and literacy is
c. Law is the supreme authority and
replaces morality.
d. The ruler must rule with a strong,
punishing hand.
e. War is the means of strengthening
a ruler’s power.
I. China and the Search for Order
B. The Confucian Answer
1. Confucius, Analects, & Confucianism
2. Moral example of superiors
3. Unequal relationships governed by ren
a. The guide for all social relationships
4. Education and state bureaucracy
a. Government service required an entry test, heavily based on
the Analects
5. Filial piety and gender expectations
a. Loyalty and reverence to one’s parents and ancestors
b. Patriarchic, with female subordination
6. Secular
a. Non-religious philosophy to establish social harmony in the
material world
I. China and the Search for Order
C. The Daoist Answer
1. Laozi’s Daodejing
2. Withdrawal into nature
a. Leave society, government, and education for nature and
3. Spontaneous natural behavior not rigid education
4. Dao (“The Way”)
a. mysterious force of truth and goodness that surrounds all
II. Cultural Traditions of Classical India
A. South Asian Religion: From Ritual Sacrifice to
Philosophical Speculation
1. Vedas (1500–600 B.C.E.), Brahmins, and rituals
a. Early Indian texts originally passed down orally
2. Upanishads (800–400 B.C.E.)
a. Texts that focus more on mystical and philosophical issues,
rather than the ritual focus of the Vedas
3. Atman and Brahman
a. Atman: individual human souls; part of the greater “world
Various Indian
religious texts
II. Cultural Traditions of Classical India
A. South Asian Religion: From Ritual Sacrifice to
Philosophical Speculation
4. Samsara, moksha, and karma
a. Cycle of birth, death, and rebirth
b. Life governed by consequences of actions (karma), would
break the cycle of life (samsara), and achieve release from the
material world (moksha)
5. Gender and the Laws of Manu
a. Women came to be seen as unclean and inferior
b. Laws of Manu enforced these judgments against women
1. Young girls to marry older men
2. Wives obedient
3. Widows never remarry
II. Cultural Traditions of Classical India
B. The Buddhist Challenge
1. Siddhartha Gautama (ca. 566–ca. 486 B.C.E.)
a. Became 1st Buddha after his spiritual quest for enlightenment
2. The Buddha’s teachings and nirvana
a. Life’s suffering could be ended by ending desire
b. Nirvana could be achieved following Buddha’s path
3. Relationship to Hinduism
a. Stemmed from Hinduism, shared many key concepts
- rebirth, illusion of material world, karma, meditation
b. Buddhism less tied to rituals, simpler more accessible form
II. Cultural Traditions of Classical India
B. The Buddhist Challenge
4. Restrictions and opportunities for women
5. Popular appeal
a. Use of Pali, language spoken by less-educated social classes
6. Theravada
a. Original branch of Buddhism
b. Focused on wisdom passed down
c. Little talk of gods, Buddha not portrayed as a god
7. Mahayana
a. Newer branch of Buddhism
b. Buddha became godlike figure
c. Transformed into a religion of salvation
II. Cultural Traditions of Classical India
C. Hinduism as a Religion of Duty and Devotion
1. Mahabharata, Bhagavad-Gita, and Ramayana
a. Ancient texts of epic stories between humans and deities
taught moral obligations
2. Bhakti
a. Intense and passionate songs, prayers, and rituals towards a
few specific gods
III. Toward Monotheism: The Search for
God in the Middle East
A. Zoroastrianism
1. Persian state support, Achaemenid Dynasty (558–330 B.C.E.)
2. Ahura Mazda versus Angra Mainyu
a. Constant struggle between the forces of good and evil
4. Human free will, struggle of good versus evil, a savior, and
judgment day
III. Toward Monotheism: The Search for
God in the Middle East
B. Judaism
1. Migrations and exiles of a small Hebrew community
2. One exclusive and jealous god
a. First of the laws passed down
b. Very hard in the polytheistic world
3. Loyalty to Yahweh and obedience to his laws
a. Laid foundation for Christianity and Islam
IV. The Cultural Tradition of Classical
Greece: The Search for a Rational
A. The Greek Way of Knowing
1. Questions, not answers
2. Socrates (469–399 B.C.E.), Plato (429–348 B.C.E.), and Aristotle
(384–322 B.C.E.)
3. Rational and non-religious analysis of the world
B. The Greek Legacy
1. Alexander the Great spread, Rome embraced, and the Academy
in Athens preserved Greek thought
2. Greek learning in the Islamic world studied and built upon
V. The Birth of Christianity… with
Buddhist Comparisons
A. The Lives of the Founders
1. Encounter with a higher level of reality
2. Messages of love
3. Jesus’ miracles and dangerous social critique
a. The Buddha did not create social conflict and did not discuss
the issue of gods and supernatural
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