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Next steps

After completing this unit you may wish to study another OpenLearn Study Unit or find out more about this topic. Here are some suggestions:

If you wish to study formally at The Open University, you may wish to explore the courses we offer in this curriculum area:

9 The term ‘religion’: A concluding comment

I hope that this more extended study of religion in context has been interesting in itself and that you have glimpsed something of the richness of Hinduism. We have made this brief study of Hinduism also to put to work some of the principles in the study of religion that we met earlier in this unit. I want finally to draw some threads together by considering more generally the problems and pitfalls of using the concept of ‘religion’ in a cross-cultural study.

Applying what we h
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8.6 The Dakshineswar temple

I want you now to follow a worshipper on a ‘pilgrimage in miniature’ around Dakshineswar temple on the outskirts of Calcutta. Before you read further, please study carefully the plan of Dakshineswar temple in Figure 14.

Figure 14
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7.3 ‘Insiders’ and ‘outsiders’

The claim that it is possible to study religion adequately from a disinterested position has been hotly debated. Can the understanding of the observer achieve the same level of insight and authority as the participant in a religion? No serious student of religion can avoid confronting this question.

The ‘outsider’ cannot escape depending to an extent upon insights from ‘insiders’ when studying a particular religion. An ‘outsider’ who has never been through a p
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6.1 Introduction

Whatever else they may be, religions grow in historical and social settings. The present form of a religion has its roots in the past. Religion can exercise a strong influence upon society and the cultural forms of a society, but religion itself is no less affected by changes and pressures within society. Religion gives meaning to a pattern of living and may even be responsible for establishing a certain lifestyle or distinctive social organisation or institution. At the same time, religion o
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5.4 A dimensional model of religion

Given the problems of devising a succinct definition of religion, some contemporary scholars have produced broader profiles of religion without claiming to identify one distinguishing characteristic. One example of this kind of approach is the seven-dimensional model of religion proposed by Ninian Smart, a specialist in the study of world religions. Smart argues that, if his model is adequate, ‘then we do not need to worry greatly about further definition of religion’ (Smart, 1989, p
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4.2 Reasons for studying religion

Exercise 7

Identify and jot down reasons that you think might prompt someone to make a study of religion.

Discussion

Here are some reasons in no sp
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