Reflection Essay

Instructions: These reflection papers are a chance for you to think through and relate to the assigned readings in your own way. Think of this paper as a kind of “journal” in which you reflect on the ideas in the readings. The study and practice of religion is a highly personal experience and each person comes to the Qur’an, the Bible, the Bhagavad-Gita or any other religious text in his or her own way. Therefore, you are encouraged to be creative and to write about your own personal experiences, relating them to the faith practices and wisdom traditions we will be studying this semester. However, be aware that creativity and chaos are not synonymous—in other words, you need to make sure the ideas and thoughts expressed in your paper are coherent and understandable, and most importantly, that they directly relate to the readings and other assigned materials. Essays must be submitted on Canvas and should be a minimum of 700 words in length. Make sure you include references (direct quotations and paraphrasing) from William Young’s text. If you cite a source other than our class textbook, include a bibliography at the end of the paper.

Some of you may be very familiar with one particular religion we are discussing this semester. If this applies to you, try (if only for the short period of weeks we are in this class together) to look at your own religion with “new eyes.” For example, if you are a Christian, try to consider how a Buddhist might see your religion. If you an Atheist, try considering life from a Muslim’s perspective. Does this change anything for you? If so, how? Don’t be afraid to experiment with ideas.

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The readings and audio you are assigned to write about for this essay address various aspects of the human condition—which is vital in a study of religions, since all religions address existential human questions such as “What is the purpose of my life?”, “What does it mean to be a good human being?”, “What does it mean to live an authentic and passionate existence?” and “What is the meaning of death?” In order to think about and engage with these important questions with a truly open mind, however, we first need to re-examine another vital question: how do we, as human beings, learn and grow? And, what lessons in life are most important to learn? Think of the questions below as an invitation to explore your own understanding of the human condition. There are no right or wrong answers to these questions—only stages of understanding.

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Answer ALL questions below:

1.) What do you think is being suggested in the writings “Art of Learning” and “Sacred Myth” about the difficulties of living an authentic, meaningful life? How do the ideas presented in these writings correspond with some of the ideas in The Five Stages of the Soul and chapter one in William Young’s text? How would you relate or apply the ideas in these writings to your own life experiences?

2.) In what sense might Gilgamesh’s quest be understood as a religious or “spiritual” quest? How does Gilgamesh’s story correspond with the Five Stages of the Soul (Call, Search, Struggle, Breakthrough, Return)? The stage of the Struggle often involves people trying to discourage the Hero from continuing on the quest. What obstacles does Gilgamesh encounter on his quest to find immortality? In losing the plant, Gilgamesh loses immortality. What wisdom does he possibly gain in its place?

3.) Based on chapter two in Young’s text and the additional videos for Week 3, answer the following questions in your essay: What does Young mean when he writes, “For indigenous people, all life is spiritual”? Discuss the importance of harmony, balance, and community in indigenous religions. Make sure to provide at least 2 or 3 examples.

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